My child has always had behavioral problems; I even had a lot of behavior problems as a child so he gets it honestly. I thought that after he was deemed gifted and placed in a gifted program I would see his behavior change. There has been no improvement and he has actually started falling behind in class due to his behavior. The school is now calling his behavior hyperactive and I no longer know what to do besides turning to medicine, and the school seems to be all for me going the medical route.

Is it just me? I feel that all kids until about 6th grade are a little hyper and in the US lately we seem to turn to medicine too quickly. My child is only 8 and is a 3rd grader. I'm really lost and this being my first child I have no idea where to even begin to try to tame his behavior. It seems like every week he is on punishment and my life is becoming one of always being stuck in the house on weekends due to his misbehaving at school during the week. Please give me any suggestions you have on what I should do.

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    why does his misbehavior at school cause you to be stuck in the house all weekend? If you are imposing it as a punishment on him, it's not working. Why not get out there on the weekend and do fun, energetic things together? The misbehavior at school may be related to not getting various things in his life - exercise, laughter, intellectual challenge - and if so, a huge dose of those things every weekend (and some evenings) could make a big difference to his school day. And you deserve to have fun, too!
    – Chrys
    Mar 8, 2014 at 15:32
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    Labelling a kid with ADHD has become the modern educator's cop out for "the kid is bored silly" or "they don't teach us how to deal with real boys in teacher's college", which does a real disservice to those few kids who really do have that condition. When 1 in 10 boys gets labelled with ADHD, and the largest predictor of n ADHD diagnosis is that the boy lives within 100 yards of another kid who has been diagnosed with ADHD, it makes a person suspicious of the label.
    – pojo-guy
    Oct 12, 2017 at 3:34

8 Answers 8


Even good gifted programs (which are relatively rare in the US) still typically put kids in desks and expect them to sit and work in a fairly traditional way (except that they are allowed discussion with their peers a little more). This style of learning may not be a match for your child. A certain part of the population needs movement to process information coming in. If this sounds like it fits your son, you may need to have a discussion with his teacher about learning styles and how your son's kinestetic or tactile needs are or are not being met. In order to be sure you've got your son's learning profile as straight and worked out as possible, you will need to see a specialist regarding kids and education.

The advantage to doing this now, is you can get all the facts, be sure your son is getting what he needs first and rule out all other options before applying medicine. Then, if your child does need help for hyperactivity you will also already have a trusted professional that can guide that process too. Just be clear when looking for the right person that it isn't someone that pushes the drugs a lot but can provide them if they are needed.

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    I absolutely agree with this. I like the expression, "If you want to have an exceptional child, you must be prepared to have an exceptional child." As a "gifted" kid myself, I didn't have "behavior issues", but it was only because my issues were hiding and manifested in different ways. High intelligence is strongly correlated with anxiety, depression, ADHD, OCD, mood disorders... In fact, I've been diagnosed with all of those to a greater or lesser extent. Gifted programs are designed to exercise kids' abilities, but it doesn't fix the old issues and can exacerbate new ones in different ways.
    – kmc
    Jun 9, 2017 at 17:02
  • While there has been an entire industry built around "learning styles", the only controlled studies on the concept found that "learning styles" made no difference in final outcomes.
    – pojo-guy
    Oct 12, 2017 at 3:37

Well, don't discount the medical option, but it ought to be down the list, after you've investigated other options. In any case, that's a medical diagnosis only a doctor can make.

I don't know how your son was labeled "gifted" or what that means in your locale, but it means nothing with respect to maturity, attention span, social skills, or any ADHD diagnosis. A really smart eight-year old is still an eight-year old. As for most kids being "a little hyper", he's in a class with other eight-year olds, and apparently he stands out from the crowd, so you have to believe there is an issue.

I don't know what your work situation is, but if you can swing it, you should be the mom who volunteers in the room a few times a week, often enough that his behavior will revert to what it is when you are not there, and observe him. He's not perfect; no child is. Be prepared to see him do things you'd rather he didn't, but don't jump in to redirect him. That's the teacher's job, and his reaction to her is part of what you want to see. Be open to talking with his doctor. Above all, don't make excuses for him. If he has a problem (and every kid has a problem), you need to help him overcome it.

I've seen good kids go south because their parents couldn't admit they had a problem on their hands, and I've seen kids with real problems succeed because their parents were there to help them through their difficulties.

You can do this!!!


I was in gifted programs all through out school. My principal also had a large book filled up with all of our "meetings". He sent the book and I to the middle school on the last Monday of school, and told the principal I was his problem.

The problem was really easy. I was bored. So I found ways of amusing myself. Most of the time this was at the expense of other students. Some of the time the teacher said I was hyper or had ADD - before this was common.

It was really easy. I became more active. I physically wore myself out and therefore was less of a nuisance to others when I finished my work faster or was bored. I ran a lot, got involved in lots of sports, I was doing something all the time...

I prescribed the same medicine to my kids before turning to doctors for drugs - when they are not even sure about the drug or diagnosis.

My teachers helped too. They had me start doing special projects and programming. If your son runs a couple miles, has to do his work, and special projects, come back and ask the same question after he worn out.

As a parent you might think this is awfully hard on the kid. Maybe at first but he will grow to like/love the routine. His brain needs it.


If your child has ADD, a gifted program can actually exasperate the problem. It depends on the program, of course, but many focus heavily on 'book learning'. So lots of reading, lots of writing papers, lots of 'sitting still and pondering' type of work.

This can be a nightmare for anyone with ADD (I can personally attest to that. :)

Many teachers are well versed in ADD and if they are hinting at it, it may very well be something you want to look into further.

Medication is certainly a viable option. But not the only option.

ADD isn't a necessarily a problem--but certainly can be if the ADD mind isn't put into an environment that can allow it to do what it does best. So one option may be to consider a different learning environment. Curriculums that are more flexible, hands on, activity based, and/or project based can accommodate the ADD brain a bit better than the 'read this and do your homework' model.

But the first step is to go down the path of figuring out what might be the issue. Get some ADD screening and go from there. Talk to a few professionals that can explain both medicine and non-medicine adaptive options that you can begin to consider.


I really like balanced mama's response.

Another thing to consider is that it could be both. I, for example, have ADHD and am Bipolar and yet graduated with a degree in Mathematics Magna Cum Laude (before I was diagnosed with the other stuff). Gifted programs don't mean "targeted-at-my-child's-needs programs" Perhaps it's too little? Using myself as an example again, I used to read through all the books, do some additional research, and complete a course in the first few months b/c I was too bored with the stuff they were presenting at the rate they were presenting.

Now, how to figure out the right combo of education, therapy, or attribution-to-natural-causes is something I'm not sure of, but it's most likely a combination of 2 or 3 of them. Medication where it's not appropriate is just as bad as non-medication when appropriate. I know my psychiatrist, for example, is addamant about proper regular-life attributes (sleeping, tv-watching, eating, etc.) being correct before any medication can even be considered. Finding such a therapist would be ideal in terms of precluding one of those 3 elements. It took me a long time to find the right combo of things for me, though, so patience and diligence will be key characteristics in obtaining the correct solution.

I wish your family the best in finding what's right for your son!


ADHD is difficult to diagnose, so before going that way make sure to consult a real expert beforehand.

At the transition to puberty, many male kids become hyperactive and slightly more aggressive, which is usually part of a hormone change and can be considered all fine. Of course you still need to teach them to behave properly, but that's on a different page.

If your son doesn't behave on a gifted school, it might be his way of expressing that he doesn't like it. It might be a good idea to speak with your son about that school, what he likes and what he doesn't like. Maybe its just a simple thing, like he is missing his friends, or doesn't like a specific teacher. Maybe he feels pushed too much or you are not commending him enough or make him feel like you are not taking enough interest in what he is doing. Children at that age don't do things because they plan their future career, they do things to get their parents to be proud of them.

While there are many reasons for the behavior of your son which are difficult to determine from your text, sometimes if children are diagnosed to be hyperactive in reality are perfectly fine kids who just need a few more honest hugs every now and then.


My daughter is incredibly intelligent. I won't bore you with my "proud parent" stories, but I'll share one of the aspects of giftedness that caused her a lot of issues.

In her early elementary school education we used a curriculum that dressed up what we used to call "programmed learning" in fancier sounding verbiage. When she got 80% on a multiple guess test, she had "mastered" a unit and moved on.

This allowed her to progress quickly, at least on paper. However, when she was expected to put he knowledge into practice in 4th grade, she realized instantly that she was way behind the other kids. Her ability to skim the material and pick it up without effort had left her with no depth of knowledge and the expectation that she could learn anything in 2 minutes. Her reaction to more complex problems that required focused effort over time was to avoid the work because she realized she didn't know the material, in spite of having "mastered" it.

Her expectations had been set that she could learn anything in no time, so if it took time and effort she thought she was stupid and would refuse to try.

Part of the curse of being gifted is that kids don't have to work as hard to learn the material, so they don't work as hard and don't learn the non-academic skill of putting extra effort in to achieve a goal.

Edit - suggesting resolutions

My daughter didn't act up in class. Instead she would sulk and simply refuse to do her work. However, the core dynamic may (or may not) be the same.

For our daughter, it took a few all-nighter sessions with the two of us, forcing her stick to the task and rework her homework until it was of good quality. Once she realized that expertise was a process, not a state, she became comfortable with the idea that "mastery" for a 6 year old was "sub-competent" for a 9 year old.

As her work habits improved, so did her skills. As her skills improved, so did her self esteem. As her self esteem improved, she began trying to learn the extra step. In 5th grade, her math teacher was giving her extra enrichment work until, whether it was for a chuckle or out of frustration (I will never know), he gave her a binomial division problem. She solved it on her own, albeit with some frustration because it didn't reduce to a single number.

It was still 8th grade (and a few more all-nighters for the two of us) before she was comfortable with the idea that revision was a normal part of any work.


I share your views on the too-quick-to-grab-drugs solution, and have a lot of concerns about the effect of these chemicals on growing brains and the future adult.

Edit: I would insist on this "hyperactive" label being very clear in the child's school records that it is only a layperson's opinion and not a medical diagnosis. Insist that the person making this claim be named, rather than a generality that "the school says." It may be appropriate to have an actual psych evaluation of your own done, to keep the school from pushing chemicals at your child. Drugs can always be an option after basics are throughly explored first.

Is this child free to run and yell, to play until exhausted? I'm thinking of free play outside involving moving at all speeds over uneven ground, not organized sports. Can they ride a bike? Is it possible for them to be in places where they can look at the horizon in the distance, or from the tops of local hillsides? These are brain-trainers.

Do they participate in the (age-appropriate) household government or menu planning?

I grew up with these elements and even as an adult I see differences between the autonomy I enjoy today and other adults who seem to have spent their childhoods in living rooms.

Do they know how to sleep soundly at night? This is something I do not do well, having grown up falling asleep over books with the light on in bed. I'm a night owl and so was my mother. Sleep hygiene is a vital skill. "No screens in the bedroom" could be effective for this child.

Any hidden dental or medical issues? Maybe some night tooth grinding over metal fillings? Vision problems?

Will the child reach for plain water freely, or do they have to be coaxed? There's a profound difference between a hydrated brain and one chronically dehydrated. I hope this helps you.

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