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Life Lessons for Gifted Students

By James A. Reffel, David M. Monetti, and David T. Wasieleski (Valdosta State University).

Life is challenging for gifted students because their thoughts are often considerably more intense and persistent than their age-mates’ (Hebert, 2011). They generally consider and question things that age mates do not. Due to their heightened curiosity, they question things that seem superfluous to others. According to Webb et al. (2007), gifted students might ask questions like, “Why isn’t phonetic spelled the way it sounds?” (p.15) Or these students may be compelled to tell their kindergarten class how the red spot on Jupiter is actually a hurricane-like storm and not a land feature.

While we never want to tell students how they should feel, we do want to encourage them and convey the message that they can control their reactions to difficulties and challenging events in their lives. There are several strategies that can help them interpret life events in a positive manner. In fact, remembering positive outcomes helps bolster gifted students when they face challenging goals (Boazman, 2014). With that in mind, we created a list of life lessons to help students (and adults) positively interpret challenging events in their lives:

· Working hard to achieve may sometimes result in frustration. Others may misunderstand those frustrations. Keep working hard anyway, and reach out to those who understand you.

· You will come up with some great ideas. Others may not always be as enthusiastic about them as you would like. Keep generating new ideas and be excited about them anyway; they will find their audience.

· Other people may see things in simple terms while you notice more complex issues in debates or disagreements. People may not always appreciate your ability to see these extra issues. Keep seeing and pointing out these issues; you will see and enjoy some of the more interesting and subtle portions of life while also helping those who are more open to your point of view.

· People don’t always value creativity unless they can get something for it. Enjoy your creativity for its own reward rather than worrying about what it can get you.

· Your ideas will sometimes have excellent value, and like anything of value others may occasionally steal them. In the end though, people usually know whose ideas and creations they were.

· In school, it is very likely that you will be expected to tutor and teach other students instead of having the opportunity to use that time learning new content. Make sure to devote time, even outside school, to learn new things anyway.

· You will win numerous academic awards, although at times you may feel your efforts are not always recognized. Keep striving for excellence. Not only might recognition come, but also what you learn from your efforts cannot be taken from you.

· At times, those who are hard workers and high achievers are asked to do more work and held to a higher quality standard without additional reward. Work hard and create superior output anyway; creating high quality work will fulfill you.

· You may believe your ideas are passed over for those you see as less valuable. You may feel like academic and work decisions are often made on seniority or favoritism and not necessarily work quality or creativity. Keep working hard and try to collaborate so you can find ways to make systems fairer.

· Sometimes it’s “who you know” not “what you do” that results in recognition or reward. While that may frustrate you at times, realize that over time and with consistent effort those recognitions and rewards will come to you.

· If you are not achieving up to your potential, recognize that everyone fails or does not measure up. Talk with family members and others you trust to find ways to help you rekindle your love of learning.

· Being twice exceptional (2e) can help you develop the skill to clearly look at your personal strengths and weaknesses. Many people have difficulty seeing themselves clearly and using their strengths to balance their weaknesses. Find people and situations that maximize your strengths.


Boazman, J. (March, 2014). Hope is more than just wishful thinking. Parenting for High Potential, 3(5).

Hebert, T. P. (2011). Understanding the social and emotional lives of gifted students. Waco, TX: Prufrock Press. 12-17.

Webb, J. T., Gore, J. L., Amend, E. R., & DeVries, A. R. (2007). A parent’s guide to gifted children. Tucson, AZ: Great Potential Press, Inc.


James A. Reffel is a Professor of Educational Psychology and Director of the Center for Gifted Studies at Valdosta State University. James is involved in research on creativity, leadership, wisdom, optimism, perfectionism, and overexcitabilities in gifted learners. He recently co-authored a chapter in G. S. Goodman’s Educational Psychology Reader: The art and science of how people learn. James completed the SENG Model Parent Group Facilitator training Summer 2013. He can be reached at

David M. Monetti is a Professor of Educational Psychology and faculty member of the Center for Gifted Studies at Valdosta State University. David is involved in research on Response to Intervention (RtI), giftedness, and school improvement. He completed the SENG Model Parent Group Facilitator training Summer 2013 and recently published a text through Wadsworth Publishers with Bruce Tuckman entitled Educational Psychology. He can be reached at

David T. Wasieleski is a Professor of Clinical/Counseling Psychology at Valdosta State University. He teaches courses in psychology and law, abnormal psychology, and personality assessment. David conducts research in forensic psychology, graduate admissions policies, and social psychological processes. He is a licensed psychologist in the State of Georgia. David can be reached at

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