5 Ways Bullying Affects Gifted Students
Originally posted on https://oakcrestacademy.org/5-ways-bullying-affects-gifted-students/
Gifted students may already experience pain and rejection differently from their peers. This means that bullying can be especially difficult for them to recover from and process. As 67 percent of gifted students had experienced bullying by eighth grade, concern about all forms of it is a challenge for parents as well as educators. Providing a safe and supportive environment in which they feel accepted regardless of performance is key in raising and educating gifted students.
Below are a few ways bullying can affect gifted students. While these are all outcomes to watch for, this list is by no means all-encompassing.
1.) Dropping Academic Performance and Masking Gifts
The effects of bullying may manifest among gifted students in the form of precipitously dropping grades. Academically gifted students, attempting to disappear among their peers, may purposely tank tests, avoid seat work, or skip homework. In addition, students who are distracted from studying by fear might begin to sink in even their strongest subjects. A school environment which feels unsafe or like a battleground is a challenge for any child, but especially for the gifted, who may already be developing more slowly than their peers in social skills.
We’re all familiar with the stereotype of an awkward, straight-A student pushed to the fringes of their peers’ social lives. The complex nature of giftedness and social movement means that the reality of bullying is even more multifaceted.
Not all students experience giftedness academically. Some show tremendous talent in composing classical music, competing in non-traditional sports, working in engineering, or dealing with animals. Having interests beyond the pop culture norms of their peers may make particular targets out of gifted students.
Some exceptional children react by masking their gifts. In an attempt to fit in, they may feign a lack of interest in the areas in which they have previously distinguished themselves, or even self-sabotage their performance of it. This, especially if combined with a sudden plummet in academic performance, is a strong warning sign that a gifted student is adversely affected by bullying.
2.) Extreme Reluctance to Attend School, Absenteeism, or Truancy
Most children prefer to be left to their own devices than contained in a classroom, but gifted students might begin to demonstrate extreme reluctance to attend school when bullied. School might seem like a prison to unhappy gifted students, leading to a daily battle with parents to simply put them on the bus each morning.
In an attempt to flee what might feel like an inescapable situation, gifted children might use advanced cognitive and persuasive abilities to “negotiate” their way out of attending school. Some might manufacture illness or find ways to slip away from their peers.
In the extreme, some gifted students become so disillusioned with a structured school environment, either through social isolation or a failure of an educational system to meet their needs, that anywhere from 4% to 20% of gifted students drop out when they are old enough.
The onset of depression symptoms in average as well as gifted students is often the outcome of bullying. The signals of clinical depression can be difficult to catch especially in adolescents, who might experience hormonal mood swings that may mimic depression. And especially gifted children, who may process sensitivities differently than their peers or siblings, could experience personal disappointments or upsetting news events in a more emotional fashion for a longer period of time.
Sudden loss of energy, a drastic change in sleep patterns, lack of interest in former passions, and decreased appetite are all signs of depression. If these symptoms persist for more than a few weeks, professional assistance can assist a bullied, depressed child.
4.) Low Self-Esteem and Self-Criticism
Gifted children who are bullied might begin to exhibit low self-esteem and start to view their gifts as liabilities. In addition to trying to hide their gifts in order to fit in with their peers, they may begin to question their worth as individuals, or even denounce themselves as strange.
Low self-esteem as a result of bullying can haunt a child into adulthood. Some who possess ability to analyze beyond their peers can begin to brood or withdraw from even family members. When a child experiences low self-esteem, he or she may go from self-reliance to adopted helplessness, regress in emotional development (for example, returning to bed-wetting), give up easily on difficult tasks, or become even more sensitive about the opinion of others.
Other gifted children respond to bullying by tumbling into self-criticism. Students who are gifted tend to also be creative and persistent problem solvers, and if they can’t find a way on their own to stop bullying from their peers, they might begin to blame themselves. Especially if they have been celebrated in the past for finding solutions to such challenges as building a complicated engine or writing a series of short stories, a gifted child may berate him or herself for not being able figure out how to improve their lot with their peers.
5.) Falling Into Over-Analysis and Perfectionism
Gifted children may become preoccupied with trying to understand why they are being bullied, especially those who are logically gifted. They may struggle with making sense of the concept that their peers might be treating them poorly out of jealousy. Others who are highly tuned in to issues of justice or who are extremely sensitive to moral ideals become painfully aware that they they themselves have become targets of unethical treatment.
As a reaction to not fitting in with some of their peers, bullied children who are gifted might turn to perfectionism. Since they may have previously won for completing advanced tasks well, they could pin their self-esteem to accomplishments and tangible outcomes. They could transfer the inadequacies they feel at the hands of their peers to academic achievement or the ideal completion of simple tasks or chores. When bullying leads to self-blame and criticism, the gifted student may be attempting to thwart it in unhealthy ways.
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