School for gifted kindergartener with challenging behavior

Hello, I have a 5 year old child who was IQ tested at over 140. We are currently evaluating schools, and given we live in San Francisco, most of the schools are in the Peninsula.  The closest is Nueva School in Burlingame, which sounds great, however, my child is very strong-willed.  We already have moved him from 2 different schools because of his behavior, and only recently discovered that it's probably because of his giftedness.  We knew he was advanced but didn't realize the connection between his advanced academics and his poor behavior.

So now we are looking for the right school for him, and Nueva seems great.  However, the Yelp reviews seem to suggest that this school might not tolerate children who are strong-willed or who have potential behavioral problems.  He's a great kid when he's engaged and interested but when he makes up his mind, he won't change it, and is prone to throwing tantrums.  I think this is part of the asynchronous development that we've researched about him, but we are working on that separately with external help as well.  But the last thing we want to do is go through is another school move because the school isn't capable or willing to help with un-perfect gifted children.

Would anyone know if the Yelp reviews are true?  Should we be casting a wider net for our child to find a better school more suited to his temperment?  Thank you.

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Hi There,

You're asking great questions about your son and the best fit in terms of school. I think you're wise to think about how the school handles "high-spirited" kids. One small piece of advice as a former independent school administrator: smaller schools that don't have long waiting lists are often more open to taking on kids who may not fit larger schools with stringent behavior requirements. If you choose carefully, a smaller school that still has challenging curriculum may have teachers better equipped (trained) to work loving, firmly and patiently with your son. On the home front, it's extremely important that you and your husband get on the same page in terms of having a consistent, firm, loving parenting practice. You may already have something in place, but this is just a heads up. Super smart kids have a way of "hacking" their parents' well-meaning parenting styles. And it has the potential to get worse and have bigger consequences as your child gets older. No matter how smart your son is, he still needs to know that you are lovingly and happily in charge. Programs like "Love and Logic" may help. Good luck in your search...I don't know schools in your area well, so this suggestion is obviously more targeted toward how you, at home, can support your son no matter where he goes to school. 

I don't know specifically about that school but you might want to also consider a Montessori elementary school. My son is very bright and also strong willed. Montessori allows him to learn at the above-grade levels in subjects where he is advanced (math in particular) but also allows him to have friends who are his age or younger to meet him where his is emotionally. It is child-led with individual or small group lessons so it takes a lot of the frustration out of school. 

Dear mom of a gifted kid,

In the ‘90s it became popular to define giftedness as asynchronous development, and a popular gifted website had a lot of articles that pushed the idea that gifted kids often have social and emotional issues due to being gifted.   More recent research about gifted kids has debunked this theory/description.    All kids have some level of asynchronous development.  It is not a hallmark of being gifted.  Recent research also shows that, as a group, gifted kids are better adjusted socially and emotionally than their peers.  However, there are definitely gifted kids who have problem behaviors, learning disabilities, and emotional problems in addition to being gifted.

Your child would be called 2E, or twice-exceptional.  Your child is gifted AND has challenging behavior.  Having to find new schools due to behavioral problems is not any more typical for a gifted kid than any other kid.  If it was the norm for gifted kids, then schools for the gifted would cheerfully accept kids with behaviors, because it would be expected.  Understand?

Can you talk to your pediatrician about your child’s behavior issues?  Is your child a “Spirited Child” or is it something more like ADHD, ASD, Oppositional-defiant, etc?  Hopefully, your pediatrician can provide help or referrals.  There is real help available.

As a mom of a 2E kid myself, I am trying to give you the best advice that I can.  Focus on getting your child’s behavior or challenges sorted out first.  Once behavior is manageable, school choices become much, much easier!  Trying to enroll in a school that doesn’t want to work with behaviors is frustrating and futile.  Once the behaviors are sorted out, there is plenty of time for the gifted part of your child to really shine.

Good luck!