My Smart Kid Is So Emotional–Am I A Parenting Failure?

photo by Diego Diaz, Flickr, CC
photo by Diego Diaz, Flickr, CC

Your child is emotional. Anxious. Melting down. Telling you that you’re the worst parent. Ever. Not in so many words, necessarily. But still. You know that you’re the worst parent. Ever.

“How can such a smart kid behave this way?” you wonder. “How did I screw up so badly?” 

I hear this often from parents of gifted children. Here’s what I tell them:

1. Gifted kids are EMOTIONAL. Their passionate natures can be as large as their intellects. You can respect their emotions while setting boundaries around inappropriate behavior. They’ll be calmer if they know that you’re compassionate and in charge.

2. Helping your children contain emotion is different from repressing or denying those feelings. Containment is useful, especially when you’re out in public places where screeching will be frowned upon. They can visualize a beautiful object or a cabinet or a tree or whatever their creative minds can dream up that will lovingly hold their emotions when it’s inappropriate to let them flail about. A great resource for visualizations is here.

3. Because smart kids are very perceptive, little things that others don’t notice will affect them. That includes the sounds of people chewing or the scent of your detergent. They’re not neurotic. They’re sensitive. They’ll also be finely tuned in to you. They’ll know when you’re worrying about their grades and pretending that you’re not worrying about their grades. It’s often best to confess the truth.

4. If we’re talking about 15 year old girls (more or less) and their moms, don’t ignore the awesome power of hormones. Let us all give hormones our utmost respect. They will win every time. Sometimes all you can do is ride the wave or go read a good book. (or visit your naturopath, acupuncturist or doctor)

5. Recognize when you start channeling your parents. This is not usually helpful. If you find that your mother’s criticism is coming out of your mouth or your father’s anger is simmering below the surface, consider psychotherapy. A good therapist can help you dig your own voice out from under the rubble.

6. Avoiding power struggles will be hard if your children think faster than you do. Use the “Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you” method. Give yourself time to make decisions so you don’t feel pressured. It’ll be easier for everyone to stay calm. Including you. Remember that your child will feel safer if you’re in charge.

7. You may be a problem solver and action oriented. When your children are in pain, it’s hard to not want to stop the pain immediately. Instead, start listening. Reflect back what you hear. Validate feelings. Ask them if they want your help problem solving. If you’re listening well, they can often come up with their own solutions. At first, this may feel awkward and contrived. Explain to your kids what you’re trying to do and they’ll be patient with you. You may think that you’re already listening and that it’s not working. Ask your children if they think you’re listening and then believe them when they tell you that you aren’t. (That said, set limits on how long you listen if your child tends to go on and on and on.)

8. If your own childhood was less than ideal, you might lose patience when your child is freaking out, especially if you were never allowed to complain, cry or fall apart. Give yourself some grace around your reactivity. Find a way to allow the child in you to express her or himself. A journal can be a great way to safely complain, cry or fall apart. Then again, if you need more help, look for some good resources online or seek out your friendly local psychotherapist.

9. There are no perfect parents. Your mistakes are an opportunity to show your child how to learn from mistakes, how to understand that a mistake is not the same as a failure, and that even failure is an opportunity for growth.

Your child is emotional. Anxious. Melting down. Gifted. And so are you.


To my blogEEs: Are you a parent? What challenges are you experiencing? What questions do you have? What suggestions do you have for other parents?



Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

82 responses to “My Smart Kid Is So Emotional–Am I A Parenting Failure?”

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  4. grannysantiques Avatar

    My beautiful, amazing 17 year-old grand daughter is gifted. I remember way back in elementary school any disorder in the class would spin her off in to an anxiety attack. It got better but this was due in large part to the excellent teachers she had. Here she is in 11th grade and last week told her English teacher that she “learned to diagram sentences when she was 10” she sees no point in spending every day doing work she has already mastered. Being very outspoken is a trait of mine she inherited. She is talented and loves playing in the school band, first chair flute, acting in school plays, singing in the choir and also the vocalist for a jazz band. About a month ago her mom, my daughter, could not get her out of bed she would sleep all day and night. Last week she went to her primary care Dr. and was put on an antidepressant. It is a very low dose one but appears to be helping. As Granny, I am her safe place. We get in our pajamas and watch movies, dance, go bowling basically things she will not do with her parents. It is comforting to read that this is common among these wonderful kids. I do worry about her college years and pray that she will find her niche and excel. Thank you for putting this up for us to read.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      It’s so great that she has you! If it makes sense, you might read some other posts and share them with her. Perhaps it will help her to see herself described here.

      1. grannysantiques Avatar

        I will be sure to share them with her. This coming weekend we are going on a staycation at my father’s house. Bless you for helping those of us with these amazing gifts from God.

  5. Ensie Avatar

    Hi, Paula. Some artistic people are equally emotional too, aren’t they? Are they also considered gifted?

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Just being emotional isn’t enough to identify someone as gifted. It would be a combination of many traits, including an advanced intellectual ability. That said, someone with artistic talent could be gifted at art. Of course, we call talented athletes gifted. So the word can apply to more than the type of person I’m describing on my blog. It’s complicated! I wrote this post particularly because gifted children can be labelled immature when they’re highly emotional but actually it’s often part of their nature to have deep feelings and to be very expressive.

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  7. manveen Avatar

    HI Paula. Thanks for this beautiful and re-assuring article. I think my 6 year old is gifted. He spells everything mentioned here. He has a fantastic long term memory, great observation and is a fantastic child. He, however, needs action and there isn’t provision for that in a traditional classroom. I hope I can help him sail through and align academics with action.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for sharing, manveen. Good to hear from you!

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  11. Raz Avatar

    My biggest problem is that our oldest son and I are equally intense and emotional, and I find it challenging to try to stay calm throughout the whole day to deal with him. I want to help him learn to contain his emotions and control his behaviour, but it feels like I have nothing left for myself! I am left feeling drained at the end of the day and I sometimes dread getting home at the end of a work day. 🙁

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I’m sure other parents will relate to what you’re saying here Raz. If you also have a rainforest mind and are highly sensitive and emotional, you can get easily triggered by your son’s reactivity. It sounds like it’ll be important for you to find ways to nourish yourself so that you do have the energy left to stay calm and help him. Not easy if you work all day outside the home. The techniques you use to soothe yourself, can be the same ones you teach him. You can learn together?? Self-care is important for all parents and kids!!

      1. Raz Avatar

        Thanks, learning together is an excellent idea.

        But yikes! I didn’t intend for my name to show up in my post. I can’t seem to change it or delete my message. Can you help me? Thank you!

        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober


  12. SoaringEagle Avatar

    Thank you for this post. My 12 yr old daughter is like this. It’s hard at times but I am trying to help and encourage her.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for sharing, SoaringEagle.

  13. AH Avatar

    Hello! My son will be four this month. I’m still not sure if he’s gifted or just has a phenomenal visual memory. He started reading before 2, before he started speaking. He just recently started communicating, and his pragmatic language seems underdeveloped. He is generally very reserved and introverted, but has a major meltdown everyday to school. It starts with tears at home, and I have to carry him all the way to class kicking and screaming. I don’t know why he hates school so much, and it is a very trying experience. He is very sensitive (will shut down the laptop when Littlefoot’s mother dies or Nemo gets separated from his dad). He has never thrown tantrums before and the school thing has me worried. He is the youngest in his class. I know they are doing concepts way below his level, but I don’t know where to place him as socially/emotionally he is still just a three year old. We don’t really have schools for accelerated learners here.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Your son sounds like he certainly has some of the rainforest-minded traits. It would be good to explore what it is about school that upsets him so much–if he’s there all day and bored all day, that could be part of it. Being highly sensitive can also make school difficult. There are some great blogs by parents of gifted kids at and Sometimes gifted kids are twice-exceptional. You can read more about that on the blogs. I hope that helps. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Andrea Avatar

    Hi. We have a 16 year old (“going 25”). She is gifted to the extreme, and very sensitive and emotional. I loved your article. It’s good to know we are not the only family going through tough education. We started therapy twice, finding out that our second therapist is on the right page. It changed our lives when we were all ready to quit on each other. We had therapy for two years, and my daughter had an amazing response (although it was really difficult at the beginning).
    To our surprise, we did it have to change her behavior (which is what you always try to do as a parent), but changed ours.
    We are healthier, happier and learning something new every day.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for describing your experience with therapy, Andrea. I’m sure it’ll encourage others to give it a try.

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  17. Maria Avatar

    Thank you, I’m a single mom of 3 girls, two of which are gifted and talented and are 13 and 11. My house is constant chaos since the 13 year old cant stand the sound of doors closes, chewing, whistling, or anything for that matter and the 11 year old cant stand anyone disrupting her while shes talking but will talk for hours before finally getting to the point. Im sure the youngest is soon going to be headed that direction too. Im always worried that I’m not being a good mom for them and beating myself up for their father who is a drug addict and has been out of our lives for 8 years. Im desperate as you can probably tell from my writing but at the same time a cry with joy knowing I became a mom at age 15 but my daughters are smart, and nice girls and I know they will be something in this world.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Wow, Maria. Sounds like you’re handling quite a lot. Congratulations on raising good kids. I hope you’re finding some support on my blog. Remember to take care of yourself!

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  19. Sandra Avatar

    I am a gifted/talented teacher and would love to have your permission to use this post at our next parent meeting. Do you have any suggestions on questions to use to spark discussion? I was planning to use “What challenges are you facing?” If you have a couple more, it would be wonderful. Thank you.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Hi Sandra. Of course, you can use my post at your meeting. It would be great if you could provide the link to the blog in case they’d like to read more. (and if you provide it as a handout, if you could include my name and the blog link) I’m guessing that the post itself will spark lots of discussion and you probably won’t need to prompt them. But you could ask them which parts they relate to and to give examples then what are the strategies they’ve found that have worked for them. You might also ask them to share the resources they’ve found to be helpful. Sound good?

  20. Cait Fitz @ My Little Poppies Avatar
    Cait Fitz @ My Little Poppies

    Oh boy, Paula. This is so, so great!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober


  21. Celi Trépanier Avatar
    Celi Trépanier

    “It’s often best to confess the truth.” <— I can totally vouch that this is always the best way to go. Those gifted children will always zero in on any parental inaccuracy, exaggeration, or white lie–each and every time. Then they will proceed to call you on the carpet for it, being the little lawyers that they are.

    Another brilliant article full of truth and enlightenment! Thank you, Paula!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I always love hearing from you, Celi. And you are such a great resource for parents of gifted children. Your new book can be found here and is an excellent guide for parents and your blog is always full of great suggestions:

  22. Brandi Dilling Thompson Avatar
    Brandi Dilling Thompson

    We definitely go through this with my daughter (4). She’s immensely emotional and she is STUBBORN. It doesn’t matter what you try and do – she just wants to do things as she wants to do them. We prefer peaceful parenting, and we know she’s so flipping smart, but that doesn’t mean she cares about reason. She’s still four! And it gets so frustrating sometimes. And she’ll tell us things like ‘I will do things without you telling me to do them’ and we try to give her as many choices as reasonably possibly in hopes that THAT will encourage her to work with us. I don’t try and rule with an iron fist, but nor do I want to be flippantly ignored when we need to get out the door to an appointment. It’s been very trying. She’s an extremely, sweet, loving girl.. but she has a mind of her own, big time.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Gifted kids can be very strong willed. It’s good to find helpful ways to communicate while she’s young. There’s a fairly new book by Dan Siegel called No-Drama Discipline. It looks pretty good. I’d recommend that you check it out. The techniques described would work well with gifted kids. Thanks for commenting, Brandi.

  23. Ona Avatar

    Thanks for the post.
    I have three sons and the middle one is highly gifted. I never know how smart he is because he’s always pushing the eldest (1year half apart), I am concerned if it is competition and I don’t know how to stop him from making his oldest brother feel less smart…. Any advice??
    Many thanks in advance

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      One quick thought–Perhaps if you get alone with your son and take a ride with him or a hike and ask him about how he feels about his brother. Or ask him to help you problem solve about this concern that you have. Maybe he doesn’t realize that his brother doesn’t have the same abilities? I really need more information to give you a better answer. (i.e., their ages, etc.) If it’s a big problem, a good family counselor could help. I’ll think about writing a post on siblings. There might be some information in the articles library at Sorry I can’t be more specific, Ona!

      1. onaserradell Avatar

        I am looking forward on that post about sibilings… Same gender sibilings and sandwich syndrome 😉

    2. Beth Ball Avatar
      Beth Ball

      Ona- we have the same concern with our gifted son. He often got frustrated with his brother for not learning as quickly or understanding things. What I did, not sure it’s the best but it worked, was I told him the truth. Typically these gifted kids know when we aren’t being real with them and they apprecaite the honesty- so I just told him that being smart like he is, is literally a gift. He didn’t work really hard for it, he didn’t earn it, it is A GIFT. He was just born that way. We are Chrstian, so we also talk sbout how it’s a gift from God, but you can leave that out too! I remind my son that he needs to be patient, kind, and humble towards others because they ARE working VERY hard for something he doesn’t at all have to work towards. And I gently remind him that it’s not ok to brag, or even act better then anyone BECAUSE he really doesn’t have a right to…
      Since that talk, and with me reminding him this…he’s completely different. He helps his brother with his ABC’s and is sooooo much more gracious. It’s super encouraging!

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        Thanks, Beth, for sharing your experience with Ona and the rest of us.

      2.  Avatar

        Thank You!!
        I am trying my best to well educate my sons so they can become BETTER PERSONS

  24. blacksheep Avatar

    The sound of chewing….. oh how i can relate to this! The famiky dinner table used to be tortuous!

    We work with texture sensitivities, smells, sounds, lights….the lights at school make a buzzy/humming sound and somehow my daughter and i are the only people in the world who hear it!

    Would love to read more on working through the frustrations and road blocks that are thrown up when the inevitable repetition or effort is needed!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Great topic idea, blacksheep. Will keep it in mind. Thanks!

  25. Christina Avatar

    We are in the depths of this with our three children, 15 1/2 y.o. son, weeks from 13 y.o. daughter, and just turned 3 y.o. son. All three have seen therapists over the years (yes, the littlest one had 3 months of play therapy last summer). I’m having a hard time, and so are our therapists, figuring out what behaviors are attributed to giftedness, ADHD, SPD, depression, anxiety, and mood disorders. My oldest lacks any motivation in life and generally acts like a textbook case of depression; my middle is a walking timebomb and has our household walking on eggshells; my youngest tends to get physical and begins hitting adults and children when he is offended in any way. We finally have an appointment next month for older two to see a psychiatrist for possible medication. We have mostly been intentional with our parenting, but nothing seems to work long-term. In fact, it almost seems the opposite of what I read works with them. The one truth that holds fast for all three is the use of positive-reinforcement. Negative reinforcement sparks the worst behaviors they are capable of having. Correction of any type could also spark negative behaviors, depending on their state of mind, which is hard to judge. My oldest is an extreme introvert, my middle is an extrovert. My youngest is leaning towards being an extrovert. My oldest has never had a friend. Ever. I can go on and on. We are just so desperate to help each one! And yes, my husband and I are both gifted and can relate to the struggles we see in my children, but we never struggled to the degree we see in our children.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Oh Christina, this sounds so challenging. I’m glad you’re working with therapists. Are you reading the material on twice exceptionality (2e) ? Dan Peters at the Summit Center in CA has a lot to say on the topic. You can google him and find talks on YouTube and articles he’s written. He would be a good place to start. When kids are gifted with particular disabilities, it can be very hard to sort out what’s what. Remember to find ways to take care of yourself as well! Thanks for sharing.

  26. Kristi Avatar

    Thank you, this is all what I TRY to do but it’s hard b/c — as you mentioned! — I didn’t get it from my parents when I was growing up. Like my son, I’m gifted, but only lately have I learned (when reading about it re: him) that giftedness and emotional intensity/sensitivity go together. I was always told I was “too” sensitive etc. — they didn’t like that part of my giftedness. It’s so good to learn that my emotional sensitivity is connected, not my fault, and there’s nothing wrong with me!

    I just found your blog through a gifted fb group and look forward to reading more from you.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Welcome to my blog, Kristi. Thanks for commenting!

  27. mom of 3 Avatar
    mom of 3

    I don’t think my kids are gifted on the academic sense they go to an above average s hool abd do well with effort I had my daughter take the GATE test a few years back but she didn’t pass however, I would like to know if “giftedness” is academic only? My older two get along with adults more,than kids are not able to uderstand lids their own age but do fine with older more mature kids. Are very very sensitive to subtle looks, comments, etc is there social and emotional giftedness? Thank you

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Some children who are gifted do well academically. Others do not. So you don’t have to get good grades in school or perform well on tests to be gifted. Some highly intellectually gifted kids are frustrated by schooling, for example, and so don’t do well. Or they may be anxious during testing so not test well. And, of course, not all highly intelligent people are also highly sensitive, but I find that many of them are. The whole topic is very complicated and controversial! People define giftedness in many different ways. What I’m presenting in this blog is my experience with gifted children and adults over my years teaching and counseling. You can read more about this on the website Thanks for the question!

  28. Gail Post, Ph.D. Avatar
    Gail Post, Ph.D.

    Paula, Great article with solid, helpful advice. A lot of useful reminders for parents when they feel discouraged about their children, and don’t know how to respond.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks, Gail. I don’t know if you noticed but I link to your blog in #8! You always provide specific ideas for parents in your posts so I want to let people know about you.

  29. miriamspia Avatar

    I was stunned when I read that according to the research by Linda Silverman and others, that “gifted” aka “abnormally highly intelligent” people tend to also be more emotional. I had heard that women are much more emotional than men. I had heard that children are more emotionally sensitive than much of the adult population. I had not heard that gifted people have a greater emotional register than others. I have heard that people of the choleric temperament are sensitive to stimulation and tend to remember experience in much of their original strength and color more than other temperaments do.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Yes, in my experience and in the literature, it seems that gifted folks tend to feel things more deeply. It could be another way to say that they’re often more sensitive or more intense. It may have to do with how the rainforest mind is wired. That said, certainly not all highly intelligent people are more emotional! But, for example, the gifted men that I’ve worked with and known over the years have all been deeply emotional, which may go against the rules of what a man is supposed to be. Thanks for sharing!

      1. miriamspia Avatar

        Sure! I had no idea about the emotional component as having anything to do with it until I read some of Linda Silverman’s work on line. LOL – and sad, but true….but years ago I found that information in my birth chart….but I am not sure I even believe in astrology so I didn’t assume it was true but also had no idea it might have anything to do with being smart.

        I now have a pet pop up theory (quick and easy, no paper with thorough research done) that the whole matter amounts to a nervous and sensory system highly sensitive enough to create diverse affects but nothing so extreme as to be a disorder. The brain is a giant nerve ending, so there we are.

        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          Thank you for sharing your theory, miriamspia!

  30. past the outer courts... Avatar
    past the outer courts…

    THANK YOU SO MUCH for writing this! Oh man, it helps. My son is almost 8 and incredibly smart…and emotional. Everyday there are tears. We homeschool and go from AP Physics to having to remind our son that it’s ok for his brother to BREATH. I can have the volume of a lecture I want to listen to, on level one and my son (who WAS asleep upstairs) appears before me and asks, “what are you listening to?” Almost like he teleported. It’s straight creepy. He’s suffered from visual panic attacks since age three and I find we spend more time working on his emotional maturity rather then academic. It’s never ending. I needed this read today, thank you!!!

    Fun side note- though we live in Fargo, ND both my husband and I grew up in Eugene, Oregon- graduating from Churchill High School and attending the U of O and NCU. It was pretty neat to read this article, then see where you live! We still visit home as often as we can to see family!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I’m so glad I can help you understand your son. And it’s great to meet a fellow Oregonian! (I moved here in 1981.) I have a good friend who lives in Jamestown, ND!

  31. Paula Prober Avatar
    Paula Prober

    Well said, Melanie. “I stop wondering what I did wrong, and I start wondering how we can use this experience to guide how we can relate to and help our daughter cope with her own emotions.”

  32. Melanie Avatar

    My daughter turned 6 today, and we planned a day packed with fun, relaxation, and a break from her baby brother. The sweets, the attention, the break in routine… Something GOT to her.

    She screamed, she kicked, she blamed. It was an ugly scene. My grandmother, lovely and wise as she is, doesn’t understand that “behaviorism”–as in, ignoring a negative behavior til it dies off on its own–generally doesn’t work with these special sensitive kiddos. I choked down my own frustration and disappointment that she was acting “so horrible, so ungrateful” when we’d worked so hard to make her day special, because it’s not about ME.

    Her day was soured by her own over-stimulation. The overall affect of her experience was overshadowed by her own intense emotions, confused body chemistry, and jumbled thoughts. When I put it into perspective, I stop wondering what I did wrong, and I start wondering how we can use this experience to guide how we can relate to and help our daughter cope with her own emotions.

    Very timely article for me. 🙂

  33. Ro Avatar

    I am a parent. My daughter started high school this year. She has been a ‘still waters run deep’ kind of person since toddlerhood. Yesterday was parent-teacher interview night at her new school, and we were told by the mathematics teacher that our girl knows all the work they’re doing in class, but she needs to extend herself by trying the different extension opportunities available. At home she admitted (I almost had to prise it out of her in the end) that there are some children in her class who are great at the extension activities and she tried some and couldn’t solve them straight away so she gave up. She said she’s afraid that if she keeps going and tries really hard but STILL can’t solve a problem, then she is not good at maths after all and is a failure. This from the girl who skipped a year at school and is now in the extension class working a year ahead in maths and already knows all the work they’re doing. She had come to the conclusion she was probably no good at maths, seized up, but kept it a secret. I wish so much that she could be less wound up. She’s superficially a really easy-going girl, but underneath it all she seems to carry these secret knots of tension. Aside from that, teacher after teacher mentioned our girl’s ‘over-excitability’ in class. One teacher said “It’s almost like she needs to get up and run around for a while” and my husband and I both laughed & blurted out at the same time “Yeah, we have to get her to do that at home”. I tried to field these concerns on behalf of my daughter and give the teachers a strategy to help when she is bubbling over. Fingers crossed it works out. I worry now that my daughter might try even harder to contain herself in class (because she does work at it) and it could cause more strain for her. I’m hoping that as my daughter enters her teen years, somehow, she can be encouraged to open up more. She is truly a mystery to me.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Gifted kids often give up if something doesn’t come easily because they don’t realize that most people have to work hard to learn something. She doesn’t have that experience very often, it sounds like. So we have to explain that to our kids. You might look at the work of Carol Dweck and her book Mindset. You can talk to your daughter about how having a growth mindset will help her understand that having to try hard at a problem is what develops her brain and that being smart isn’t a static thing. (If your daughter isn’t a big talker, you could have her write to you and you write back as an alternative way for her to express her concerns to you.) Thanks for sharing, Ro.

  34. Liz Avatar

    Thank you for this helpful article. I have been thrust into the emotional waters head first so many times this school year with my 12 yr old daughter and 10 year old son. Their sensitivities are different but can get both intense. I am staring into the fast approaching summer months before 7th and 5th grades with the feeling that I must stockpile my toolbox to help all of us through and to prepare for the next school year. Can you recommend how to simplify these complex needs if I were to seek out a counselor’s help? By simply stating they are gifted and emotionally intense will she “get” what that looks like? As well, would counseling perhaps help alleviate my feelings of exhaustion or could it all just become that much more overwhelming? Seems I apply the advice that should work and when it doesn’t it is hard to keep at it.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      You’d definitely want to find a counselor who understands giftedness. Otherwise, she might not get it, sad to say. There are some lists of professionals on websites like or or Also, has a therapist directory where you type in your city/state and read profiles of counselors in your area. If you happen to be in CA, there are many counselors and some organizations that support parents of gifted children. That said, if you could find just a good counselor who may not have experience with giftedness but was open to learn, that could work. For you to see someone for general parenting support, I do think it could help with the exhaustion and could help you when you feel discouraged. Another idea would be to be sure you get enough time to do things that nourish you, especially during the summer. That’s good modeling for your kids, too. Thanks for sharing your concerns, Liz.

  35. Article: “My Smart Kid Is So Emotional–Am I A Parenting Failure?” By Paula Prober

    […] can be strong, and often, in which case parents will relate to this article, “My Smart Kid Is So Emotional–Am I A Parenting Failure?” By Paula […]

  36. Maria Avatar

    Thank you, thank you! My daughter is profoundly gifted and profoundly emotional. We experienced one of those major meltdowns just yesterday. Your words were reassuring and made feel like I am not alone.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for letting me know, Maria.

  37. Linda Avatar

    As mom to a gifted, hormonal 15-year old girl who has our house in constant chaos, I really appreciated this article. (She’s also graduating from high school in several months to compound everything further.) She didn’t want to eat with us last night because the sound of our chewing was unbearable. (We turned on the radio and she put one earbud in for her own music, too.) It’s like you’ve been at our house, lol. Thanks for the reminder that we’re not alone!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Glad to know that the post helped, Linda!

  38. holbart Avatar

    My husband and I haven’t had the good fortune of having children, but if I did have children, I would want to model my parenting after how Buck Brannaman, a modern day horse whisperer, approaches horsemanship. Here is an amazing documentary of a man who, although not perfect, has an intuitive sense about how to work with the energy of a horse without breaking the horse’s spirit. Containment, leadership, empowerment, empathy, compassion – they are all in his approach to working with horses, IMO It’s on Netflix.

    Love your thoughts, Paula. I especially like the idea of building strong containers. They may protest it, but I think containment helps kids to feel safe and secure in the world. Gifted kids may need bigger containers, but they still need them. Containment is compassion.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I think I’ve heard of him. I’ll check it out. Interesting about containers. Counseling clients need safe containers, too. And, because they’re gifted, the containers are quite large! I love that “containment is compassion.” Thank you.

  39. Franca78 (@Francescamoun78) Avatar
    Franca78 (@Francescamoun78)

    Same as byamtich, i’m a new parent too and found your article extremely interesting and practical, hope i will be able to practice these advices, thank you loads.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Exciting, Franca78, being a new parent! Like one parent said, these ideas aren’t always easy to implement so go easy on yourself.

  40. byamtich Avatar

    Thanks! As a new parent, I hope to take this in fully, particularly the flavor of boundaried abundance.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Congratulations on your new parenthood, Bob!

  41. Also Anonymous Avatar
    Also Anonymous

    “especially if you were never allowed to complain, cry or fall apart.”

    That hits home. more to say but no words right now…

    1.  Avatar

      Ditto. I have a hard time allowing my son to experience his emotions full-stop because I was never ever allowed to as a kid.

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        That would definitely make it hard for you to handle his emotions. Important to make that connection so that you know when you’re being triggered and can find ways to calm yourself.

  42.  Avatar

    Thank you for this post. its nice to find people who get it.

  43. helenjnoble Avatar

    Another well-wriiten, accurate and reassuring blog!

  44.  Avatar

    Thanks for this advice. I love the posts with actual advice, .. I need actual suggestions of what to do!!