Expert Iconexpert advice MORE

Gifted Kids and Competition

Gifted and Talented Expert Advice from Noreen H. Joslyn, LISW, ACSW

Q: I read with interest your letter about finding a counselor who knows giftedness. It describes my son perfectly. He has tremendous compassion, and frequently asks questions about life and death. He is also very competitive and agonizes a lot if anybody gets better scores or more points than him. I want to teach him that it's okay not to win, without making him lose interest or without thinking it's no use competing. This has been difficult for me to deal with.

A: Many gifted kids have a bit of difficulty learning that they can't be "the best" at a skill all the time. Some are poor losers, and this can lead to social problems in getting along with others. I have done research into this area and I remain a firm believer in competition for gifted kids. Let me explain:

Competition -- whether in sports, academics, or the arts -- can show any person how to deal with both success and defeat. This is a valuable life skill, and the sooner it's learned, the better. I have seen cases where gifted kids go off to college and basically fall apart academically when they see that there are many high achievers like themselves.

Competitive activities do not have to be so expensive, stressful, or time-consuming that they disrupt all family life. Competition can take place at a local softball field, or at a local Scrabble game club. School competitions are also good: essay contests, math games, etc.

As parents, we can let our kids know that all they have to do is make a good effort and that's what counts the most. Talk with them about what they got out of the competition, whether they win or lose. Let them know that quitting in midstream or having temper outbursts in public are not acceptable behaviors in your family. For a gifted child, competition in areas of their interests can also help them to meet other kids who just might become friends. This can be a win-win situation for gifted kids! Good luck.

More on: Expert Advice

Noreen Joslyn is a licensed independent social worker in the state of Ohio and is a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers. She has a master's degree in Social Work, specializing in family and children, from the University of Pittsburgh. She is a psychiatric social worker in private practice with Ken DeLuca, Ph.D. & Associates, where she counsels parents and children.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


Special Books for the Kids You Love
Celebrate 20 years of sharing love to the moon and back with the anniversary edition of Guess How Much I Love You, one of the world’s best-loved picture books. Plus, search our Book Finder for more great book picks. Brought to you by Candlewick Press.

Vote Now for the Children's & Teen Choice Book Awards
Voting is open now through May 3 for the Children's and Teen Choice Book Awards — the only national book awards program where the winning author, illustrator, and books of the year are selected by young readers. Encourage your child to vote for his favorites today!

Top 10 Math & Science Apps for Your Whiz Kid
Looking for the best math and science apps for kids? Check out these cool apps for all ages, which will grow your child's love of the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math).

Registered for Kindergarten — Now What?
Wondering what to do now that you've signed your child up for kindergarten? Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks