Tips for Motivating Gifted Kids via

Tips for Motivating Gifted Kids

Gifted kids and twice-exceptional kids are often difficult to motivate. They seem to have their own agenda, and certain things they do {and don’t} want to learn about.


Tips for Motivating Gifted Kids via


And they can be pretty vocal about what they don’t want to do. Before you realize it, you’re dealing with an argumentative underachiever who is falling behind when he’s capable of performing several grade levels above his peers.

And, yes, I’m speaking from experience – current experience, actually.

So, what do you do? How do you motivate the unmotivated?




Get Them On-Board

Gifted children are motivated when they perceive value in what they are doing. Most people are motivated by what they value, really. I know I am.

So respect this if you can.

Explain why they should care about their work. What is its purpose? At the beginning of new units, topics, studies, etc. tell them why they need to know it. What will it help them do in the future?


Tips for Motivating Gifted Kids via


One of my all-time favorite writing projects was a science book I wrote for Prufrock Press a few years ago. Real-Life Science Mysteries takes real people, working science jobs from landscape designers to herpetologists to physicists and profiles their job. Interspersed throughout the profiles are activities that teach the skills needed for that job {or are a spinoff from the interview}. It answers the question “why will I need this?” in a motivating way.


Reali life science mysteries


To be motivating to gifted kids, an activity or lesson should:

  • help them meet their current needs or feed interests
  • provide a social reward or advancement
  • prepare them for a future course of study
  • prepare them for a career or job they want to pursue

Help Them See Their Future

Talk to your gifted children about what they are interested in and what jobs sounds cool to them. Even the youngest of our gifted kids can tell you they want to be around animals when they’re grown-ups – or whatever. Even if they can’t narrow things down to a career choice {and I still can’t}, your child may be passionate about computers or reading or history or crafting.


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Help them identify some of these interests and passions. Then, help them set long and short term goals for their learning. Remember… we don’t want to spoon-feed our gifted and twice-exceptional kids information, we want to ignite a passionate love of lifelong learning. We want them to WANT to discover things.

To foster that, we need to respect their interests and capitalize on them.

Set up meetings with community members who doing jobs that may be interesting to your kids. Help them see beyond the chapter on fractions in their book. Give them the big picture.



Make Learning Authentic

Intrinsic motivation results from the enjoyment kids get from an activity. Trevor loves putting together wild LEGO structures, and constantly seeks “challenges” from friends and strangers alike, asking them what he should build in his minifigure’s mansion next. From a rotating disco ball to a working dumbwaiter – this mansion is an amazing feat of creativity and talent.

He takes on these engineering tasks, often mapping them out on paper and fiddling with motors and other mechanical features for hours in our uninsulated attic because the enjoyment he gets from the results is motivating to him.


Tips for Motivating Gifted Kids via


Ask him to do a math sheet that should take about 15 minutes, and his motivation tanks. He can throw a fit that rivals the toddler…but is full of the kind of snark that only a pre-teen can give.

Authentic learning for him means that it capitalizes on his skills and interests, and minimizes the angst. He illustrates vocabulary words and definitions with stop-motion animation. He does science experiments at random times and freezes all sorts of things around the house.

Some of his favorite learning tools include:

Having these things around can help us get through the days and subjects when he is not motivated. I can use his interests to either build a lesson around or bribe him {do this, then you can do that}. And, hey… I’m not above using extrinsic motivation on top of helping him to develop an intrinsic love of learning. He’s a kid. There’s a place for both motivations in childhood.



Value Them

Our gifted kids are different. If they’re twice-exceptional, they’re probably very misunderstood, too. Make sure they know that you value them. Tell them you’re proud of them. Share their accomplishments within their earshot.

Forget about what others think – your kids need you to be their cheerleaders. They need to hear that they are special and that their gifts and talents mean something.

One of the reasons kids love video games is that there is immediate feedback for what they are doing. Make sure that you are more appealing than another video game. Our kids need to know we love them.


Tips for Motivating Gifted Kids via


Make sure, though, that your feedback isn’t empty.

“You did a great job.” “I love that.” What a pretty picture.” “Cool LEGO house.”

These words hold little meaning.

You need to be specific and what you say has to be meaningful to that particular child. Recognize the talents they are using and developing, and share how that hard work helped in their achievement.

“You were so absorbed in your blueprints earlier, and I can see how that hard work paid off. The shark tank you added to “Stark Mansion” is amazing. I love how the shark actually looks like it is swimming. I can’t wait to see how you motorize the carousel you’re building for Cristy.”

This type of compliment takes a bit longer, but it’s motivating because it acknowledges the hard work, is admiring of the finished product, and encourages further development of the skill or talent.


Tips for Motivating Gifted Kids via


Parenting a gifted or twice-exceptional child isn’t easy – and it’s downright hard if your kid is unmotivated, too. But, if you remember to build your child up as you’re working on that lack of motivation, and tap into his or her interests, you’ll not only motivate your bright kiddo to do the current assignment or activity, but you’ll be motivating a lifelong learner.

And you’ll be building a loving relationship that will last.

For more information on gifted kids, check out:


This post is linked up with The Gifted Homeschoolers Forum’s May Blog Hop. For more great tips and tricks, check out some of the other posts by GHF bloggers.