Copyright © 2010-2023| 12340 Pinecrest Road, Reston, Virginia 20191 | 703-860-0211 | firstname.lastname@example.org | Tax ID 27-2420631 | CEEB Code 470033
by Liz Crowder, Director of Admissions & College Counseling
“I’m bored.” These two little words strike fear into a parent’s heart. Why? Because we feel like it’s our job to rectify it. While some degree of boredom is good for kids (it helps motivate them to do something about it), at other times, it can signal that intervention is needed.
Enter the gifted child. Gifted kids have advanced intellectual abilities and may find regular schoolwork or activities unchallenging, unstimulating, or tedious. So, when they say, “I’m bored,” it could indicate a few things:
Gifted kids have a higher capacity for learning and require challenging tasks or materials to stay engaged, not simply more worksheets or the opportunity to tutor another child who’s falling behind. They want to learn! If you want to learn about astronomy but are given the task of painting the White House, it might not be too bad initially. After all, you’re at the White House! Important stuff happens here! But after the first week of eight-hour days and an eighteenth bucket of white paint, the thrill is gone, as BB King would say. A gifted student might find themselves painting the building with a series of stars, perhaps Orion or Cassiopeia.
It’s too easy:
When students feel unchallenged, they may express it as boredom. When this happens month after month, their motivation can drop, leading to boredom and frustration. To prevent underachievement, these students need differentiated instruction or more complex tasks. These kiddos are used to doing their work without much (or any) effort. The one skill they develop from this environment is the ability to “call it in.” Only later, maybe in college, do they have to study. It’s a shame to have students wait twelve years or more to feel engaged and learn something. But how many gifted children have dropped out of school before then?
It’s too hard:
Sometimes students find themselves in academic situations that are more challenging than they bargained for. It may be that they never had to work at learning before or having to spend time memorizing vocabulary for a foreign language is tedious. For them, it may feel like boredom, so that’s the word they use. But actually, they’re finally facing a difficult task. Ask what they find boring about what they’re doing, and the answer might surprise you. It may be that they’re being challenged, a feeling they haven’t experienced before.
Due to unique interests, advanced abilities, or feeling that those around them don’t understand them, gifted children may feel isolated. When they say they are bored, it could indicate that they are not connecting with others on a social or emotional level. Finding a school with other intellectually curious kids can help build those social connections. One of the most beautiful phrases from a gifted child’s mouth is, “I found my people!”
I can do it myself:
Gifted children often have a strong desire for independence and self-directed learning. If they feel restricted or limited in their choices or are not allowed to pursue their interests, they may express boredom. Too often, America’s educational system is fraught with a rigid approach to education with checkboxes to click off. Fortunate are the children who attend schools where a curious class can dive deep into an area of passion beyond teaching for the test. Projects of their choosing or papers on topics of their choice can go a long way toward keeping a gifted child feeling engaged and having a sense of agency in their learning.
Finally, we can’t forget screens. The real world moves slower than a YouTube video or video game. Students who spend a significant amount of time on screens daily find slower-paced activities boring compared to screens stimulation. If you find yourself in this situation, find a week that works for your family, and try a screen-free week. Keep a journal to see how your child feels at the beginning of the week and how that compares to the end of the week. Maybe at the end of the week, they’ll have picked up toys or books that have been gathering dust on the shelves.
When a gifted child says, “I’m bored,” it can carry a deeper meaning than simply being bored in the traditional sense. As parents and educators, we need to pay attention to these cues. Addressing unique needs for intellectual challenge, social connection, and autonomy can help prevent gifted children from experiencing disengagement, underachievement, and other negative impacts on their overall development. While many parents and educators might think that gifted kids will be okay because of their ability to learn, they are often at risk for finding stimulation in ways that can be troublesome: drugs, skipping school, and disconnection from education in general. So perhaps when we hear our child say, “I’m bored,” it should strike a little fear into our hearts. And who knows, finding a way to engage them in an area of passion (or even interest) might go a long way toward a happy, productive young adult one day.