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My Child Is Bored and Disruptive in Class

By Dr. Stacie Bunning, clinical psychologist

Question:

My son is in third grade and doesn't want to go to school anymore. He says, "I don't learn anything anyways." He was tested last year for the gifted and talented program and I thought that would help with his complaints of boredom. It hasn't helped. He continues to get straight A's and he continues to "talk out" in all his academic classes. The less challenged he is, the more he talks. This is disruptive and the teachers are very critical of this behavior. I have suggested to his teachers that he needs more to do - but it has not happened. Instead there are the notes in the planner "He was very talkative and disruptive today." This constant negative feedback in the face of his needs worries me. He used to love school and still loves to learn - just not at school.

Answer:

You did not specify whether your son was actually classified as gifted after being tested, but the tone of your letter suggests that he was. You are correct that some gifted children who are not properly challenged and stimulated in school can become disinterested and rebellious in the classroom. But another dynamic can occur, as well. Gifted children who have never before been adequately challenged become accustomed to sailing through their work without much effort. When truly challenging work is introduced, they may actually find it difficult and frustrating. These feelings might be masked by negative behaviors or attitudes in the classroom.

Gifted children tend to have high ability in at least one particular area at a young age; despite this, they can also have learning disabilities in other areas that are undetected because they have been compensated for in the early years. As academic demands increase, it becomes harder to excel, which can lead to behavior problems and frustration.

Children who are gifted tend to learn differently than other children. Often they require less scaffolding, or help, from adults to learn. If this is the case, such children may resist any kind of explicit instruction. This resistance can come across as oppositional or disdainful. Work with your son on appropriate ways to approach his teachers or express his ideas.

Lastly, gifted children often feel alienated and misunderstood. They may have awkward social skills, unusual tastes in music, clothing, books, TV programs, and even food, or their giftedness may have been praised and boasted about so much at home that they believe they are special and superior to their peers and teachers. These preferences and attitudes can lead to rejection and even bullying from other children.

Touch base with your son's teachers to clarify these issues, and consider a few sessions with the school counselor to sort things out.


Dr. Stacie Bunning is a licensed clinical psychologist in the St. Louis area. She has worked with children, adolescents, and their families in a variety of clinical settings for 20 years. Bunning also teaches courses in child psychology, adolescent psychology, and human development at Maryville University in St. Louis.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

02/23/2010:
"Children are bored in school because some schools have chosen to 'dumb down' work. I have a 4th grader and an 11th grader. Each year I have volunteered to buy extra work (crosswords, CDs, etc) to give my children and others in the classroom. I remember having to sit and go over the same work several times for others in the class and I understand my childrens' frustration. All gifted children need to be separated and 'let the learning begin'. I have friends whose children are not advanced and are just as frustrated because the other students know he/she is the one causing the class to have to repeatedly study the same material."
05/13/2009:
"My daughter is in a school where they don't praise the child who is above average enough. They only do the reading at the child's level, but nothing else. My daughter also should have been placed at the next level for Math, but the schedule made it hard to do they said. I decided to homeschool next year because of this. I tried to talk to the counselor at the school, because she was still having accidents in school. They didn't even see her but 1 time, and assumed the problem was that she was feeling stressed, and I think that is wrong. I feel they didn't even want to try. You can't always get the school to care. "
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