In my job as a gifted teacher, parents often come to me with concerns about their children having appropriate learning experiences in school. Many times, the first clue that a student is bright or gifted and needs extra challenge is when he or she says, “I’m bored.”

As adults, when we are in a learning situation that’s boring, it is often because the content is something we already know and don’t need to practice more.

It’s important for us as parents to remember that children often don’t have the vocabulary or introspective ability to explain what they are feeling, so they may fall back on “boring” as the closest approximation. They also may not understand the root causes of their feelings to be able to describe for you where they are coming from.

Certainly students will be bored when the work they are asked to do is too easy and they have already mastered it, and it is one of the first things we need to consider. But there are many other things that might be contributing to the feeling that a child associates with boredom. When a child says, “I’m bored…,” it could also mean…

  • The work is too hard
  • The work isn’t interesting to me
  • The work is…work
  • I’m afraid I can’t do it
  • I don’t like the subject
  • I don’t like the assignment
  • I don’t like the teacher
  • I don’t like my classmates
  • I don’t understand
  • I don’t want to understand
  • I’m tired
  • I’m distracted
  • I’m preoccupied
  • I’m uncomfortable
  • I’m angry about something that happened this morning
  • I’m worried about something that might happen tomorrow
  • I’d rather be at recess
  • I’d rather be at home
  • I’d rather be at the movies/pool/park/etc.

If we are too quick to assume that “bored” always means “too easy,” then it won’t take long for our children to learn that when they don’t like doing something, just saying those magic words will make it go away

It’s up to us, then, to be sure we don’t take this kind of statement at immediate face value. Instead, ask questions and probe deeper into the situation to find out more about what is going on and why. Then we will have the information we need to address the problem and fix it.

(Originally posted June 5, 2008 at Grandé With Room)