When a child comes home from school complaining that she’s bored, many parents are torn as to how to handle the complaint. Depending on your child’s temperament, you may be inclined to dismiss her claims or you may be ready to jump up, call her teacher and tell her your child isn’t being challenged.
What you really should do is ask some questions, starting with the big one: Is my child bored at school?
Is Your Child Bored?
For children, a complaint of boredom can mean many different things, not all of which translate to “I’m not being challenged.” Four of the main reasons kids complain of being bored at school are because they are under-challenged, under-motivated, feel unconnected or are lacking skills. “I’m bored” can also translate to
- I don’t like what we’re doing in school.
- I don’t want to do what the teacher is asking me to do.
- I don’t understand how to do my work.
- The assignment doesn’t make sense to me.
- I don’t have the skills needed to keep up with the rest of the class.
- I’m depressed or anxious.
- I feel like the teacher doesn’t like/understand/listen to me.
Finding out what your child really means can be as simple as asking her: I’m not certain I understand, can you tell me what you mean by ‘bored’?
If that doesn’t work, you may need to dig a little deeper by talking to the teacher and evaluating whether or not your child has been showing signs of trouble in school or is having a tough time making friends.
Is Being Bored Always a Bad Thing?
A child who is bored at school, isn’t necessarily wasting her time. Boredom has its benefits, some of which are overlooked by our fast-paced, electronically-oriented children. An article in the New York Times outlining the benefits of boredom explained that many experts feel that being bored serves not only as a sort of reboot for the brain, helping it to review and re-sort information, but that boredom also serves as a spam filter, allowing kids to tune out extraneous information.
In a review of research of boredom published in the Cambridge Journal of Education, authors Teresa Belton and Esther Priyadharshini note that while being bored at school is typically seen as negative, researchers actually feel that boredom is an important component in creativity.
“It provides time for daydreaming, reflection and consideration of alternatives and allows for an energised return to the task,” concluded Belton and Priyadharshini in their report. This conclusion is echoed by Dr. Alvin Rosenfeld.
“Boredom can be beneficial,” says Rosenfeld, author of the book The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap. He notes that it can help kids listen to the inner voice that helps them craft unusual stories or artistic pictures.
But My Kid Really Isn’t Challenged
Some children already reap the benefits of boredom--they’re creative, on task and able to sort through and retain information--but still complain of being bored. If this is the case, it’s very likely that your child isn’t feeling challenged by the work in the classroom.
It’s time to speak to the teacher about providing in-class enrichment or your child and/or having your child tested to see if she qualifies for gifted and talented programs. Note: Enrichment in the form of extra homework will not solve the problem in the classroom and your child may see it as a punishment.
My Kid is Bored, Too
Even if your child isn’t gifted she can be bored by the way the material is being presented. Some teachers are simply not tuned-in to the need to teach in a way that engages all the students.
When your child’s learning style isn’t being supported in the classroom, it’s time to schedule a parent-teacher conference to sit down and discuss how your child’s needs can be accommodated in the classroom. Once accommodations are put into place, you’ll probably hear less complaining about being bored in school.
Sometimes School is Boring
That’s not to say that being bored should always be looked at as an opportunity to tap into creativity or a need to have your child tested for giftedness or a learning disability. The fact is that sometimes school is boring.
According to Belton and Priyadharshini sometimes kids need to be encouraged to stick with something they find boring at first. They note that over time interest may be engaged by the task and that, to some degree, recognizing that learning is sometimes boring can help students to be a bigger part of the learning process. It allows them to find news ways to extend upon or approach the material they find boring.