Boredom: A Real Challenge for Gifted Children & Their Parents

Boredom: A Real Challenge for Gifted Children & Their Parents

“I’m bored.” These two little words might 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.

Not all children experience boredom the same way. When the child is gifted, it complicates the situation even further. These kiddos have a different way of looking at the world. With their need for in-depth intellectual stimulation, they may find regular schoolwork or activities unchallenging, unstimulating, or tedious. And the shuddering phrase, “I’m bored,” echoes from the rafters—a red flag that could indicate a few things:

It’s too easy:

When students feel unchallenged, they may express it as boredom. They’re 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.”

When this happens month after month, their motivation drops, leading to boredom and frustration. To prevent underachievement, these students need differentiated instruction or more complex tasks. Only later, maybe in college, do they have to study. Students shouldn’t have to wait twelve years or more to feel engaged with their learning.

It’s too hard:

Sometimes students find themselves in academic situations that are more challenging than they bargained for. Perhaps up until this point, they’ve never had to work at learning before. Having to memorizing vocabulary for a second language is tedious. For them, it may feel like boredom, so that’s the word they use, but it’s actually that they’re finally facing a difficult task. Ask what they find boring about what they’re doing, and the answer might surprise you.

They’re lonely:

Due to unique interests, advanced abilities, or feeling like other children 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!”

They want more independence:

Gifted children often have a strong desire for 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 and checkboxes to click off.

When a child attends a school where curiosity is not only allowed but encouraged, they finally feel unshackled. They dive deep into an area of passion beyond teaching for the test. Projects of their choosing or papers on topics of their choice go a long way toward keeping a gifted child feeling engaged and having a sense of agency in their learning.

They’re distracted by technology:

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 or 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 interest (or even passion) might go a long way toward a happy, productive young adult one day