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Behavior Problems - Can boredom cause behavior problems in school?


Updated June 10, 2014

Question: Behavior Problems - Can boredom cause behavior problems in school?
My five-year old son knew the alphabet at 2 years and 3 months and read his first children's book Cat Traps by Moly Coxe at 3 years and 10 months. He can also draw like an 8 or 9-year-old. He should be doing well in school, but he has developed some behavior problems. He hits other kids, has hit an assistant-teacher, and a teacher. According to his teachers, it is due to boredom at preschool. Can boredom really cause a child to misbehave in school?
Answer: Yes, boredom can cause a child to misbehave in school. Some have argued that everyone gets bored and gifted kids should just learn to deal with the boredom. However, many of the ways adults deal with boredom are not possible for kids. For example, if adults are bored at work, they can take a break. If they find their job is boring and are constantly bored, they can look for another job. If they are bored by a lecture, they can usually get up and leave.

Children have none of those options. They can't take a break from the class they are in. They can't look for another class or school, and they can't get up and leave when the class is boring to them. Adults certainly have to endure boring situations, like sitting through a boring business meeting and performing boring tasks like cleaning house or the yard.

However, those situations don't last for six hours every day, five days a week, four weeks a month, for nine months a year. Think about the most boring task you have to perform. Now imagine having to perform that task for the same amount of time children are in school. Don't forget, though, that you can't take breaks when you want to. You can have two fifteen minute breaks and maybe an hour for lunch. Of course, if you haven't made sufficient progress on that boring task, you might not be allowed to take a break. You might make it through the day, but how would you feel by the end of the week? By the end of a month?

When gifted children misbehave in class, teachers may want to label them as ADHD or emotionally disturbed. They may want the child to undergo evaluations and maybe begin taking medication to help improve their behavior. While it is possible that the teacher is right, it is also true that bad behavior of gifted children often disappears if the school offers some accommodations:

  • provides more challenging work
  • places them in a more academically appropriate environment
Changing the school environment is far less intrusive, less expensive, easier, and less time consuming than any other method. If more academic challenge doesn't solve the problem, then other sources of the problem could be considered.
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