The last thing most parents of gifted children think their kids will have problems with is homework. After all, gifted children are cognitively advanced and learn quickly. Unfortunately, for some parents, visions of straight A report cards are replaced by one or more (or even all) of these problems:
- Child does homework, but doesn’t turn it in
- Child says he did it at school, but didn’t
- Child procrastinates
- Child rushes and makes careless errors
It's not unusual for a gifted child to have all of these problems. It is difficult to motivate a child to do homework, particularly if a child is intrinsically motivated. The first step in solving these homework problems is to understand what causes them.
Reasons Behind Homework Problems of Gifted Children
A gifted child with dyslexia, an auditory processing problem, or some other learning disability may find it difficult to perform as well as they should in school and on homework. Gifted children are not immune to these disabilities and the effect of such disabilities on their learning is then reflected in their homework, including an avoidance to do it. Gifted children with undiagnosed disabilities may be confused and even embarrassed by problems they have understanding concepts or doing their homework. It is much less psychologically and emotionally threatening to avoid doing the homework than it is to do it and fail at it. If a child doesn’t try, he can easily convince himself that had he done the homework, he would have done it well.
Gifted children who are disorganized – and that is a large number of them – have a hard time doing homework because they have misplaced the assignment, forgot to bring the book or worksheet home, or forgot the due date. Daily planners don’t seem to help these children because they tend to lose, misplace, or forget those as well. If they have managed to bring all the necessary materials home on the right day, they can then forget to take it to school or they may take it to school, but be unable to find it in their backpack or stuff it in their desk or locker at school, where it disappears until the end of the semester or school year.
Children who are perfectionists are often reluctant to complete their homework because they don’t feel it is good enough. If it doesn’t meet their standards, which tend to be quite high, they can become frustrated. Over time, they may procrastinate in order avoid that frustration. Perfectionist children may complete their homework, but then neglect to turn it in because they aren’t satisfied with it or don’t feel that it reflects their true ability and don’t want their teacher to see it and evaluate it. Perfectionists may also choose to put little effort into their work since they can then rationalize the lack of perfection on the lack of effort.
Lack of Challenge
Work that is not challenging or stimulating can be so tedious to complete that gifted children will avoid doing it at all costs. Tasks, for any child, should be optimally challenging. That means that they should not be too easy or too difficult. Tasks that are too difficult can lead to anxiety while tasks that are too easy lead to boredom. In both cases, children find it difficult to concentrate on the task. They will avoid the tasks in order to avoid the unpleasant feeling – either anxiety or boredom - that comes with it. When children are given tasks that are too difficult, they can get help learning the concepts or completing the task. However, when tasks are too easy, no help is necessary; children are simply expected to complete the tasks, in spite of the fact that boredom makes it just as difficult to concentrate on a task as anxiety does. Sometimes children will manage to complete focus long enough to do the homework, but they will rush through it to get it done and as a result make numerous careless errors.