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Gifted Child Bored in School

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My 8th grader is gifted. He is extremely bored in school and is getting failing grades. We have taken away all electronic media until he shows improvement. Most of his teachers tell us that he has the highest test scores in their classes, but the lowest homework average. Can public school students be tested out of subjects which they have already mastered? If not, what should we do?

A: Punishing your child for being bored will not force him to become excited about school. It will most probably anger him and breed even more resistance toward his schoolwork. Your son absorbs the knowledge that is required to score well on tests, indicating at the very least that he has understanding and mastery of the subject matter. There may also be other reasons why he is not "playing by the rules" that have nothing to do with being bored. He is purposely getting bad grades. In doing so, I think that he is loudly making a point with you, his teachers, and maybe all the adults in his life. He knows what will come from his actions, yet he chooses to bring academic failure, negative criticism, and punishment upon himself. Right now, he can't stop acting in ways that punish him at many levels.

I would like to see a talented therapist, one who has worked with kids like your son, serve as both a understanding advocate for your son and a go-between between his teachers and him, meeting with all of them and devising ways to reach this bright boy. I have seen many schools respond to situations like this by creating more challenging schoolwork for gifted kids, including homework that was more than rote, busy work. Often, one adult who truly believes and appreciates a child is what is needed to rescue them from their own sense of powerlessness.

Let me know what progress your son is making after you follow up on some of my suggestions.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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