Thursday, March 14, 2013
Is boredom good for kids?
Gifted kids learn things quickly. Left in a class with their age peers, they spend a lot of time waiting for other kids to catch up. The result: boredom. Which raises a question: is boredom good for kids? I was thinking of this while reading a post on this topic at the blog Grumpy Rumblings of the (Formerly) Untenured (blogger NicoleandMaggie sometimes comments here). Some well-meaning sorts acknowledge that gifted kids might get bored, but they tell concerned parents that learning to cope with boredom is an important life skill for kids. After all, not all of adult life is scintillating. It's like learning to cope with difficult people too. But the problem is that as an adult, you have more choice about how you spend your time, and you also have other options for changing your environment. If you are thoroughly bored with a job, you do have the option to find another one. It's a bit harder for a 2nd grader to, on her own, remove herself from a boring classroom. Adults also get to draw on more strategies than we tend to allow children in schools. Bored on a train? Pull out your iPhone. Bored in class? Often not allowed. Furthermore, much of adult life is far more ability-grouped than school. I wrote a post several years ago here about an academic researcher who was vehemently against grouping...but whose university department bragged about how selective it was. So, there's that. Personally, I think that one of the worst things we teach gifted kids in "regular" school is that learning should be easy, and also boring. Discovering new things is actually quite exciting! But it's also a lot of work. When children think they should be able to figure out anything required of them quite quickly, and then wait for the rest of the world to catch up, they miss an opportunity to learn how to stretch to understand something that seems just outside their reach. That's why we need to challenge gifted kids, rather than bore them. How does your child handle boredom? What do you tell him or her about boredom?