When Your Child Is Bored in School….


The human brain needs to be stimulated, and often. The stimuli needs to be varied, because the variety of the types of stimulation leads to growth. Now, imagine your child sitting in a classroom that he or she considers boring. That is probably what happens 9 times out of 10 in classrooms when children begin to act out. They are simply bored.

Boredom lies on a spectrum where disgust or loathing is at one end. Boredom is a less intense form of that loathing, and we as humans will do many things to escape that sense of boredom. Children will act out, misbehave and would rather subject themselves to unpleasant situations or negative consequences rather than remain bored. Teachers, if you are listening, remember that thought. The brain is like a hungry sponge and craves stimulation, and it is incumbent upon us, as adults, to provide that needed stimulation. To spark learning and brain growth, we must provide stimulation to children, and the same can be said among adults, too.

A university experiment was performed with college students as subjects that demonstrates the lengths to which people will  go when faced with boredom. Students were asked to administer, from a device, that delivered electroshocks when a button was pressed. The same students were to sit in a room, in total isolation-no books, no electronic devices, no windows, nothing but a chair and a table…AND THAT MACHINE.. Some students preferred to undergo that painful shock rather than last more than 2-3 minutes in isolated boredom. No stimulation at all! It is incredible that we would prefer pain than boredom.

We are social beings, and require stimulation, human interaction, and when deprived of stimulation and human interaction, we can flaunt with resulting brain damage. We already learned that individuals would prefer pain rather than no stimulation at all-boredom. If we link this information to the classroom, then we may safely say that when children aren’t receiving sufficient stimulation in learning activities and instruction, they will make unwise choices to escape that boredom.

board of ed

Children may begin to pass notes, chatter with their classmates, throw ‘spitballs’, doodle or daydream….all out of boredom. That which we term ‘maladaptive’ behaviors, may not be maladaptive at all. It may be behaviors which are completely logical and appropriate in the face of boredom. If we were to reflect on the choices we’ve made in the past when bored, we may come to understand the occasions when children have acted out in class. Fully aware of the consequences to misbehavior in class and in school, children often make conscious decisions to engage in unacceptable or disruptive behaviors. That is heavy!

Any stimulation is better than none or not enough. Adults and college students would prefer to press a painful shock button rather than withstand 30 minutes with no stimulation at all. In fact, in the aforementioned experiment, the average time before subjects chose to self-administer shock while in isolation was 1.75 minutes. Incredible! Young adults could not tolerate boredom for longer than 2 minutes, and we ask and expect children to sit in classes for 7 hours a day and not act out or show other signs of boredom. Children aren’t any different and shouldn’t be expected to actively engage in the midst of classroom boredom.

There should be no doubt that a contributing factor to drop-out decisions made by adolescents, or that we may hear them say, ” I don’t like school. It’s boring!” To prevent a host of problematic behaviors in school, teachers must do their best to provide positively stimulating instruction. Learning activities in the classroom needs to be both challenging and stimulating. What students require more of is interaction with the teacher and their peers in the context of learning. Lessons can be planned quite simply with more creativity, relevance and experiential learning activities.

bored danger

Children should never be bored in school, and if they do become bored to the extent that they misbehave, be ever mindful that their inappropriate conduct may reflect the temperature of the learning environment, not the capacity of his or her intellect. If behaviors persist, don’t allow experts to deem your child in need of learning and/or behavioral interventions, and/or special education programs. First focus area should pertain to the type of instructional experiences he or she has in the classroom-pedagogy not symptomology– classroom culture.

Parents, remain informed about your child’s learning progress in school.  You have a vested interest there! Advocate for your child, encourage and ensure the richness of classroom experiences, and also that learning involves a range of hands-on activities. Teachers do the best they can and parents do likewise.  When children are actively engaged in learning, emphasis on ‘active’, together with the teacher, educator at school, and the parent, educator at home, boredom can be a non-existent state of mind.

task teacher

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