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Bored and Bright Child

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My four year old son is always bored. He has a huge vocabulary and was talking very clearly by age 1.5. He understands complex and abstract ideas, he can formulate his own theories and run with ideas, he learns and understands explanations very quickly.

For example the other day he talked about how the sun reflected off of my pink shirt and hit the visor in the car changing the color of the visor to pink. He has a fantastic imagination and can articulate what he feels very well. He is also very sensitive and cries whenever he is disappointed or has to leave a friend. He has no real interests other than talking and computer games. I am at a loss with how to encourage and motivate him. Any response will be greatly appreciated.

A: From what you had described about your son's abilities, he does sound advanced for his age, but children develop in different areas at different speed. Although he appears rather advanced in his linguistic skills and demonstrates intensity of emotions, he may need some help in other areas and you may want to concentrate your efforts on those.

But, my concern is why should he be bored at such a young age? I am wondering what makes you think that he is bored as there is no indication of boredom based on your description. It is quite dangerous to assume that a child is bored and to especially keep asking a child if s/he is bored as we are actually introducing the concept of boredom to them. Bright children can very quickly manipulate adults into thinking that they are bored and not challenged enough if they feel that it can get them away from tasks they may not enjoy doing. This usually happens with older gifted kids.

In your case, it looks like he may not be bored after all. Is he attending pre-school or any regular social activity? This can be good for him. What about at home; is the environment conducive for learning? Does he have enough materials to learn? Do you take him out a lot? Have you introduced him to the worlds of nature, animals, insects, etc? Most importantly, does he enjoy books? If he has started reading, there is very little reason for him to be bored as one is unlikely to be out of reading materials.

For a bright kid, bored is better described as frustration with the lack of progress. For example, at school if a child complains of boredom, because s/he has learnt and absorbed the material presented, there is no challenge. In that case, educators may need to increase levels of difficulty, challenge the child, explore depth, accelerate the subject, and so on. This will keep the child going. Gifted children do not give up very easily; they can be quite persistent if they find meaning to their learning.

Perhaps, you may want to identify instances that you feel he may be under-challenged. Being verbally advanced, you have the advantage to have a chat with him and finding out his interest areas. If he does not appear to have much interest in anything, use books to generate interest it would also help him use his imagination for new and unexplored knowledge.


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