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Gifted/Smart but lazy

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: Hi, I have an eight year olds boy and he is currently in Primary 2 (or Grade 2 in other country).

I believed very strongly that he is a very bright and intelligent student. The only problem we (wife and I) face is his attitude towards his schoolwork. In our opinion, we find him very lazy and he always has an excuse for not getting it done, well at least to his Chinese tuition teacher.

Let me quote you an example, he studies in the afternoon session and I usually set aside some assessment for him to do in the morning. He usually does not finish it. Not because he ran out of time, but he will just stop doing it to do other things, like playing with his year old sister. When we call to check if he has completed his work, he will happily answer "yes" even though he knows that he has not! And when we check in the evening, he will apologize and promised he will be more diligent in future.

We have tried everything from motivating with things he likes, scolding, lecturing, smooth talking to caning, but nothing seems to work. The most recent case that happened was he actually call the mother to say that he has completed his work when he has not. I would think that one would usually lie when he is caught, but he lies before we even ask him.

I may sound that I am condemning my own son, but the fact is that we love him so much that we do not want to see him fail in life. If it is his ECA he is not interested in, I can close my eyes , but how do we close our eyes to schoolwork?

He is in the average group when it comes to school results and this is entirely due to carelessness, not so much of he does not know his work.

I am wondering if I am leaving him to be independent too soon, as in giving him work to be completed without someone there to check on him. I see that he is a smart boy, just too lazy. So, how do we correct laziness?

A: I believe that your son may not be enjoying his learning, so much so that he has started to lie about it just to get parental approval. If you think that your son is performing beyond what he potentially can and you feel that he is bright, something is amiss here. Giftedness often comes in many different packages.

In our education system, children who are bright but underachieving (due to the fact that their giftedness can mask their special needs and their special needs hide their giftedness) are often labeled as "lazy", "unmotivated", or "not trying". Unfortunately, these children may have other problems which many people may not even realize in a lifetime - that a child can be both gifted and learning disabled (for e.g., writing disabilities, dyslexia, central auditory processing disorder (CAPD), difficulties with visual-perception, spatial disorientation, and attention deficits. You need to check if this is the case with your son as treatment is possible.

If all that is ruled out, boredom can be a great enemy to the curious mind. Children can be bored when their learning experiences are not meaningful, teaching not interesting/challenging and also when certain working conditions are out of focus with their basic needs. Time and again studies indicate that boredom is closely related to frustration which eventually (if excessive) causes irritability, withdrawal, rebellious opposition or aggressive rejection of the whole show. This may well be happening to your son. A bright child is more prone to being overconfident and lazy in a regular classroom which may also lead to restlessness and aggressive behavior.

When bright kids get frustrated, they misbehave and are often classified as delinquents and social maladjusted cases. You may also want to consult his teachers about his behavior in class and perhaps you may all have to work together towards a solution to reduce the problem.

Have you also considered the type of learner your son may be? He may be a visual-spatial learner. Visual-spatial learners think in pictures, on the other hand, auditory-sequential learners think in words. Unfortunately, the typical educational strategies are more in favor of auditory-sequential learners than for visual-spatial learners. This may lead to frustration for some kids and as an attempt to reduce tension, they may resort to aggressiveness, lying, and more seriously, stealing.

I also feel that you may have been a little hard on him especially after all your efforts failed, therefore, he is lacking parental approval. Hence, he may have lied just to "fish praises" which he may not be getting often. Try the softer approach and do not give up very easily. Try to understand what drives him away from his work. He may need some supervision. He should do his work because he wants to do it and not because of fear. No doubt you love him very much and are doing what you feel is best for him, but sometimes in the midst of it all, we parents tend to forget to show affection and love in a way that children can see and feel it. Good luck.


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