Why Does My Gifted Child Hate School?

School is back in session after a summer of excitement and down-time. The alarm clock is sounding earlier these days! The struggle is REAL!!!

It is entirely possible that many students were moving a little slowly getting to school in time for the bell the first week back. There was probably a bit of groggy protesting in most households. For most families, the back-to-the-grind resistance wanes after a week or so. What happens if you’re not like “most families” and the struggle intensifies? You may be left wondering why and if it will it get worse.

When thinking about all of our obligations as parents; education, careers, household maintenance, social lives, etc. Immediately recognizing when it’s time to ask deeper questions can be easy to miss. Then, if we find out an issue that needs a solution – there is another layer added to the complicated balance of our family lives.

However, the daily struggle of getting an unwilling child to school each day and hearing negative feedback in the afternoons can quickly become a burden to both parents and child.

Honeymoon -> Adjustment

Children are no different than their parents in that a new year or a fresh situation can be interesting and even fun before routine sets in. The routines of a new school or new class are exciting at first. It’s when those expectations begin to feel challenging, that students may struggle.

Teachers are also frequently lenient with expectations during the “honeymoon” period. They provide opportunities to learn and succeed before new routines become non-negotiable expectations. Some students struggle to adjust when the leniency is gone and expectations are consistent.

As a parent, you can help with this transition by partnering with the classroom teacher or the school to share the same vocabulary and expectations. Students will find comfort knowing that the home-school connection is strong.

Children can also experience a sense of justice and maybe negotiating some feelings about the new school expectations. Parents can assist by providing reasoning to support the shift or increase in education. This will establish a baseline for your child to internally rationalize what is being asked of him or her at school.

School is Too Hard

Some children struggle with content more than others. As parents, we can have a tendency to have a well-meaning intent to force academic readiness to happen to a child before the time is actually right. However, it’s important to keep in mind that no two children are alike. Not even siblings in the same family share identical abilities, wants or needs.

Children enrolled in schools that conduct enrollments based on age are in a fixed grouping of children. Most schools and districts indicate that a child who has turned 5 by September 1st is eligible for kindergarten. Stop to think how a “five years old” born on August 31st (the day before the cut off) would differ from a child born October 1st. That’s ten months difference! Though a child is age-appropriate for a classroom or a school, this does not always indicate that the environment is appropriate for the student.

Experiencing a too hard situation is not a failure! Parents should consider a program for the student which develops learning environments loosely based on age (or not at all) and focuses on present ability and growth potential.

School is Too Easy

Students who are above average in their learning or gifted tend to be annoyed by repetition. If they are not engaged and challenged, gifted children can quickly lose their love of school. Consider, as an extreme example, of how you would feel as a literate, English speaking adult sitting perfectly still for a 90-minute introductory lesson on the English alphabet. Now repeat that 5 days in a row. Imagine how quickly school would feel like an unnecessary chore. It’s essential that the content presented to each student matched his or her level of ability. Parents are in tune with their child’s intelligence and should look for signs that the current school does not match potential.

How to Help

Review the syllabus and see if there is material that your child may need access to. If there isn’t, parents can talk to the school. Ask directly and specifically how your child’s unique learning needs will be met. Beware of programs which seek to appease gifted learners with more work. This can quickly be seen as punishment and could potentially cause your child to dislike school even more. Other common pitfalls are peer tutoring, extended time with technology and becoming the student-teacher.

A gifted learner engaging in unwanted behavior does not always need to be disciplined into “correct” behavior. In this case, asking your child to conform is similar to saying – “Please help this brown bear act more like a salmon.” To do so is detrimental. Neither creature is less perfect than the other, but the essence of their learning is different.

If school is too easy for the child, seek a program where the child has the opportunity to engage in discourse with peers with similar strengths. Look for opportunities where the students are able to dig deeper and participate in the inquiry-based study.

Health-related obstacles

Keeping your child’s pediatrician or another health professional in the loop is NEVER a bad idea. Teachers and educators are frequently able to spot differences in learning style. However, most educators are not qualified to make suggestions related to physical or psychological health.

Remember, seeking and accepting health services for a child does not make anyone a “bad parent.” By looking at a problem from multiple angles, you are taking action to best support your child.

If your child would benefit from additional support, the next step is ensuring his or her school is the right fit. Seek a program which has clear systems embedded in the program to support learning differences. Twice exceptionality is possible. You do not have to elect one service and forego another! You can and should respectfully advocate that all applicable services be provided to their child. Inclusive of special education, 504, and gifted services.

Failure is the path to learning
Keep in mind, it may take more than several attempts to find the true root of “I Hate School” woes. However, it is possible to help your child achieve their fullest potential. Just as parents teach toddlers to walk, despite tumbles in the process, parents never actually leave the toddler stage in parenting. Vulnerability is fearlessness – parenting children is an exercise in persistence.