Why Kids Get Bored at School—and How to Help

schoolboy looking bored
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Children are often bored in the classroom for a variety of reasons, such as not being sufficiently challenged or simply not feeling motivated by the subject matter being discussed. Alternatively, it could just be that they would rather have less desk time. For some children, being bored at school is an ongoing complaint, one that causes real distress and can even lead to school avoidance or school refusal behaviors.

In seeking a reason why their child is bored at school, many parents often jump to the conclusion that their child is gifted and the work is too easy for him. Other parents may think that the teacher is not presenting the material in a way that engages the students. While both of these are valid possibilities, they are not the only ones.

It's worth considering the following reasons, one or more of which might be at play if your child seems to lack enthusiasm about his or her classes.

They're Not Sufficiently Challenged

Bright students who don’t need a lot of instruction to master a skill or start out ahead of the rest of the class often complain of being bored at school. What this type of student is trying to tell you is they are not being challenged by the work in the classroom.

Students who are under-challenged aren’t always gifted (there are specific qualifications for giftedness), but they are typically very capable and very smart. Surprisingly, these children don’t always present that way. In fact, many under-challenged students are sloppy in their work, don’t study much (though they still get good grades), and tend to zoom right through their work without much in the way of editing or rechecking.

They Don't See Any Incentive

Under-motivated students complain of boredom in class because they feel they already know what’s being taught, so the incentive of doing the work to learn something new is non-existent to them. Often “school is boring” is paired with “that’s why I don’t do the work” or “that’s why I don’t pay attention.” What this type of student might actually mean is that the work doesn’t engage them.

An under-motivated child is not the same as a lazy child. In some cases, the lack of motivation is tied to a feeling that what he’s learning isn’t personally important—that the learning process has no meaning for him and his life.

In some situations, however, a lack of motivation can be the sign of an underlying issue, such as childhood depression or ADHD.

They Haven't Connected With Peers or Their Teacher

Children who have trouble forging a connection with their peers or teacher may be bored in school because they feel very isolated.

If your child hasn’t built a comfortable relationship with anyone in her classroom, she may feel as though she has nowhere to turn when she needs help with her work. That, in turn, can cause her to tune out, making her feel as though she is “bored.” What she’s really experiencing is the need for some encouragement that she’s a part of the classroom community.

Their Skills Are Lacking

Not all students have the skills they need to be successful in the classroom. Whether that’s because your child has learning deficits caused by a disability or he lacks the skills needed to properly study for a test, your child may need more guidance and/or accommodations.

For example, it's possible that a child who could benefit from learning how to manage his time or create a plan for a long-term project might say "I'm bored" when he really means “I don’t know how to do this, so I don’t even want to try.”

How Parents Can Help

The reasons children get bored at school aren’t mutually exclusive. You can have an under-challenged, unconnected child with poor test-taking skills just as easily as a child who is simply unmotivated. The trick is to discover what your child is really telling you when he says “I’m bored at school” before jumping to conclusions.

Questions to Ask

Encourage your child to break down what they learned in class and for the particulars of what they did for the lesson. Try to get answers to these questions:

  • What did you find boring?
  • Were you done before the other kids?
  • Do enjoy the topic in general?
  • Did you enjoy the task itself?
  • Did you like the way the information was presented to you?
  • What would you do differently if you were to teach that lesson or present that topic?

This can help you start to zero in on what about the class may be contributing to these feelings.

Involve Both the Teacher and Child

Speak to your child's teachers and let them know what seems to engage your child and what doesn't. Try to curb any negativity and offer constructive feedback about what your child needs. Consider involving your child in the process. Sit down together with the teacher to brainstorm and come up with solutions to keep your child engaged and excited about their daily school life.

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Article Sources
  • Macklem GL. Boredom in the Classroom: Addressing Student Motivation, Self-Regulation, and Engagement in Learning. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing; 2015.