Common Reasons Why Kids Are Bored at School

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 just unmotivated by the subject matter. 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.

Why Your Child May Be Feeling Bored in the Classroom

Usually, when a child says "that's boring" or "I'm bored in class", it may simply be to tell you that they don’t enjoy learning about a particular topic or skill. Alternatively, it could just be that they would rather have less desk time.

Many parents often jump to the conclusion that their child is gifted, that the work is too easy for him and that is why he’s bored. Other parents may jump to the conclusion that the teacher is not presenting the material in a way that engages the students. While both of these are valid assumptions, they are not the only reasons children are bored in school. Some common reasons children are bored in school include:

Not Sufficiently Challenged by the Work

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.

Under-Motivated Because There’s No 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 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, a lack of motivation can be the sign of an underlying issue, such as childhood depression and ADHD.

Has Not Connected With Peers or Teacher 

Children who have trouble forging a connection with their peers or their 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.

Is Under-Skilled or Has Poor Test-Taking Skills

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 because your child lacks the skills needed to properly study for a test, in either case, your child may simply need more guidance.

The bottom line is that if a child is saying they are bored because they don't know how to study for tests, how to manage their time, or create a plan for a long-term project, it may be that what he really means is “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

You can start by asking your child what it is that they find boring. Encourage your child to break down what they learned in class and for the particulars of what they did for the lesson. Ask if they were done before the other kids and whether they enjoyed the tasks, topics or the way in which it was presented to them. Finally, you can ask "what would you do differently if you were to teach that lesson or present that topic?"

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, as the teacher is probably stretched thin as it is, and you want to 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.