Help! My son is bored.

Dear Cathi,

I am so frustrated with my son. I could scream! He is very bright and perfectly capable of doing well in school. My wife and I put no pressure on him to get good grades, but we would like him to put in his best effort. Instead, he clowns around in class, rushes through his assignments, and then fails to turn in his homework assignments IF he does complete them. He complains constantly of being “bored.” My wife and I believe that the classes at school may not be stimulating enough for him. Because he’s bored, he misbehaves. What do you think?

Jack H.

Dear Mr. H.,

I love the word “bored.” It is without a doubt the tell-tale word that underachievers use most frequently to describe school and their own lack of academic success. I am quite certain that your son’s school classes and activities are boring at times. These boring times are part of the natural course of any day, academic and otherwise. My feeling is that your son’s feelings of constant boredom are more a reflection of his internal life, or lack therof. It is not uncommon for an underachiever to focus on the external environment as the cause of his troubles. “If the teachers, the school, and my parents would just give me what I need, everything would be all right.” Rather than looking inside and figuring out how his own internal characteristics, such as lack of persistence or inattentiveness, are impacting him, he blames his lack of success on everybody else. It’s your job as a parent to help your son solve his own problems and take ownership of his own goals as well as failures. You can allow your son to express his fears and frustrations about his school performance and still support his efforts to move forward with his personal goals. Create a predictable homework environment (same place and same time) for your son with your support available to him if he requests it. Ask lots of open-ended questions,such as, “How can your mother and I help you with that?” rather than, “Have you finished your homework?” Refrain from advice giving. Instead, learn ways to praise effort rather than result. “I can see you are working really hard to learn those spelling words.” Your son’s increased sense of power over himself will result in increased self-confidence. When this happens, the “boredom” complaints will remarkably diminish!