When children’s interests turn from love to boredom

bored-child-young-boy-head-handsDear GHF,

I’m homeschooling my three elementary school aged kids. The current problem is the middle one. Every time I sit down with my six-year-old boy and talk about classes to take, he gets very excited. He wants to enroll in martial arts, drawing, Lego Robotics—pretty much everything sounds good to him! The thing is, we can’t afford to take every class under the sun, and when we do try an activity he often loves the first session, likes the second, and by the third he is bored or he hates everyone and wants to go home. I want to support his interests, but he doesn’t stick with them for very long. Should I make him continue?

Hassled in Huntington

Dear Hassled,

It sounds like you have two questions. The first is how to decide which classes to choose, and the second is what to do when your son lacks staying power (or interest). Regarding how to choose classes, we’re sure you are already taking into account logistics, cost, and so on. Are you signing your son up as soon as he expresses interest, or are you waiting long enough to determine that it’s not a passing ‘shiny object’? If he has been chomping at the bit for a few weeks or even a few months, then it’s probably worthy of serious consideration.

You’ll also want to consider what factors are spurring his desire to both enroll and to leave the other classes. Is it possible there are social challenges or sensory issues that are creating an obstacle? If so, once he begins a new class, are there ways to accommodate or assist him? For example, in an art class, can you request that he be seated away from the noisy lights or smelly heating vents? If your son doesn’t like people touching him, perhaps the spotter at the gymnastics class can be persuaded to hold a hand near, but not touching, him.

It’s also possible that your son had expectations that the class doesn’t meet. You can often address this issue preemptively by discussing expectations in advance, examining the location beforehand, and possibly sitting in as a visitor once or twice. If your son has attended an activity just a few times, or even for a longer period of time, and still wants to quit—well, is that a bad thing? It’s frustrating for you, but it may be what he is actually seeking. He may truly be bored, or he may feel he has acquired all of the new information on that topic that he desires and is ready to move on.

Some folks will tell you that your child has to learn to “stick it out,” but there is nothing wrong with knowing when to call it quits. It’s a critical life skill for our children, and you can help yours learn how to make the decision to stay or go.

CBS News Money Watch recently ran an interesting article on the upside of quitting: Why Quitters Prosper.

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