Having worked in the education system — particularly with children who had developmental delays or were considered gifted — I've met with many exasperated and desperate parents who wanted to know why their son or daughter had such behavioral issues. Most of the time it wasn't because they had a "bad kid" or a "problem child," it was simply that their particular learning needs weren't being met. So it's always a good idea to look out for signs your child isn't being challenged in school — not just acting out — because they may not have the words or ability to tell you that themselves.
As a parent, one of the main things you want is too see your child achieve (and succeed at) whatever they put their minds to do. But, as with most things in life, it isn't always as simple as that. If you're repeatedly getting calls or notes sent home that your child is disruptive or acting out, perhaps the source of their behavior is due to a lack of stimulation in a school setting.
Every child is different, but it's helpful to be aware of the signs that your child isn't being challenged in school so that they can get the kind of education they deserve instead of being mislabeled as acting out.
1. There's No Communication
They say learning begins at home, and to an extent it does. Yet parents who are concerned that their child is acting out in school should look at communication, specifically between their child and teacher. Dr. Anne Rambo, a family therapist, told Parenthood, "it’s a bad sign if parents hear no conversation about what their child is learning in school, or about the teachers." A lack of communication is indicative that your child is not engaged in the material and isn't being challenged enough in school.
2. Their Confidence Has Dipped
Did your child used to be a bright ray of sunshine and now seems like a dark cloud? A dip in or lack of confidence can be a sign your child isn't being challenged in school. According to the Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG) Organization, "children’s confidence increases when they feel their ideas matter, and when their views are valued." So, conversely, if they feel they aren't being heard or involved in school, their confidence can decrease which often results in disruptive behavior.
3. They're Bored
This is probably one of the most obvious signs your child isn't being challenged in school: they're bored. Alison Ehara-Brown, a child and family therapist, told Baby Center, "children are naturally excited about learning, and it's important to pay attention if yours is bored in school."
4. It's Their Way Or The Highway
People can be quick to lump negative behavior together, but that's not always the best thing to do. Stubbornness is another sign your child is not challenged enough in school. Dr. David Palmer, an educational psychologist, told Psychology Today, "they may have preferred ways of learning and resist using other methods suggested by a teacher." One of the reasons under-challenged children do this is because, "they are able to sense how much and what kind of studying they need in order to master a skill or topic," according to Palmer.
5. They Don't Want To Go To School
Plenty of kids loathe getting up and going to school, but a strong dislike of school can indicated your child is under-challenged. Katie Haydon, founder of Ignite Creative Learning Studio, told the Great Schools Organization, "if a school isn’t challenging your kid, they may end up saying they hate school and even want to drop out."
6. They're Often In A Bad Mood
When is a kid just bummed and when is being gloomy a sign your child isn't being challenged in school? Dr. Sally Y. Walker, executive director of the Illinois Association for Gifted Children, told Noodle, "coming home after school in a sullen or unhappy state can signify that something is ‘not right’ at school."
7. Things Don't Add Up
The most confusing part for parents, in my experience in education, is when their child is acting out in school but still brings home stellar report cards. Bad behavior with high academic performance is a dead giveaway your child is under-challenged. Dr. Rambo told Parenthood, if your child does, "very little studying, yet get average or even good grades and reads extensively during class in a way that is out of sync with classmates," they are probably not being challenged.