It’s Monday morning and the week is already going sideways. The oldest has told me that he absolutely cannot do the work that we’ve chosen (together) for him, and the next oldest is avoiding her math like the plague. The twice-exceptional struggling reader is melting down because, well, books, and my youngest is taking advantage of everyone’s distraction and wreaking complete and utter havoc.
I have gifted kids — so why aren’t they just working? Don’t gifted kids love to do their work?
Well… not always.
Learning strategies for gifted kids are sometimes different than those for others. They think differently. They experience the world in a different — more intense — way. It can be frustrating for parents of very capable children to watch them achieve way below where they should be performing.
They need buy-in.
Why Are Some Gifted Kids Reluctant Learners?
I often get asked about motivating gifted kids. This is so tough because the pervasive belief about giftedness is that those kids will be okay no matter what. The truth is, though, like all kids, gifted children are motivated by the things that interest them and that they believe are important. Unlike most kids, though, gifted kids won’t just do something because they should, or have to, they need to understand the point of it all.
When we think we’re dealing with a kiddo who is reluctant or not motivated, we must first ask ourselves if the tasks we’re asking our learners to do are valuable and interesting to them. Really… would you be motivated to do things that hold little personal value to you?
Neither will your gifted children.
If the things your kiddos are being asked to do are relevant and interesting, then it’s time to analyze a bit more to find out why your kids are reluctant and not working to their potential. You can use these strategies to figure out what’s not working…
Related: Tips for Motivating Gifted Kids
Learning Strategies for Reluctant Gifted Learners
Start with your kiddo. Let him know what he’s doing has a purpose. My gifted teen is really struggling with motivation right now, and so I need to chat with him regularly about what he wants out of his future. He has his sights set on a specific university, and so he needs to know what they require for admission to the program he’s interested in. If my daughter wants the trip with her show choir to New York, then she needs to work hard to earn some of the money.
Find hidden stumbling blocks. It’s often assumend that gifted kids are intrisically motivated. And it’s true that most kids are wired to learn — they’re constantly taking in and processing new information. But it can seem like a child doesn’t want to learn anything sometimes — especially those super smart and capable kiddos we know as quirky and bright.
Problem solve with them. Find out what might be getting in the way of their motivation. They may be struggling with a learning issue; twice-exceptional kiddos are often mistaken as lazy or undermotivated. Maybe perfectionism is getting in the way. A fear of failure can be debilitating for some gifted kids. Talk with your kiddo though. By validating their issues and showing them you’re on their side, you and your child become a team, increasing the likelihood of success.
Talk to your child. Find out what makes him tick. What motivates you is probably not the same thing that motivates your child. Work together to build a learning environment that taps into the things that make your unique kiddo enjoy learning and working. Brainstorm together about about other times he’s enjoyed projects, tasks, and work, and try to replicate some of those situations. Work together to become intensely engaged learners.
Related: Smart and Motivated Free eCourse
Adjust the curriculum. Make sure that the level of work your child is doing fits right in the perfect learning zones. You want work that falls in his instructional level. It needs to be appropriately challenging — not too easy and not too hard. The perfect tasks have clear expectations, organizational strategies built in, and are engaging and stimulating. And, seriously… if the program you picked up at the homeschool convention, store, or at a friend’s suggestion isn’t working for you, it’s totally okay to pitch it and start with something else. All programs are not the perfect fit for everyone.
Follow rabbit trails. I’ve written about this before, and I speak about it often… gifted kids love rabbit trails. They adore diving deeply and following their interests, so interest-led learning is a big motivation sparker if you can pull it off. If you’re not sure what your child is interested in, or he’s not sure, look around together. Look through course catalogs, surf blogs and Pinterest, walk through the library and just look at the shelves, go on a day trip to a museum, ask friends and family for ideas. There are so moant things out there to explore.
These learning strategies won’t provide an instant silver bullet solution to the Monday morning meltdowns, but they’ll put you and your gifted kiddo on the path towards loving to learn together again. You’ll be on the same team and know that you can count on each other to do what it takes to make learning interesting, engaging, and meaningful so that your child won’t just meet his potential, he’ll blow past it.
Your turn: What are some of the best learning strategies you hold up your sleeve to help motivate a reluctant learner?