14 answers

11 Year Old Gifted Son Who Has No Motivation/ambition - Forgets Homework

I've read so many important issues posted here that my question seems so less important. However, I was wondering if anyone else here has dealt with this. My son is in 6th grade, and his SAT-10 scores show him as past high school on almost all scales. He's been in the gifted program for 4 years, but it is a pull-out program. The problem is that he is terrible about doing his homework (We get postcards from the school almost weekly). His grades are A/B, and he says he is bored much of the time. He is also somewhat overweight and very shy and has only a few friends. I've talked with the school about it, and although they have Honors Math in 7th and 8th grade, there's not much we can do this year. They say he needs to be better at organization and homework completion (which is definitely true). I've applied for the gifted magnet school, which I am told he would likely be approved, but I worry that a brand new school away from our neighborhood might alienate him even more. He gets along with others fine, but he is not outgoing socially or academically. Does anyone else have experience with this sort of thing, and do you have any advice? Many thanks in advance for any suggestions.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

I received many great responses to my question. THANKS!!
We've decided to continue with the magnet school application, visit the school, and will decide by the end of this school year. It was so helpful to hear others' perspectives, both as a student and a parent. I am much more at ease with the upcoming decision. Thanks again!

More Answers

Hi K.,
This sounds a lot like my son at that age. He definitely sounds bored. My son wasn't too good at athletics and needed another outlet besides math, science and computers. We got him into martial arts. It was really good for him to channel his energy into something positive and I liked that he did it with other kids. There was a lot of self-discipline involve. A good instructor can make it or break it for them though. Maybe meet them first and go watch a class first to see how the instructor is with the kids if you decide to go that route. You or your husband could do it with him. Great self esteem boost. I had to get creative in challenging my son at home. My husband got an old boat and the 2 of them researched how to refinish it. It gave them something to do together during formative years. The project lasted about a year, then they began fishing together. I think it helps to expose him to a lot of different types of things in order to find his passion. Then get in there as a family and get involved. There may be local acedemic clubs he can get involved in. Or a church youth group. They can be really great. Even if you don't go, he can be part of that. My son liked the youth group at a different church then we went to so we let him go. It was great for him. He still went to church with us, but made a lot of friends there too. Dad can be key here at this age. Just a few ideas. Good luck. As far as the homework goes, maybe for a while you can help him get organized with a check list the night before and reward on the weekend for remembering. Simple rewards like sonic drinks or movie rental. Nothing big. Just a little positive reinforcement. Maybe even ask him to be part of helping to get him better organized. Ask him what you can do to help his days go better. If none of these suggestions seem like they are for him, don't discount the idea of him talking to a professional. Sometimes a few sessions with a good therapist can get them back on track. They can hone in quickly on what the problem/solution is and be really helpful. Good luck.

3 moms found this helpful

Sad but true..those of us who have gifts placed on the inside of us tend to feel obscure or out of place at times. Even as though there isn't anyone on out particular level. He has to make it up in his mind what he wants to project from his special life. He is smart enough to know and to figure it out as long as you support his decisions. He CAN take it to the next level if he wants to but let him find his way as much as possible and demand less from such a already spectacular individual. You are blessed to have such a bright spirit in your life and I hope you are doin what you can to encourage every open door for him as his steward. Breath darling, he will be fine.

2 moms found this helpful

My son was the same way, if he couldn't get it done in class he just didn't do it or half did it. He did that all the way through school. He is so gifted that his test scores and class work over rode any homework that he half did or didn't turn in. The teachers knew he was well versed on what the homework was. Just like math he did it all in his head and just put the answers down. Drove his teachers crazy, but he verbally told them what he did when asked so they knew he got it. The one thing that I do know now that he is 30. He had a slight form of ADD. And that interfered with his ability to focus and do home work. He says now that he wished he had applied himself more. And is a very suscessful graphic artist in the business world. But having applied himself he would be a business owner. And being in a class room with other kids he was constantly told just sit until everyone else is finished. This teaches them to not have a higher goal. He might actually do better if you home schooled him. He can excel at a higher rate. But the schooling must be done in a professional way and exposure to other kids is a must. If I had it to do all over again, I would have home schooled both of my sons. Just think about it. I was always head room mother and sat on the what was the PTA board back then. Find something to encourage him. Don't let him continue in this situation. If he is like our son, he is a delight. Counted to 100 & knew his alphabet by age 2 was adding & subtracting & writing his upper and lower case alphabet at age 3 multiplying & started reading by age 4. Don't let the system discourage him. Our son has a plaque in the entrance hall of his high school for having a Hi ACT score. He was on the deans honor roll in college and never did buy book or study he got it all by listening in class and hands on.

1 mom found this helpful

I just wanted to recommend a book, "The Fine Art of Small TAlk". I checked it out at the library. I highly recommend this book for anyone that is introverted or shy. I grew up shy, painfully so, with anxiety attacks just thinking someone was about to talk to me.It gives questions to ask to open conversations and explains your responsibility in regards to conversations. This book might boost your childs self confidence. He can turn it into a game and see just how long he can get people to talk to him.

1 mom found this helpful

There's a program in St. Louis County for extremely gifted children--I think their IQ has to be over 140 (which from the sound of it, I'm assuming your son's is). It's called PEGS. I'm not sure of the website, but I'm sure you can google it. There's also a Gifted Resource Council that might be very helpful in getting some information about how to motivate your son to try harder.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi K.,

This issue always hits home with me. I believe I was a gifted child, but we lived out in the sticks where the school district just didn't have any programs for me. We had advanced reading where as a 3rd grader, I went to 4th grade reading and such, but like your son, it ended at some point, and there was just nothing further they could offer. I was also bored much of the time, and if you ask any of my friends from high school, they probably wondered how I graduated at the top of my class when I was literally asleep during most of my classes.

I really don't feel this is some organization/motivation issue. Chances are, everything comes so easily, he doesn't feel the need to try. If he is getting A/B grades, then why do the homework? In his mind, if he is achieving good grades without the homework, then the homework just becomes more busywork. And all gifted kids hate busywork. Most of our school day is busywork to keep us quiet while the teacher helps the slower kids. Which brings up another issue.

I would venture to guess that some of the "shyness" and lack of friends comes from feeling alienated already. I didn't have that many friends either, and it was because I just didn't identify with most of the kids at school. It is hard to find a common ground when you are breezing thru subjects and everyone else is not getting it. It is hard to chat somebody up when you are contemplating wormholes in the universe and they are obsessed with Britney Spears. He's just in a different mindset, and most kids probably treat him like the brainiac leper know-it-all and don't want to eat at his lunch table because they don't want to feel stupid. I've been there, I've been through it, it isn't much fun. Some of the social issues/"lack of motivation" as you call it, is potentially a mild depression because he doesn't feel connected to anybody or that anybody understands him.

So what to do about it? Hooray for the magnet school. I think that sounds like a good first step to get him around others more like him. This may sound completely not pc, but I would've jumped at a chance to get away from the morons at my school.

As for motivation, our school had a 100% club where if you completed 100% of your assignments, you got to go on a special field trip. Usually, it was a bus ride to a Cardinal Baseball game, which for somebody who lived in the middle of nowhere, a trip to the big city was incentive to do the homework. Ask him if there is some special event he would like to do, and maybe work out something with the teachers so that if he completes the assignments between now and the end of the year, you will take him to the event. My parents also had an incentive program where if we brought home a straight A report card, we got to go to the toy store and pick out anything we wanted. (We didn't have an allowance, so this was a big deal)

It might be worthwhile to ask the doctor about possible depression. I know I was very depressed, but my light at the end of the tunnel was college. I figured once I got to college, I might be around others who actually were there to learn, not just breathe the air. I was also very good at entertaining myself. My notebooks from school were filled with creative short stories or animated flip books I drew to pass the time. Many gifted kids are creative in some way to have an outlet. My brother played piano. Enrolling him in something creative might help.

Good luck. If you want to ask me anything or want to talk, contact me at ____@____.com


1 mom found this helpful

It sounds like you have taken several good steps to improve his education. You might look into getting him involved in group settings like the Family Y, Chess clubs, 4-H groups or something that really interests your son. Find other children that have the same interests. He just doesn't feel like a part of the group so he isn't reaching out. I hope this helps

1 mom found this helpful

You should get him envolved in sports or band or orchestra or something like that. Sports would help get his weight down, it is not healthy for a child to be overweight and it doesn't get better as they get older it gets worse. Being on a sports team or something that is no pass/no play will help motivate him to get his homework done so that he can stay on the team. It will also help him to make new friends and gain self-esteem. I know I sound like an afterschool special, but there is no end to the good that can be gained through extra-curricular activities.

1 mom found this helpful

Dear K.,
I resonate with your problem (have an 11 year old girl, also gifted, who resists doing homework).
Several things might be going on with your son:
if he is "somewhat overweight" you might take a closer look at his diet. Does he eat a lot of junk foods? If you switch him to a diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, and maybe even a good vitamin supplement, it might help.
Maybe he is bored with the work he is being asked to complete. Can he do the work easily (maybe too easily) or does he resist because it is difficult for him. (My daughter resists doing math because it is difficult for her, even though she is pretty good at it.) If it is too easy, maybe you can work with his teacher to find something that will challenge him a bit more, or maybe he can approach the work in a more creative way--using art, music, or movement. Is he getting enough physical exercise--if he tends to sit at a computer for long periods of time, or watch TV, it can be detrimental to having any initiative for doing other things. If so, limit time on the TV or computer (or video games). Make such activities rewards for getting his homework done. (I limit my daughter to one hour a day using any kind of electronic media.) Encourage him to get involved in sports, martial arts, or riding his bicycle. Also music can be helpful--learning an instrument, or even just listening to good music (the classics) is beneficial for focusing the mind. Look at his living environment--especially his room. If it is cluttered with lots of stuff, make an effort to get rid of clutter--again a neat environment helps one focus on things like homework. I hope you can find something that will spark an interest in your son. J. W.

1 mom found this helpful

I am replying with a different perspective. I was a gifted child and went through some of these same issues. The best thing that ever happened to me was getting involved with other gifted children. I was not really able to socialize with other people, but meeting others like me brought me out of my shell and challenged me. About this age my parents started sending me to "academies" at local universities. You would get to take college like classes, get away from home for a couple of weeks, and meet friends like you who I still know today almost 15 years later. Not to mention, they were free! You can ask your local school and university or check out Duke TIP. Also, don't be scared of the gifted school, it will be the best decision you will ever make. Just so you know, he will grow up to be a wonderful man even if sometimes it seems difficult.

1 mom found this helpful

I agree with the other posts.

Its really difficult to instill motivation for kids who find repetitious work so unnecessary. My daughter scored in the 98th percentile on all of the standardized tests but the gifted program was one day a week and then she was still required to complete all of the class work she missed while she was at the gifted program. This resulted in MORE repetitious work. It didn't address her learning style at all. In addition, she had a few friends at school but found alot of kids were "mean." She too is overweight. I remember the same thing as a child. I was not challenged. The work was boring and I still got good grades barely doing any of the work. I too tested very high on the standardized testing. But, very little was done to address my learning style and I was just not motivated.

I researched schools in our area and actually transferred my daughter into a nearby elementary school that had better average test scores and a better overall curriculum. It was unbelievable how different the teaching style was and the school was in the same district! Overall the work was more challenging because the majority of the kids were also at a higher testing level. She's now in her 2nd year there and is doing FANTASTIC. The difference is night and day. Her confidence level was boosted, she has more friends because she can relate to them better, she enjoys learning and she's doing well grade-wise. She still has some days where she hates to do homework (can't say I blame her :)) But, I make sure to keep on her and she knows she doesn't get a snack unless she finishes it.

Talk to the principle at the magnet school. Meet the teachers. Find out what makes them different and how they encourage socialization. TELL THEM you're concerned about him adjusting to a new school and meeting new friends. The teachers at my daughter's new school were so helpful in that area.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

I truly hate to hear that he is bored. Have you asked him how he feels about going to another school? It seems if he is in a place with more gifted students he should feel like he can fit in better.

But what I'd love to see for this kid is the chance to truly shine. As smart as he is he would benefit from unschooling. That's where he would be allowed to run with tangents, study what he likes within guidelines.

Is he motivated by projects? Does he like to get his hands dirty? I think you need to figure out what he wants and needs at this point. Kids like him are just buying time until the enter the adult world. He's already so much ahead of most people academically. But he needs to mature and find his own way.


1 mom found this helpful

I think it is important to involve your son in conversation about what he wants to do. In order to stimulate motivation he must have a vested interest in his schooling as well. Looking into other schools where he will be challenged is a step in the right direction. He might find other friends with similar interests and make new friends.

It is always tough making these decisions, especially with preteens. That's why it is important to involve him in the conversations. If you just make the decision for him he may not be willing to make the change and will be worse off.

Finally, if your son has an IEP for gifted education, has he been tested for any learning disabilities? Sometimes the most gifted students have a disability that hinders their success. I have had many extremely intelligent students who just don't complete schoolwork but can perform on tests. It is a frustrating situation. Usually, they find their niche, something clicks and they are very successful.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


One way to motivate him might be to involve him more in running the household. A family is a team and, as such, involving him in a family meeting process might be useful. Children your son's age want to do something important. How about involving him in the family budget or investment program? Perhaps he wants to help organize the family schedule?

If you'd like more information on a formalized family meeting agenda, let me know.


1 mom found this helpful

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