Boy Needs Challenge and More Audience

Dear Dr. Sylvia:

Q. Iím a teacher in a school for intellectually gifted children. One middle school boy is of particular concern to me. Heís bright (160 IQ), tremendously creative, and one-on-one, a delight to be around. He would have excellent grades except that his behavior is problematic. The child spends his life in trouble, constantly securing a spot in detention for misbehavior and being talked to in a stern manner. He laughs at inappropriate times, loves to be the class clown, and says inappropriate things for shock value. We know that taking away his audience helps, but we certainly cannot isolate him constantly. His parents, lovely people, both professionals, are mortified. I believe that the current "discipline" program that we subject him to is completely off base. We havenít changed his behavior in three years. He doesnít fit the profile of bright but underachieving because he DOES do the work quickly and correctly so that he can get into trouble! Do you have any suggestions for changing his "consequence" plan in order to change the behavior?

A. Your middle school student acts like he has too much time on his hands, not enough challenge, and not enough positive audience. Independent or small group projects like demonstrating science experiments, writing and performing plays, editing a class newsletter, participating in forensics, debate, Future Problem Solving, Odyssey of the Mind, Quiz Bowl, joining students in a higher grade for subjects where he excels, coaching younger children in academic or sports areas, or shadowing mentors in areas of interest are just a few potential approaches to helping this young man see himself as more than a class clown. Isolating a child briefly in a time-out when he gets into trouble can be helpful temporarily, but giving him avenues for expressing his creativity in positive ways will have a more permanent impact on his real needs for creative expression.