A little bit of context: we're in Germany, where, in the 5th grade, children are split into multiple types of schools, based on their academic capabilities. This is decided by the teachers based on grades, social skills and work ethics. For our son, that will be decided based on the evaluation from this year.

Now, our problem, the teacher called us in and basically told us exactly this: our son is very smart and should follow the highest academic path, however she won't be able to recommend that unless he changes the way he works. The problem is that no matter what assignment he has to do, he does is extremely fast and then refuses to check what he did. If he checks it, it's with the same rush. This is tests, homework, everything. This leads to a lot of mistakes. For example, they will be asked to copy a text on the back of the paper, so basically they have the text on one side and the have to copy it on the back, being allowed to turn the page over as many times as they like. Here, he will get about 15 mistakes for a half a page text.

This doesn't apply to maths where, even he hurries it, he somehow gets everything completely right most of the time.

School is not the only thing he hurries, it's also everything else - eating, playing, reading.

It's really important to temperate this behaviour in the next 3-6 months, at least enough to get his school work back on track. What could we do?

  • I don't have an answer for this, but my eldest was similar, and it really impacted his final 2 years at school, ruining his chance to go to uni directly. But he took a year out, and a college course which got him into uni doing a degree which he loves. So it may not be as big a problem as you think.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Oct 30, 2023 at 20:13
  • 3
    Also not a full answer, but especially the smart kids sometimes struggle disproportionately with the more tedious tasks. You should also check - at least in some states, the Grundschulempfehlung is not binding. Many parents decide to ignore the recommendation and choose another school type. While this can be really bad for some kids who really shouldn’t be attending Gymnasium, it can make sense if you and your son agree that he should go there.
    – Stephie
    Commented Oct 30, 2023 at 20:17
  • that's the case in our state also, but we have what one can call a "luxury problem", namely we have many private schools. At least in the part of the city where we live, there are 3 private Gymnasien and 3 public ones. The private Gymnasien do the whole interview process so the public ones have started doing it too. They all decide on the same day who they accept and who not, about 3 months before the official process, and without the recommendation, you're shown the door directly at the interview. This happened recently to some friends of ours.
    – kioleanu
    Commented Oct 30, 2023 at 20:40
  • I don't know the German education system, but is it possible to stack education levels? Here in the Netherlands, it is possible to start at a lower level of the secondary education and once you graduate that, advance to the next higher level and do only the last two years of that level of secondary education. Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 8:20
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    ADHD here, and "they will be asked to copy a text on the back of the paper, so basically they have the text on one side and the have to copy it on the back, being allowed to turn the page over as many times as they like" fills me with anxiety. I doubt I could do this without many, many mistakes, even today as an experienced adult. Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 16:50

4 Answers 4


School is not the only thing he hurries, it's also everything else - eating, playing, reading.

The most important first step in handling this is to understand why your child rushes through things. Without understanding, even if you're equipped with tools to slow your child down, you're fighting an uphill battle that will not likely be correctable in the next few months. You know your child's behaviors, who he is, and some of these possibilities you'll be able to throw out immediately. But you should give them some thought if you have no solid evidence to back up your first reaction.

There are many possibilities; here are a few:

  • It may be that he's easily bored, so always looking for something more stimulating/interesting to do. He's rushing through his work because it doesn't really capture his interest.

  • It may be that his mind is racing, and his body is just following naturally. (An example of this is kids with ADHD.)

  • It may be that high quality is just not important to him. He may be satisfied with "good enough" even if it means he's not rising to the top.

  • It may be that he rushes because he feels that he is going to do poorly anyway, so why put any effort into a task?

  • It may be that he thinks his work is better than it actually is.

  • It may be that he doesn't have the skill required to "check his work", something like a checklist, or an acronym to follow (e.g. for writing, full sentences, spelling, neatness, and punctuation matter, and before saying, "I'm finished", he should go through his checklist.)

It's been my experience that highly intelligent/"gifted" kids do more poorly in school than the average student, but this often first appears as a problem in the more advanced grades.

Until you know the why of it, you may give him lots of tools and advice, but they may not be effective as they don't address the root of the problem.

  • good shout with the "how to check" what's he looking for? Maybe he doesn't know exactly what that expectation is. Also I'm awful at checking my own work, its so much harder to spot the mistakes when I know what I meant to do. Maybe he could get some practice spotting your mistakes (it's also hilarious to feel like you know better than your parents!)
    – R Davies
    Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 8:54
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    @RDavies - Oh, I should have made clear that expectations must be made clear! Thanks. :) Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 12:25

A few questions:

  1. What is it he does after he rushes? I mean, what is he rushing towards? This answer may help you understand why he rushes. While he may be rushing all activities from eating, to playing, to school work, it may be worth it to determine the why. It is possible that he has some kind of ADHD; it is also possible that he is simply very intelligent and wants to do all the things; or he may have a fixation, etc.
  2. You mentioned errors in the copying; Is this possibly due to any dyslexia or sight related issues? Perhaps in this area, using an aid like a piece of paper (or a finger) for the line he is on may assist him in reading and writing. He also may be glancing from the paper to the book, to the paper, meaning he may be losing his spot and trying to have to find it again, or skipping down a line. Ending each line perfectly with the word and lining those words up perfectly according to the text is another potential aid.
  3. Is he aware of the issue? If he is aware, and doesn't care, the not caring is the piece that has to be resolved. Often rewards or goads are what people need to guide them forward. The best results are with both and a healthy dose of love.
  4. Can you make a game to him for him to find the error in his own work? Something that we view as fun is often something we are more likely to do. It's what I had to do.... learn that proofreading was essential; otherwise I sat bored. Then it became so much of a habit that I was last to finish all the time... perfection is not necessarily a great goal in life.
  5. Is he interested in the challenge of great answers and is there a way to interest him in that? Praising him for those great answers may instill more value in those answers.

These things said, different societies place different values on education, and the viewpoint of whether your teacher thinks you are intelligent or dumb affects the student's overall capacity and performance. Therefore, I agree, you should definitely continue to get him into the highest levels where he is still capable; for the first reason: to be challenged in school; for the second reason: to have the most opportunities as an adult to choose how he wants to live; and for the third reason: as the globe over-populates those with higher capacities and good decision making skills will be more likely to avoid poverty.

I remember distinctly hating showing my work in Math because I did it all in my head. It wasn't until almost High School that I was reliable at all in showing much math work, and then it was when I discovered for myself how to show the least work possible and still get the As for the right answers. For example, I could show you the math for 256+256... but I know it by heart and can do it in my head; why would I write it down? The effort of showing you how I do it is so tedious; but if that is the right answer, I have to care that I write that answer, despite how tedious it is. Does he KNOW what to show when he has to show it?

Pray about it, meditate on it, and maybe have a discussion with your child about it.

  • Try racing him. Both of you copy a small page, then count errors. Intentionally make a few if you are a perfectionist... and then do it again... see if he can beat your bar. Maybe he would hate this, and there you have your answer. Maybe he doesn't care, and again an answer... The why is the important thing here, and when we are changing behavior, we sometimes need to know the why the most... not always, but since we have such a broad spectrum of behaviors, each has its own answers. Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 21:09

You have two separate objectives here:

  1. Getting your child to the Gymnasium.
  2. Enabling your child to approach some activities focused and carefully.

I don't recommend trying to solve both at once by making your child focus on their school activities, because they are quite certainly just incredibly boring. If you are in a state where the teacher's recommendations are merely indicative, you can just ignore them and Objective 1 is trivial. Otherwise, you may have to talk the teacher into it. Hopefully they'll understand that sending your child to a lower tier school would just make it worse, but if you run into problems convincing them, go all out. Talk to the headmaster. Make a scene. Whatever it takes. (Several people in my family had issues getting the proper recommendation. Everyone of them has a doctorate now).

When it comes to the second objective, you want to identify an activity that is actually worth it to concentrate on. Look into the stuff your child actually cares about. If there is nothing suitable there, maybe you can find some genuinely challenging school-like exercises (maybe from higher years or "enrichement"-material), and offer your child the deal that you'll be off their back regarding the boring stuff if they get the advanced ones right (this could also serve as ammunition for the fights regarding Objective 1).


Honestly, I think everyone in the last 40 years has forgotten that kids will be kids. They will hurry through, especially if he's intelligent and bored. Personally, unless he started wreaking havoc, I'd for the most part let him be.

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