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I'm Bored!
Mom with a View

I'm Bored!

Have our kids learned their boredom from us?


It strikes terror into the heart of every mother, paralyzes the best of teachers, antagonizes even good-natured babysitters. It's a short expression that packs a lot of punch. No one wants to hear their children say those dreaded words, "I'm bored."

Although not limited to summer (some challenging Sundays spring to mind), this 10-week long vacation (To whom it may concern: Summer break is too long!) certainly lends itself to the frequent use of this annoying and counterproductive expression.

Dennis Prager suggests responding, "You're not bored -- you're boring." While I question his tactics (and would be surprised to learn that he ever had a positive reaction to this strategy), I certainly appreciate his point. The world is fascinating. There is always something new to see, something new to learn. With the infinite knowledge and opportunities available, how can our children complain they're bored? Granted, sometimes "I'm bored" just means "I know there are activities out there but I'm too lazy to find them. Can you do it for me?" Not exactly a more endearing sentiment. And sometimes it just means "I'm bored."

It's particularly frustrating after all the money we've lavished on summer camp, the latest computer games, the newest toys...

It drives a mother (father, sibling, nanny, neighbor two doors down) crazy! And yet I wonder if it's possible there's an explanation that takes the responsibility off our children, an explanation that we would not find so flattering. Is it possible that like so many other things, this is a lesson they've learned from us?

Do they see us flit from project to project, unable to sit down and really see something through to the end, excited by the vision and not the nitty gritty work? Or do they see us snapping up the latest fashions and appliances? Is our home constantly being redone to reflect some new decorating style? Do they notice our friends and acquaintances searching out more exotic trips in more unusual locales? Do they hear people complain that their private jet is not state of the art? (Yes, I have actually heard that!)

We live in world where many people are bored, where many adults don't know where to turn to satisfy their restless yearning. For a friend's birthday, my son and his buddies recently went to watch turtle racing. Need I say more?

If we want our children to stop whining "I'm bored" (the tone doesn't help), we need to communicate to them our own excitement in life. We need to share the fascination found in getting to know new people, in exploring nature, in delving into ideas.

If our children see us enthralled with everyday vistas and experiences, they will learn to do the same.

A friend of mine used to take his kids on outings to the local gourmet grocery store (I already hear mine groaning in the background!). He taught them to admire the colors and bounty of all the fruits and vegetables, not to mention the orderly arrangement.

We need to share the joy and awe of the ocean, a thunderstorm, a rose in bloom, a warm cookie from the oven (A good activity that involves preparation, cooking and cleaning – with the practical benefit of eating!), and a good book. We can show them the wonder of the library, a botanical garden, a train station, an airport. My kids were recently wowed by the polar bears in the Central Park Zoo, especially since they were moving around instead of sleeping, by the crowds in Manhattan, by the lights of Times Square.

Sometimes we need to point out the magic all around us. Mostly we need to experience it ourselves as well. If our children see us enthralled with everyday vistas and experiences, they will learn to do the same. Excitement is contagious (as are yawns of boredom).

If you follow this prescription, I can't promise you that you'll never hear "I'm bored" again, but you may no longer feel compelled to do something about it.

August 22, 2008

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 17

(17) Denise Bander, September 25, 2008 9:03 AM

We Overstimulate Our Children - Creating Dangerous Expectations

I agree with anonymous regarding our children today having so little down time. Children spend long days in school and then have meaningless homework which drains them of all their joy of life and creative energies. This teaches them that busy work is value and avoids an important lesson in life that learning if fun for the sake of it. I believe this is a serious problem facing our children today as they turn away from the lessons of their parents and grandparents (whom they don't even really know because everyone is so busy) and embrace busy-ness for the sake of being busy. This touches upon the twin issue of parents working so many hours to support their lavish lifestyles that it creates a culture of acceptance to the really absurd idea that has taken hold over the past 20 years that its okay for other people to raise our children (daycare for infants, long day school hours, endless playdates, afterschool activities for kindergartners). No wonder our children are ADHD.

(16) esther, September 7, 2008 9:16 AM

wonderful and long overdue

We've been stoping the car and making the kids get out to see a beautiful sunset since the are very young. We have a bird feeder in the back yard and it brings exotic birds. All in the name of appreciating nature and it's creator Hashem. Also we really do LOVE LIFE! and as a result so do our kids and grandkids. You are a wise woman. Kudos. Esther K.

(15) Anonymous, August 28, 2008 7:58 PM

They're bored because they have so little down time from 18 months on...

It's common in the frum world to send kids from 18 months and up to "playgroup." In the more modern circles they do pricey activities like Gymboree and Music Together and start pre-k as young as 22 months. As soon as they're old enough to potentially get bored, they're put in these programs, often for long hrs. Why the overstimulation? What's wrong with a child just staying at home, doing a few playdates, running errands with mom? My kids would be bored at home too if they were used to constantly being in school and camp from the minute they turn two. No one would have scheduled a child in such a way twenty years ago. What happened to good ol quality parenting instead of paying someone else to be with your kid all day?

(14) Tamara, August 28, 2008 8:10 AM


How about chesed activities? People need to learn to be givers..........

(13) MalkaL, August 27, 2008 7:34 PM

Thank you Mrs.Braverman!

Dear Mrs. Braverman Today I enacted upon your philosohpy with my 2 year old twins. I promised myself not to feel guilty or discouraged when chores had to be done I would simply include my children and make it quality time: Here are the highlights of my day: 1. Put away groceries- chlidren helped by handing me boxes of plastic utensils and placed them in the cabinet. ( they loved it!) 2. Swept the floor with cordless vacuum shark and had children take turns under my supervision ofcourse pushing the vacuum. (they loved it and enjoyed the "shark" vacuum gobble up all the food off the floor!) 3. Put markers and crayons away and had children assist by picking up the markers off the floor and place in bag. Every time they put a scrap paper or marker in the bag I would shout "Ding ding" 2 points! the bigger the item the bigger the sound effect and point! 4. Took children for an outing to a book reading at Barnes and nobles. Suprisingly they were not that enthralled but it was good to get out none the less. Today was a great day!! Thank you Mrs. Braverman your article now has a proud place on my fridge and i will happily share it with other moms.

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