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The Boredom Problem
Mom with a View

The Boredom Problem

Don't feel inadequate for not constantly entertaining your kids.


How do you prevent kids from saying “I’m bored?” When you discover the answer to that question, I’d like to tackle the next one: “How do you stop them from chewing gum?”

I’m not sure we can ever stop children from expressing boredom. I think what we can do is stop them from expecting us to solve the problem.


“I am not your camp counselor” is what I’ve been heard to say on all too numerous occasions.


I have found that as long as our children expect us to entertain them –if we put them off with the prospect of “maybe,” -- they will never quit pestering. “Are we going?” “When are we going?” “Can we go now?” “When will you know?”


But if, on the other hand, we are very clear that the desired activity is not going to happen, that we really are too busy, they will go off and entertain themselves beautifully.


It’s our own guilt and ambivalence that gets us in trouble. We feel like we are bad or, at the very least, inadequate parents if we are not constantly entertaining our children.


But it is actually not to their benefit. Creative play stimulates them in ways that the entertainment we provide does not. It encourages their minds to stretch, strengthens their imaginative skills and provides an antidote to passivity.


It also stands them in greater stead for their future educational experience.


One of my teachers once mentioned that he felt that even the charming Sesame Street was destructive to children. It encouraged unrealistic expectations of the learning process; that it would be all fun, entertaining and effortless.


Children need to learn that they are not the only people in the world.

Another reason not to indulge every “I’m bored” whine is because, from a young age, children need to learn that they are not the only people in the world, that it is not only their needs that matter (I know; there are a lot of adults that need to learn the same lesson). Dropping everything to indulge their every whim teaches them that their needs are paramount and trump all else. This does not make for healthy adulthood.


On a practical level, it is helpful to do things like rotate the available toys so that only a few can be used at once, to save some for special occasions, to invite a playmate over and even, if your child is a voracious reader, to limit trips to the library.


When you do set aside time to be with your children, ignore your phones and your blackberry. Although their need for attention is insatiable, it’s worse if they feel you are never really focused. Be present for them when you can and explain clearly when you can’t. And by the way, did I mention the use of earplugs…


January 16, 2010

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Visitor Comments: 10

(10) Sarah, June 4, 2015 11:37 PM

no boredom

I laughed at this. Here's one thing for which I have an effective answer. When my son was about four he announced one day that he was bored. Where he got the idea of boredom I haven't a clue. But I took him into the bathroom and gave him a demonstration on how to properly clean a toilet, inside and outside and the floor all around. Then I explained that his mental occupation was his responsibility, not mine but when ever he needed my help on something to occupy his mind he would clean both the toilets. I assured him that something would occur to him while he did the work. Then I watched as he cleaned the second toilet to make sure my instructions were understood. The lesson was learned to the point that a few years later when a visiting friend started to say "I'm b" he was quickly stopped with "Don't say that word!" The boys found something to occupy their minds all by themselves. And with no bored people in the house the toilet cleaning job fell to me until it was put on the rotating job list when he was older, bored or not. His children aren't bored either.

(9) beverley, March 5, 2010 5:15 PM

boredom continued

When a child didn't, I would simply ask them to think of something very complicated they could do. To respond to a child who had learned to be bored... I would engage in some sort Q and A to have them figure out something challenging to do. The challenge of adults responding to the, “I’m bored” is to teach children to challenge themselves. (-:

(8) Anonymous, March 5, 2010 5:12 PM

my response to the bordom comment

As a parent & teacher, re. a child's, "I'm bored", I deflect the onus on the child. I comment "There is not such thing as boredom; you are not using your brain; do something hard." I observed a seminar for gifted children on the topic of boredom. The leader, told participants that when they encountered 'boredom' when their regular class teacher assigned a task of some sort, that would take the class a long time to do, but which gifted students would complete quickly; then, have nothing to do.... becoming a good time to get into trouble. The seminar leader then discussed what would they do if the classroom teacher asked their class to make a boat. The gifted students mostly replied that they would draw a boat or cut out a paper boat. "Not good enough", said the seminar leader and asked the gifted students to make the hardest boats. The students had a variety of answers: a paper-boat filled heavily loaded that could still float on water, a popsicle stick boat and cloth sail powered by a fan, a Styrofoam boat powered by a small motor. The group was then divided up into teams to build their projects. The projects were built and then the students went on a small field trip to a small pond for 'show and tell' to test and show off their creations. Following this part of the exercise, the group returned back to the seminar room and they were led in a discussion about how they effectively dealt with ‘boredom’. The conclusion of the group was that you are responsible for preventing yourself from becoming bored by making any task challenging. Just to let you know, the participants were gifted grade one and two students. The seminar was led by Master students from the University of Calgary under the auspices of the Center of Gifted Education in around 1997. When I have used my comment, see above, the most common response is for the child to stare wordlessly at me, followed by their going away to DO something. When a child didn't, be continued

(7) Kat, January 23, 2010 12:08 AM

Weak Mind

When we'd say "I'm bored" to my dad. He's tell us "Boredom is the sign of a weak mind" which was so insulting that I quickly learned to not to tell him I was bored anymore. Maybe it didn't solve my boredom, but it did teach me not to expect him to entertain me.

(6) Anonymous, January 19, 2010 5:29 PM

How correct you are!

Younger, we played outside, we invented games taking parts from a chair factory and making guitars giving concerts to each other - other children! A game called 'branch to branch' whereby you wrote clues at different points on your way and others would follow the clues in the ground to find you... we often just walked and walked, lol. I think playing, not being always shown 'how' to play helps in decision making and forming our own opinions....unfortunately, children are being penalized today...playing more often with mommy and daddy....I believe this has more to do with mommy and daddy wanting to be according to their schedule...busy, busy,...I have seen so many 'playdates' translated into choosing their children's friends according to often their own friends? I think this began with my generation as parents, when many children, because full time day care, camp care, internees. Not allowed to stay in their own homes even when sick or just to stay home and sleep, as we had been permitted to do. Much change has happened and we chase to adapt...sometimes a pause is needed! Maybe this is why so many younger 20 year olds just want to 'chill'.... Simply an experienced observation, I think we always seems to adapt and the old rebecomes the new.... let us hope that the 'old' way of letting children play, on their own, with other children, outside will come back in style! LOL God bless, let us pray for the Haitian people to keep their strength and dignity and let us let them rebuild, help yet LET us LET them make their own decisions....

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