- Boredom isn’t bad. It’s just a problem to be solved.
- Kids 100% have the tools to solve their boredom problem independently.
- Criticizing kids for being bored doesn’t help them be less bored.
- Giving kids things to do is a short-term solution.
Mission Impossible: I finally figured out why my kids are never bored! (I should clarify this statement; they probably get bored but I never hear of it). I’ll concede that they’re only 3.5 years and 18 months old, so only one of them could actually tell me…but he hasn’t. (Update: Our kids are 6, 4, and we’ve added another that is 2 years old now.)
The 18 mo is currently playing in a gated space and has been for the last 40 minutes. Every sign of movement points toward engagement and contentment. It’s possible that I will fall victim, and probably soon, to the curse of summer boredom. My kids will whine and fuss that their world is not caving into their every whim. But, I doubt it, and here’s why.
Don’t Tell Them How to Entertain Themselves
When it comes to fun and entertainment, I never tell my children or point them toward what I think will be fun for them. I leave them alone…well, not physically alone, but I let them direct their activities. It started when my older was just 1. My wife and I sat and watched him, completely focused on his own agenda, for 45 minutes straight. From that moment on, he became the director of his play. When his sister was born, we did it from day 1. Why don’t my kids tell me if they’re bored? Why would they? To them, I’ve never been a resource for fun activities. I’ve never been a guide toward things to do. If it does occur to them that they’re bored at some point then they are likely to see it as their responsibility to rectify the situation. They may come and tell me because they know I’ll be interested but it’s hard to imagine they’ll be asking me to fix it.
Maybe our approach could help older kids too. It’s worth a shot. If you want your kids to stop whining about being bored just try not being the source of entertainment. Don’t even tell them to find something to do. If your child says, “I’m bored!” You could say, “That’s an interesting problem. You sound upset like you wish you were doing something! But you are doing something. You are coming to me and asking me to tell you to do something. But, I don’t have any ideas. You know the rules of the house and what you aren’t allowed to do. Otherwise, you’re free to do what you like.”
In this response, you’re not belittling them for being bored, but you’re not fixing it for them. You’re creating a set of boundaries that allow them to exercise their own creativity. Maybe it won’t be an instant fix or a fix at all, but if you stick with it you may save yourself quite a bit of frustration. As for me, I’m quite satisfied to let my kids direct their own play and learn that boredom comes and goes and that it can be a great way to rest from our activities.
This post was written in response to reading Kristen Welch’s Dear Moms: It’s Not Our Job to Make Summers Magical.