What do you do when your kids say they are bored? I’m not talking about the occasional “I’m bored” statement, after your kid has watched four hours of TV. In fact I’m not talking about those kids who become bored every once in a while, at all. I’m talking about your kid who comes up to you almost daily, sometimes two or three times in a day, to tell you that they are bored. What do you do then?
I have one little feller, God bless him, who fits the latter description. He comes strolling in here to my office when I’m at my most feverish, frenetic and productive moment of writing, and proclaims “I’m bored”! I know immediately, that my moment of productivity is over, because he will not leave me alone until I help him fix his boredom.
Traditionally, I have told him to buzz off (in not so many words) and leave me alone until I am finished with what I am doing. This has produced the following results.
- He pesters me with a monotonous voice, repeating “I’m bored” until I threaten to take away every toy that he currently owns or may own in the future. At which time he “might” go away. Though only for a minute!
- He finds a sibling and then torments them until someone is crying and I have to get involved.
- I flip my lid. He flips his lid, and we are both beside ourselves with anger.
What Kind Of Kids Seem To Get Bored?
I’m not sure whether or not my son is typical of children who are easily bored. If he is then here are a few things I think most of these kids have in common:
- Kids who can’t sit still for long are usually the first to get bored. While all the other kids are engrossed in a book, TV show or video games, my little feller is looking for something else to do, like play with a train set, or build something. Yes, he can sit and watch a movie if we are all doing it together. Otherwise, he’s only good for a few minutes of this type of activity. I don’t think he will ever be a couch potato.
- Bored kids are “doers”. My son would much rather be in the back yard making a box out of scrap wood than using any kind of electronic device. Right now, as I write this, several of the other kids are playing video games while he and his little sister are building a fort. This is very typical.
- My little guy is not much of a reader, nor do I think he ever will be. I don’t see him ever taking a job that requires a lot of reading or working on a computer. He loves machines, I think someday he will drive a truck, operate a backhoe, or be a garbage man, and you know what? I am totally OK with that. This world will always need these types of people and if it’s what fulfills him, I will be happy.
- My son always needs to be around other people. He likes to be around the action, a total extrovert. He doesn’t like to be alone very often. He’s not necessarily afraid of being alone, but he does really prefer the company of others.
Things that frustrate my son
- Inclement Weather–if it is too cold or rainy outside my son feels trapped like a fly in a jar. It drives him crazy.
- Long school days–As homeschoolers, we don’t often do school for more than a couple of hours a day. On those infrequent days that we do, my son will become discouraged. He will want to do something that doesn’t involve books, pencils or computers.
- Busy Parents–The thing that most frustrates my son, and his siblings, is when I get into a marathon work session. Now mind you, a marathon work session is any time that I hole up in my office for more than 30 minutes in one stretch! For some reason, my bored son seeks relief from his boredom through me and his mother first, his friends second, and his siblings third.
A New Strategy?
We tried the traditional intervention methods (suggesting a list of possible activities, reminding him “Only boring people get bored”, telling him to clean his room, etc) but of course they have not worked. We have decided to take the following approach:
Don’t Ignore Your Bored Kid
If your kiddo comes to you frequently to tell you they are bored, maybe they are. Take them seriously. If you choose to ignore them, they will probably find something to do that will irritate you at best and/or cause you to have a full blown conniption at worst. If you don’t deal with their boredom in a timely manner, somebody is gonna end up unhappy. Trust me!
Don’t force a square peg into a round hole
Most kids today are perfectly content to do the same four or five things every day after school. It’s sad that most of those things don’t seem to include playing outside with their friends. A couple of my kids would rather sit in front of the TV, or be on a computer, or tablet or playing video games. I have to urge them to play outside. If one of them tells me they are bored (which isn’t very often) I can just tell them to go do one of those four or five things that they like to do.
Not my bored son. If he comes to me and tells me he’s bored, it means he needs something to do, something physical, something active, and something now! I can’t just tell him to go play with his tablet. He needs to do something that perhaps none of his siblings will be interested in doing, and that means he needs to do something with me!
This is most undoubtedly my most difficult advice. I find it terribly difficult to stop what I’m doing in order to deal with my bored child. I know that it is much easier to stop what I am doing to help him find something rewarding to do. If I don’t deal with him before he becomes frustrated, he will flip his lid. Then I will flip my lid. It’s just better to stop what I’m doing and help him out. It may take 10 minutes of my time or it might take an hour. Either way it sure beats the two of us running around with our lids flipped.
Give them ready made options
If you have a child who is prone to becoming bored, like my son, you need to set aside some time and make a list of activities that they can do when they are bored. Have art supplies close at hand, or some sort of building project like Legos or a model for them to work on.
Most importantly, give them your time
I can’t imagine what it was like for parents before TV and all those other cool electronic devices that we use to babysit our kids. You know what? I bet they had to interact with them more often. It is so easy to set the kids in front of an electric baby sitter so that I can get work done. I am guilty of this as much as any other parent. I have to remind myself why I decided to have kids in the first place. Do you do that? I bet our kids wouldn’t be bored nearly as often if we were willing to carve out a mere 30 minutes of our time to play with our kids.
Ultimately, when my son most “bored”, it’s really when he just needs some extra attention from mom or dad. He needs some eye contact, some positive affirmations, maybe some cuddles or even some rough housing. He doesn’t really need a task or activity as much as he just needs me. And you know what, its a pretty cool thing to be needed by one of my pretty cool kids.
So, what are you best bet boredom busters??? I’ve got a list of Twelve Boredom Crushing Activities coming out in my newsletter this week. If you need some inspiration, be sure to sign up by clicking here.