There’s nothing worse than hearing the dread phrase, “I’m so bored!” If you let it, it nibbles at your peace like a piranha. Intellectual self-care for you means teaching your kids how to handle boredom.
The shouts of happy kids playing softball in the nearby field nearly drowned out Benny’s grumpy moan. “I’m so bored!”
Nothing raises my hackles faster than hearing a kid say, “I’m so bored.”
Snarky responses to this declaration hovered on my tongue, ready to leap out. I resisted. Instead, I swallowed an inner sigh and acknowledged that every generation has its issues.
Kids these days grew up waving cellphones in their pudgy little fists. They have no idea what their own minds can accomplish without the aid of technology. And so I asked questions. “How could you get unbored?”
“I dunno,” Benny replied.
“Do you have a good book to read?” I asked. “Have you tried running, playing tag, or challenging yourself to a physical feat?”
He stared blankly at me.
“You could join the softball game or cheer for the players.” I pointed to the sand under the slides, “Or build a sandcastle.”
Benny grunted. Then moaned again, “I’m so bored!” and collapsed on the end of the slide, curling up in a ball of discontent.
I moved my chair out of the wind (and further away from his 12-year-old tantrum) and read my book with one eye while keeping an eye on the other students on the playground.
How long would he wallow in his own misery, I wondered.
I chuckled to myself at how my reaction had changed over the years. With my own kids, I would have probably provided some educational activity after they’d curled up in a ball of misery. After all, it’s up to us to model how to handle boredom.
I have my own struggles with placating myself with my iPhone and social media. After reading about the addictiveness of social media apps, I wanted to set a good example for my students of what to do when I’m bored without resorting to screen time.
What?! I Have to Give up Screen Time, too?
If we want bored kids, all we have to do is set an example of resorting to Candy Crush, You Tube Videos of cats, or binge-watching the latest show. Don’t get me wrong. None of these pursuits will rot your brain or kill your creativity—unless you resort to them more often than necessary.
Mark D. Griffiths, Ph.D., writes about signs you may have a social media problem for Psychology Today online. He assures us that cases of true social media addiction don’t happen very often, but he warns,
“However, many people’s social media use is habitual and it can start to spill over into other areas of their lives and be problematic and dangerous, such as checking social media while driving.”Mark D. Griffiths, Ph. D.
In order to set a good example for the youth in our lives, we need to assess our own use of screen time and social media.
The, “I’m so bored!” comments come from kids who have an underdeveloped sense of creativity. They (just like us) fall into the habit of depending on outside stimulus for entertainment.
We have to acknowledge that perhaps we spend too much time on technology and not enough time taking care of our intellectual and academic selves. When we fail at intellectual self-care, we’ll pass this habit on to our children.
We can choose to empower our children to handle boredom or feed their need for entertainment.We can choose to empower our children to handle boredom or feed their need for entertainment. Which will you choose? #boredom #summer #kids Click To Tweet
How Should You Respond to “I’m so Bored!”
People seem to fall into one of two camps when it comes to the dread “I’m so bored!” proclamation. One group believes in alleviating their child’s boredom as quickly as possible, as if boredom raged like a fever. The other group believes in letting kids stew in their boredom.
According to Nancy Colier, LCSW, Rev., “the ability to be with themselves, to not fear or dread their own company, is the most valuable skill our children will ever learn.”
Both camps have merit. When your toddler acts out in church because the sermon bores him, a wise parent will have a bag of boredom busters on hand.
When your child busts out the “I’m so bored!” lament at home, you have the perfect opportunity to both teach and model.
1. Ask questions.
“I’m so bored!” acts as a blanket code for different situations. Perhaps your child needs your attention and doesn’t know how to ask for it. Maybe your kid needs help solving a problem but hasn’t developed the vocabulary to express her need.
Try responding with one of these questions:
“What can you do to get unbored?”
“Do you feel like you’re stuck?”
“How long have you felt this way?”
“Do you need suggestions of things you could do?”
“Why do you feel bored?”
Their answers will help you understand the root of their boredom.
2. Assure You Child that Boredom Won’t Kill Them (Usually)
I did a lot of dumb stuff in my youth when boredom came knocking.
When my sister suggested that we play fire
When my brother opined that jumping off the shed roof seemed like a great challenge, I joined him. Maybe this explains my achy knees.
Boredom creates intellectual space for creativity to flourish. It produces new recipes, works of art, vacation plans, and solutions to knotty problems. Just make sure you warn your kids about the consequences of risky responses to boredom.
Teach them to ask themselves about the possible outcomes of their activities before they engage. Their older knees will thank them.
3. Model and teach how to handle boredom. You can:
- Share stories about what you did when you felt bored at their age.
- Ask them to brainstorm boredom busting activities, write them on slips of paper, and keep them in a boredom jar.
- Read books to them and with them. When you read a book as part of your own self-care plan, let them know you read to entertain or inform yourself.
- Help them gather or make costumes so they can dress up
liketheir favorite characters in books. Our daughters loved dressing up like Kirsten and Josefina from the American Girl books.
- Get ideas from The Daring Book for Girls or The Dangerous Book for Boys.
4. Keep a Few Tricks Up Your Sleeves
It never hurts to have a few activities that will model and teach how to handle boredom. You could play Worst-Case Scenario with different parameters.
When they say, “I’m so bored!” Tell them that the Zombie Apocolypse will start in 15 minutes and they need to meet you out back with everything they think they’ll need to survive the attack. Rush around the house gathering supplies, and when the timer goes off, everyone has to show what they’ve gathered and explain how it will help them survive this particular worst-case scenario.
You can play the Worst-Case Scenario game using other situations, such as hurricane, tornado, power outage, earthquake, etc.
A Mandate for Parents, Grandparents, and Teachers
After twenty minutes of utter boredom, Benny got up and wandered over to a group of students who sat around a table chatting. He sat down and joined in. I stood up and circled the playground a few times to stave off the cold. The giggles and laughter coming from the table confirmed my decision to let Benny deal with his boredom on his own.
Our mandate as adults is to model how to handle life’s situations for the generations that come behind us. We don’t need to helicopter, rescue, or supply all the answers. Believe me, I practice a lot of self-restraint, because I love to fix things, save situations, and display my knowledge.
But I refrain. After all, I know that people learn best when they reach their own conclusions. Especially if they do it without a lot of outside influence.4 Tips for what to do when your kids say, "I'm so bored!" this summer! #SelfCareSunday #Parenting #Bored Click To Tweet