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. #boredom #summer #parenting #kids #vacation

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.

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. #boredom #summer #parenting #kids #vacation

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!”

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. #boredom #summer #parenting #kids #vacation

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 firefighter in our two-story playhouse, it seemed logical to toss my two-year-old sister out the playhouse window. Fortunately, her dress snagged on a nail and she hung suspended until our screams brought our mom running.

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 like their 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

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14 Comments

  1. What a timely topic, Anita! I’m certain there are so many moms out there who are already tired of hearing that refrain! Thanks for offering these creative ways of handling it. I’ll be pinning this one for sure!

  2. I had a giggle as I read Anita, my response to my children & grandchildren has always been “you don’t want to challenge me with that statement as there’s plenty of chores I can give you to help you get unbored!”
    They always found something quickly to alleviate their boredom, that they found so much more interesting then chores 😉
    Great points of advice though 😀
    Bless you,
    Jennifer
    Tea With Jennifer recently posted…FOMO v JOMOMy Profile

  3. Anita,
    I listen to moms talk about all the summer camps they’ve enrolled their kids in and to myself I think, how sad that they won’t have time to just be kids?! I am reminded that some of the greatest inventions have come about because kids were allowed to become bored. Boredom is the gateway to inventive and creative thinking. Sad, that our children are being robbed of this phenomenon. Great post!
    Blessings,
    Bev xx
    Bev @ Walking Well With God recently posted…The Hazards of “Future-Tripping”My Profile

  4. With my younger brother, my response was always “I didn’t know you used to be a tree!” He never appreciated it, but he usually changed his thinking and picked something he wanted to do.

    My son doesn’t say he’s bored, but he asks for screen time when he’s bored. Sometimes I say yes, but sometimes, I tell him he needs to go play with Legos. Or read… 📚
    Aryn The Libraryan 📚 recently posted…Naaman’s Servant: The Beautiful Faith of a ChildMy Profile

  5. I was reading books and articles about dealing with children’s boredom long before cell phones were even invented – it’s an age-old problem. But ubiquitous screens make it easy to deaden creative pursuits.

    I made time to get on the floor and play with my kids when they were little, but I also didn’t want to become their only entertainment source. I wanted them to develop the skill of entertaining themselves even when no one else was around. I knew that would benefit then through life. When they complained of being bored, sometimes I’d suggest activities. Other times I’d say. “Well, I’m sure I can find something for you to do” (usually meaning chores). And then they skedaddled. 🙂 And, like you said with your student, sometimes I just left them alone to figure it out.
    Barbara Harper recently posted…Studying the Parts to Understand the WholeMy Profile

  6. I agree, I think we all need to learn to deal with being bored. It’s too easy to look for outside stimulation but sometimes the best ideas can come through a bit of boredom when we are forced to think creatively.

  7. I don’t recall ever being bored. My mother says we read the same Golden books over and over. I could always find something to do. Now with a room full of stuff, children are bored don’t have anything to play with. But they wants phones. I’ve kept children who would color and watch the same movies and shows and use their imaginations, put on puppet shows and some that can’t sit still for thirty minutes, or color one page. So maybe, I get bored with people who are bored. Now, I would take a nap. Seriously, I have handed them a mop and said you’re a pirate, swab the deck. it was porch, not the kitchen. Though I had a three yr old in family daycare who would insisted on mopping the floor for me sometimes, he was a good boy, and handy with a Swiffer.

  8. This is a must read article for every parent. I am so bored is one of the few lines that result in future mental peace and anxiety issues as well. Thank you for writing about this sensitive issue.

  9. Thank you for this post! I am always torn between feeling like I have to “solve” boredom for my kids and leaving them to figure it out on their own. I’m sure I used to complain about boredom to my parents when I was a kid, but I also remember spending hours exploring the neighborhood with my friends, making up games, and reading the same books over and over. When my kids are in a funk with a sour attitude (usually caused by not granting their requests for screen time), sometimes I like to tell them a few jokes, have them try a couple tongue twisters, or solve some tricky brainteasers. It only fills a few minutes of time, but I find that the laughter and critical thinking help them change their mindset really quickly so they’re more receptive to figuring out the next activity on their own. Here’s the list of jokes for kids that I use when I need some quick ideas: https://www.upparent.com/questions/funny-jokes-for-kids

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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