Parents often react to a kid saying, “I’m bored” the same as to “I’m hungry.” Except the first is the kid’s problem, the second is a parent’s. Tweens and teens can solve both with minimal parental consultation.
Kids under age 11 probably need help getting food. If they have gotten sufficient positive attention at neutral times, they ought to be able to solve their own boredom.
I dipped back into parenting over the weekend while taking care of three kids, 6, 4 and 14 months. They were reluctant to explore our pond and played inside for quite a while on Sunday.
I resisted allowing them to watch more than one 60-minute video on a summer day and declined invitations to build something “really big with all of the Duplos.” I already fed them every two hours, picked up their constant trail, got them to bed, etc. I was not interested in being chief playmate and entertainer.
“Can we please watch another video?” they pleaded. After reading them four books they finally ventured towards the pond in light rain and started doing what kids are made to do. Get lost in the world of play, pretend and fun. Bounce off each other. Learn about relationships to each other, sand, water and light with minimum of parental interference.
It was fun to watch and care for them.We had “parallel play” – Bob and I weeded while they explored the pond. Two or more kids are always easier than a solitary child, who can self-entertain and invite friends over.
If your kids rely on you to solve boredom, changing the expectation will take a few weeks, protests, long sighs and even sitting with, gasp! nothing to do. Be patient. Creativity emerges from stillness. You will be amazed at the non-electronic entertainment they discover. Allow them to make a mess in the kitchen, yard, family room or bedroom. Creativity is always messy. Take time to notice their efforts and allow time to clean up with them.
Saying, “I know you can find something to do” is encouraging. As soon as a kid can utter, “I’m bored,” he is old enough for this solution: cleaning. Say, “Let’s clean your closet out today. The living room needs vacuuming. Put on these special cleaning socks and slide over the hardwood floors. Let’s crank up the stereo, put on dust mitts and dust the whole house.”
You can bet they’ll find something to do. Fast. Or maybe they’ll clean with you. Chores are one of THE best ways to develop self-discipline. That’s another post.
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