The phrase “I’m bored” is the equivalent of fingernails scraping down a chalkboard—it drives parents crazy. And chances are, if you have a child ages six to eight (or older), you hear it regularly, says Vancouver parenting speaker and author Kathy Lynn.
Kids say they’re bored as a means of engaging their parents, but that doesn’t mean you’re doing a lousy job, she says. It’s more likely they’re just being lazy. “They really could come up with their own ideas,” says Lynn.
I can relate. My daughter, Avery, who’s eight, is bored of her stuffed animals, Playmobil toys and even her brand new LOL Surprise Doll. Frankly, I’m just not buying it.
It’s not your problem
“The first thing you have to remember is that her boredom is her problem, not yours,” says Lynn. Parents forget this and think they should have a solution for everything, so they offer up ideas (that are roundly rejected).
“Our job is to make sure that she does have enough options of things to do, which might be art supplies, or dress-up stuff, or the opportunity to get outside and play,” says Lynn. “Once all of that is in place, leave her to it.”
If your child’s boredom is code for, “I want to spend time with you,” involve her in what you’re doing, whether it’s preparing dinner or folding laundry.
The benefits of boredom
If your kid clearly has no interest in helping you tear lettuce or pair socks and would rather stare out the window, don’t fret. Inactivity is not all bad.
“Some really good stuff happens when we’re bored, because then we start daydreaming,” says Lynn. “And when we start daydreaming, we start imagining the world we would like, or we come up with new and exciting ideas.” Essentially, we become creative when we’re bored.
When to pay attention
If you’re dealing with a child who is constantly bored, then odds are you need to up the activity level.
“Sometimes when kids are really bored, it’s because they’re looking for more challenge,” says Lynn. Make sure their toys are age-appropriate, and that they’re getting enough exercise. Send them outside to jump on the trampoline or ride a bike. You can also sign them up for an activity, but be careful to strike a balance between time for lessons or sports, and unstructured play, says Lynn.
Remember that kids need to learn how to be resourceful. In other words, you can be empathetic, but make them “own” their boredom.
The other day, Avery announced, “There’s nothing to do.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” I said with a sympathetic smile. “You can help me load the dishwasher.”
She made a disgusted sound (her way of declining), then sighed loudly, and repeatedly, from the couch. After wallowing for a couple of minutes, inspiration struck and she bounded up the stairs to play. Problem solved, by herself.
DIY Idea: The next time your kid says “I’m bored,” hand them a homemade “boredom jar” full of activity ideas. Find a printable template here.