How to Respond to, “I’m Bored.”

“I’m booooorrrrred.” My 5 year old exclaims as he looks over his shoulder at me. He’s sitting on the dining room chair with his back towards me. I had just picked him and his older siblings up from school and they scurried off into their rooms to watch their favorite shows.

Not him. He’s grounded.

“Find something to do.” I tell him. Those four words are heavy on his shoulders as he breathes a long heavy sigh and his shoulders crouch over. He kicks his foot against the dining room leg.

“But, what can I do?” He asks giving me puppy dog eyes.

“Why are you asking me? I’m not gonna tell you what to do. I can just tell you that you aren’t allowed any technology because you are grounded.” With this, he gets up, walks around the kitchen dragging his feet behind him, then slowly walks into the living room towards his rather large collection of Hot Wheel cars.

I watch him as he unwillingly takes out a few cars. Then his face lights up as he digs into the drawer, as if he’s looking for something. He pulls out a green hot rod, smiles and he looks at it for a few seconds and places it down. He continues to rummage through the pile. After a few minutes, he’s running around the living room with cars hopping over books, flying off couch cushions and he’s building obstacles for his cars to run off of. He’s giggling and he’s concentrating. By this time, his two older siblings come out of their rooms and ask if they can play with him.

He looks up at me and smiles. I look down at him and ask, “Are you still bored?”

“No, mom, I’m good.”

Bordom.

Parents like to stimulate their children and their minds by giving them activities to do throughout the week. Aside from making sure their children have extracurricular skills that can aid in their interest and in their future, one of the other factors of this is to prevent their kids from being bored. I know people who tell me that they are so busy between all their kids’ activities their work and other life events that get thrown at them. What they don’t realize is it’s not just them who’s overwhelmed. If they feel rushed, so do their kids. Our kids hear the urgency in our voice, and become equally stressed. No parent wants to be yelling at their kids mid rush-hour traffic to hurry up and eat their pizza, while in the back of the van changing because their soccer game went over-time and they’re late for karate. No kid wants to be on the receiving end of it either.

According to Dr. Richard Ralley, a psychology lecturer at Edge Hill College in Ormskirk, Lancashire, “Boredom can be a good thing. In psychology, we think of emotions as being functional. Fear, anger, and jealousy all serve a purpose but they’re painted in a bad light even though they exist for a reason. It’s the same with boredom, which also has a bad name.”

So yes, kids shouldn’t feel like boredom is a burden. Boredom should be welcomed. It is natural to be bored and even necessary. It allows your mind to re-calibrate, rebalance and reboot. So the next time your child complains and slumps over and exclaims that they’re bored, you can respond 1 of 4 ways:

  1. OMG, they’re bored. WHAT. NOW? Quick, is there enough time to go to the water park? Should you take them to a movie? But it’s a school night, so maybe a movie isn’t a good idea. How can you entertain them and keep them busy? Don’t fail them now!!
  2. Ignore them. They’ll get the idea. You heard them, but you don’t really care.
  3. Tell them to annoy their siblings. That’s a quick way to remedy the boredom, but it is also the quickest way to start a war in the house.
  4. Respond with, “Me too,” and take the time to be unproductive together. It’s good for them to see how you respond to boredom too. Children do learn best by example, right?

We, as parents, seem to think that our kids’ days should always be filled with something fun and amazing or at least with something to do, so that they aren’t bored. It’s almost like the word “boredom” is a burden, rather than a lull to allow their minds to become unsaturated from all the overstimulation it receives throughout the day. Boredom won’t hurt our kids.

Spring break is just around the corner and I’m sure you’ll have plenty of opportunities to use one of the 4 responses above. The next time your kid pipes up and explains that they’re bored, take it as an opportunity for them to discover their creativity. The things they’ll come up with are pretty cool!

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