Did you ever hear that? If you are a parent, the chances are that you have heard it and probably more than one time.
Your responses have probably varied over time, but you may have settled on one or two that seem to work with your children. What do you do when they say that?
- You find something to keep them busy, like a new toy or a game.
- Take them downtown or to see a friend.
- Stop what you’re doing and spend some time with them, just talking or playing with them.
- Give them a chore to do. This will no doubt be met with resistance but it will solve the boredom problem.
- Tell them to find something to do themselves. This might be met with resistance, too, but you don’t change your mind.
- Tell them to turn on the television and go back to your work.
- You can sometimes just ignore them. It’s surprising how many times this one works.
Why do our kids get bored in the first place? Babies are born with a wonderful sense of curiosity about the world around them and as they grow older, this curiosity is supposed to expand, not evaporate. When our kids get bored, whether we like to admit it or not, we parents are most often the problem. Boredom is often a learned behavior in response to the way we treat them and what we expect of them. In other words, how we handle their lives.
Most of the time, our kids are in a structured setting. Structure is good, of course, but too much structure is not. When kids learn to depend on the structure of their lives (school, extracurricular activities, play dates, every day rituals and so on), a time will come along when there is no structure, and they are lost. They don’t know what to do with the free time they have. They keep looking for someone to tell them what to do to fill it and they look to you to guide them.
The solution may sound strange, but it works: Give them more free time. Give them more chances to be bored and eventually their natural curiosity about the world will return. It may be slowly at first, but they will begin to look around themselves with curious eyes again. You won’t have to create experiences for them because they will begin to create them for themselves.
Sure, there will still be times when they look to you for guidance as what to do. As parents, we can recognize those legitimate times and be there for them, but we don’t have to guide them every moment of every day.