In the words of my wise grandmother… boring people get bored.
Now I know that is cold, but let’s be honest. In a world where there are 1,583,353 things to do at every waking moment, being bored simply means you are ready for the next thing to entertain you because you can’t be bothered to entertain yourself. I was an only child and still had to go play outside and find something to do. And you know what? I cannot remember the last time I’ve even thought of being bored as a possibility.
I am from the country and my high school friends and I are from a really – and I mean 8,000 people small – small town. I have a memory of us away at college (Go Gators) in a town with about 45,000 college students where we made a few friends from the big city. About 10 of us were sitting in our living room and one of our big city friends said “I’m bored, what are we going to do?” I looked at my small town friends and said, “What does she mean what are we going to do? We’re sitting here talking…aren’t we already doing it?” Come to find out, she meant what kind of activity are we going to do or where are we going to go to eat or be entertained or see something cool. I’m sure we eventually went out, but it really got me thinking. We small town kids were used to entertaining ourselves and thinking of inventive things to do while our big city friends were used to being entertained. What sounds more fun to you? Playing hide and go seek in your cars with walkie-talkies or going bowling?
We were used to being creative and they were used to receiving the fruits of others’ creativity. There is a big difference. And trust me, one is easier to live with as a characteristic in your children than the other.
1) You are not their 24-hour birthday party paid entertainer. We will love our kiddos and want their smiles, laughter and hugs. Of course, it’s great fun to play horsey and peekaboo and do all manner of things to see them happy when they are babies, but being the nonstop source of entertainment for your child (sort of like your smartphone is for you) will get old very quick. You do not need to be the one to pick out every game, activity, book, Barbie or video. They are opinionated and are discovering their interests so let them have a say. If you have more than one or two children with you at home and they all are in constant need of you to stimulate their brains all.day.long you will quickly lose patience for it all. And we know that losing patience is a one way ticket off the happy cycle.
2) Help them to become creative and use their imagination. On a great blog I read one woman’s strategy for dealing with boredom in her children. If one of her children says “I’m bored, what can I do?” she will respond in a kind and NOT sarcastic tone “Oh, I’m sorry you’re bored. Why don’t you just sit there and be bored for a while?” Note: if you are normally sarcastic with your children this will be a problem to implement. But then again, if you are normally sarcastic with your children you have a problem anyway. She says they usually respond back with something like “but I don’t want to be bored” to which she replies “Oh, I get it, well then why don’t you think of something you can do?” Voila. She has acknowledged their feelings, not belittled them, and then turned back the decision-making to them. They can learn to think creatively and use their imagination. Now, this is not to say that there won’t be times during the day that we pick out their activities, of course there will be, but this is when they are chronic activity jumpers every 20 minutes who just want a change of scenery.
3) Forbid the “b” word in your hearing. If they are really annoying you with always being bored and needing your initiative to find something to do then perhaps you can initiate a rule that no one can say “bored” or “boring.” If they say they are bored you find them a quick but necessary chore they can help you with. That will quickly teach them that there are plenty of things they could be doing that you are not necessarily requiring them to do and, instead of complaining, they should play with one of the 2,3577,3535 toys they have that they do not need.
4) Give them alone time. You may have heard me go on about independent time, but if you haven’t then here’s the basics. Note, this is a Babywise concept. From a very young age start them in their playpen, then their room, with playing on their own for a time. My daughter, now almost two, plays in her room quietly (or loudly depending on her game) for an hour each morning. I either take out all her stuffed animals, or her legos, or her blocks – but only a few toys at a time, mind you – and let her have at it. Some days she doesn’t want me to leave her there but as soon as I close the door I hear her talking to herself. Other days she doesn’t even look at me as I walk out. When I come back I am always greeted with a cute as can be sight. Sometimes she’s sitting reading all of her books to herself or playing with her baby dolls. She always comes out in a good mood and I think it has helped her be a more content child. In that small window of time she has to solve her own problems, create her own fun and do things without asking for help. I’ve read that it is in our time alone where we build confidence in ourselves and who we are. Give your children the opportunity to do that.
I want to be the reason my children smile just as much as any other mom. I also know that I would not cope day in day out with kids who ran to my knee every 20 minutes so that I could satisfy their never-ending appetite to be entertained. Let us not create children who need to be entertained. Let us create entertainers. Let us not create children who can’t watch an entire movie because they are used to children’s shows that stop and start at anxiety-inducing speeds. Let us not create kids who jump from one toy to the next so that in one hour they have emptied the entire house and are now – wait for it – bored again. Let’s create children who use their toys, surroundings and you to stimulate their creativity and imagination and, hopefully, one day they will become leaders instead of followers.