Most parents have a difficult time hearing the “boredom complaint.”
Parents think to themselves, “How could my kid be bored?” and off they go with numerous remarks that are not helpful and instead feel hurtful.
This is a normal response, we always seek to solve problems, especially when it comes to our kids.
- “What do you mean you are bored and there is nothing to do? There is plenty to do.”
- “You can help me fold the laundry, play with your sister or read.”
- “I buy you all these toys and you just ignore them.”
- “When I was your age, I would go outside and play. You should do that.”
Let’s stop right here and see what has just happened.
Beneath the “Boredom”
With these responses to your child’s “I’m bored”, you have just taken over the responsibility of fixing your child’s “boredom problem.”
Statements (like those above) are often rejected because they are communication blocks that shut down your child’s opportunity to release pent up emotions.
Emotional release is important to regain creativity and flexibility.
The examples above are of sarcasm, giving advice, moralizing and “me-tooism” along with advice.
When you are stuck in this self-centered blocking outlook yourself, you have lost your child’s perspective and will not be able to offer effective support.
Keep the viewpoint that your child is the one expressing this problem and therefore owns the right to find the solution.
The parental role that will be most helpful and accepted is a Supporting Role rather than a Directing Role.
Think of yourself as a gentle guide encouraging the journey up “Wisdom Mountain”. The wisdom needed to get out of their funk is within your child, not within you.
You can learn how to guide them into self-reflection and problem solving.
Steps Toward Improvement
This process involves three important steps…
1) Listen for the feelings or thoughts under the word “boredom”.
2) Provide empathetic statements so the child feels heard and can vent without judgment.
3) Offer a framework to problem solve together.
Keep in mind that all three steps may not be embraced as wonderful and helpful. Often, just the steps of listening and empathizing are enough to nudge them out of the boredom rut and onto a forward path.
Start with step one by thinking to yourself: “What might be some thoughts or feelings under “I’m bored.”
Continue with step two by responding with some empathetic statements. Notice that the following examples are not questions but statements that can be disagreed with…
- “It’s frustrating not knowing what to do.”
- “Nothing seems interesting right now, I guess.”
- “You feel bored with nothing to do.”
- “You’re having a hard time right now.”
Try any variation of the above, or create your own statement, that suits your child’s personality and leads him or her up the connection and conversation trail.
Be quiet after each attempt as you gently loosen the stuck feelings so they can flow out of the limbic, (the emotional), center of the brain.
After listening to venting, try venturing into step three of problem solving.
It is crucial that your attitude is…
“My child will make the final decision. I am not going to attempt to sway them toward a more favorable outcome. Rather than giving advice to my child, I can learn to struggle through discomfort and let them come up with solutions.”
Here are some possible step three comments:
- “I’m not sure what you will decide to do. We could come up with some ideas together if that would be helpful.”
- “You seem rather stuck right now for ideas. What are some fun things you have done in the past?”
If you have done step two, empathy and venting, then ideas will start flowing. You can alternate offering ideas. Evaluate each idea to find the best one to try first.
Mom: “One idea I had is for you to work on your scrapbooking. What do you think about that?”
Child: “No, I feel like being more active and being with friends.”
Mom: “OK. Do you have anyone in mind? “
Child: “I could see if Sara is home. Maybe she would like to go swimming.”
Mom: “That sounds like a good starting point. Let me know if you need a ride there.”
It takes patience, self-awareness and a nonjudgmental attitude to be a supportive guide on the path of teaching your children the problem solving process.
The vantage point from the top is well worth the journey of rocky trails and blue skies.