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What to Do When Your Child Says, "I'm Bored."

“I’m bored.”

Those words can be so irritating! You may think, “With all the new-fangled toys he has, how can he be bored?” This phrase seems to be heard more frequently since screen time was introduced with your kids. The reason is because screen time like video games, social media, and TV shows all provide releases of dopamine, a feel-good chemical, every few minutes. It is easy for your children to get addicted to these chemical rushes. Regular life, sadly for some children, seems boring compared to it.

The following are reasons why not to jump when you children say, “I’m bored.”

  • Don’t be afraid to let kiddos be bored. Studies have shown that operating under the notion that "boredom leads to kids’ getting in trouble" and should be constantly scheduled, can have a detrimental effect on their imagination.

  • It is not your job to make your children happy. We don’t like seeing our children bored and unhappy. But if you become to invested in your children’s happiness, they may expect you to entertain them. They don’t learn the important lesson that their happiness is an inside job.

  • If you keep filling up their time, you will interfere with their learning the life skill of self-discovery. Boredom can spur your children to engage in activities that they normally would not have experienced such as photography, cooking, doing a DIY project, or fixing a bike. Allowing boredom results in your children having more time and freedom to explore their own interests, their own identity.

  • Not buying into the phrase pushes them to find a deeper meaning in life. For example, the child who explores the woods outdoors develops a deeper connection to nature.

Here are some things to say or do when your children say those annoying words:

  1. Reply with, “Oh, what will you do?” instead of providing an array of choices of things for them to do.

  2. If they ask for suggestions in an appropriate tone of voice (without whining, pouting, or looking sad), then you may want to give an occasional suggestion. Avoid making the arrangements for the activity when possible. Let them take responsibility.

  3. If their tone is inappropriate, you may want to leave the room or ignore the request until they ask pleasantly.

  4. When children are bored, they often beg to play video games outside the agreed on time limits. Say, “Not an option,” and walk away. Do not argue with your children.

  5. At a fun time (not when your children are complaining about not having anything to do), brainstorm a list of things they might enjoy, such as doing photography, painting, making a dinner, planning the next family outing, or researching something of interest. Avoid adding your agenda to the list, tempting as it may seem. Put the lists on their bedroom door or mirror. Or put the items on a sheet of paper, cut them into slips, and put them in jar. The next time they are bored, have them draw from the jar or check out the list on the back of the door.

 The next time you hear those words, instead of getting frustrated with your children, see their boredom as an internal push to seek out something new. Holding this thought will help keep you from becoming irritated.


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Kathryn Kvols

Author, Lecturer, Parenting Coach

(352) 494-1581

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