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I heard it coming from the children’s room at the library. That all too familiar wine,“ I’m booored! There’s nothing to dooo!” These words were coming from a child who had just enjoyed an afternoon of fun at our reading program. He had to wait 10 minutes for his parents to pick him up.
Is there anything more annoying than those words? Especially when they are accompanies with that the high-pitched whiney voice. It reminds me of the sound of finger nails screeching across a chalkboard. UGH!
Somehow that one phrase manages to combine a sense of entitlement (you owe me) and ingratitude (you haven’t done enough for me) all at once. And there is nothing more infuriating, especially when the kid has just enjoyed an afternoon of fun and games.
Where does this sense of entitlement and ingratitude come from?
In many ways we can’t really blame our children. After all we do provide almost all the things they need. So it is natural that our children might also jump to the conclusion that it is our job to entertain them.
When I child says, “I’m bored” they are basically saying, “I have a problem (I’m bored) and it is your job to fix my problem (entertain me)!”
And it can be hard to ignore can’t it? The trouble is that every time we jump in to alleviate our children’s boredom we are continuing to foster that sense of entitlement and ingratitude.
One of the most important things we can do as parents is to help our children grow up to be independent adults. As our children mature it is vital for them to discover that they can take ownership of their own problems.
So what’s a parent to do?
How can we deal with that dreaded “I’m bored” whine?
A simple phrase to help
Let’s go back to our young boy at the library. When she heard the young boy whining that he was bored our Reading Program co-ordinator smiled and responded calmly,
“That’s not really my problem is it?”
I watched in awe as the youngster registered her words. He rather sulkily got up and flounced over to the books. Five minutes later he was reading contentedly. It was wonderful! And so simple!
This is a marvelous phrase to keep in your parenting tool box. It is really effective. The first time your use it your children may be confused. You may have to elaborate.
“You are the one who is bored. This is your problem. We will do lots of fun things this summer. We will have some great times together. But it is not my job to make things special for you every single moment. You have to find your own fun. And I know you can do this.”
Then walk away and leave them to it.
Give your child the gift of independence
When we give the responsibility for solving the boredom dilemma back to our children we are giving them a gift. We are
- Encouraging them to take ownership of their own problems.
- Pushing them to find creative solutions.
- Giving opportunities for free play, which is one of the best ways to help them get ready for school.
What will happen when children have to make their own fun?
When you refuse to give in to the boredom whine your children will learn to make their own fun. They will read. They will create. They will create imaginary worlds. They will figure something out.
And that’s when they really start to grow up.
You can help by making sure they have access to good books and things that encourage imaginative play. But it is not your responsibility to make every moment an adventure.
That is their job and most children are more than capable of doing that for themselves.
I ‘d love to hear your thoughts. How do you cope with the boredom whine? Have you tried handing the responsibility back to your children? How long does it take them to create their own fun?