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The Best Way To Respond When Your Kids Complain They’re Bored

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I heard it coming from the children’s room at the library.

“ I’m b-o-o-o-red! There’s nothing to d-o-o-o!” 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.

How Your Family Can Reach Out To Others

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. Our Reading Program co-ordinator looked across at the whining child and responded with a smile ,

“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.
What Smart Parents Say When Kids Complain They’re Bored

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 and create and 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?

“Children engage in free play because they enjoy it – it’s self-directed. They do not play for rewards; they enjoy the doing, not the end result. Once they get bored, they go on to do something else – and continue to learn and grow.” ~ Sheila G. Flaxman

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16 thoughts on “The Best Way To Respond When Your Kids Complain They’re Bored”

  1. “That’s not really my problem is it?”

    Truth!

    I love it Sharon.

    We can handicap our children if we do everything for them. Our little ones are creative and full of imagination. Giving them the opportunity to explore and as you said solve problems on their own is good for them.

    I love it. Thanks for the affirmation. Like always…so practical!

    Thanks

    1. Sharon Harding

      Thanks Kelvin. I agree children are incredibly creative and full of imagination. We just have to tap into that.

  2. I love that response. “That’s not my problem, is it?” Oh, definitely remembering that one! (I’ve already been hearing the “I’m bored complaint and we have over a month a half to go!)

    1. Sharon Harding

      I hope it works as well for you as it did for us. By the way I really enjoyed your bug hunt post.

  3. Oh this is such a great idea and i will try it out for sure! thank you for sharing your post with the #pinitparty!

  4. My daughter who is 4 used to tell me all the time that she was bored, she had a room jam packed full of toys and it was always a huge drama to get her to tidy them away, one day I lost my cool and bagged up everything in her room apart from the furniture and her books.
    Ever since that day which was about two and a half months ago not only has her bordam diminished (she now plays imaginatively, plays with her baby brother, does art and reads books) but she hasn’t once asked for her toys back.
    I totally agree with it not being our ‘jobs’ to entertain them every second of the day…. we have other things to do and all! Great post I’m glad I’m not the only one who uses ‘it’s not my problem’! Thanks for sharing

    Romany via #worksformewednesday

    1. Sharon Harding

      Thanks for sharing your story Romany. I did the very same thing with my boys and it had the same impact. I truly believe that when we take away all the excess like that it gives children the space (both physically and mentally) to really play.

  5. Great post. I must admit I think I have only heard my children say they are bored a couple of times, I must be very lucky. However. Im sure this will change soon, particularly over the holidays, so I must try to remember this.
    Thanks for linking #LetKidsBeKids

    1. Sharon Harding

      It sounds as if your children have already learned to tap into their imagination and make their own fun. Good job Mom! Thanks for hosting the linky each week.

  6. I have to say my girls don’t say I’m bored that often. And usually when they say it we respond with “Hi, Bored, I’m mommy or I’m daddy” They have learned better quickly they need to figure it out on their own. Plus, it helps we are not often scheduling them heavily so they have seen that mom and dad are not going entertain me so I better find something to do.

    1. Sharon Harding

      LOL brilliant response! I love how you are providing lots of time for free play. Sounds perfect to me 🙂

  7. Thanks for linking up with us at Hip Homeschool Moms! I remember the days when my children would complain about being bored. They’re in their teens and 20s now, and they stay super busy, so it’s not a problem any more, but I definitely remember those days!

  8. Pingback: Parenting Pin-It Party #113 - Romanian Mum Blog

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