A wiser older mother was giving me advice the other day on an issue with my son and she mentioned that parents spend a lot of time telling their kids what not to do instead of telling them what to do. It was related to a different issue but it came back to me while I had insomnia tonight when I started thinking about my kids and boredom.
My kids rarely say that they are bored. But when they do, I have previously done what many other moms before me have done.. I make them clean. Seems reasonable, right? Ohh you're bored... let's clean! Now cleaning to combat boredom is not necessarily such a bad thing. I mean it does give them something to do and it's productive and well, depending on what I give them, they actually enjoy it.
But the other day when my child was bored and stated the problem to me, I hesitated... see paragraph #1.. It was a "do not" moment. My first instinct was to say (in not these exact words) "No, you are not allowed to have the emotion of boredom".. Wikipedia says "Boredom is an emotional state experienced when an individual is left without anything in particular to do, and not interested in their surroundings. " Well is that really such a bad thing? If they view cleaning as punishment, do they really need to be punished for being bored and stating so? Because yeah, sometimes I am punishing them. Sometimes it is the forbidden "b" word.
I decided no. Because truth be told.. I was bored. It was a boring day. It was raining. I had reached the end of the internet. I didn't feel like cleaning. I had no idea what to do. So I just sat there and was bored. And I decided that sometimes my kids need to learn to just be bored. Because life is filled with boring things. And spending 15 hours in a house is a long time to come up with things to do so it's actually kind of understandable that they were bored.
Furthermore, I don't want my kids to view our house work as something that we do when we don't have anything else to do. I don't want them to think that we wouldn't have washed the mirrors if they hadn't stated they were bored. So really all this thinking made me think that I should never use cleaning as a consequence.
So here's what I came up.. I am sorry that you are bored but there are a lot things to do in this house. You might even need to use your imagination to come up with them. If you don't want to do any of them, that is fine but if you want to whine about it then you need to whine by yourself in your room. I have a list of things that I need to get done today and you can help me with the list if you want to.
Ideas from around the internet that also sounded interesting
- Have child or help child make a "What to do when I am bored" list and refer to it when needed.
- Maybe child is bored and needs adult interaction (gulp.. guess I should play that board game)
- Some children need to be taught how to entertain themselves - I have zero suggestions on how to do this but to all the moms out there that are tripping over their child who is following them around, I feel for you.. It's a hard stage!
- TV/video game exposure will increase boredom at other times. Being bored in a 15 hour rainy day is one thing but being bored 5 minutes after they turn off the TV would probably lead to a TV ban in my house.
- Have a boredom contest.. Sit facing each other and see who can be the most bored for longest. Depending on your child and their age, this will either erupt in scowls or giggles. :)
So there we have it.. new rules .. my kids are allowed to be bored. They are allowed to state that they are bored. No whining allowed but that is a house rule. And many houses have a you are not allowed to say you are bored rule.. And I totally respect that!!
Oh and suggesting they take a nap.. always appropriate. :)