There is an expression that I find as annoying as the buzzing of a pesky mosquito. Just like the pesky mosquito, it seems to reappear every summer. I confess that when I hear someone use this expression I have the impulse to treat them just like I do that pesky mosquito. I want to swat them both.
Children sit in the middle of a richly stimulating environment and whine, “I’m bored!” then they wait expectantly for some adult to come and entertain them. Parents use this expression to excuse their child from completing tasks or conforming to structure.
“He can’t lie still at naptime because he is bored.”
“She doesn’t like school because she is bored”
“He doesn’t listen at story time because he is bored.”
Somewhere we, children and parents alike, have gotten the notion that being bored is proof that we are somehow smarter than others, or that those in charge aren’t fulfilling their responsibilities to meet our needs.
Boredom is, according to the dictionary, the state of being dissatisfied. Nothing superior about being dissatisfied! It just indicates that an individual has chosen not to take responsibility for his or her own satisfactions in life.
When my own children were young and tried this refrain, I would respond that . . . “only stupid children get bored, smart children can always think of something to do.” Intelligence, of course, isn’t the only necessary trait. If asked, a child can usually list several possible activities, but none of them quite suit. The child is too lazy to choose an activity and exercise the self-discipline necessary to follow through.
How did children (and their parents) come to this sad state of affairs? Well I’m afraid that as adults we must take responsibility not for their boredom, but for their attitude toward boredom. When we use it to excuse their behavior, we inadvertently give them permission to use it as an excuse. We give them the message that being happy, occupied, and satisfied with their life is not their responsibility. We encourage them to put that responsibility on someone else.
So what do we do now? Refuse to accept responsibility for their “boredom”. If the environment that your child is in has clouds, empty containers, trees, grass, bugs, mud puddles, or day dreams, then there is no excuse for “boredom.” Don’t let them use it as an excuse. Children must learn to identify possible activities, make choices, and carry through. It is appropriate to teach them to do this. When they say “I’m bored,” ask them to list things they might do, help them sort out the realistic choices, and give some verbal suggestions for getting started. Then withdraw from the situation and refuse to be held responsible for their satisfactions. If the complaints continue, it never hurts to have a few mundane suggestions like cleaning their room.
As always, actions speak louder than words, so turn off the TV and demonstrate to them a healthy and enthusiastic participation in sports, hobbies, reading, friends, and life!