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“I’m Bored!”

“I’m Bored!”

Growing up I knew two words (among others) I should never say to my father: “I’m bored.”

My dad could respond with a lengthy list of jobs to do at the drop of a hat. Some of them seemed pointless, much like washing the car during a rain storm. But I had made the faux pas of assuming my parents were responsible for keeping me entertained.

Although I learned a lesson about what not to do as a kid, it took me a few years to realize what I shouldn’t do as a parent. Initially I would respond to the words, “I’m bored” with a sense of pressure, like I had to transform into an activities director on a cruise ship.

I admit, the concept that a child could be bored in this highly stimulated culture seemed an enigma. They have so many stimulations because of our high-tech world. There is social media, television, gaming, etc. There seems to be no shortage of stimulation. In fact, there is a dangerous excess.

Of course, most parents know that technology provides constant stimulation, but not satisfaction. Therefore, eventually many children will declare boredom and come to a parent for a solution. The irony is then exposed. I become another source of stimulation if I constantly provide a solution to their boredom issue.

It doesn’t help that I am a little jealous of their situation. I would love to be bored on occasion. At times I actually crave having nothing to do. Of course, I don’t call it boredom, I call it rest. But now I have added “solving their boredom issue” to my to-do list.

It took me a few years of parenting to have my eureka moment. I realized solving their boredom was not my problem. In fact, the more I try and solve their issue, the less likely they will mature into self-sufficiency. Being bored forces the child to get creative and solve their own problem. It empowers them to realize being involved in life is their assignment, not a task for others.

I have heard of some parents who are proactive to the challenge. They help their children create a “boredom buster” list. They ask the child to create a list of things to do, meanwhile adding some parental suggestions such as to clean their bedroom or organize or sort something they own.

One of my sons found great contentment in organizing his LEGO collection. Another read (and re-read) books he enjoyed. He enjoyed the reading, but it took a state of boredom to instigate the activity. Once started he was enthralled.

So when you hear the words, “I’m bored,” fight the urge to entertain. Hug them and say, “That can happen sometimes. Now is your chance to be creative and to figure out what to do with your free time. If it helps, look at the list you created.”

One amusing reminder. Most parents realize with children there is often a calm before the storm. Telling a child to find their own solutions to their boredom might lead to some situations that … well, let’s just say to keep your phone handy with your fingers hovering over the 9-11 button.

By: Dave Trouten is the married father of two teenage boys and a Division Chair & Professor of Communication at Kingswood University.

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