Family Matters: 'I'm bored.' The do’s and don’ts - WNEM TV 5

Family Matters: 'I'm bored.' The do’s and don’ts

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The summer vacation wasn't three days old when ten-year-old, Jason Cunningham, walked into living room and announced to his parents, "I'm bored."

Both parents looked at each other incredulously, surprised by what they had just heard. Neither one knew what to say or how to respond.

It might take your child longer. Maybe it will happen after two weeks or a month. Yet, there is a good chance that sometime this summer you will hear, "I'm bored. There is nothing to do." What are you going to do?

How are you going to handle that announcement? What do you say next? As a concerned parent, what is your next move? Not sure? Consider the following do's and don'ts when dealing with a bored child this summer.

1.     Do not rescue. Do not schedule a trip to the zoo this afternoon and another to the water park tomorrow. It is not your job to fill your child's schedule with exciting adventures day after day.

2.     Do not tell your child, "That's silly. There are a million things to do. How could you possibly be bored?"  This type of verbal reaction tells a child that his feelings are wrong. This will discourage him from sharing his feelings with you in the future.

3.     Do say, "That's an interesting choice you have made. Tell me more about it." Know that boredom is a choice. It is a state of mind created by the thoughts a person thinks about their situation. Your job is to help your child see boredom as a choice without making her wrong for making that choice.

4.     Do use empathy. When your child announces his boredom, lead with empathy. "That's too bad. It must be frustrating to be bored on vacation." Once you begin with an empathetic response, you can follow it with information seeking questions. "Do you have any plans to change that?"  "Got any ideas for what to do about it?" "How long do you think that will last?"

5.     Do suggest possibilities. "I've seen a lot of kids get bored from time to time. Would you like to hear some things I've seen them do? I can help brainstorm up possibilities and then you can decide if any of them fit for you."

6.     Do give a one-minute problem-solver/problem-keeper lecture burst. "You know, Tennille, there are two kinds of people in the world--- problem-solvers and problem-keepers. In this family, do you know who gets to decide which one they want to be? That's right, the kids. And in this case you get to decide. You have a bunch of choices here that we brainstormed. You now get to choose whether you want to be a problem-solver or problem-keeper. Problem-solvers pick one of the possibilities and check it out to see if it works for them. Problem-keepers don't do anything different. They just sit around and feel bad. It's your choice. I'll check with you when I get home tonight and see what you decided to do. Create a great day."

7.     Do debrief later. "Hey, how did your day go? What did you create? Did you decide to be a problem-solver or problem-keeper? How did that work for you? Tell me more." Debriefing is the key. Here, you are demonstrating your interest as well as your caring. This is not a telling step. It is asking and listening. It is helping your child stay conscious about the choices she is making.

8.     Do maintain your healthy limits. Your limit of one hour of TV per day and one hour of electronic game time does not need to be wiped out in an effort to reduce your child's boredom. Allowing a child to sit with an electronic game, TV, or computer for hours- on-end so they won't choose to be bored is NOT effective parenting.

9.     Do not over schedule your child this summer. A young friend of ours recently asked his parents to limit the activities he was enrolled in this summer. "When I am too busy the summer goes too fast and I don't get to enjoy it." This is an example of a child that wanted more down time. Children do not have to be kept busy every minute.

10.  Do realize that some boredom may be necessary to move your child to finding alternative activities for herself.  Some degree in discomfort could well be the motivator that spawns new and creative possibilities. This could be the impetus that gets her up, off her rear end, and outside to enjoy nature or some form of exercise.

11.  Do not go racing out and buy a bunch of stuff.  Things are not what eliminate boredom. Creative thinking does. Creativity, ingenuity, and uniqueness have little room to surface in an environment full of things.

12.  Do use self-referred comments. "I'm feeling bored. I think I'll go outside and look around for something to do." To make a self-referred comment, structure the first part of you communication so that you are speaking about yourself: "I need some excitement." Follow your statement about yourself with a connection to responsibility: "It's time for me to take some action. I'll be out in the garage if anyone wants me." This style of speaking teaches about values, personal power, and personal responsibility by adding a verbal component to your modeling of appropriate behavior.

It might be one of your children. It might be your spouse. It might even be you! Sooner or later you'll here, "I'm bored." When it happens use the do's and don'ts above to help you respond effectively.

We also offer you several ideas you can do with their children this summer that are messy, fun, and incredibly valuable learning experiences for both you and your children.

Before we list the activities, we feel it is important to point out that while experience can indeed be messy, it can also lead to learning. Depriving children of the opportunity to make messes decreases their range of experience and limits their learning opportunities. Parents who allow children to make messes and hold them accountable for cleaning up, extend opportunities that exceed those given to children who are required to be consistently neat, clean, and quiet.

Mess making also affords another important opportunity for parents---the chance to connect. Bonding occurs when you get down on the floor and get messy together. The mess is impermanent. It can be cleaned up and removed. The experience will stay with your children forever.

      1.) Clean Mud

Rip toilet paper into small strips. Grate ivory soap. Mix together with water and you have clean mud. Play with it on the kitchen floor, or in a tub on the kitchen table. Great for building, designing and frolicking.

2.) String Painting

Take an 18 inch piece of string and dip it in children's paint. Then apply it to paper. Use different colors to be creative while painting pictures, making holiday cards, or designing you own wrapping paper.

3.) Make Plastic

Use one cup of water to three packets of gelatin. Bring water to
boil and mix in the gelatin. Then add 2-3 drops of food coloring. Stir for 1
minute. Then poor mixture onto coffee can lids or Tupperware lids and let
stand for 1 hour. Remove from the lid and cut with cookie cutters or dull
knife. Dries hard in 2-3 days. The shapes dry unevenly. It is interesting to watch how nature changes the shape by twisting and turning them. Makes creative tree ornaments.

4.) Indoor Snowball Fight

Make snowballs out of crumpled-up paper and throw them at each other. The more balls you make the more fun this activity becomes. This is a high energy activity and is ideal for bringing the family out of boredom, depression or lethargy.

5.) Toilet Paper Adventure

Place 2-3 rolls of toilet paper on a dowel rod at one end of the house. Grab an end of one roll and take off running. Wrap the toilet paper around furniture and each other. Break through it, throw it, and roll it into huge balls. Laugh and be silly.

6.) Paint a Mural

This is ideal for adolescent and teens. Brainstorm possible picture ideas. Shop with your teen to buy the desired paint. Move all the furniture in their bedroom to one side, freeing up one complete wall. Let them paint a huge picture on their wall. Be sure to include a lesson, instructions, carpet covering, old clothes and clean up materials.

7.) King/Queen for the Day

Rotate days and let different family members be the "King or Queen." The person in charge for the day gets to set rules, schedules and do the planning.

8.) Living Room Camping

Move furniture and set up camp. Pitch a tent, make a fake camp fire out of paper, eat hotdogs and s'mores. Hold a family slumber party as you do outdoor activities only, in the living room.

9.) No Manners Night

Have an evening meal where no manners are required. Do not have spaghetti for this meal. Discuss how it is the same and different from other meals. Do more listening than you do talking.

Experience is indeed messy. As a parent, you get to choose the degree of mess you're willing to tolerate. Remember that at the same time you are choosing the range and depth of life experience in which your child will engage.

Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman are the authors of Parent Talk Essentials.

They are two of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free Uncommon Parenting blog.

To obtain more information about how they can help you or your group meet your parenting needs, visit their website today:

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