Empowering the Bored Child

Categories: Childhood Disorders, Children, Family, Managing Media, Mental Health, Parenting, and Personal Growth.


“I’m bored.”  It doesn’t take too long before this statement is heard in the summer.  Its a monotone, depressing complaint.  It can trigger anger in parents to hear this, or at least mild irritation.  Boredom by definition is a feeling of weariness with one’s present task or lack of interesting pursuits.  Its something everyone has experienced.  Its a feeling we have to live with sometimes as its part of normal human existence.  Unfortunately, with Netflix and video games this generation of children can pacify their boredom without truly overcoming it successfully.  The result is a low-grade boredom, like a lingering mild headache after having taken Advil.  It’s tolerable but not pleasant.  Planting our faces in front of screens all summer is the waste of good opportunity and high adventure.    But as a parent, if you cut off the supply of screen addiction to TV, iPad, and smartphone you will have to be prepared for the dreaded complaint of “I’m bored.”

The best preparation you can make for this complaint is to remember that your child’s boredom is not your problem to solve.  You can provide some direction through suggestions or providing some resources (such as sidewalk chalk or water balloons), but ultimately keeping your child happy is not your responsibility.  You were bored as a child sometimes, right?  Its crazy to remember back how I used to think summertime lasted forever, because now it’s over before I’m even ready for it to start.  As a kid, I figured out ways to break the boredom.  Some got me in trouble but most did not.  I’m sure you can remember these summertime days as well.

I’ve heard it said that “if you’re bored, it means you’re boring.”  Boring is the opposite of interesting.  You could respond to your child’s complaint by stating “You’re boring.”  That would probably irritate more than inspire your child, so I don’t really recommend that.  Actually, it would be OK to respond to your child’s complaint with a question “Well, what are you going to do about it?”  See, when kids make this complaint to their parents they want the parent to take responsibility for their problem.  The thing to do is toss that problem back into their lap to solve.  Ask them what they are going to do about it and after they’ve developed a plan come back and tell you about it.  You can then give the OK for their boredom solution or tell them to go back to the drawing board.

Recent studies of boredom have framed it as the birthplace of creativity.  Boredom is a low level experience of frustration which reveals that there is potential mental and physical energy that is looking for a rewarding outlet.  This is really a great opportunity, if you think about it.  Your child could discover hidden talents or get hooked into a positive life passion by taking care of their own boring problem.  A good example of this is one of my favorite Talking Heads songs,“Found a Job”, about a couple who fixed their boredom by writing their own TV shows.  Here are some of the lyrics:

“We’ve heard this little scene, we’ve heard it many times.

People fighting over little things and wasting precious time.

They might be better off I think the way it seems to me.

Making up their own shows, which might be better than T.V.”

Have a great summer!

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