“I’m Bored!” 5 Tips for Parenting When Boredom Strikes

little girl with glasses bored“Mom, I’m so bored,” your eight-year-old whines from across the room.

You fight back the urge to whine right back as your eyes roll to the back of your head. Here you are, months into a global pandemic, and you’ve finally hit your wall. The jig is up. Your mind is blank. There’s absolutely nothing left in your arsenal of ideas. 

You’ve played board games, gone on walks, read books, but it’s never enough. The boredom continues.

And the worst part? Despite being home all day, you’ve never felt busier. The last thing you want to do is figure out a way to keep your daughter entertained.

Oh, sweet friend, I know exactly where you are coming from. Stuck between wanting to make your child happy and trying to encourage her sense of independence. Fighting the guilt of not dropping everything to entertain her while juggling everything else on your list of to-dos. 

Now, add in the extra hours spent home together during a pandemic? You’re frazzled beyond belief.

Believe me, this is a problem so common no parent is immune–even in a non-pandemic world. Those two little words (I’m bored!) may drive you absolutely up a wall, but you can take comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Countless parents–myself included–have dealt with our children’s boredom and lived to tell the tale.

Fortunately, for you, we’ve got plenty of resources to help you out. In fact, you can try out our FREE Parenting Class right now where you’ll learn the root cause of your child’s boredom!

So what exactly can you do when you hear those two dreaded words? Here are 5 helpful tips for parenting kids when boredom strikes. 

5 Tips to Bust the Boredom

Tip #1: Get to the Root of the Issue

You don’t need to be a parenting expert–or even a parent–to know when it comes to kids, big feelings are always bubbling beneath the surface.

Sure, your son may bust out an exclamation of boredom and it could be just that–he’s bored! He’s looking for something “fun” to do. To be entertained.

But sometimes, things go a little deeper…

Before you immediately assume your child is merely begging for something to do, consider this: There could be an underlying issue–outside of general boredom–that is causing him to identify as “bored.”

Is it…

A Need for Attention?

Like all kids, he has an innate desire to feel connected to his family through positive attention. It’s why he thrives when spending quality time with you and his siblings and why his behavior always seems to improve when he feels a sense of significance and belonging.

However, when his need for positive attention goes unmet, that’s when other issues start to take form. You may see this as tantrums in the younger years, or backtalk when he’s a bit older. 

And, of course, through complaints of boredom! 

So if you’ve had it up to your neck with the constant nagging about being bored, consider for a moment if there’s more to it. Has he had a healthy dose of your attention today?

If not, perhaps give some Mind, Body, and Soul Time a try. All you need to do is spend 10-15 minutes, once or twice a day, doing something that he wants to do — one-on-one and distraction free. 

Plus, to make it really sink in, give the time together a name so he has a tangible reminder of your togetherness time – “Wow, Sam, I really enjoyed our special time together. I can’t wait to do it again tomorrow!

You won’t believe the difference this small shift in your time can make.

Pro Tip: Mind, Body, and Soul Time (MBST) is one of the most powerful tools in the Positive Parenting Solutions Toolbox for raising respectful, capable, and independent kids. Members can review Step 1, Lesson 7 to learn how to easily fit this amazing tool into your already too-busy life.

A Need to Become More Self-Sufficient?

As parents, we are often met with a bittersweet mixture of sadness from the passing of each phase our children go through and excitement over what’s to come. It’s so nice when they can get themselves dressed in the morning but, oh, what we wouldn’t give to dress those cute little baby rolls once more. 

The thing is, at one point or another, kids grow up and become more self-sufficient. But sometimes we need to give them a little nudge in the right direction. Because teaching kids to be self-sufficient is absolutely critical!

So how does that relate to boredom? Think about it…

Is your child crying out because he wants you to entertain him OR does he lack the skills needed to come up with a few options on his own? If it’s the latter, this is where you need to pull out another wonderful Positive Parenting Solutions tool–Take Time for Training!

Before he complains of boredom again, give him the tools to problem-solve himself.

“I’ve been noticing that you get bored sometimes, but I also know you’re capable of coming up with something fun to do all on your own. Why don’t you make a list of your favorite activities and then next time you’re bored, you’ll have a few great things to choose from?”

This may be met with resistance at first, but with some encouragement, you’ll start to see a significant shift in his ability to find his own means of amusement. Plus, he’ll stop expecting you to bail him out of his boredom.

A Lack of Rest?

Just like adults, kids often suffer from mental fatigue when they’ve failed to get the appropriate amount of rest for their age

When sleep is compromised and the brain begins to tire, naturally, things start falling apart. This can show up as anything from compromised immune systems to falling behind at school to, you guessed it, boredom!

When their minds are fatigued, it makes it really easy to lose interest in a given activity quickly. That could be why the game your son was playing for only five minutes quickly lost its appeal, diverting his short attention span elsewhere.

Making sure he has an adequate amount of rest won’t just help bust the boredom. You’ll see improvements in nearly every other area of his behavior as well.

A Lack of Age-Appropriate Options?

Sometimes what looks like boredom may actually be a lack of age-appropriate options.

Is your son complaining that he’s bored because his toys are designed for kids a few years younger than he is? Is your daughter trying to read books outside her grade level?

Oftentimes, kids lose interest not because they’re bored, but because they aren’t being challenged enough (or are too challenged). Ensuring your child has interesting, age-appropriate options is an easy way to keep their dissatisfaction at bay.

free parenting class

Tip #2: Limit Screen Time

You don’t like to admit it, but you’ve fallen into a trap. Don’t worry, you’re in good company. Most parents have.

You’ve made screen time your go-to source of entertainment.

Hey, I get it, truly. As adults, after a long and tiring work day, don’t we enjoy ending the night relaxing on the couch watching our favorite TV series? Aren’t movies one of the best date nights?

Like it or not, screens have become synonymous with entertainment. And while a little screen time is perfectly fine, it’s easy to let 30 minutes turn into an hour which turns into an afternoon. 

The slope is slippery, my friends. And although it may seem counter-productive, when it comes to busting boredom, too much screen time can actually cause more boredom.

Let me explain…

Let’s say your daughter gets screen time the moment she walks in the door from school. Some days it’s television, other days it’s video games, but the problem remains the same…she has become accustomed to being entertained–constantly and at the press of a button.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long before she is conditioned to expect amusement at the drop of a hat.

When kids are exposed to too much screen time, the instant gratification leaves little to the imagination. Without screens, kids are forced to think outside the box, using their own imaginations to fill their leisure time.

Instead, try encouraging your daughter to write a story, come up with a play she can put on for the family, or go on a nature hunt. Anything that gets her mind away from the screen and engaged in the real world is going to do wonders.

Pretty soon, her complaints of boredom will become fewer and farther between.

Tip #3: Don’t Become a Source of Entertainment

You’re sitting on the couch, a few pages into a really good book. After a long day of work, school drop-offs, pick-ups, and cooking dinner, you’re so ready to sit back and relax for a bit. 

Out of the blue, your 10-year-old son plops down on the couch beside you.

“There’s NOTHING to do in this house,” he whines. 

I’m sure this scenario sounds all too familiar. But what I really want to focus on is your response.

Do you immediately put down your book and start listing all the options he has for entertainment? Do you take him out of the house to some place more fun?

If so, you may want to consider pumping the brakes just a tad. Because as naturally as it may be for you to automatically jump into problem-solving mode, you’re not doing your son any favors by doing the work for him. 

All you’ve done is become his own personal source of entertainment.

You may be thinking, “But Amy, he’s been stuck at home for so long. I feel so GUILTY if I don’t do something to keep him occupied!”

I get it. As parents, it can feel as though we’re hard-wired to feel guilty about each and every one of our children’s concerns. We want them to be happy, after all! But trust me when I say, now is the time to ditch the guilt.

You are not a source of entertainment for your son. You are his parent. And when you give up on the tireless task of trying to keep him entertained every moment of every day, you’re going to discover a magnificent secret few parents know about, but every parent should…

One of the best things we can do for our children is to let them be bored!

let them be bored quote

Tip #4: Let Them Be Bored

Did I seriously just tell you to let your child be bored?

Absolutely! And I meant every word, because, believe it or not, boredom is a good thing.

Why? Because boredom idles the mind, giving kids the opportunity to slow down and quiet the world around them. It also gives them the chance to come up with things to do on their own–without our help. This is also known as a boredomtunity!

Your 8-year-old daughter may complain of boredom anytime she’s left to her own devices, but here’s the thing–she’s creative (and capable) enough to come up with her own ways to fill her down time.

Next time, instead of automatically jumping in and providing a quick source of entertainment, try saying, “Sweetie, I understand you are bored right now, and no one likes that feeling. But I have confidence you’re creative enough to come up with some fun things to do on your own.”

By allowing her the freedom to personally fill that unstructured time throughout her day, you’re giving her a huge dose of power and responsibility. And bonus! She’ll also get a healthy lesson in time-management on the side. 

What a win-win!

Tip #5: Establish Your Family’s Go-To Boredom Busters

Now, I get it. Sometimes we are simply exhausted! We AND our children. And coming up with a fun, unique, spur-of-the-moment entertainment idea is just not going to happen.

If that’s the case, I highly suggest you come together as a family–perhaps during a Family Meeting–and put together a list of your go-to boredom busters.

Pro Tip: Positive Parenting Solutions Members, be sure to check out Step 6 of the 7-Step Parenting Success System for more information on how to run a successful Family Meeting.

You can put these ideas in a boredom jar, write them down on the family chalkboard–whatever! Just make sure your kids can easily refer back to them when needed. That way, when the moment strikes and they cannot come up with anything to ease their boredom, you’ll know where to direct them.

I’ve put together a few fun and easy ideas to get you started. But don’t stop here! Take the time to truly make these boredom busters specific to your family.

  • Go for a bike/scooter ride.
  • Bake a healthy treat.
  • Draw a comic book that’s filled with things you WANT to be doing.
  • Make a scavenger hunt.
  • Put on a play.
  • Write a letter to a friend or family member.
  • Call your grandparents or other relatives.
  • Complete a random act of kindness.
  • Have a dance party/dance-off with a sibling.  

Now, if you’re looking to go the extra mile and really cover your bases, don’t stop here! In addition to a boredom jar, you can also create a family jobs jar

This is just like a boredom jar, instead it’s filled with activities your kids can do around the house. Think of things outside their normal Family Contributions, such as mopping the kitchen floor, dusting the baseboards, or organizing the pantry.

Then, when your child comes to you and says, “I’m bored…”

All you need to do is respond with, “What can YOU DO to feel less bored?” 

If they can’t find something to do on their own, simply point them in the direction of the jars. That way, one of two things will happen. They’ll pick something from the family jobs jar and you’ll get some much needed help around the house OR they’ll pick a fun activity from the boredom jar to keep them occupied.

Either way, it’s a win for parents!

Final Thoughts

If your child’s constant complaints of boredom are driving you to your very edge, take heart! There’s hope that you can end the whining, complaining, and moaning–for good!

Using these 5 simple tips, you won’t just bust your child’s boredom. You’ll also find clever and easy ways to increase their independence, allowing them to come up with entertainment all on their own.

Boredom gets a bad rap. But trust me when I say, it’s NOT a bad thing! In fact, allowing your child to be bored and rest in a certain amount of unstructured time will certainly prove beneficial in the long-run.

Before you know it, you’ll notice less complaining and more playing. And the best part? You don’t have to lift a finger! Unless you want to, of course.

 

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About the Author

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the best selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.