With holidays furiously approaching and the end of year slump creeping in, the dreaded B word is being used more and more. With each use, Rachy’s tone becomes more and more animated and louder, which both frustrates and confuses the life out of me. It used to be easy to say “Go play outside then” or “Ok, tell what what you WANT to do”, all said while doing something else.
I found myself turning into every mother before me, and asking, “What do you mean you’re bored? You have every toy and device available! When I was your age I had one doll and a wooden spoon!”
Her last reaction, a few weeks ago though was interesting She looked at me, with as much annoyance as a 5 year old could possibly muster up, hands on hips and shook her head at me. “You just don’t understand Mum”, she said. These words shook me to the core. It made me think. What does she actually mean to say, when she tells me she’s bored and what am I not understanding?
So began the journey to demystify the B word. Three weeks later, and a complete change in MY behaviour, has resulted in a happier and more content Rach. Also, the B word has not be used once.
Here’s what I found.
Boredom means different things to each child and often it is easier to say that are bored, because they do not know how to articulate how they actually feel. Here are some alternative meanings:
“I’m bored at school” could actually mean:
- “This work does not challenge me”
- “We keep learning the same things”
- “I need more guidance and explanation before I can be excited”
- “This is taking too long”
- “I am afraid of failing at this so I would rather stop”
“I am bored” while surrounded by toys could actually mean:
- Please can you pay attention to me
- Please play with me
- Watch me and encourage me
- I’ve outgrown these things
- I would rather be doing something creative or outdoors
“I am bored, let me watch YouTube please!!! could mean:
- I am exhausted and want to stare at a screen
- I need something visual to keep me busy
- I do not want to do the things I do at school, at home too
- I need some time to myself
“I’m bored” while surrounded by other kids and play things at a restaurant or play area could mean:
- I want to spend time with you
- I don’t want to play alone
- Play with me
- I would like to go back to what I am familiar with
- I am tired
- I feel alone
So, a little bit of listening goes along way. Before we send them off with annoyance or ask them what they want to actually do, ask the questions:
- Are you feeling lonely?
- Are you worried about this assignment?
- Do you need me to sit with you?
- Can I play with you?
- Would you feel better if we did it together?
- Would you like to be alone for a while?
This parenting thing is complicated!
But I’m willing to learn.
Tell me your experiences!