How to Rid Your House of “I’m Bored”

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I’m beginning to think that the phrase, “I’m bored” is one of the biggest trigger phases in modern parenting. I get a lot of email from frustrated parents, wondering why their kids are always bored the moment they finally have that coveted downtime and what they can possibly do to make it stop.

That, right there, is the problem.

I know you’re tired of hearing about overscheduling, so I’ll skip the lecture on taking a step off the parenting treadmill, but the truth is that busy kids don’t know what to do when they’re not, well, busy!

A study in the Creativity Research Journal found a correlation between boredom and creativity. When forced to complete a boring task first, subjects outperformed those who did not perform the boring task prior to a creative task.

Boredom, it seems, helps people tap into their creativity.

Why do parents dread declarations of boredom? We’ve been conditioned to make things happen for our kids. Craft kits take the guesswork out of creative arts. Classes, sports, and other family fun days fill the empty spaces with enrichment activities. Kids are always doing things, but so rarely do they actually do those things of their own accord.

If you want to rid your house of, “I’m bored”, you have to start with a little boredom. Kids will find interesting things to do once they get over the hump of expectation – in removing the plans; we empower them to figure out how to make their own fun.

Try these steps to help your kids learn to make the most of boredom:

Step 1: Focus on free play

One thing that comes up in my office over and over again is that kids feel like they’re always being told what to do and how to do. They have no control. It’s difficult to gain mastery and become independent when you can’t make any decisions.

{ MORE: Tips to Motivate You to Get the Kids Outside (Even Though it Gets Dark So Early) }

Unstructured play gives kids of all ages (yes, even the “big” kids) an opportunity to make decisions, follow their own hunches, work through problems, and become independent thinkers. Resist the urge to run to the nearest organized play space at the first sign of boredom. Working through boredom takes time and practice. If they never have the opportunity to be bored, they’ll never learn how to make their own fun.

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How to Rid Your House of “I’m Bored”

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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