Why Do Kids Get Bored?

Do your kids get bored? Do you get bored? Why does it happen?

This post at The Naked Soul talks about the different reasons for being bored. Being bored comes from our expectations of what the world around us should “give” us, and it’s not. It’s losing ourselves in the expectation for the world around us to fill our buckets.

I recently read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s a travelogue of how she went around the world looking for herself. As part of her journey, she spends some time in Bali, and she talks about the kids there, who sit for hours waiting to see a doctor, playing with their fingers and toes, without so much as a peep about how long they will be sitting there. She talks about a child who plays with a piece of blue tile, imagining it’s part of a grand kitchen, and she’s preparing a meal for her friends.

Being bored is not imaginable to a child who has a simple life. Being bored for us, is the inability to accept simplicity. Our children, growing up in a complex, hyper-stimulating world, are conditioned to expect this. And when it’s not there, it creates anxiety. Translation, they get bored.

Tobeme says that it’s our expectations of wanting something better, something different, that makes us bored. That explains why a child, who has everything they could possibly want, gets bored. That explains why a child, who is busy with chores, or schoolwork, and many other things, gets bored. It explains why we, as parents, get bored playing Candyland.

We expect more. We want more. We aren’t satisfied with where we are at. We get anxious, antsy, wanting to do something else, frantically going through the list in our head of what we could possibly do to cure the anxious feeling we have.

So what is the cure to boredom? The cure, is to just be bored. Sit with it, and keep on being bored. Focus on the boring thing we’re doing, accept that we have nothing else to do, until we start to relax. Only when we accept and recognize what we are doing in the moment, can we rediscover our purpose and revisit the real possibilities of what we can do to move forward.

If we respond to being bored with doing “anything” that will save us, we will never be satisfied. We’ll keep looking and looking, never being able to scratch the itch. We’ll create unnecessary drama, fill our dance card with stressful activities, or binge on self-indulgent activities only to regret it later. Ironically, it’s not until we accept our current state of simplicity that we can find relief from boredom, and find the thing that will satisfyingly fill our life buckets.

Our kids are on a preprogrammed mission to find who they are, and how to create their own lives. They will need to be bored many times over in order to do this. Let them. Encourage them. And when they are bored, instead of suggesting playing a game with them, or taking them somewhere to just get them to stop complaining, try telling them “congratulations!” This is the perfect chance to sit, do nothing, and veg. This is the perfect chance to self-reflect. This is the perfect time to become friends with ourselves again.

In order for us to do this effectively, and teach our kids how really not to be bored, we have to practice this kind of self-acceptance in our own lives. It’s not something we can ever fully achieve. It’s a life-long practice. It’s also a practice that we can share better by example than anything we can ever really say with words. It’s not about keeping boredom out of our lives altogether (that is yet another way to run away from simplicity, and ourselves). It’s about allowing ourselves to be bored in the presence of our children, and allowing them to see our process often enough that they understand, at the core level, why it’s important to give in. Not just because we tell them to.

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11 Responses to “Why Do Kids Get Bored?”

  1. Heather Young Says:

    Excellent post and very true. Our children seldom complain of being bored but then we expect them not only to entertain themselves but to be content with what they have–plus “bored” is not part of our family vocabulary.

  2. tobeme Says:

    Tammy,
    Thanks for the link and the mention. I love where you went with this thought. Yes, it is okay to be bored. With awareness, boredom is a signal that we are out of balance. Excellent!

  3. suburbancorrespondent Says:

    Well, I don’t whine when I get bored; so where did my kids pick up that behavior? Also, my 4-year-old has this self-injury thing going on; when I’m ignoring her boredom, she manages to fall over and hurt herself. So now she knows how to administer her own band-aids.

  4. Principled Discovery » The Carnival of Homeschooling honors the homeschool bag lady Says:

    […] boredom, or you are tired of hearing, “I’m bored,” take a moment to reflect on Why Do Kids Get Bored at Just Enough and Nothing More. Maybe they need a little […]

  5. Terri Sue Says:

    Great article!
    Be blessed!

  6. Summer Says:

    I’m nervously waiting for the “I’m bored!” whining to begin. So far my kids are good at just going and doing something or asking for a specific things. But I’m sure it’s coming with time. Thanks for making it seem less frightening.

  7. Laura :) Says:

    I read this post Monday and wouldn’t you know my son uttered those very words that evening! lol!!!

    I congratulated him on this accomplishment, he looked at me funny and I told him that this would be a great time to get some thinking done! 🙂

    I explained to him that he was bored because what we were doing wasn’t meeting his expectations and so he could try thinking of things that he likes to think about.

    While he continued to remark that he was bored, he thought it was funny when I would congratulate him!! 🙂

    It was fun…apparently I wasn’t bored!!! 😉

  8. Lau Says:

    Tammy,

    hope you won’t mind I took the licence of translating this excellent article into Spanish and post it in my blog, linking yours, obviously.

    http://tarkuskids.blogspot.com/2008/05/por-qu-se-aburren-los-nios-por-tammy.html

    If there’s any concern about it just tell me, please.

  9. Sarah Bray Says:

    LOVED this post. When it’s so hard for me to be bored, how can we expect anything less from my children?

  10. Dee Onnen Says:

    THANKS for your article. My grandaughter who lives with me is contantly bored. I am always feeling guilty because I thought I should be doing something to correct this. Thanks for giving me my FREEDOM back.

  11. Roger Says:

    More than our children needing to self-reflect, it is we adults who need to understand what is happening.

    I’ve personally come to realize that ‘feeling high’ and ‘feeling low’ are two sides of the same coin and boredom is part of feeling low. We tend to live in extremes, either feeling high or low with no middle ground and why should it be any different with our children.

    It is not surprising that children are often bored when the materialistic world they live in is constantly spurring them on to achieve their next ‘high’ – like buying that new toy or game that they’ve been tempted with.


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