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“I’m Bored”

Children’s statements of boredom often sound like a “right”: “I’m bored; I shouldn’t have to do this homework.” “I’m so bored, I don’t want to ride in the car.”

The best way for adults to respond to children’s statements of boredom is neutrally. Rather than giving suggestions to extinguish boredom, try offering empathy. "I know how you feel, but I see you’re handling it.”

“I hear that you’re not feeling interested in this activity, and that’s hard. I wonder how you’ll handle getting through it.” We want the expectation to be clear: boredom doesn’t excuse us from responsibility.

Saying “I’m bored” can be a way of stating a little superiority or new growth. It implies that the external world isn’t up to the stimulation level we need. Indeed, boredom occurs in children and adults when our energy level is high. Sometimes after watching TV or playing a video game, children are at loose ends, and saying they’re bored can be opportunity to involve them in chores and other ways they can be helpful, like sweeping the patio or reorganizing their books.

Often boredom does signal growth. When a child grows out of an interest, there’s a period of void or boredom when she has to find engagement on a new level. Adolescents, with their rapid growth, enter periods of boredom as they disconnect from interests that consumed them at an earlier age. Again empathy helps move children forward. “I understand you aren’t as interested in acrobatics as you used to be. I can’t wait to see what your new passion might be.”

The only inappropriate use of the word boring is stating that someone else is boring, a putdown that needs to be redirected because of potentially hurt feelings.

We show children how to handle boredom creatively through our own example. When you’re feeling at loose ends, tell your child, “I’m feeling kind of bored from working on my taxes for so long. I think I’ll go outside and garden and come back to focusing on all those numbers.”


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