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Helping your children be less bothered by 'bored' moments


Helping your children be less bothered by ‘bored’

Your children may be blessed to have rich lives with lots of adult support, entertainment, activities and treats. This is delightful but might decrease their ability to manage moments that are boring…….(including those that are less stimulating, less novel, less lovely and less easy, or even less supported).

Wanting and waiting

We can’t have all our wants fulfilled… between moments of getting what we want there is waiting. The more we can enjoy anticipating what we are going to get, and appreciating what we did have, the nicer the ride. So using plans for what’s next (that’s nicer) and gratitude for what just happened (that was nice), extends those pleasant moments.

The clock & the journey keep moving

It is not on/off, good/bad, but variably better and worse, easier and harder, more and less fun – life, like a rollercoaster, goes up and then down in increments but nothing stays still. So even boring has a shelf life and being able to endure and enjoy with balance takes practice. Helping children understand the need to commit to ‘staying’ with bored, and the possibility of change believing that they will eventually move on from it helps.

Developing ‘levels’ of interest helps a child not to ‘flip’ from interested to bored. Moving away from this dual view might develop the idea that the whole task is not boring, some of it is. It might help to link the boring bit with a sense of purpose

EG Lots of effort/some effort/a little easier/easy

Really like/nearly like/hard to like/don't like/hate this

Really keen/a bit interested/not my thing/wish to avoid

Bored moments make the better ones more appealing

Contrast is important in life. Special is not special if it occurs all the time. So having times/days/activities that are less appealing ultimately makes the nicer ones even more attractive. Even when things are nice, such as at holiday time, slipping into bored still occurs. So bored is the down product of more interesting moments and as our lives become more full of interest, so boredom seems harder to bear than it did for our fore-bearers who had less appealing activities to highlights their day.

Nothing lasts…even the bad bits, and some of it is just LIFE. Drawing out the day in three colours – one for ‘I like’, one for ‘don’t like’ and one for ‘life’, we see that we get good times and harder things to do and that lots of life is ordinary and repetitive and just has to be done to support us in eating, sleeping, washing, waiting, etc.

The happiest people decide to enjoy more of life.

So its ok to be less happy when things are boring….but adding

whining and complaining and upsetting others is going to

increase unhappiness. Whereas, being hopeful that things will

improve later, or being realistic that all moments can’t be

sparkly ones, is definitely going to add more happiness.

Sometimes it's a simple decision to choose to view with patience and forbearance rather than with resistance and adults can model this and acknowledge these moments in their children’s day.

Let your child know that soccer practice is sometimes boring, but that your love and care helps you to find interest and you choose to view it this way to feel good.

Understanding your place in group.

The needs of the individual sometimes must come second to the needs of the family unit or the class unit….and in those moments a feeling of ‘bored’ might arise. But each child does need to understand that there are times and places where they must simply fit into the flow of life. Although by nature children might be a bit self-centric, discussing their needs in relation to what others need helps them see the opportunity to balance their desires and give some effort towards accepting the needs of the group. Looking at others can also inspire them to consider ways in which other people manage their bored moments.

Be real in sharing your boring bits of the day

Teachers and parents talking more about ‘bored’ bits of their life and how they cope with them can be useful in this context of developing a growing sense of ‘gain’ in enduring boredom for a reason. Children sometimes assume that only the world of school is boring and forget that boring is an aspect of life that most people have to manage – and that there will be life-long challenges to manage different boredoms at different ages.

Extend vocabulary

Many children use the word ‘bored’ because it is safer, less emotional, than other descriptors. It can be helpful for parents to suggest other words that might fit the feeling. Asking about specific lessons or times of the day “Is it really boring or do you feel it’s…

‘too hard’, ‘might get it wrong’, ‘I’m not good at this’, ‘it takes a lot of effort’, ‘I am not sure how to do it’, etc.

Know what strengths to add

When someone is bored they can’t always add interest – though it certainly is possible to try to find small things that are interesting about lessons, rather than seeking big things such as more fun!

If your answers to the above define things better, you could suggest adding

…courage when uncertainty is there

….Faith in ultimate learning when mistakes are likely

….Patience if frustrations are present

And perseverance when there is no natural interest.

Work on the development of tolerance

Sometimes a child benefits as much from the development of the skill of endurance, as from the completion of task – and rewarding the qualities used to manage it, rather than the task itself, can be useful.

Perhaps ‘patience points’ could be gained from a boring activity (such as waiting, or working out how to fill your time, or setting to something that is unappealing) and be a motivator - either for a cumulative reward or for the social recognition that the child is gaining the inner quality of mind that helps their outer work.

Talk about valuing the whole of things, rather than the parts. Fixating on the fewer fun moments narrows things and adds frustration. We need to develop understanding that there are many more ordinary moments to life and that these may offer smaller satisfactions if we look for them.

Overall value is gained from…

  • understanding that small daily struggles creates learning/strength

  • accepting that the steps and stages of learning may be effortful but that gaining knowledge and skills feels good, over time and leads to more interesting task

  • completing something and getting to the end of it can have a feel good factor

  • working within the flow of what others need is essential, including developing the ability to manage independently at times without support/entertainment/activity.

  • figuring out that school is not just about academic tasks but building the tolerance needed to stay with unattractive or effortful jobs and difficult situations.

Talking about willingness because everything we do stems from a sense of using our will towards something. So willingness is not ‘yes’ or ‘no’, it is a stairway. Finding out what helps him/her be more ‘willing’ (praise, breaks, task breakdown, etc) and keeping that variable could be useful. But also discussing willingness pre-task so that it is sort of ‘pulled up’ within the person is useful. It can help to target ‘rising to the challenge’ because we are often more willing when we see the idea of overcoming challenge, than we are by simply walking through a task. This requires identifying what is hard, and how we will persist.

IDEAS TO CONSIDER...

  • A ‘five minute leave’ pass (to allow an ‘opt out’ from boring but create a clear expectation of returning

  • A – ‘use my body for a bit’ – moment where child might move to the edge of the classroom and stretch or jump in order to increase the willingness to work

  • A colour system that the child can use, placing a bead on a colour to identify how much they are experiencing difficulty or boredom – eg red for a a lot, orange for some, and green for not much…..so that both adult and child can notice the level and the ‘staying’ with it - the idea that you are not at red for ever, just a little while

  • An ‘I pushed through boredom’ persistence chart where a square is coloured each time they complete a task they consider boring and a brief acknowledgement of how they managed that – what their coping mechanisms were (maybe with small incentives at the end)

  • Having a ‘bored’ spot in the home for the child. Which means they can leave a task for a moment but they can not leave it for anything more interesting, they then have only has two choices, to do the work of managing something hard/ boring or stand on the spot that is boring – sometimes this inconvenience encourages tasks completion

  • Having a ‘fun’ break – they can leave a task– go to a specified place, draw one fun memory/outing/toy/activity/friend and quickly return to task, knowing that her break may have helped to re-settle them

  • An ‘encouragement’ buddy – someone who sits nearby and offers words that help the child stay on task (and they could be that role for others sometimes)


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