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Does Your Child Say This? “That's boring!”

by James Lehman, MSW
Does Your Child Say This? “That's boring!”

When adolescents say something is boring, what they’re often expressing is a low level of anger and frustration. My guess is that this comes from the fact that either they don’t have anything interesting to do and they’re frustrated, or the task they have to do isn’t exciting and requires attention and energy. So when you say, “It’s time to go do your math now,” and a teen responds, “Math is so boring,” they’re expressing a low level of frustration and anger about having to do their math homework, probably because math is boring to them. I tend to honor these kinds of statements in the affirmative. If a child were to tell me he was bored, I’d say, “Can I help you with any ideas on how to make it easier to deal with?” If he said yes, I’d try to process some choices with him. If he said no, I’d say, “OK, well, if you change your mind, you know where to find me,” and then go on about my business. Remember, as a parent, it is not your job to fix your child’s negative feelings or solve his social problems. It’s your job to teach him how to solve problems such as figuring out something to do. It’s also your job to let him experience the negative feelings that the problem of boredom is triggering.

Your Child: “That’s boring! I don’t want to do my math homework.”

Translation: “I’m angry and frustrated because math isn’t cool or exciting.”

Ineffective: “You’re just saying that because you’re lazy and don’t want to do the work.”

Effective: “I know math can be boring, but it’s your responsibility to get it done. Why don’t I help you get started?”

For parents of younger children: When your child says he or she is bored, the solution is simple. Give them something to do, or give them a choice of two things to do. You can start by asking them if there’s something they’re interested in doing, but don’t push them to make a choice. You can also create tasks and jobs for younger children, such as having them help you in the kitchen or in the yard. This can redirect their energy and dispel their feelings of boredom.


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James Lehman, MSW was a renowned child behavioral therapist who worked with struggling teens and children for three decades. He created the Total Transformation Program to help people parent more effectively. James' foremost goal was to help kids and to "empower parents."

READER'S COMMENTS

I have used this technique for a long time. my daughter is 6 years old and she know that when she gets bored, she can go to the "learning center" we have set up in the house. It is really only a cabinet and drawers that I make sure to put different activities in. There are coloring books, puzzles, games, crafts, activity books, reading books. Whatever your child is into and age appropriate of course. I also make sure there is a drawer labled for each child. That way if a child does not get to finish the project at that time, none of the others can take it away.

Comment By : Monica

A number of my students, when I asked, told me that when they said it or a class was boring, they simply didn't want to do the work and/or participate in the class.

Comment By : mightyhorn

My 8 year old son, says school is boring and he doesn't like it. I don't know what to tell him anymore.

Comment By : TJ MOM of 3

It has been my experience that kids say something is boring because they are frustrated that they aren't allowed to do what they want to do, and their will is being subjugated to that of authority. My son, who is 13 and has ADHD, constantly does that. I simply tell him that it is an important life lesson that he needs to learn-we do have tos before we do want tos. When that is consistently the answer, they eventually seem to get over their anger at being stymied, and accept that their will isn't going to prevail. My problem comes up when I see him starting to act more maturely, and I want to reward him and allow him to have more say, and end up shooting myself in the foot by undermining my own position.

Comment By : mk2008

Wow mk2008 I agree. I sometimes think I am on this island and the only one going through some of these things. I then read these posts and realize we all are. It is helpful and comforting at the same time.

Comment By : sl63

My 16 year old boy often says "I am bored, there's nothing to do" when he has homework to do. Then I suggest to do his homework or to read but he says "I can do it later" Sometimes he goes to YMCA to play basketball but if there is no one to play together he is bored easily without playing more 15 to 20 minutes. Is there any good suggestions in these cases?

Comment By : HSFL

* Dear HSFL: If your child has homework to do, you might say “I understand that you’re bored. You need to have your homework done by 4 o’clock. Once it’s done, I’d be happy to help you figure out what you might like to do.” Once his homework is finished, you can address the activities he is choosing. Kids often say they’re bored – I often take that to mean “I’m not interested in what I’m doing.” Unless your child has had a sudden change in his interest level (not enjoying things he used to enjoy – which may be a sign of depression), he may just be experiencing the normal ups and downs of adolescence. You might encourage him to find an after-school job, or volunteer somewhere, to help him feel more challenged and engaged. If he enjoys the YMCA, perhaps an after-school league or group class would give him something to focus on. If he refuses, let him know that he will need to find something on his own. Do not continue to make suggestions once you have initially done so. If he continues to complain of boredom, you can say “I’ve given suggestions. If they don’t interest you, it’s up to you to find something different.” Good luck!

Comment By : Megan Devine, Parental Support Line Advisor

Our 5-year-old son has recently started complaining that he doesn't want to tidy his bedroom because "It's boring!". I've tried saying that I know tidying can be boring (I feel the same way about doing laundry & dishes! LOL) but it is still something that needs to be done. Usually his behaviour escalates quickly into crying & stomping off to his room where he usually starts to throw things around. It can take him an entire day to tidy his bedroom as we have to work around his temper tantrums & when it is finally done, he always agrees that it is much better when it is clean & tidy. But the next day, when he needs to tidy up again, we have to go through the whole thing all over again & the constant battle is really wearing both my husband & I down, especially me because I am a SAHM so I have to deal with this while hubby is at work. Any suggestions you can give will definitely be welcome!

Comment By : BritPip

What does it really mean when my four-year-old son states that he pretty much just does not like all of life because is it boring. It does not matter if it is school work or getting dressed in the morning or night, or even playing on the playgroud. He states the only thing he likes is playing on a playground, but soon becomes bored with that too. Is he being dramatic or should I take his dislike of life seriously?

Comment By : LauraQ

* Dear ‘LauraQ’: We’re very glad you have given us this opportunity to answer your question. Kids do have different temperaments. Just like adults, they’re not all the same. But whenever a young child talks about disliking life, it’s best to keep his pediatrician informed so the doctor can evaluate if there is reason for concern and if so, how to best help your son.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

Very rarely does my daughter state she is bored, as she is now 12. The reason being, is I started early, each time she made the statement, I gave her the option of wiping baseboards in the house. Each time she quickly FOUND something to do on her own. It is not my job as a parent to entertain her, be her best friend, or playmate every moment of the day. Children need to learn what parental responsibilities look like and what boundaries are. Learning to play on her/his own is a learned skill also - it develops imagination and creativity. Children as early as 3 or 4 should have responsibilities in their own home, as they are an active functioning part of the system. Remember, you are a parent, and your job is to raise fully-functioning young adults READY to go into the world.

Comment By : JuliaLPC

My 6 year old keeps telling me that school is boring. we received an email from his teacher saying that he's been crying often in class and shutting down and not finishing the activities that they are instructing. i asked him about this and he just said it's boring and he gets sad when he gets bored. how can i help him understand that it is important to not cry and at school and that school is very important so he needs to try to listen to the teachers and complete the activities that they are doing.

Comment By : MPS79

* To MPS79:It can be very frustrating when your child shows little interest in doing schoolwork, and does not listen to his teachers. It is pretty normal for kids to state that they are bored when really, they mean that they don’t understand the assignment, or they resent that they have to do the work. Unfortunately, you cannot “make” him feel any particular way about school, or doing his work. It is his responsibility to get the work done, regardless of how he feels about it. What is going to be most effective for you is problem solving with your son about what he is going to do differently to make sure his work is getting done. You can also offer him an incentive to follow through on this new behavior by offering a small reward for each day he gets through school without being disruptive to the other students. You can find more information about how to set up an incentive chart in the article Child Behavior Charts: How to Use Behavior Charts Effectively We wish you the best as you continue to work on this behavior.

Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor

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Related keywords:

Does your child say, Motivation, Boredom, Thats boring, Teens, Child, Bored

Responses to questions posted on EmpoweringParents.com are not intended to replace qualified medical or mental health assessments. We cannot diagnose disorders or offer recommendations on which treatment plan is best for your family. Please seek the support of local resources as needed. If you need immediate assistance, or if you and your family are in crisis, please contact a qualified mental health provider in your area, or contact your statewide crisis hotline.

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