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.
About James Lehman, MSW
James Lehman, who dedicated his life to behaviorally troubled youth, created The Total Transformation® Program, The Complete Guide to Consequences™, Getting Through To Your Child™, and Two Parents One Plan™, from a place of professional and personal experience. Having had severe behavioral problems himself as a child, he was inspired to focus on behavioral management professionally. Together with his wife, Janet Lehman, he developed an approach to managing children and teens that challenges them to solve their own problems without hiding behind disrespectful, obnoxious or abusive behavior. Empowering Parents now brings this insightful and impactful program directly to homes around the globe.