PSA From A Parent Coach: “The Cure To Boredom Is Boredom”
It’s easier said than done... but worth a little whining.
When you became a parent, did you have any earthly idea you’d end up taking a job as a cruise director, too? Suddenly, you became not only responsible for the care and feeding of your precious babe but also the chief entertainment officer of your little rugrat’s life, always at the ready with beaucoup activities. Sure, it’s fun to play with your kids sometimes. But whether you’re sittervising or actively involved in their creative time, it doesn’t mean you have to come up with every single detail of every single game they play, toy they utilize, or craft they come up with. And as a matter of fact, one mom-slash-parenting-pro recently shared a very important TikTok message to do the exact opposite. Her suggestion? Let your kids “be bored.”
“The next time your child comes up to you and goes, ‘Mom, I’m bored. I have nothing to do. I have nothing to play with,’ resist that urge to say, ‘Well, what about your magnet tiles’ or ‘What about your dollhouse?’” parent coach BrookeLynne Dukes begins, mimicking the whining phrases you’ve undoubtedly heard countless times. The clincher: “The cure to boredom is boredom.”
“Don’t fix it. Don’t offer suggestions. Just go, ‘Hmm. Hmm.’ ‘Yeah. That’s hard.’ ‘Hmm... I don’t know,’” she suggests. “Don’t solve anything. Let them be bored. Wait it out. Count how long it takes. That discomfort that they’re feeling is going to be what pushes them to solve their own boredom. And the less that you solve their boredom for them, the more that they will. The more that they’re going to be able to build that task initiation skill to get started and reach out and self-stimulate and look for an activity. The cure to boredom is boredom.”
She’s right — and you already know it. Still, it’s hard not to help your kid when they complain! Sometimes it feels easier to list their options and redirect them than to wait for them to solve their boredom problem independently. It can also feel disengaged not to step in when they complain that they’re bored. If you want to follow Dukes’ advice and help your kiddo develop their task initiation skill but feel more involved, try saying, “Me, too. What should we do?” You’re still giving your child room to think about their options and self-stimulate while engaging with them and potentially playing with them.
You should remember that you don’t *have* to play with your kids, though, especially every second of the day. Even the CDC says you only need to set aside 5-10 minutes each day for special playtime with your kids. They say that focusing more on how you play and consistently making time for those 5-10 minutes is what's really important.
Glennon Doyle — writer, life coach, and everyone’s favorite human — also agrees with Dukes’ thoughts on boredom. In her bestselling novel Untamed, Doyle writes, “When we hand our children phones, we steal their boredom from them. We are raising kids with commodified views of sex, lack of real connection, filtered concepts of what it means to be human. As a result, we are raising a generation of writers who will never write, artists who will never doodle, chefs who will never make a mess of the kitchen.”
What she means is that without giving your kids a chance to “try and see,” they stop experimenting and stop looking for new ways to do things. We can come up with a million and one fun things to do with our kids’ toys, but letting them come up with their own use for the toys and supplies at their disposal nurtures their creativity and helps them learn to think for themselves.
Finally, the wildly talented and revered artist Vincent Van Gogh once said, “I would rather die of passion than of boredom.” As someone who created some of the world’s most famous artwork, who painted in such a way that even those who don’t follow art can recognize his works, he clearly knew how to dispatch his boredom. Imagine what your kid might be capable of if you allow them that same opportunity?