We’ve had several snow days this week, and thus that has meant unstructured play and gobs of unplanned time to fill. Once the initial novelty of the snow outside our window wore off (or once someone got an eye injury from head-first sledding), they come inside, drop their gear and within minutes you hear the inevitable:
“MOM, I’M BORED.”
This typically doesn’t really get much of a reaction out of me, because if you’ve been a mom for any period of time more than a minute, you know that the B word comes often and frequent with this next generation of
delinquents kids. It’s when the emotions go from 0-60, that my skin starts to crawl. We’ve got slamming doors, thrown objects, biting, hitting, and name calling with dramatic statements like: “There is NOTHING to do” (which actually translates to Mom said no to screens and I don’t want to do anything else). It takes everything in me to stick with my word and not give in to their demands, or even offer a consolation of “Okay fine, just give me 5 more minutes and I’ll play with you.”
Yes, I am stay at home mom. Yes, I love my kids. But just because I’m home full time with them, doesn’t mean that it’s my job to entertain them.
I am not their Cruise Director.
Sure, I love to be Fun Mom every so often, and I want my kids to see me say Yes and be present with them – that’s important, please hear me say that! But I also want my kids to be bored. I want them to see that I have other responsibilities besides just doing a Circus Act in order to entertain and please their every whim. It is GOOD for your kids to see you working. It is good for them to hear “No, Mommy can’t play right now because I have other jobs to do.” Contrary to popular belief, your world does not actually revolve around them. And you are doing them a disservice if you teach them otherwise.
It is not your job to entertain your kids all the time. This generation is full of stimulation, full of want it now, Amazon Prime Yesterday nonsense, and frankly, I think we’re setting them up for failure if we raise them to think that a parent’s job is to entertain them, when they can’t find something to do.
THINK OF A SOLUTION, DON’T JUST STATE THE PROBLEM.
I often tell my kids, “Don’t state the problem, think of a solution.”
Like if they say: “I’m hungry.” You’ll hear me respond with, “Well that sounds like a problem.” They then know to re-phrase their underlying complaint into an actionable question, with a true solution: “May I please have an apple?”
"Well, OF COURSE you can have an apple!" (ha, you're more likely to hear my kids asking for snacks than apples just so you know).
I’m training them to critically think and look for creative solutions – and oftentimes that means relying on each other, NOT ME! Nobody wants to raise complainers or non-critical thinkers. No, we want to raise kids who will assess a situation and look for ways to solve a problem. Teaching them independence and confidence will serve them SO MUCH better in the long run than saying yes to playing Uno, Connect 4 and Go Fish for the 8,000th time.
We have strategic areas and places set up in the house that are kid-designated zones. We have an art dresser, stocked FULL of all kinds of craft supplies just waiting to be used. We have a playroom/guest room that has a couple of buckets of toys, and then in each of their rooms, they have Legos or make believe supplies (i.e Kitchen, stuffed animals, etc.) that they know they can retreat to. Because even when they come to me and say they’re bored, sometimes I do re-direct them and remind them of their options, but a lot of the time I just straight ignore them. Gasp! Yep, I intentionally ignore my kids.
They are looking to me to give them an itinerary or agenda of how they should spend their time, and I’m not their Cruise Director. We’ve already outlined at appropriate times what their options are when they are finished with their jobs (Art dresser, Legos, make believe, etc from above). They know what they can do, they’re just being lazy (as kids often are) and want you to entertain them.
Next time your kids ask for your attention during a time when you’ve already given it to them, or have other things that you are responsible to complete, try saying no. And say no without leading them through an agenda or alternative activity (assuming you already have in recent memory…most likely, 5 minutes prior to them asking).
Boredom will lead to creativity. Creativity leads to confidence. And confidence leads to competence. And competence will take them as far as they are willing to let it. These are the characteristics and traits we want in our kids and in the next generation.
Don’t fall for their nonsense. Yes, they need your love and attention, but it is not your job to be their full time entertainment. Say no to entertaining them all the time and say yes to boredom and silence, until they figure something out to do. They’re kids, I promise you they’ll figure something out – they just need their parents to guide them into the margins of childhood by not appeasing their every request and whim. You are not their Cruise Director sister, so put up your feet on the pool deck because you are officially off the hook.