Hi moms! Welcome to summer! Summer is officially in full swing now for almost everybody out there. I saw a quote on someone’s Instagram the other day that said something like, “my therapist said, to reduce your stress level, make sure you are separating yourself from people who cause you stress and anxiety, and be sure to make time for yourself. So what do I do if the people are my family, and it’s summer.”
So how is everyone’s summer going? If you are already counting down the days until school starts again, you are not alone. Some of the things I’ve been coaching my clients on lately are topics around surviving the summer. But I hope we are figuring out not only how to survive but really enjoy your summer with your child. And I also hope you are taking in some of the down time that summer naturally creates and enjoying some time for yourself. Because taking care of yourself is part of taking care of your family.
Although the break from everyday schedules and homework is really nice, the summer can sometimes seem long and daunting, with hardly even a moment to breathe without someone in your space. And the worst is when the someone in your space is saying, “I’m bored” all the time. Does that bother you as much as it bothers me? For some moms, this “I’m bored” phrase children like to use causes some anger and frustration. It’s difficult to listen to, especially when you feel very busy all the time; and kids who don’t have much responsibility complain of being bored! And it’s kinda hard to believe they’re really bored when you can think of about 20 things they could do right in that moment.
But whether your child’s complaint of boredom is real or not, the point is that they are probably going to complain this summer, perhaps even daily, and we need a constructive way to help them deal with this boredom problem.
My first thought when one of my kids have said this to me is “What am I your cruise director? Just go find something to do.” And I may or may not have said this a time or two.
And my second thought when my kids say this is, Well man, they say kids who are truly intelligent and creative don’t get “bored.” Well, they must not be that intelligent or creative, that’s too bad; I really thought they were but this must be proof that they are not.
But you know what, when your child says I’m bored, it doesn’t need to mean that at all. It could mean lots of other things. They may have been keeping themselves busy for hours already and just aren’t sure what to do next, OR those words are more likely a plea for you to stop what you’re doing and give them some attention; they just aren’t exactly sure how to express that to you.
But if you get as annoyed and frustrated as I do with this phrase, perhaps because you spend your summer doing everything you can to keep your kids happy and busy and when there is some downtime, and you finally have a minute to yourself, you would really like for them to entertain themselves for a bit.
Well today, I have 3 solutions you can try when the “I’m bored” phrase comes up, as it inevitably will.
The first solution only works if you set clear expectations ahead of time. So next time your child comes to you and says, “I’m bored,” let your child know that starting next time you hear those words, you will give them a chore to do. They might laugh and think you’re kidding, and you can even say it lightly and kindly, but when they test you, which they will, make sure you have a little job or chore of up your sleeve that they can do (and remember that floorboards always need dusting).
The consistency, or follow through, is where the magic happens. When they say I’m bored, because they will for sure test this thing they think is a new little game, say, “Oh I’m so sorry to hear that. Go ahead and get a rag and dust the living room floorboards and when that is done maybe you will have thought of something to do with your time.” If they thought you were being too kind about it or maybe even joking a little before, this is when the fit might come, when they find out that you’re serious. But do not let your child off the hook. If you do, they may never believe anything you say again. Make him go to those floorboards, or clean the front window, or the kitchen chairs. It’s a foolproof solution to bust your child’s boredom. And this one is my favorite because although it might take a time or two of assigning a chore, you probably won’t hear those words again for a very long time, if ever.
My older kids don’t ever say those words to me, they learned a young age that mom doesn’t really like to hear that, and they will get a chore. But my youngest still comes to me once in awhile with those words. And now all I have to say is, “Uh oh, what did you say?” And she quickly finds something else to do. And I only let her off the hook now because she’s had a lot of chores and she rarely says it anymore. It’s actually kind of funny because now I just say “uh oh” and she sees my face and she remembers and I don’t have to say anything else. It’s actually really funny.
After they’ve done the job you’ve set out for them to do, be sure to free up some of your own time–all that time that you no longer have to dust the floorboard lately– and give them a little bit of your time. Sit and cuddle during their favorite show, or play a round of their favorite card game. That might have been what they were asking for in the first place with their “I’m bored” words. Try not to give them the attention when they use those words or they will continue to use those words whenever they need attention from you. Teach them that you will gladly give them your time when you are ready and not when they use words like “I’m bored.”
It’s actually pretty amazing how random attention from you throughout the day will actually solve a lot of annoying little behavior problems. Kids love and crave attention from you, but they also need to learn and respect that mom needs a little mom time too. Just be very clear with them on the expectations and they will rise to it.
Okay, solution number two is to get together with your child and brainstorm and create a Boredom Busters list. Do this when they’re not bored, if possible, so they can get really creative and get a lot of different ideas. Walk through the house and let their creativity flow. It’s really fun to watch how excited they get when they come up with things they can do.
And after they’ve given you all their ideas, put things on it like, write a letter to grandma, write some thank you cards for the birthday money grandpa sent you for your last birthday, build a tower with dixie cups, create a new card game to teach to the family, make up a dance to your favorite song, build a really cool Lego creation with your little brother, ask your big sister to help you create a secret handshake, bake cookies for the widowed neighbor down the street, turn on the sprinklers and run through them.
Sometimes kids can’t think of something on the spot to spend their time on, but If you have a whole bunch of different ideas of things they can do chances are they will easily be redirected and have a better-than-bored-summer. And who knows? Maybe you’ll have a little extra time to yourself too.
And third, be sure to have some sort of expectations before they get started with their summer day. If they just wake up to a long day of free time all day and are expected to entertain themselves, you will probably hear I’m bored quite a bit. But if they wake up to a list of daily expectations and need to eat breakfast, get ready for the day, straighten their room, make their bed, read for 20 minutes (or for non-readers it can be read a book with mom), do two summer workbook pages, do one chore of mom’s choosing, or anything else you would like to be part of a daily summer routine, before they’re allowed to have free time, then when that free time finally comes, they will be more than happy to figure out things they want to do with their day.
So, go head off those “I’m boreds” by telling your child that you don’t want to hear those words anymore this summer, and this is what is we are going to do instead. And come up with some boredom busters together, print them out, with icons or little drawings for non-readers, and get that mental chores list ready for when they feel like seeing how serious you are about not saying “I’m bored”, and create a daily summer routine list for your kids. But most of all have a great summer with your family. “‘Cause a little bit of summer is what the whole year is all about” (That’s a John Mayer quote, by the way). Let’s savor this summer with our kids because we honestly don’t have too many of them left.
Thanks so much for joining me today, and I’ll talk to you next week!