The Power of Respect: “I’m Bored.”

By Karen Ryce

Q:  “My six year old son says, “Dad, I’m bored.” What can you do with that?”

J.A., Garberville, CA

A: I would do my best to encourage him to take responsibility for this situation. Of course, if he asks for suggestions about what to do, I would give them if I could.

I believe that asking for what you need is a form of taking responsibility for what happens in your life, and an excellent life skill to learn, practice, and master. Many adults have trouble asking for what they need, and it can cause them many difficulties. Children seem to ask naturally, especially with a little encouragement and support.

First I would practice some “active listening” to encourage him to go further, to explore what his boredom means to him at this moment and to help him find out for himself what he wants to do about it, if anything.

In active listening, you not only actively, interestedly listen, you say things to encourage the other person to continue speaking, and you check out whether you have understood what the other person means.

“You’re feeling bored, huh?”

“Yeah. There’s nothing to do.”

“Are you telling me just because you want me to know, or do you want me to do something?”

“I don’t know. I’m just bored.”

“Yeah, that happens.”

“I’m gonna’ go for a walk.”

“Okay, I’ll see you later.”

If you usually jump in with suggestions, have you ever experienced making suggestion after suggestion and having him reject them one after the other? I tend to find this frustrating. If he’s used to having you make suggestions, and you both like this process, carry on.

If you decide that you don’t want to do this every time, be sure to give him some warning before you change your practice. Discuss your needs with him at a time that is convenient for both of you. Explain that sometimes you don’t feel like giving him ideas about what to do when he is bored, so sometimes you won’t. Ask him if he needs to say anything about this.

If he understands this and has no problem with it, then you’re done for the moment. Then when those times come, you can let him know in some respectful way that you can’t help him right then.

If he does not like the idea of you not giving him suggestions, then you can both talk it out. Make sure that your needs, thoughts, and feelings, and his, are clearly understood by both of you. Negotiate whatever agreements are necessary so that both of you feel good about it. For example:

  • When he really needs your attention, he will be sure to let you know that he really needs it.
  • When he really needs your help, you will do your best to give it one way or another.
  • He can check back with you after ten minutes if he still needs your help and he can set the timer to help him know when ten minutes has passed.

When he has taken responsibility for deciding what he wants and needs to do, do your best to support his decisions. He is developing into a self-motivated human being; encourage him as much as you can. If you don’t agree with any of his choices, let him know your problem with them, and be prepared to negotiate until you have discovered a mutually agreeable situation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Karen Ryce, the Miracle Worker of Education and Parenting, has used the Power of Respect for more than 35 years. She started a Montessori school in 1973, gives talks and workshops to parents and teachers.

Phone:   702-363-5564