What should you do when you hear this?
Is it your job to provide stimulating, fun filled activities for your children?
Is it your job to provide stimulating, fun filled activities for your children ALL the time?
Imagine it's the school holidays
and you have just spent the whole morning with the kids at the swimming pool, or out on your bikes, or at home doing arts and crafts or something else they enjoy. You've had a great time and so have they, but you hardly seem to have been home for five minutes when you hear those dreaded words 'I'm bored.'
What do you do?
You might try to be helpful and make some suggestions as to what your bored child could do, but somehow none of them seem to be of any interest. You might find these words irritating and remind your child of all the things you've done with them already today, and why can't they just find something to do themselves? They might stomp off in a strop or lol around being bored or start to get whingy and annoying.
I often ask parents : if a child is bored, what do they need?
And yes most people will say they need something to do,they need your attention, stimulation etc. But if your bored child gets plenty of these things the need might be different. It might be that they just need to be bored.
Children, hate doing nothing
Not like adults, I can sit in my garden 'doing' nothing for ages (as long as it's sunny)
But unstructured time is very important. Children who are constantly being entertained by adults (or screens) are not being given the chance to use their imagination and initiative to sort out this problem of being bored.
I know it's easy to harp on about the ‘olden’ days'
But all this constant adult provision of fun, stimulation and activity does seem to be a modern parenting phenomenon.
I can remember spending hours as a child in my own imaginary world.
I was obsessed with animals so our backyard became a farm, and I spent many happy hours out there with very little input from the adults, or when I got bored of that I went to play in my parents wardrobe, pretending it was Narnia. When a little older, my imaginings were transferred to pen and paper, I still have some of the poems and stories I created, and enjoy writing to this day.
I do agree it’s hard for parents these days though, and it seems to be the norm that a great deal of children’s entertainment is provided by the adults. If you want to make a change in your family and encourage your children to find their own entertainment, take the first small step towards this goal by introducing a regular time when everyone has to find something to do, no screens allowed.
If your kids moan and need a bit of support at first try helping them to brainstorm a few ideas and stick the list up somewhere so they can go to it when they are stuck.
You may have to put up with a certain amount of moaning to start with,
But stick with it, and you may be surprised at how creative your ‘bored’ child can be when you back off.
There are lot’s of things you can do to make your life easier as a parent.
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Your 10 year old has been told to tidy up the mess he has left in the sitting room:
His football boots and other sports clobber are strewn everywhere. He is un co-operative, and complains that you are always on at him.
You say that is not true at all, what you are asking him to do is perfectly reasonable.
He says he will do it later because he now has to get on with his project which is due in tomorrow.
You say that is just an excuse, and he is always leaving his stuff lying around, it is not fair on
other members of the family who do tidy up after themselves, and it is not fair on you, why should you have to tidy up his mess all the time, and why can’t he just do as he is told for once without making a fuss.
He is indignant, and says that he does tidy up mostly
But on the rare occasion when he doesn’t you have to come down on him like a ton of bricks, whereas you always let his sister get away with things like that. You reply of course you don’t, that is simply not true….. and so it goes on.
A colleague of mine used to describe this as ‘getting into the ring’
It takes two to sustain an argument
And in this situation you have put your boxing gloves on and are well and truly ‘ in the ring.’
More tips here:
Recognising and understanding complex feelings in ourselves and others
And being able to deal with them in a healthy way, not bottling things up, exploding with anger or descending into depression etc. is known as emotional intelligence. Teaching your child to identify their feelings, is the first step to managing them, and can have a positive effect and help to change negative behaviour.
A good way of doing this is to use reflective listening.
Follow these steps:
Listen for the feelings behind the words.
Accept that your child feels this way.
Reflect back what you are hearing.
Show that you understand.
Support your child to problem solve if you can.
Reflecting back to your child what you are hearing: ' you seem angry, upset,’ and showing that you understand & empathise: ' It must be disappointing, annoying, frustrating etc’ can really help them to feel validated.
So often as parents we say things like
‘Don’t make such a fuss’ or ‘It’s not that bad, or ‘I’m sure you will be fine,’
And then wonder why we don’t get the response we want. When you have really listened and empathized with your child, it can sometimes be a good idea to ask a moving on question: ‘What do you think would help?’ ‘Is there anything you could do to feel better?’ ‘Would you like some help with solving the problem?’
So next time you find yourself about to say ‘Don’t make such a big deal out of it,’ or ‘Cheer up it’s not that bad,’ or ‘Calm down, or go to your room,’ try using some Reflective listening instead.
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'When you’re dead, do you stay dead?'
This was the question from 4 year old Alice in the back of my car just as I was about to negotiate a roundabout.
‘What do you think?’
I said, stalling for time. ‘I don’t know,’ said Alice.
I can’t remember my exact answer, but it went something like this:
‘Well, nobody really knows what happens when you are dead. You do stay dead, but I think it is like being in a lovely long, cosy sleep.’
There was silence. Then a little voice piped up from the back of the car:
‘Can I play with my dolls house when we get home?’
‘Of course you can Alice.’
Phew! This must have been the right answer for that particular question at that particular moment. At 4 years old, it wasn’t that Alice was worrying about dying, she was just beginning to wonder about these things.
I think it is important to be honest with your children when they ask you a difficult question.
But you don’t necessarily have to launch into a long detailed answer or philosophical discussion. Keep it age appropriate. Very young children will often be satisfied with a short, simple answer.
Some useful parenting ideas here:
It’s never easy to work out why a child gets angry on a regular basis, but it’s worth considering if it could be due to any of the following reasons, all of which I have come across during my work with families:
Child is having problems at school, peer pressure/social skills/bullying.
Child is suffering from high anxiety levels.
Child has sensory issues.
Child does not feel listened to.
Child is suffering from stress.
The behaviour gets the child what they want.
Too much screen time is having an adverse effect on behaviour.
Lack of boundaries in the home.
Difficulties with parent / child relationship.
Many parents of children who seem angry a lot, often notice that their child is total inflexible, and cannot bear any changes to routine or plans. It may appear as if they just have to have their own way all the time and the slightest little thing can cause a major upset.
Tiny things can cause epic meltdowns.
For example one family I worked with reported to me that they went for a family day out, and had explained to their seven year old son roughly what they would be doing.
However their afternoon plans changed due to the weather, and this caused an epic meltdown.
This child would fly into a rage over what seemed to be the smallest of things, and the whole family ended up walking on eggshells around him.
Is this sounding familiar? If so, you are not alone.
There are many children out there who have genuine difficulty regulating their emotions.
The lucky ones are surrounded by adults, including their parents, who do not blame and punish them, but who seek to understand, and to find solutions to this problem.
Some children behave in this way because they do not have certain skills.
The skills needed to cope with life’s day to day irritations include:
Being flexible and adaptable.
Being able to solve problems.
Being able to delay gratification.
Being able to express difficult feelings in appropriate ways.
Being able to understand the effect your behaviour has on others.
Developing good self-care skills.
Take care of your child and yourself
It is not uncommon for children to display angry behaviour, and there is nothing wrong with feeling angry, it is a normal human emotion.
It is how that anger is expressed that can be problematic, and if angry incidents are happening on a daily basis that of course can be very stressful for everyone.
If you have an angry child try to explore what the reasons for that anger might be, get some help if you need to.
What about you?
All children need time, understanding, and patience, and children with emotional difficulties need these things in spadesful. If you have a child like this, take extra care to look after yourself and your own needs as much as you can so that you are in the best place you can be to help your child.
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'How do I get my child to listen & do as they're told?'
This is one of the most common questions I get asked in my work. Children are wonderful at ‘not hearing’ what you said, ‘forgetting’ what you just asked them to do five minutes ago, and just plain ignoring their parents when it suits them to aren’t they?
If you stop and think about it you may realise that your child is being given many instructions every day. It probably starts early in the morning as you try to get everyone ready and out the door on time:
‘Eat your breakfast, clean your teeth'
'Stop playing now and put your coat on, leave your sister alone, get your bag, don’t dawdle, get in the car, put your belt on, stop being so noisy' etc.
If they are at school there are a lot of instructions there, and back home during the evening rush hour there is probably more of the same. Many parents I work with tell me they just want their children to listen and do as they are told
But with so many instructions being given every day is it any wonder that some of them seem to go in one ear and out the other?
Of course it’s hard to imagine a world where we don’t give our children instructions, we have to don’t we, but if you have a child who never seems to listen, here are a few ideas that might help:
Cut down the number of instructions given
Try reducing the amount of instructions you give your child to only those that are really necessary, it is so easy to get into the habit of telling our children what to do all the time, so try taking a step back, catch yourself before you say something and think ‘do I really need to give this instruction right now.’
Be in the same room, arm’s length.
No issuing orders from a different room.
To avoid having to give the same instructions more than once, and to increase the likelihood that your child will comply, try this.
Use your child’s name, be clear, tell your child what to stop doing and what to start doing, describe the behaviour you want: ‘Turn the TV off now, go and put your pyjamas on.’
Give a reason:
'It’s time for bed.’
Give time for your child to comply, wait five seconds, stay quiet.
Stay in the room.
If your child does not comply:
Give them a choice, keep it friendly
‘I can turn it off or you can, which would you prefer?'
Praise your child when they do comply.
Don't be tempted to dilute that praise by saying 'Why can't you always do that' or words to that effect. If you do, you will be turning praise into criticism!
Think ‘How does it feel for my child?’
Children get told to do things a lot, and it can be helpful to think about how you speak to them, especially when you are tired/stressed etc.
Would you rather someone said to you:
'Don’t park your car there’ in a stern voice?
Or ‘Would you park somewhere else please, I need that space for unloading.’ (notice the second person described the behaviour they wanted and gave a reason, perhaps they would also give you reasonable time to move your car)
I know this all looks easy on paper, and might not be so simple in the real world, but if you have a child who never seems to listen, give it a try over the next week or two.
Be consistent and don’t forget to praise wen your child does the right thing.
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