Parents may not admit it readily, but they all find their kids boring from time to time. Kids are bad at making plans, totally out of the loop on the latest big thing, and not remotely averse to reading the same children’s books over and over again. Here’s the thing: The problem isn’t that kids are boring, it’s that some parents refuse to face that fact and cope. This can lead to disengagement and disinterest, which are awful for parent-child relationships. The better bet? Face the truth and be honest about the very real strain of spending hours and hours hanging with a kid.
“It’s perfectly acceptable for parents and children to have different interests and hobbies, but thinking that your child is boring is a sad reflection of a parent-child disconnection that hurts everyone,” warns Sharon Saline, a licensed clinical psychologist and author of What Your ADHD Child Wishes You Knew: Working Together to Empower Kids for Success in School and Life. “Kids need to spend meaningful time doing things with their parents. While spending time with peers is undoubtedly important, parents offer a special type of love and connection that peers simply cannot. Even teens, despite their protests, crave parental approval and support.”
At the same time, disengagement is understandable. It’s a way for parents to get some time to themselves, to recharge, relax, or recoup. And, make no mistake, finding that time can be difficult and is worthwhile — up to a point. But taking too many time-outs is damaging to both partner and parent relationships and half-engaging (whipping out the old smartphone is not a viable long-term solution.
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“As a parent, it’s your job to figure out how to reach your child, not the other way around,” says Saline. “Kids need to feel like they matter to their parents for them to develop healthy self-esteem and compassion.”
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What To Do When You’re Bored With Your Kid
- Turn off the phone: it’s not that smartphones are necessarily bad, but quality time means actually engaging, not just physically being there.
- Ask the kid to come along: there are plenty of errands that are easier to do without kids tagging along, but bringing kids with gives parents a chance to teach them a little bit of what it takes to keep a home going – and can make them feel like they are contributing.
- Make the effort: parents may not be interested in the things their kids do, but their level of participation means a lot to a kid.
- Ask the kid how: if something is completely alien to a parent, asking the kid for advice is a good way to help build up kids confidence.
Sometimes engaging with a child is as easy as running errands with them, instead of waiting until a spouse comes home. Running grownup errands can be exciting. Going to the bank still means getting a lollipop. Going to the hardware store is like witnessing a sacred ritual of adulthood. Still, children need to socialize with their peers, and inevitably they are going to have unique interests. Parents need to be willing to engage on the kid’s terms.
“If you don’t know how to engage successfully with your son or daughter, start with something that interests them, no matter how much it bores you,” advises Saline. “Your level of interest is much less important that your participation in the activity. Follow their lead first and then later they will be more willing to follow yours.”
And who knows – the parent just might follow their child into something they genuinely love to do together. Even if it doesn’t, it’s a sacrifice that’s well worth it.
“The important thing is to rediscover and nurture the joy of being together instead of perpetuating a sense of rejection and low self-worth,” says Saline. “Kids go through phases and some, quite frankly, are easier than others. Regardless, they need to feel the consistent, loving presence of their parents.”