May 26, 2010

I'm Boooooored ...

Why, oh why, do parents teach their children to be bored? You know ... the parents who repeatedly take their children's "boredem temperature," by assuming that boredom is a natural and frequent state of being for infants on-up, and talk often about boredom and encourage their children to be bored:

(saying about an infant/toddler ) "The baby is bored."

(asking a child) "Are you bored?"

(assuming) "He/she is doing that because he/she is bored."

(reinforcing) "So what will you do later so you won't be bored?"

(overheard by child) "Yes, please come over; otherwise the kids will be bored."

How is it possible, when a child has a friend over to play (presumably to ward off boredom) that they can approach the parent for guidance as to "what they should do next" and they can't play endlessly by themselves? This is possible when the parent has instilled a boredom mentality in the home so that the child has been programmed to say, "We played X and we did Y, so what should we do nooooow?"

Have you seen people wheeling a carriage with a toy attached to it? As though the world is "old hat" to the toddler and therefore he needs a toy to occupy him and prevent boredom.  How silly!

Is there a concept of "boredom" in Torah? Is there room for boredom in Jewish life when we are meant to account for every second of our time? Although children are not yet obligated in mitzvos, are we not doing them a great disservice by even mentioning the possibility of having time on one's hands with nothing to fill it as this goes to counter to avodas Hashem? How can a servant of Hashem be bored when Hashem's service ought to fill his life completely?

I suggest not using the word "bored" at all with children.  One day, they might come home from a playdate or from school and say, "What does 'bored' mean?" having heard another child use it.  And what if the parent responds, "It means they don't know what to do next - isn't that funny?"

How can parents who provide their children with books and toys and games and crayons and crafts even entertain the question of "I'm bored, what should I do?"

Another suggestion: Have your child(ren) make a list of all the possible activities they can do.  The list can be divided into Shabbos and weekday activities, activities they can do by themselves and with others, indoor and outdoor activities.  The list needs to be revised as they grow - the list for 4 year olds is not the same as the list for a 6, 8 or 10 year old. 

And you can introduce the idea by saying, "Let's make a list of all the things you can do so that when you want to do something, you can look at the list and be reminded of all the possibilities."  Then, if the child asks you what they should do, you can say, "Let's take a look at your list of activities and you can pick something."

If a child is taught how precious the tefillos of children are, and how precious the words of Tehillim are, they can be reminded that anytime they want to do something worthwhile, they can say some Tehillim. 

If a child is given story tapes to listen to and books to read, they will have good material to think about.  A child with a rich intellectual life has been given a gift! What did Scharansky do for years in jail? He spent a lot of time playing chess in his mind, against himself, when in solitary confinement!

R' Zushe of Anipoli said you can learn three things from a baby:

1) always be busy

2) when you need something, cry out for it

3) when your needs are satisfied, be happy

If you see a baby (and I daresay a toddler and school aged child) that is not busy and happy, something is amiss.  Let parents not be the ones inculcating a problem!


  1. I just recently spent 10 days in a rented apartment with my 2 small grandsons ages 4 and almost 2 and their parents while we attended a family simcha. I bought them some square blocks, several toy vehicles, a set of stacking rings, crayons, and colored paper, and beach balls. The art supplies could only be used for a few days because there was a yomtov and 2 Shabbosim in the visit. They seemed perfectly happy with their small cache of toys and their mother read to them in Hebrew which is the language that they speak, along with a bit of Yiddish. All of their books are religious in nature and are full of interesting pictures. They never acted bored although they were taken out on outings and we went to the "gheenah" (playground). They have no computer at home or TV and live in the Shomron where they have playgrounds, gardens and stray cats. They have toys at home but not too many. I never heard my son or daughter-in-law refer to them as bored even once, nor did they do much other than read to them or take them out to "entertain" them.

  2. I share the same sentiments. Parents can work to train their children to initiate the next activity. I also don't believe in regular access to electronics, although I sometimes fall into that trap. Somehow, after spending some time with [fill in the blank] kids seem to lose that ability to find the next activity.