Mar 242020

There are lots of two-word combos that pack an almost disproportionate amount of power. As a lover of language, I am intrigued by a number of possibilities.

  • Think big.
  • Stand up.
  • Time flies.
  • Heart health.
  • Forever love.
  • Take action.
  • Make memories.
  • Think different.
  • See success.
  • Finally bedtime.

These are all good examples of strong two-word phrases yet not one can come close to packing as much power as this one. Ready?

“I’m bored.”

(Of course to get the full impact try hearing them pronounced like this:  ‘I’m bo-ooo-r-ud.’ It is a sound that is particularly chilling for parents.)

It is a sound that is particularly chilling for parents. Click To Tweet

It may be unwise of me to raise questions about what it means to be bored: it’s not something I’ve often experienced. One of the reasons? I’m chronically curious. When I decided to revisit old blog posts about kids, parents and boredom, I tripped and fell into a rabbit hole. It’s name? “Reading about boredom.” And guess what? It was interesting. I wasn’t the least little bit bored.

To Study Boredom

Apparently the topic of boredom also appeals to social science researchers. As with many research topics, the initial struggle was with definitions. The articles I read described boredom as an emotional or psychological state that can arise when a person doesn’t have an especially engaging task or activity before them, is stuck in a “tedious time period,” or lacks interest in their surroundings.

I also learned the term “boredom proneness” and that there is a Boredom Proneness Scale. So, while many of us tend to minimize boredom as trivial, researchers have correlated it with depression and other significant life issues.

Additionally, researchers tell us there are three types of boredom:

  • circumstances are preventing us from doing something we want to do
  • we are obligated to do something we don’t want to do
  • there are factors that prevent us from being fully engaged in the task at hand

Ennui Among the Animals or Boredom at the Zoo

As I continued to think about the topic, I realized that animals get bored, too. Our dogs, ranging in age from a baby to a senior citizen, love to go to training. They love the five hour round trip. Nobody (except the human) gets to stay in for the entire class, but each dog gets enough mental stimulation to make for a very quiet, sleepy ride home.

Not to be outdone by engaged pet owners everywhere, the National Zoo now gives donors the opportunity to provide keepers with discretionary funds for added enrichment items ranging from food to toys and special scents for their charges.

I believe a high level of inborn curiosity vaccinated me against becoming boredom prone. To me, when that “meh” vibe starts to creep in, it’s a signal that my creativity needs slightly different time and space. It encourages me to check in with myself and my HALT: hungry, angry, lonely,tired.  It’s a nudge to try stuff.

Boredom is a nudge to try stuff. Click To Tweet


I guess that reaction is part of what makes me wonder why so many parents believe that boredom is bad for kids and  it’s their job to ‘fix’ it.  If  we respond like cruise ship activities directors on steroids what are we doing for the kids?  What do they take away from our behavior? What example are we setting?

Am I exaggerating? Just think about the number of times that, upon hearing this particular set of ‘magic words,’ you’ve seen parents leap into action. Like exhausted super heroes, they quickly shuffle through their repertoire of activities, snacks, electronic devices, and other entertainment to find the one special remedy that will most quickly put an end to the dreaded condition called boredom.

Unintended Messages

We all know that actions can undermine and contradict both words and good intentions. Attempts to alleviate another’s discomfort can be interpreted as thoughtful and kind and Boredom-Rescue behavior is no exception. All behavior can send powerful (and sometimes unintended) messages; intervening in our kids’ boredom could be interpreted as:

  • You deserve to be passively entertained
  • Your uncomfortable feelings are very important
  • Uncomfortable feelings should be avoided at all costs
  • Someone or something outside of you is responsible for fixing your feelings

And even if  those aren’t their take-away messages, how much thought have you given to what happens to your kids when you’re not around to entertain them? If we build our schedules and priorities around filling, enriching, and stimulating their every waking moment, how will the young ‘uns manage being in a group or in a classroom setting? Or alone?

Oddly enough, I started working on this post before Covid-19  hit our shores. As people gradually start to understand how such diseases spread, they are taking responsibility for their portion of herd immunity by self-quarantining. And, in the course of staying home, some of them are feeling bored. That might not be a bad thing.

Quiet Minds, Open Minds

I’m a huge fan of new ideas and experiences.  Novelty is great for brain health which, in turn, benefits us physically and emotionally. We live in an amazing time with no shortage of things to learn and do and think about and try.  And, given the opportunity, we will discover our passions and interests. Maybe there will be powerful new interests. But in the course of pursuing those opportunities, we will need to manage more than a few uncomfortable feelings along the way. So will our kids. But to seize those opportunities we will need to make sure our hearts and minds are quiet and open enough to recognize and seize those opportunities.

May 162016

Self-esteem (Photo credit: Key Foster)

Like it or not,  parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors  occasionally embarrass the kids in our care. We don’t mean it, but our most loving intentions can become a problem, especially when attending their sporting events. Standing on the sidelines seems to make some of us to care too much — and too loudly —  about their self-esteem.

[Tweet “We care too much — and too loudly — about kids’ self-esteem.”]

Loving our kids is not a competitive sport. Rather than such intense focus on the impossible job of creating self-esteem, what’s wrong with “just” letting the littles play their sport? And explore and experience their own strengths and resilience?

Wait… did I just say that creating self-esteem for our kids is impossible?

I did.  Self-esteem is an inside job.  As much as we’d like to, we can’t do it for them.  A child’s self-esteem grows with each successful interaction, each job well done, each goal met and every obstacle successfully overcome. Those feelings and experiences that can’t be taken away.

[Tweet “Is creating self-esteem for our kids impossible?”]

Over-parenting, while well-intended, can create more anxiety than it prevents.

On the way home from baseball, my son told me he felt sorry for his friend, the team’s star player.  When I asked him why, he said it was “because of the way his Mom acts at the games.”

I remember thinking “Oh boy, am I in trouble. This gal is the gold standard. The Team Mom. She never misses a game or even a practice…. and she’s not cutting it?” I asked him to tell me more.  

“She cheers at him for everything. It’s like she thinks finding his way to home plate for his at-bat is as big a deal as getting a hit or a big play in the field.  I guess she doesn’t think he can do anything right. He’s a good player. It’s embarrassing.”  

The eight-year-old boy envied by most of his teammates had told at least one of his peers that Mom’s excess cheering makes him feel self-conscious and incompetent.  Maybe this over-involved, over-praising thing isn’t such a great idea after all.

Letting kids participate in team sports is a great way for them to experience successes and failures, to learn discipline and practice self-control. To simply serve as witnesses — and allow the process to be about the kids  — requires adults to model many of the same skills. Maybe our littles already know we love them and are proud of them. Maybe our excessive displays of support really are just embarrassing.



Does your inner critic heckle your parenting skills from the sidelines? Want to make it stop? Check out The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head

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Aug 032015
Bad break

Bad break (Photo credit: santheo)

So, here I was, minding my own business…. packing to go to a conference. The TV was on in the background. Mistake. Big one. Instead of heading for bed early, here I sit — posting about a pothole.

I have written about parents who volunteer to serve detention (so that their child doesn’t have to) and even about one who drove the getaway car for a robbery. I think that sometimes ‘extreme’ examples are a good way to learn. And, in these cases I was talking about helping our kids learn to take responsibility for themselves. I thought I’d run out of headlines for ‘inspiration.’ No such luck.

[Tweet “I’ve written about parents who want to serve detention for their child…”]

A young Virginia boy was riding his bike and (somehow) hit a pothole, went over the handlebars and broke his wrist. His Mom is suing the city. When asked why the city should be held responsible she replied “Hellooooo.” Really. That was her comment.

Am I missing something here?

Of course I feel sad for any 9-year-old with a broken wrist — it hurts. It’s unfortunate. And I understand feeling angry when my child has suffered an injury. I think those feelings are normal and natural. And of course, cities and towns should to their best to make necessary repairs to roads.

[Tweet “Of course I feel sad for a kid with a broken wrist…”]

Back to kids falling off of bicycles and getting hurt. It happens. Riding a bike and conquering gravity are not easy skills to master. But a broken wrist in not a fatality. Painful? Inconvenient? Scary? Sure. But all actions have consequences. Even driving our bikes through a pothole.

Your thoughts, please? Am I being mean? Or is this Mom missing a golden opportunity to teach her child to be more aware of his surroundings and responsible for his own well-being?

Sep 032014



Torn front wheel of a bicycle after a crash wi...

Torn front wheel of a bicycle after a crash with a car (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



I was packing for a trip with the TV on in the background.  Instead of heading to bed early so I could be fresh for my trip, I stayed up to jot some thoughts about a  bike accident.

Were there flames, fatalities or drama?  On the surface there was nothing unusual about the incident.  Or so it seemed at first.  A young boy was riding his bike, hit a pothole, fell off and broke his wrist. He had a bike accident and his Mom is suing the city.

[Tweet “Were there flames, fatalities or drama?”]

When asked why the city should be held responsible she replied “Hellooooo.”  That was the entire comment.

Of course I feel for any child with a broken bone — it hurts. It’s unfortunate. And I understand parents feeling angry when children suffer: those feelings are normal and natural. And of course cities and towns should to their best to make necessary road repairs.

Kids fall off of bicycles and get hurt. It happens: neither riding a bike nor conquering gravity are particularly easy skills to master. But a broken wrist in not a fatality. Painful? Inconvenient? Scary? Sure — so are lots of opportunities for growth.

Intended or not, actions have consequences — even driving our bikes in unexpected directions.

Have you ever been frustrated by making repeated requests about basic chores or responsibilities?  Laundry that doesn’t make it to the hamper?  Book bags that don’t get cleaned out?  Toys that aren’t put away?

At that point some parents are able to let certain laundry go undone, permission slips unsigned and toys “‘go missing.”  It’s generally an effective way to stop nagging and help kids connect the dots between the request and the consequence of not following through.

However there parents who offer to serve detention for their kids and even one who drove the get-away car for her “baby’s” robbery…  sometimes parental love gets in the way of more rational thinking!

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P.S.  I think extreme examples can be useful in checking our own decisions so  I’ve got a collection of old news articles here. They’ve sparked some lively conversations in parenting groups.  (And, please, if you’ve got one to add, send me the link!  I love this crazy collection.)