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.

Jan 152013

I was working on one of our sites and came across this lovely blog post.  Living Philanthropic – Day 340: Dreams For Kids – Day 340: Dreams For Kids.

Anyone who has spent any time lately grumbling about “kids today” should take a look at this blog.  I admire the discipline, generosity and commitment it takes to do something every day.  I appreciate the work it takes for find 365 “anythings” and am grateful that one of them was Dreams for Kids, an organization I’ve known and cared about for some time.

The mission of Dreams for Kids is to empower at-risk youth and those with disabilities through life-changing experiences and leadership programs, inspiring them to pursue their dreams and make the world a better place for everyone.  Founded in Chicago  in 1989, the organization now has an international reach through it’s annual Holiday for Hope.

hand feeding lories


Dec 072011
Traditional envelope containing money as a gif...

K.I.S.S. ~ Keep It Simple, Sweetie! (Image via Wikipedia)

I think I’m finally done freaking out about hearing Christmas carol muzak in early November and am easing into the holiday spirit.  We’ve made some travel arrangements, found some fun gifts and are going on the prowl for great light displays tonight when it gets dark. Granted, with grown-up kids and the majority of grandkids little enough to prefer an empty water bottle to a Wii, our approach is pretty mellow.  Despite some pressing project deadlines I’m relaxed enough to notice that lots of  people are completely frazzled.

Although I understand it far too well, I find it sad that in our quest to find “the perfect present” many of us render ourselves completely absent.  Spending too much, over-packing our schedules, eating fast food on the way to the mall…YIKES!  How many ways can we use “creating the perfect holiday” to numb ourselves and detach? What would happen if we chose to prefer presence over presents?

presence |ˈprezəns|n.  the state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present in a place or thing: his presence still makes me smile • a person or thing that exists or is present in a place but is not seen: the crowd became aware of a powerful presence.

I love dictionaries and the shades of meaning they can bring us.  When I read this definition I thought about all of the unnecessary difficulties we humans (and especially parents) tend to create for ourselves.  Let’s face it: with the day-to-day struggles so many people face there are already plenty of opportunities to practice our “refuse to lose” skills.

My dictionary went on to tell me about ‘related phrases.’ The one that popped out was “presence of mind: the ability to remain calm and take quick, sensible action.”

Is there “quick, sensible action” you can take to reduce your stress and be more present through the coming weeks?   Stop. Connect. Breathe. Enjoy.  Be more present.  That’s a gift your kids can enjoy every day.

Nov 292011
Martini Silouette

Do timing and context enhance your message? (Image by John C Abell via Flickr)

Whenever I’m stuck in a communication that just isn’t working I eventually get back to a favorite expression:  “What you do speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.”  I have often found that if I can’t make myself understood, there’s a good chance I’m doing something to contradict myself.  Contradictions create a level of confusion that help the message get lost.

Lots of things can help parents to create a mixed message… they often result from habit or behaviors we’ve just never thought about.  It can be something as simple as smiling when we’re angry: when body language doesn’t match the message listeners are left with a choice about which part of the message is real.

A classic example is the parent who lectures about “the evils of drug use” with a drink in hand. Or someone like me who knows the importance of exercise… but doesn’t always “walk the talk.”

I’m not saying that drinking is wrong…. or that parents who drink should not talk to their kids about responsible substance use.  Or even that people who don’t exercise enough are not allowed to encourage others to be more active.

What I AM saying is that a little more attention to timing, context and example adds up to a powerful, irrefutable message.

There are so many situations in life where this little reminder comes in handy. I remember once hearing a wonderful speaker saying how much he disliked those bumper stickers that say “I’d Rather Be…” (sailing, golfing…   you know the ones…).

I don’t care much about bumper stickers but his reasoning caught my attention.  He said they were dishonest… that if people honestly preferred that activity they would make the necessary sacrifices and changes. It’s something I try to remember when I start to say I am “too busy” for people or activities that matter to me. I think of it when people tell me they “want to write a book but don’t have time.”

And kids have an incredible gift for noticing the mis-matches between what we say and what we do. And, like in any other situation, we can make excuses — or use their insights to become better.  To put our feet where are priorities are.

I am always moved by this video that illustrates the power of our example.