Parents: Some Kids NEVER get Bored

Like most parents, we want the very best for our three boys. We understand that they live in a world very different to the one which Craig and I grew up in. We realise that the ability to adapt, change and think creatively are essential for our kids to not only survive but thrive.

Human brains love to fill in the gaps. They want to solve problems more than just about anything else. They want time and space to be able to process information at their own rate. In these three keys there lies the kernel of the three things you can do as a parent to NEVER have bored children.

We introduced one of these keys when our eldest son was a baby and the other two over the past nine years as we have parented. They are easy to implement and cost nothing (they could save you a lot of money). It could make you feel like you are the laziest parent on earth, and they work!

1. The more the toy does, the less the child has to think for themselves there are less gaps for their brains to fill-in. So – we removed all toys that looked and sounded like ‘the real thing’ focussing on things like wooden blocks (which could be a cellphone,  a car or a part of a tower), pieces of cloth (which could be capes, rivers, skirts etc)and so on. The older boys live for their Lego, which can be used in an unlimited amount of ways. The only ‘educational’ toys we have are books.

2. We are warm and responsive when they come to us, but largely we get on with our day and ignore them. They can involve themselves with what we are doing or find their own entertainment – which is what they usually chose.This also ties in with the practise of Boring Cuddles when they are hurt ( Quick Way to Stop Children Fussing. ) – we are there to emotionally support them but don’t buy into their dramas or feed them to make them worse – they do the work, they get the benefits. We also don’t tell them to harden-up or get-over-themselves.

3. We removed ALL electronic and battery-run entertainment. Yes, they went through withdrawl and were angry with us initially. Yes, we weaken every now and again, but the general rule is none for our under nines and very, very limited for our boy who is nine. Every single time we weaken and allow them to watch something or play with something electronic we end up with one or more bored children. Every day that we stay strong and keep the boundary we have children who can entertain themselves for hours.

I call this open-palm parenting. We are there (especially for emotional support, but also to help them learn new skills from hammering, to washing clothes, to reading) but we let them ‘come and go’ as they please. We don’t push them away and we don’t enclose them in our fists so that the world can’t get to them.

Children do leave home. They need to have as many chances as possible to solve problems for themselves before they do – even if those problems involved towers which fall down, bikes which crash or fruit which is sour if it’s picked too soon. By solving as many problems as possible they learn that they can manage and they learn how to think. The bonus for us is never ever hearing those dreaded words, “IIIIIIII’m boooooored.”

About Karyn @ kloppenmum

kloppenmum is me, Karyn Van Der Zwet, mother of three and ex-teacher. I'm part of a revolution in parenting, with the aim to raise mature (not sophisticated) and self-assured children. I also know some stuff about adults. I have also had articles printed in The Journal for The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (Children and Young People) and the US parenting magazine, Pathways to Family Wellness, as well I regularly write for World Moms Blog (named as one of the Forbes 100 most useful blogs for women 2012 &2013). You can follow me on facebook (kloppenmum) pinterest (Karyn at Kloppenmum) and twitter (@kloppenmum). I'm also vaguely on LinkedIn (Karyn Van Der Zwet). Thanks to Joe (Mr Hare) for taking the photo. Cheers, son: xxxx.
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16 Responses to Parents: Some Kids NEVER get Bored

  1. Cathy Turner says:

    Totally agree with what you are saying here – and have written in the same vein on my blog. I have enjoyed all I have read of your posts and am ‘following’ on email subscription. Thank you and all the best in your writing.

  2. Marcy says:

    Would your approach be any different if you had an only child? I.e. I still wonder at times whether I spend enough or too much time directly playing with my daughter. Or what exactly it looks like to be emotionally available WHILE going about my day.

    • Hi Marcy,
      Yes my approach would be the same regardless of how many children we had. To carry on with my day and be emotionally available I mostly ignore the children, but if they approach me for something I stop what I’m doing – as soon as possible, stop my thoughts and concentrate on them so that I truly hear what they have to say – if I have to I give them Boring Cuddles or make a strong statement of No – depending on what’s going on – that’s what I do. I did find that it took a few months for Mr Hare to get used to this approach when we began it (Mr Owl was a baby) but persistence has paid off and now it’s just a natural part of our life. Thanks for the question. 🙂

      • Marcy says:

        It sounds like you’re not playing with them at all? Do you read to them? Do any activities with them, especially things they might ask you to do with them?

        • I read to the boys every day at bedtime at least, and sometimes play with them – on request, and with the older boys not every day. Mr Butterfly who is now two I do play with, on request, for short bursts of about 10 minutes or less several times a day, fitting around my chores during the busy times and sometimes saying no if I’m dishing up food or doing cleaning the toilet etc. I will stop and be there for them if they wish speak with me. However, I don’t make it my job to entertain them. Hope this helps.
          PS I did hold our kids as much as they wanted as babies (and still cuddle them as much as they want to) and we still bedshare with all three of them…

          • Marcy says:

            Thanks for the response.

            I don’t think I am under any illusions of being here to entertain Amy; but wanting to be sure that we have a solid relationship, which seems to involve face-to-face as well as side-by-side and separate times. It’s tempting to think in terms of quantity.

            • Hi Marcy,
              What we have done is intentionally put in the quantity of time spent with our children into the earliest years and trusted that they would naturally move away from us as their dependency needs were/are met and they feel secure enough to do so. When the older boys are tired, hurt or ill they still need that quantity time with us, but by using eye-contact and warm non-intrusive touch and truly focussed listening, we seem to have the quality there too. Always happy to clarify things if you need me to. 🙂

  3. Yulia says:

    Yes, Karyn, I am agree here that we need to teach our kids to solve their problem. Sometime when my kids asked me to do something for them which I know and I believe that they can do it them selves, I will encourage them to do it by them selves and I’ll be there to support them only. It will become a challenge for them.


  4. QueenArtLady says:

    Hi Karyn
    I read this quickly this morning and wondered if you have a different approach with different ages, I see you have made a comment about the 2-year old in your reply to Marcy.
    I am striving to follow the same approach, I find that I sometimes need to physically assist my pre-scoolers ie cutting some cardboard for my 4.5 year old who decided to make himself a set of tools.
    I pondered about the post during my day and it occurred to me that as parents we can also be careful to:
    1. model not being bored. We never say we are bored and model being busy with meaningful work/ creative work (I struggle with the fine line of not being too busy and rushing around, not something I want to model for them either)
    2. not tell them what to do, what to play with. I often observe people telling their kids in a non-stop stream all the toys they can see and things to do instead of just letting the child discover things by themselves.

    • Hi there,
      I really like the two extra points you’ve made here, and we do the same things. With regards to the different ages and stages, I would say as a general rule of thumb the younger or more sensitive the child, the more time we consciously spend with them. I would certainly still help our boys if they couldn’t cut etc and use that moment as another chance to reconnect through eye-contact or physical touch. Hope this helps and good luck. 🙂

  5. ecoziva says:

    I have found that as my son is getting older (he is 7 now) he requests less attention of me. However, what about things like taking him outdoors or to the playground, etc.? He is getting more independent now and is starting to go to the playground on his own, on the bike. Yet I worry because most of the kids of our neighborhood come from families that think really different from us and, to tell the truth, are not exactly the kind of company I would like him to have. Sometimes I I take our baby girl out in the stroller and keep an eye on him from a distance. I also tell him when sometimes when I see behavior from his friends that I think is unacceptable (not too sure that does any good though…) Any thoughts on any of this?

    • Hi there,
      That does make things tricky. I have banned some children from our house and activity discourage playdates with a few. Our two older boys are nine and six, so we discuss why those particular children aren’t welcome and we also make it clear that the behaviours we have seen are unaccpetable. When our boys go off on their own we have some really strict rules: 1. You go where you say you’re going. 2. You go for as long as you say you were going. 3. If anything or anyone makes you feel uncomfortable you come home immediately. 4. If one of them (when they are together) wants to come home, they both must come home. 5. No illegal or other ‘naughty’ behaviours.
      I do think that it’s a good idea to sometimes watch your son from afar and I believe that children learn the most when they are are free to make mistakes without being watched: getting that balance is what we all have to decide for ourselves. All the best.

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