This summer, we are so excited to bring you a brand new set of tips about how to stop your kids from complaining.
Here’s the first tip: You Can’t Stop Your Kids from Complaining.
Thanks a lot Amy. I just clicked here and already you are admitting to false advertising.
Well, yes and no.
You can’t stop them from complaining, but you can stop the complaining from getting to you.
Isn’t that worth something?
This summer, we are going to meet a few experts who are going to help us tackle the main complaints we hear around the house.
- “Mom, I’m bored.”
- “I need my screen back. I have nothing to do.”
- “You never listen to me!”
- “This lunch sucks.”
- “But everyone else is allowed!”
Is there a complaint you want to hear more about? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And we will try to get to as many of your complaints as we can.
Ready to get started? Let’s tackle our first complaint.
“Mom, I’m bored.”
When I was a kid, if my sister or I ever dared a comment like “I’m bored”, our parents would say “OK, I’ll invite the circus to come and entertain you.”
To determine the realisticness (is that a word?) of this suggestion, I turned to Allison Williams, founder of Aerial Angels, who performs circus acts from Kalamazoo to Kuwait. They also have an outreach program called Starfish Circus that performs for over 2000 kids each year.
Allison says inviting a circus into your home is not a practical option. Unless you’re a “Middle Eastern emir who had a large pirate ship constructed in the back yard…or the media magnate who had a live jazz band…most legit, well-trained circus performers [are]not like hiring a birthday party magician.”
Oh, too bad. I was thinking this could be the answer to all of our problems.
So what do you say when your kid complains that they’re bored?
Let’s see if Allison has any bright ideas.
“Let them be bored.” She says. “Refuse to accept their boredom as your problem.”
Ooh. Nice tip. You’re saying I don’t have to be a one woman entertainment machine just because Junior feels a nagging sense of ennui?
No. You don’t.
First of all, you don’t need to respond to complaints that are statements.
For example, from the moment they could speak, I would not respond to “I’m thirsty.” “I’m thirsty” is a statement. If you need help, you must request the help, with proper manners. As in “Mom, can you please pour me a drink?” or “Mama, sippy?” for the really little kids. Even a whiny “Appen Ju” while frantically pointing to the apple juice might get a response out of me. I believe that we have a responsibility to teach our children how to at least ask for what they want. Even if we plan to respond to their every whim, they need to at least ask us nicely.
Amy, please. Let’s put semantics aside for now. My ungrateful brats delightful angels are complaining about being bored and I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE. I was just wondering about bringing in some jugglers to entertain them, and now you tell me that hiring the circus is not a viable option.
What does Allison suggest we do instead?
“Turn off the screens, throw them outside and let them invent something. The best games come from sticks and shells and dirt and berries and a lot of free time.”
I can hear more than a few voices saying “Allison – I live in a big city, miles from shells and dirt. Plus, berries? Somehow I don’t think you are talking about Starbucks’ acai refresher.”
Allison has a more urban suggestion too. “Release them downtown and tell them to find their way home. We are living in one of the safest ages and places in the world, take advantage of it.”
Depending on where you live, plus the age and maturity level of your kids (and your tolerance for anxiety) leaving your little lambs to find their way home from downtown might not be so realistic either.
I think we can understand what our aerialist is getting at. Allison is saying that if we let the kids have some more independence and adventure and they won’t be so bored.
What independence and adventure means will be different for each family. Some ideas:
- Toast their own bagels;
- Walk to the park with a friend;
- Learn to take public transportation; or
- Set fire to crumpled tissue using a magnifying glass.
Ok, probably scratch that last one.
The point is that curing boredom may be more about allowing kids a bit more rope, than scheduling 70 structured playdates.
Ok, Allison, we’ll try anything at this point.
Let’s say that doesn’t work either. Your kids don’t want to build forts in the yard. They don’t want to wander through the neighborhood. If they come up with a project idea it requires $1500 of washi tape and intense adult supervision. What now?
Well, I’ll give you my secret trick of last resort. If my kids even hint at being bored, I say “If you are looking for something to do, you can help me unload the dishwasher.” Or clean your closet, or practice French, or any other chore that may fall into the undesirable category without being blatantly mean. Nothing stops complaining in its tracks as fast as the word dishwasher.
Four Tips For When Your Kids Complain About Being Bored
- Nothing. Look at it as a comment on their lives more than a call to action for you.
- Send them to play outside with the supervision appropriate for their age and stage.
- Offer them an opportunity for adventure, bearing in mind that traffic and fire can get you arrested.
- Give them a list of chores. I can’t guarantee your house will be cleaner, but based on my experience you won’t hear a peep for a few hours.
Oh, Amy, you may be thinking. This all sounds so complicated. Can’t I just hand them an iPad and call it a day? Um, well, maybe. But better do it quickly – next week, we take away the screens.