Are you ever going to take out the trash? Can you get off your phone and pay attention to me? How many times do I have to tell you to stop at the store and pick up milk? Do you bristle just hearing these questions? If so, they just might remind you of nagging. […]
Mom. I’m bored.
Isn’t it great. Just feel that boredom.
What? I need something to do!
OK, what do you think that could be?
I don’t know, I’m just bored.
I’m sure you can think of something. And sometimes being bored is OK.
This was my response when my children complained about being bored. It turns out, this wasn’t a bad way to respond. In fact, it was good. Good parents don’t try to fix every feeling. They let their children experience feelings and then help them figure out what to do with those feelings.
So, when children feel a negative feeling like boredom, we parents need to let it happen so they can learn to tolerate these feelings. After all, it won’t be the first or last time they deal with feeling bored. And if mommy or daddy isn’t present to give ideas and fix things, the child manages to figure it out. So adios helicopter parents, it’s time to do what good parents do–stop fixing things and allow your children to work through their own feelings.
This is a necessary life skill. Healthy adults allow their feelings to surface and regulate them.
So how do you do this?
First, don’t minimize a feeling. Don’t deny it and don’t make fun of feelings. Instead, label them. Let’s take anger. Rather than saying, “Don’t be angry Billy,” say “So you are angry.” Once the feeling is validated, focus on what to do with that feeling. In this case, Billy can act out his anger or learn to regulate it. The Bible tells us to be angry but don’t sin. Our parenting job is to help our children acknowledge the anger and then handle it without sinning. Usually, there is a more vulnerable feeling behind the anger like hurt, sadness, rejection, etc. Ask Billy why he is angry–is it because he didn’t get picked for the game, someone said something embarrassing, etc.
Then you can empathize, validate the feeling, and work through it and hopefully get to the more important feeling of being hurt or rejected. No one likes to be left out or made fun of. When that happens, anger is normal. Then, what Billy learns to do with anger matters. He can tell someone, go run, color in a book, play with another friend, etc.
In essence, you are emotionally coaching your child. And regulating feelings is a skill they need for life.