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The other day (it has taken a while to get to blogging about it!) Nomi said she was bored. I listed quite a list of options, sent her down to her room to think about it and then added those fatal words “If you don’t find something to do in 15 minutes I’ll give you a job!”
As soon as they were uttered I turned to Peter and said, “I can’t believe I just said that. I have never said that before and I don’t even believe in doing that!”
I believe that when children say they are bored they need to learn to occupy themselves and to be content with their options and if they can’t do that they need my help to learn to do so. Only when they won’t receive my instruction have I punished them with a task. (and that is for their unteachable heart, not being bored!)
And yet, here I was threatening a chore.
She found something to do but it left me thinking – why did I say those words? Words that clearly I don’t agree with, words which I have refrained from saying for over 10 years of parenting! What was going on?
I was tired. And it was much more convenient to threaten a task than to get up off my seat and do some training. It was a quick fix.
I wonder what else is slipping out, getting under the radar so to speak, because I am tired, or focused on other things. Good time for a check up. Time to check that my words line up with my beliefs and that my actions line up with my words. Consistency in all three areas – my beliefs, my words, my actions is a powerful thing in a parent.
But, I have heard myself say that a couple times and I really don't know what to do for them.
I mean when you get up or if you had made the choice to get up what might have you done?
For example today I suggested some unfinished lapbooks (I want them to some of the work themselves) they either didn't want or lost interest quickly…so I suggested bundle up and head outside to play in snow they were back in within 10-15 minutes then I suggested a christmas movie and so far it's good but, I just don't know what to do I mention a craft or school and I hear groans and moans…another example last night I started making origami stars and lost all but, two of my children the other 3 wanted no part, it's to much like school I hear alot.
So please help what might you have done differently in your situation instead of the option you gave?
If she didn't find something productive to do, and if I hadnt given an empty threat what would I have done?
As I mentioned there is a difference if the child is just not able to work something through, learn, and do better to when they stubbornly refuse to learn, co-operate and do better.
So if it was genuinely a case of not being able to focus, not being able to choose I would have reduced her choices with the goal being to teach her to choose a productive activity or help her to focus for a set period of time. So with that clear goal in mind I would have got up, and walked down to the family room with her, and asked her if she had any ideas. If she did I would have guided her towards the one idea that I felt most appropriate. I could have asked her to list the pros/cons for each of the ideas (probably no more than 3), I would try and think why I felt that one activity was the most appropriate and then turn my reasoning into a question for her to process. This is teaching them to think through things for themselves.
If she had no ideas – a complete blank – I would list three choices for her, and then as above, help her make a choice.
I would then set the timer and say, you have no other choice for x-period of time (depending on their ages 30-60min). This makes it an obedience issue but helps in the focusing. If they give up, or whatever after this instruction then they sit on their bed doing nothing until they are willing to obey and they can finish their time back at their project. What I find happens here is that they get back to it, enjoy it and run out of time!!! Oh well, there is another consequence for having a grumpy heart!! I make them pack it up, so they learn to focus in the time given to them.
So there is the outline of how I would have dealt with being bored if I was thinking!
I want to thank you for giving your answer.
I have tried what you have stated and it just might be these kids of mine or I am doing something wrong.
I know you did speak of a grumpy heart and punishment. I agree with that. I also read that you stated must spend a certain amount of time on that task before another task is started. I agree. I make sure they do both.
But, I guess what frustrates me is I will give them three choices or they will choose and I will say okay and this is how long and I walk away and it's they lost interest again and I have to either take them back to the task which they are now whining I don't want to do that task again so then it's in their room to sit for a bit. Then once they return it's finding a task again. I know this sounds horrible but, I always feel as though I am having to entertain them or show them how to entertain themselves some days are better than others of course but, I don't remember having this great a problem as a child then again my mom wasn't a great or even good mom either. But, sometimes I do have tasks of my own I have to complete and can't keep leading them around, well I could and do but, it does get very annoying because then before my bedtime I am playing catch up at times because now I have incomplete tasks. I know it's part of parenting and part of the package and all but, I do wish I could help my children to stay focused and occupied more than say 5-10 minutes on a task before they get bored with it and are needing me again to have to help them in a direction again.
When my kids sit in their room, the purpose is to change their hearts. If they come out and are just as grumpy and unfocused, or refusing to co-operate, they havent changed their hearts. So they go back to the room. Sometimes I have to give them guided questions to help them process where their heart is at. Why have I sent you in your room? What is it that is going on in your heart? They need to acknowledge what wrong/sin is in their heart. They need to apologise and ask for forgiveness for it and then be ready to move on (to do the thing you asked them to do in the first place).
When they come out, with a changed heart, they go back to the same activity. No more choices. This activity has to be worked on until whatever time was said at the beginning. I must admit sometimes I do actually start the timer again. Giving them the full 30-60minutes on this project Id make this choice if it was helpful to train them, not because they wanted it.
You are right, we cant be entertaining our kids all the time. They have to learn to be productive for themselves. This does take training though especially if they havent had much practice at it. Take the training in small steps. It helps if their choices are in keeping with their passions and talents. If it is school work, chores or something that I have decided has to happen then we jump straight to the unteachable heart training and they dont get a choice.
If your kids are only focusing for 5-10 minutes on the activities you are giving them then I suggest that you do some focusing training. This is where you clear your plate from commitments and just focus on training them to focus. This involves limiting choices, and expanding the time from 5 minutes, to 8 minutes, to 12 minutes, to 20 minutes, etc. till they can work on what they have been told to work on for the set time. You need to be clear of distractions because you need to be able to deal with the consequences and heart attitudes fully else you are just compounding the situation.
The other aspect to consider is if they have the skills required. To do a task requires the knowledge (know how in your head) the skills (for your hands to know what to do) and for the heart (the will to do it). All three need to be trained. Often we give instructions expecting our kids to know what to do and then get frustrated when they dont. Which one of these areas are not trained? That needs to be our training focus.
I hate when I do this. Ugh! So, probable doesn't help, but you aren't alone.