When your kid tells you that they’re bored, it can be a difficult thing to believe. How? How dare they be bored with their approximately 17 million toys, games and all the random childhood detritus that carpets the floor of their room or playroom or your whole house?
They have no job, no bills, just free time stretching out indefinitely, and yet here they are, in the kitchen, where you are attempting to throw something together for dinner. They blink up at you for a while, and then their voice takes on that grating, high-pitched whine of someone you’re not going to be able to stand in about five minutes, telling you how very bored they are.
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It is very easy to run through your repertoire of comebacks quickly so that you are little more than white noise. Saying “seriously?” or “you’re not bored, you’re boring” will do little to stem the tide of whininess, which is, of course, the main goal. So here are some other things to say so your routine doesn’t get, well, boring.
1. “Bored? I thought your name was [name].” (Trust us, kids love this joke. They just pretend to hate it.)
2. “Great news! I’ve got a list of chores that ought to keep you occupied for days. Which one do you want first?”
3. “So you’re completely done with every toy you own? I can give them all to charity now?”
4. “Whoa. You’re telling me your bike, your Xbox and your guitar have all vaporized simultaneously. Freaky.”
5. Make a conspicuous show of looking out into the yard, and then say, “Phew, it’s all still there. I thought you couldn’t go outside because Ragnarök finally came to pass.”
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6. “Thank goodness, because I’m swamped. Here, you make dinner, and I’ll go read a book.”
7. Exaggeratedly: “Bored? Oh, no! My poor, sweet, tortured little angel! How can the world go on cruelly turning like this when you’re bored? Unconscionable, I say! Inconceivable…” Go on and on like that until they leave. Shouldn’t take long. If it does, hug them, and rock back and forth to “soothe” them while you go on.
8. “You know what’s endlessly fascinating? The inner workings of clogged shower drains. All you need is a screwdriver, a flashlight and a bucket to puke into. Here, let me go get them for you…”
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9. “Oh my God, I have to call my friends and let them know that my daughter — my very own daughter — has read every book that has ever been written in the history of forever. Here, grab this spatula while I go share the exciting news.”
10. “Well, I’m happy for the company if you want to chat for a while.” Hey, maybe they’ll even take you up on it.
11. “Ugh, me too. Isn’t it just the worst?”
12. “I’m terribly sorry to hear that.”
Honestly, sometimes the best thing you can do is just say nothing. Being bored isn’t bad for your kids, and disengaging from the situation increases the odds of them fixing their boredom themselves. It’s sort of like having a picky eater — just like your kid won’t starve themselves, they also won’t spontaneously combust from boredom. Eventually, if it gets unpleasant enough for them, they’ll take action and fix it themselves.
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Of course, if you prefer to put away the snark, you can certainly offer to do something with them and not for them. There’s no need to run out and buy brand-new games and toys or sign them up for expensive basket-weaving lessons. But if you have the time and they have an extreme case of acute boredom-induced whining, offer to go for a walk or to play a casual game of Uno or to just sit down to talk. Either they’ll be horrified at the idea and wander off to go whine at someone else, or they’ll take you up on it, and the afternoon will improve substantially for the both of you.
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