Chagit Zelcer
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Breaking the cycle

(free canva)

It’s that time of the year again. Summer vacation approaching.

Needless to say, this past school year has been a far cry from the standard set-up.  Coronavirus, lockdown, distance-learning and social distancing have changed our lives and lifestyles, often beyond recognition.  Families have sustained losses of loved ones, losses of income and have lost of much of the routine that was taken for granted as a ‘given’ in their lives.

Yet somehow, the summer vacation looming ahead is perceived in much the same mindset as usual.

This mindset manifests itself mostly by parents being wary of their children being bored. Here are some of the dry facts re boredom:

  • The first known use of bored was in 1823. That would be nearly 200 years ago.

So it seems that ‘boredom’ wasn’t around since the beginning of time. More likely it evolved as a result of sociological and economic dynamics in an era of many changes in society and the world in general.

Here’s some more food for thought relating to boredom.

  • The antonyms for ‘bored’ according to Merriam-Webster are as follows: absorbed, engaged, engrossed, interested and intrigued.

This leads us to understand that a child who claims to be bored is most  likely not absorbed, engaged, engrossed, interested and intrigued.  In that case one of the following scenarios is possible:

Scenario number 1: The parents search for solutions, activities, etc. to ease the boredom/make child happy.  This quest is accompanied and often instigated by guilt… or at the least, a feeling of failure to meet the standards of proper parenting.  Being well aware of this, modern marketing strategies generously offer any and every option to alleviate   the threat of boredom, and the accompanying inferior feelings that strike the parent.

Scenario number 2: The child changes the status of being bored.  He can become absorbed, engaged, engrossed, interested or intrigued. More often than not the child has been offered options to alleviate ‘boredom’.  Actually, the child can even initiate activities on his own!  This is applicable even at a relatively young age.

In the first scenario, the parent feels responsible for the child’s contentment and acts accordingly.  In the second, it’s totally in the child’s hands.

In which case is the child more content?

Clearly, the child is more content in the second scenario. Interestingly, that’s when the responsibility is his. Needless to say, in that case the parent too is happier/less stressed out. It’s a win-win!

The antidote for boredom is to be occupied.  It’s elementary.  The million dollar question is: If the solution is so simple then why does the combination of the words “I’m bored” strike terror in the hearts of so many parents nowadays?

Since boredom is associated with discontent, when a child declares ‘I’m bored’ it seems to indicate that he isn’t happy.  According to the mantra that parents are responsible for the child’s contentment, the automatic conclusion when he claims to be bored is that the parents are evidently not living up to expectations.

When this occurs the weight of responsibility that a parent feels for the child’s happiness is in direct correlation to the dread he feels upon hearing these words, sometimes even unconsciously.

That’s what gets the cycle going-


graphics by Chagit Zelcer

The good news is that it’s a cycle that can be broken.  That’s the game-changer.  What it takes is for the parents (who are probably doing their best and more) to let go of the concept that they are responsible for their child’s boredom or lack of such.  Parents can’t cause their children not to be bored, what they can do is choose how they relate to the child’s behavior. The first step is to realize that notwithstanding all their good intentions, the child will be happy when he chooses so.  It’s not dependent on them worrying about what and how much they give him.  A child with simple wooden blocks or a good book could be just as content as one with all stock of ‘Toys R Us’ at his beck and call.

Getting a new perspective is the key to breaking the cycle.  The realization that boredom is overrated can be the first step to achieving a new dynamics resulting in – happy children as well as happy parents.

About the Author
Chagit Zelcer is a counselor and consultant in the Shefer Approach. Upon training at the Shefer Institute in Jerusalem, she became deeply committed to helping parents discover the joy of confident parenting through workshops as well as private consults. Realizing that many parents aspire to learn the concepts of the approach conveniently and in a user-friendly format she created 'SHEFERCOURSE', the online parenting course in the Shefer Approach in English, which enables parents a comprehensive learning experience from anywhere and at any time. In addition to parenting issues, Chagit also counsels married couples through workshops as well as private consultations in Hebrew and English.
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