Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

20 Tammuz 5761 - July 11, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family
My Child is Bored
by A. Ross

Children are not born bored. Their eyes and ears are wide open to explore this wonderful world full of adventures. Their fingers are into everything, as all mothers know only too well. This is exploration, it is certainly not boredom. Some mothers have told me that the word `bored' is not part of the vocabulary in their house. So how can we prevent this frequent whine of "What shall I doooo?"

If a mother goes out to work and comes home tired at around the same time that her children return from school, she has to make sure that the meal is prepared in advance. Hungry children whine, and that raises tension in the house. The child or children sit down to their meal, and mother has a drink and perhaps feeds the baby at the same time. She is there to hear the children's experiences from the morning, and to rejoice or sympathize with them as the occasion warrants. Ideally, the little ones then go for a nap and the older children clear the table and then either return to school or do their homework or otherwise occupy themselves for an hour, so that Mother can have an hour of peace and quiet.

Even if a woman does not go out to work, it is almost axiomatic that some time between the early hours of the morning till late in the evening, she will need one hour to relax, away from all demands [including the phone]. This will make her a better and calmer mother. However, it is futile to expect children to occupy themselves without making sure that each one has an occupation. Some mothers ask a baby sitter or older sister to take the children out for an hour or two so that she can sleep in the afternoon. This is not an `occupation' which is under discussion just now. I am referring to picture books or crayons and paper. Nothing where the child can even imagine that it is `hard' and needs to ask for help! If need be, they can be shown a clock and told that until the big hand reaches a certain point, Mommy will be `out.' Many women complain that it just doesn't work. It works if the mother starts this routine right from the beginning, when she has just one child.

When Mother has had her rest (it is never enough), it is time for her to begin the afternoon's activities. Buying more and ever more toys to occupy the children will not dissipate boredom. In the end, the best activities which never pale are connected with pencils, paper and scissors. Building apparatus such as lego is a very useful commodity. Board games are excellent if Mother is prepared to participate. If a mother sits down with the children and plays games with them each afternoon, she is doing them a greater service than if her house is spotlessly clean. People who ask, "But where do you get the time?" have their priorities wrong. The time is there for the children. Those children will not complain of being bored.

If there is a toddler who disrupts all games, Mother will either have to let him `join in' while keeping him on her knee, or let him do some interesting things on his own, like emptying the kitchen cabinets, especially the ones with saucepans, or the basket of clothespins etc.

Bigger children leave the house anyway, and are happy to be at home when the mother is around. But younger children need to get out once a day at least. Most children do not enjoy shopping, or standing while mother chats with friends. It is inevitable that sometimes, a mother has to take the little ones to the shops with her. However, if she can make it an interesting outing for them at the same time, by explaining things, pointing out, evoking questions and answering them, playing guessing games etc., all as a learning and fun experience, both mother and children will feel more fulfilled when they go home.

It is partly our attitude which aggravates this idea of boredom. A mother feels she has so much to do but doesn't consider her children as part of the occupation. If mothers were to realize that entertaining, stimulating and occupying children during the day is at least as important as the ironing, cooking and cleaning, and that it is far from a waste of time, they wouldn't feel that they `get nothing done' when the children are around.

Naturally, there are peak times when Mother really has to leave the children to their own devices. These times should be the exception and not the norm. The truth is that some children seem to be born with the power of concentration and can occupy themselves very well for hours at a time. The ones who never sit for any length of time and are always looking for different things to do almost from the time they learn to walk are much more of a challenge. The mother sends them out of the house at a very young age, not because they are bored, but because she doesn't know how to entertain them. How many mothers use boredom as an excuse to send their child to playgroup or kindergarten at a very early age! Furthermore, many send the children out for the afternoons as well.

Those children who find it difficult to concentrate on a toy for any length of time, often have one particular toy which does fascinate them. It could be a small car which will occupy them for a short while. It might be a nut and bolt. Each mother knows her own child best and if she can prolong the concentration, sometimes by sitting by and encouraging him, she will be doing the child a great service for the future, when he starts school. Some of these restless children will not touch a jigsaw puzzle. Some just need a mother's push and involvement to get them started. Others do seem to take an interest, as long as they are really simple and well within their ability. They might do the same puzzle over and over again. It could be boring for the onlooker, but the child is not bored.

I am not condemning mothers who send their child out even when they are not working because they feel s/he is bored. It is just a pity that they cannot enjoy their own children and that they give others the pleasure of seeing them develop. The advantage that children under the age of three who go to a play group or nursery get, is that they learn social skills and how to interact with other children a little earlier than the ones who stay at home longer. Does it matter? There are various opinions on the matter!


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.