Overcoming boredom is a skill that needs to be taught.

Does your child have “BID (Boredom Intolerance Disorder)?”

Don’t Google it or look it up on WebMd.  I made it up.

Let’s look at boredom intolerance.  To start, If 100 kids (or adults for that matter) were asked, “How many of you would like to take part in a boring lecture today,” I would venture to say that not a hand would go up? If the same kids were asked, “How many of you think you could tolerate a boring lecture,” I would predict a fair number (perhaps about 50%) could tolerate the lecture.

Children with executive function issues (i.e., problems with initiating activity, sustaining mental effort, and inattentiveness among other behaviors) typically have great difficulty managing their boredom.

Boredom Intolerance Descriptions

Reports from parents describe it well.

Here are some common descriptions:

  • “It’s like he can’t stand doing his homework. In five minutes flat he’s groaning that ‘It’s sooooo boring.’”
  • “Getting him to read is painful. You’d think we were hurting him.”
  • “Last week in church it was like he was jumping out of his skin during the sermon. Was the sermon exciting? No?  But why couldn’t he deal with it?”

Executive function deficits represent weak, floppy internal “rudders” or internal steering mechanisms.  For the kids who can tolerate the boring lecture or the sermon they probably have some kind of internal dialogue like the following,  ”Wow, this is really boring.  I can’t wait for it to be over, but I will try and stay focused.”

Not so with our heroes who have BID.  There is little to no “self-talking” or “self-calming” strategies (common shrink terms).  They react to the boredom almost instantaneously.  They must get out of the situation.  “It’s sooooooo boring.”  It’s intolerable.

What’s to be done?

Teaching Kids to Combat Boredom

Tolerating boredom is a skill to be learned and practiced.

Empathy can go a long way. For example, before going to church or synagogue, you may say something like, “Look, I know it’s boring and you will have some trouble with it, but it means a lot to us that we are all there as a family.”

Helping to bring reality to a child’s head is also something that can be done.  “School can be boring.  I know the teacher tries to make it fun, but she can’t all the time.  It’s not meant to be entertaining. You have to try and find ways of dealing with it.  You’re good with pictures.  Try and make picture notes of what the teacher is saying or what you are reading. That might make it more interesting.”

Takeaway Point

It’s boring out there.  We have to help them deal with it.

In other words, learning to tolerate boredom by degrees goes a long way.