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How to Get Your Children Through the Boredom of School

January 26, 2016

School IS boring. Let's be real. The big problem with boredom is that it decreases motivation in an overwhelming way. This is probably going to make everything you are trying to do for your child's future career as a rocket scientist plastic surgeon a bit tough to achieve. 

I mean, I understand my child when he says he is bored in school. As an attention deficit hyperactive child who couldn't sit still, I used to plan out the maximum number of bathroom breaks I could get away with per class. Once out there, I would take a quick run in the halls and grab a snack. If I could, I would run out again for a soda. I would bring them back and see how slowly I could open them, and then how silently and slowly I could chew each chip. I was constantly doodling (and constantly being reprimanded for it), my leg would never stop shaking as I anxiously sat there with the pressure building behind my eyes. If I ran out of chips, I would slowly rip pieces of paper to occupy my sanity...so yes, I understand. Boredom has been by far the largest annoyance in my life. Let's put it this way, I would honestly rather give birth than sit in an all day conference. Yes I would be that person electro-shocking myself to death in that famous boredom experiment.

Prof Wilson's team did the electric shock experiment to try to find out if quiet, solo thinking was unpleasant enough that people would actually prefer something nasty to happen. Sure enough, 18 of 42 people, more of them men than women, chose to give themselves at least one mild shock on the ankle when left alone for 15 minutes.
"It was kind of like a severe static shock, it was not a huge jolt, but it was a little painful," Prof Wilson told the BBC's Naked Scientists programme. "They seem to want to shock themselves out of boredom, so to speak."

The problem that exacerbates boredom is when your child doesn't have anything in his/her immediate mindset to feel positive about. When I was a child sitting there for hours, the things that were in most of my thoughts went along the lines of:

  • ‍It is hard to listen. This is not giving my brain the same kind of pleasure as direct attention or playing video games.
  • ‍ I don't know why I'm learning this. This has nothing to do with anything I want to do in the next hour, maybe day, maybe week, probably forever.
  • It is hard to sit still. My body was made to move, I'm young and I have all of this energy...so much that I feel uncomfortable and stressed being forced to suppress it.

These were all true for me then as it is now, but as a young child, I hadn't developed the coping mechanisms to be okay with it.

So how do we give or children the tools to be able to cope? It is helpful to first let them understand that you hear and understand them. Then we want to incentivize them with long term goals to add more perspective as to why they are sitting there and suffering. (By the way, if your child actually likes school and learning, then that's awesome for you. I'm sure some kids in some town somewhere like school and their parents never have to beg them to do their homework ...somewhere ...remote ...in a town that doesn't exist on a map anywhere).

Actively listen and acknowledge their feelings.

I tell my son that I find everything to be boring but I have two choices. I can be upset about it or I can figure out ways to cope with it. That can include challenging myself further to keep my mind occupied, exercising to take the edge off and being creative in avoiding idleness in general. I put it on him to come up with things and to report back to me if he's found anything that works for him.

When it comes to incentives, we want to provide "purpose", "empathy", "social proof" and "accomplishment" as a way to help them cope with something that is uncomfortable in the short term. The more positive things we can add to their direct mindset, the better they will be able to rationalize why they are there. This will help them mitigate their feelings of boredom with the joy of working towards something they do want.


Reinforce the positive aspects of education. Explain that the ability to read will give them independence, allow them to know what is going on around them and open the door to a treasure trove of information available on the web and in literature for whatever they could need to know. The ability to communicate will enable them to explain and promote their own ideas to others, and challenge the things they don't agree with. Doing well in school will make it easier for them to choose the job they want because they will have more options available to them.

Follow this up with social proof

As their parent, you know the people and things that your children look up to and are excited about. Use your creativity to come up with anecdotes that tie these things to what they are learning in school. Examples like these make what you are trying to say real. It could be knowing what is inside the packaging of a toy they want (reading), or even being able to tell if they have enough money to buy something or not (basic math).

Change how they view the class situation by teaching them sympathy through empathy.

I like to tell my son to think about the teacher as a real person and not someone who is trying to control him. I explain how every morning, she wakes up in her house, and gets worried that she will be late as well just like we do. (We sometimes see her running ahead of us on the street going to school which makes my story even more credible. Thanks teacher for running late!) I explain how it's probably immensely tiring trying to motivate all of the kids to learn but that she's there because she cares about their future. I explain that she doesn't get paid that much to do this job, that it's hard and that's why he should look for ways to help make her day easier. I tell him that she's probably exhausted at the end of the day, but if he does one thing to help her, she probably sits in her bed and smiles thinking about it. (We mothers love to add guilt to everything right?)

Another way to get them to think outside of themselves is to show them that in many areas of the world, education is a privilege that only a few lucky individuals may access. Give them some perspective on how maybe one day in the future, they may be in a situation where they can try to solve big problems like this and how education may empower that.


This is how you tie up the ends with a bang. One way are the reviews. You may sound like a broken record for a little while but keep repeating all of the benefits of education back to your child, especially as you show excitement when rewarding bonus dollars for effort you see in their work. Ask them if they helped their teacher and if they have an answer, give more bonus dollars to make this effort memorable. If they can tell you how they coped with their boredom this week award it to encourage more out of the box thinking.

Pretty much any situation in life can be improved in some way by how we approach it. Giving your child the process for how to problem solve their own dilemmas will ensure that you will always be with them, even if you can't be.

We hope this gives you some ideas of your own. As always, Happy Parenting!

Lisa Chin Mollica has dedicated her life to creating user experiences for adults and children on the web, mobile and in product. She lives in Brooklyn NY with her husband who is a Lieutenant in the FDNY, her two toddlers ages 4 and 6 and their dog Nestle who never stops shedding.

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Legal: The opinions expressed here are anecdotal and solely my own. All data and information provided on this site is for informational purposes only. KidCash.com makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.

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