I am an incredibly boring parent.
Of course, part of this is down to my personality, but a large part of my remarkable boringness is by deliberate design. I believe that being boring is a useful part my parental arsenal.
I am surprised that being boring isn’t more frequently suggested in parenting manuals. I have found it helpful on many occasions.
A certain degree of boringness is vital for regulating children. But there is more to boredom than just that!
So, here are three main uses of boring your children. It is so handy, there may well be more, but three will do for now.
1) Teaching children creativity. This is probably the best known use of boring a child. Craft shops and Arts teachers would like us all to believe that creativity can be taught by demonstrations, that children will naturally be creative if you do arts and crafts activities with them. I have not found this to be the case. It is cheaper and quicker to leave some arts materials out and then make no suggestions at all. Give your children nothing to do and they will have to find something by themselves. Boredom unleashes creativity.
2) Extinguishing undesirable behaviour. I have frequently bored my children into stopping certain behaviours by always responding in the same flat and uninteresting way. It has really helped with whining and rude language. You do have to be careful not to annoy your child rather than boring them! But, if you succeed in being boring and predictable in your dull reaction, some behaviours will simply stop. Children don’t really like being bored and would rather do something that gets you interested and interesting.
3) Persuading children to do something they would rather not do. We are very sparing with this. It is mainly used for important hygiene tasks. If the boys simply refuse to comply I sometimes employ my ‘nothing will happen until you wash your hands’ rule. I do absolutely nothing until they wash their hands. Sometimes their hands have been in very unpleasant places.
This even has limited success in getting children to sleep. Boring books (ideally pitched just a little too old, so the child sort of enjoys it, but finds the plot moves too slowly and there is a bit too much description) and repetitive songs have sent my children to sleep too many nights to count.
Boring children is basically harmless. It doesn’t cause children any real stress, NIR does it arouse Shane. But it encourages children to get creative and try something new, whether that’s play dough or hand washing or thinking of a pleasant thing to say.
Of course, there are hundreds of circumstances when it isn’t helpful at all. But, there are times when nothing is quite as handy as being the most boring mummy possible.