The other day I overheard a child tell his teacher he didn’t want to go home. Why not? “Because it’s boring.” As soon as I heard him I started to wonder what he really meant. I never got to find out as the teacher started cajoling him with all the exciting things he could do at home that evening.
We all say what we mean all the time, yes?
I’m sure you do, and I will admit that at times I might not completely either. 😉
Children are no different. At times it’s obvious – ‘it wasn’t me’ said with chocolate-covered-face, and other times a whole lot more subtle.
I don’t like geography! Why not? It’s boring.
I don’t like play time. Why not? It’s boring.
I don’t want to go home. Why not? It’s boring.
I don’t want to go to school. Why not? It’s boring.
I don’t want to be in the football team anymore. Why not? It’s boring.
You bored yet?!
If you are around children at all, this one may seem obvious, but it is a keeper for cracking the code of child communication: when a child says “it’s boring” that may not be what they really mean.
There are occasions when a child might accurately and appropriately use the word boring. However, in my experience, 80-90% of the time BORING is code for ….. All sorts of things.
I can’t do it.
I feel scared.
I don’t understand.
Children pick on me.
I don’t have any friends.
The teacher shouts a lot.
I don’t feel safe.
I don’t like what happens there.
I’m scared of getting it wrong…
The little one I overheard wasn’t encouraged or inspired by thoughts of what he could do that evening.
He had reached out in code and not been understood.
The teacher was talking a different language.
Answering a child with solutions for why home, football, school or anywhere else isn’t really boring, or listing off things they can do to make it not boring could be missing the precious point.
How can you reply to this statement when you don’t know what it really means?
I don’t think you can. And instead of guessing and trying or assuming, I wonder what might happen if we, the grown-ups, put all our energy into acknowledging there might be some code language going on, and be willing to engage further.
If a child reaches out to us in code, we can’t assume that they want us to help them decipher it, but we could surely foster an attitude of curiosity and wonder what they have hiding behind their ‘Boring’.
There are certain things we can say and do that increase or decrease communication at times like this. If you want to get better at dancing through these moments in a way that builds trust and keeps the child emotionally safe, try out some of the 5 Communications Cues for getting Beyond Boring that are available download for FREE. Print them off and keep to hand for when you need a reminder.