One day, we were traveling by car six about hours away from our home town. I got food for the kids so they wouldn't feel hungry during the ride, and they were soon tucking in.
But after about five hours, my youngest daughter asked for a sandwich. By this time they were gone, so I told her that they had all been eaten, and I offered her biscuits or some vegetables that she likes, but she refused to eat those and insisted she wanted a sandwich.
Why Boredom Doesn't Always Sound like “I'm Bored”
She started to cry and said, “Mom, I'm hungry. I need a sandwich now. How could you keep me hungry, how could you do this to your little daughter?”
She was so serious! I wanted to laugh but I controlled myself. I knew that the ride was too long, and that she was feeling so bored that she had decided to use the idea of needing a sandwich to get some of her emotions out.
I said “I'm sorry. I can see that you are hungry, but I have only biscuits and veggies to offer.”
Just as she started to cry out loud, an image on her t-shirt grabbed my attention. It was of the Angry Bird cartoon characters, so I asked her, “Are the birds on your shirt hungry too?”
She looked at her t-shirt, but continued crying.
So I looked at the characters and talked to the them, “Are you hungry like Toty?
She replied. “Yes they are hungry and need sandwiches just like me!”
I said, “Yes! I know they need sandwiches. But let me ask them, “Hey Birds, if you don't have sandwiches, what you will eat instead?
One Simple Way To Lighten Tension
Nobody replied, but my daughter stopped crying and started laughing.
“Hello, are you asleep or what?” I said, to the silent birds.
I guess she was thinking of something to say.
“They may want a cheese sandwich,” she said after a while, and then waited for my next question.
In a funny voice, I said, “I don't have any sandwiches, birds, do you care for some biscuits?
So she said, “Yes! Give them some!”
As I handed over the biscuits, Toty was giggling.
She held them in front of her shirt. “Here you go! Delicious biscuits! See how I eat them?
And she ate the biscuits and asked for more for her and for the birds.
For the rest of the trips, she was peaceful and happy.
How A Playful Response Relieves Tensions
When you know that your kid has big emotions brewing and really needs to get them out, laughter is a great tool. Responding playfully to minor upsets shows a child that you are there, you are listening, and that everything is safe – and that you are ready for some fun! If your child is signaling boredom, by asking for snacks or drinks, or other diversions, and you set a limit that brings on some tears, you know those emotions are ready to spill. If you find that your attempts at laughter don't produce giggles, if your child gets more upset and annoyed, try listening and offering some gentle support as he or she cries. At Hand in Hand, we call this tool Staylistening. Read about it here.
Read about how a playful response can also help with whining
Don't feel playful? This could help! What If I'm Just Not A Playful Parent?