On Bored Kids, Obsessive Compulsive Disorders

Dr. Fran Walfish Answers Your Questions

Q. Dear Dr. Fran: I have seen a growing number of kids complaining to their parents that they are bored. When moms pick up their children after school and say we’re going to piano lessons, karate, or tutoring the kids often say: “That’s boring!” Can you please address this issue in your column?       BHUSD Elementary School Principal

A. Dear Principal: Today more than ever, moms complain to me that their children are bored.

Some moms are clueless to the fact that they participated in raising kids who expect to be entertained and occupied at all times.

Kids no longer rely on their own imagination, creativity, and curiosity to develop interest in activities outside of electronics.  Electronics have added to kids feeling bored.

If the activity does not offer the same immediate response as the computer, video games, or iPad then the kid isn’t motivated to hang in and wait for a delayed response.

Beginning at age 13-15 months, moms should set their toddler safely on the floor surrounded by toys. Sit with your toddler and play with him.

Then, tell your child.  “Mommy is going to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and Mommy will be back in two minutes to watch you play.”

Be sure to return in two minutes, as promised, so he learns to trust your word.

Help your toddler get used to playing by himself, or occupying  himself. This lays the foundational bricks and mortar for separation and independent play. As your child grows, you can expand the solo play time in short increments by one or two minutes as he learns to engage in autonomous play.

When your 7- or 8-year-old whines: “I’m bored,” you can respond with genuine empathy and compassion:  “Yes, and it’s good practice to be bored so you can find something to occupy yourself with.”

Many children also whine that they’re bored when an activity is challenging or difficult. These kids would rather give up and walk away than hang in and wrestle with the struggle.

Parents need to understand that each experience of boredom gives your child a chance to grow (emotionally). As you begin the enjoy summer break, I hope my message offers parents food for thought. Embrace every opportunity to let your child deal with his or her boredom and prevail on the side of mastery.

Q. Dear Dr. Fran: I’m wondering if you can explain pathological grooming, focusing on nail biting, hand washing, hair pulling and cutting, skin picking, tattooing and piercing, excessive tanning, showering, plastic surgery. I need to understand these conditions and what pushes people toward these behaviors.                     James V.

A. Dear James: Each one of the examples you list of pathological grooming, including nail biting, hand washing, hair pulling and cutting, skin picking, tattooing and piercing, etc., all fall under the spectrum of obsessive compulsive behaviors.

This is different from obsessive compulsive disorders, which is a fancy term for perfectionism.

The OCD behaviors are rooted in anxiety. The individual feels a tinge of uncomfortable anxiety and the learned behavior (pathological grooming) reduces the anxiety momentarily. It is a way of not dealing directly with uncomfortable feelings. The pathological grooming behaviors then become habits.

These habits are best treated with behavior modification techniques sometimes concurrent with anti-anxiety medication.

Tattooing and piercing are choices usually made by people who are anti-establishment and rebellious.

Plastic surgery is more commonly motivated by insecurity.

Dr. Fran Walfish–Beverly Hills psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent at www.-DrFranWalfish.com. Send questions to franwalfish@gmail.com. 

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