What?! Did you expect that wide-eyed exuberance to last all summer? Did you actually believe the boundless energy displayed on their last day of school-- when heads were filled with the sweet thoughts of summertime fancies-- would carry through Labor Day?
To a child, summertime is a whole pack of bubble gum; or the curiously enchanting Christmas present, wrapped, under the tree and waiting. And like these delights, at the first opportunity, summertime is attacked with reckless abandon, consumed quickly and then soon...put aside. How do children become bored with the very things that previously seemed to render such interest and pleasure?
From the time we are very young we learn to seek immediate gratification. Actually, during the acquisition of a behavior, immediate and frequent reinforcement will increase the likelihood of that behavior recurring. Once it is available in conscious awareness, the behavior is best maintained through partial (delayed) reinforcement. Thus, for example, if a parent wishes her son to hang up his clothes rather than throwing them...wherever, praise, tangible rewards and so forth, immediately following each correct occasion is useful. Later, when the behavior occurs at a desired level, rewards can become intermittent and still maintain its occurrence.
The point is that children will frequently take as much as possible, as soon as possible! They generally do not restructure their own schedules of reinforcement to reflect delays. Can you imagine a child saying, "Thank you for the candy, mom. But maybe you should hold it until after dinner so I don't spoil my appetite." Not likely. A child will consume an entire candy bar at once ("I'll deal with indigestion later!"); play with a toy or game acquired as a gift ad infinitum until it wears out it's welcome, and "use up" a summer's worth of activities in just a few weeks.
Hence, by August, boredom sets in. What's a parent to do? Relax. It's just another case of your child's having experienced too much of a good thing. A useful alternative to panicking involves either offering your child more good things, or making those offered last longer.

  • 1- Try a little contingency contracting. Nothing makes a particular entity seem more attractive than having to work for it. "Bored, Jimmy? Tell you what. You know how I've been asking you to clean your room? Well, if I come home this evening and the bed is made, all your clothes are hanging or in drawers and your games are stored neatly, I will take you and one friend to the movies." On a broader scale, perhaps a child can earn "points" toward an extensive activity or privilege such as: two weeks at camp, having a friend spend the weekend, a shopping spree or a summertime house party, by performing specified tasks. "Cindy, you have been moping around for the past five days looking very bored. Tell you what. Remember the party you asked to have back in June? We will allow it for up to twenty people within the next two weeks if you help us with certain chores. Interested? Each completed chore will be worth a certain number of points toward a total necessary for the party. You can select form among several chores, those having point values that lead to the total required for the party. Understand?"
  • 2- Plan ahead to avoid disaster. Anticipate that your child will likely become bored at some point during the summer. This could seriously impact your ability to conduct your own necessary activities. Enroll him (her) in an organized program-- day (or overnight) camp, town park recreation programs, special interest clinics (academic, athletic, artistic)-- or arrange to have your child visit out-of-town relatives or friends. Perhaps a family outing to places of interest and enjoyment is within your means.

Where your children are concerned, awakening the creative part of you can end their boredom and help plan some for yourself...as a relief.