Boredom, decisions and the four year old

Lyra has been going through a phase where she isn’t interested in making her own decisions. Every morning I offer her breakfast and she refuses everything I offer, so I follow up with asking her what she wants. She replies, “I don’t know, what should I have?” The same happens at lunch. Dinner is whatever I make, so she doesn’t have the same options… but she’ll happily go without eating much for breakfast or lunch, and subsisting on snacks instead.

I’ve figured out that she’s waiting for me to offer her the ‘treat’ option for food — berries or crackers or something that we don’t have every day. But there are reasons we don’t have those things every day, and I’m not giving in to that. So she just doesn’t eat as much as she could. I’m confident that she’s still healthy, since her energy is still as high as it’s ever been.

Lyra loves her berriesThe other thing she’s been doing lately is demanding that Adam or I entertain her. She walks up to us and half-whines, “What should we dooooo?” to which we respond with a couple of suggestions (usually ones she rejects). Sometimes it’s because she’s looking for us to offer a specific thing (a computer game, Netflix, going swimming, going to the playground), and sometimes I think it’s just that she’s bored and stuck in that bored loop where you’re so bored you can’t actually motivate yourself to do anything. I admit it, I know that loop well.

For the first week or so after she started this, we tried to provide her with options, or play with her ourselves as much as we could. It didn’t seem to help the core issue, though… in fact it made her worse, and she started asking “What should I doooooo??” every few minutes. It was driving us completely mad.

So we stopped helping and told her to figure something out for herself. That led to more whining and crying, which we ignored. And eventually she walked away, went to her room, and picked up her animal toys or her cars and started playing with them. It worked!

She keeps asking the question, thought not as often, and she’s accepting it when we tell her to go do something on her own. I’m pretty sure these are skills she’s going to need for the rest of her life — I still have trouble with being bored and wanting someone else to tell me how to fix it. If she can learn to entertain herself now, she’ll be a step ahead of me.

It’s the tiny victories that make it all worthwhile.