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Q: We live in the country and my 7-year-old son is bored out of his mind. He desperately wants to move to the city where he can have neighbors and play with other kids. From the time he gets home from school to the time he goes to bed, he complains of having nothing to do. He has never really been interested in playing with toys so I can kind of sympathize with him because I grew up in the city and was constantly outside playing with my friends. The problem is my husband refuses to move out of the country. Any thoughts?
A: If your husband refuses to move to the city (I don’t blame him), then your son is going to have to make the most of living in the country. After all, lots of kids grow up in rural areas and aren’t bored.
I suspect that your well-intentioned sympathy for his “plight” is causing him to complain all the more, and the more he complains the more he convinces himself that there’s nothing for him to do (which isn’t true). My first suggestion, therefore, is that you stop sympathizing with him. The next time he brings up how bored he is, say, “This is where your father and I have decided to live, and that’s that. We’re no longer going to talk about how bored you are. There are plenty of kids who would change places with you in a heartbeat. So, your job is to stop complaining and find ways to occupy your time.” In short, you need to starve this grumbling of attention.
My second suggestion is for you and dad to help your son develop a hobby or get him involved in an after-school activity where he can exercise social skills as well as broaden his interests. Invite a classmate or teammate to spend the afternoon once or twice a week and maybe even spend the occasional weekend night. Get to know families in your rural area that have children your son’s age and invite them over. Maybe they can show him how fun living in the country can be.
This little guy needs to learn how to occupy his time creatively, but some assistance from you and dad is going to be necessary to jump-start the process.

Q: When our play group meets at a home other than our own, my nearly 3-year-old wants to leave within 30 minutes. When I try to persuade him to stay, he becomes very agitated and then starts to scream. I’ve tried distracting him and having him sit out of the group for a while, but nothing has worked. I feel if I leave and take him home he wins. Do you have any suggestions that might help us get through this phase?
A: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I think toddler play groups (with mothers present) are an invitation to disaster. These experiences are of minimal social value, if they have any value at all, at this age. I much prefer “mothers’ morning out” programs because kids this age do much better in small groups if their moms aren’t present. So my advice is to “let him win.” Quit the group and use the time to go to a park a couple of mornings a week — just the two of you. You’ll both have a lot more fun.

Rosemond, a family psychologist, answers questions at his Web site:
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