“Mom, I’m booored.”
It’s a constant sing-song at home and pretty much anywhere we go.We could have crafted a car out of toilet rolls, baked cupcakes and got chocolate batter on my kitchen walls,or waiting at the checkout line of the super market; the place and time doesn’t matter, the statement is uninterrupted.
But, here’s the thing: If your kid is bored, it’s not their fault : It’s ours. If kids don’t have the dexterity to handle boredom, it’s because we as parents haven’t taught our kids how to be bored.
We are raising the first “all-technology” generation. But we are also brewing the first ‘solve the problem right away’ style of parenting. And somewhere along the pressures of being a good parent and trying to add marks on our parenting report card, we forget to teach our kids how to cope with life’s boring moments without the urge to press mute or fast forward.
Handling Boredom: Why It’s Good for Your Child
For everyone that believes being bored is not ok – it actually is extremely beneficial for children. I’ve seen my ‘bored’ children go from being cranky, frustrated, grinding their teeth, annoyed to literally pulling apart each other’s hair ; to then creating the most imaginative games or pieces of art quietly on their own, with no assistance.
Boredom Fosters Creativity
We were raised without today’s structure, supervision and stimulation. We devised our own amusement; we created a hotel reception out of a study table, constructed a play tent with two chairs and a blanket and wearing mom’s heels as we walked down the aisle was bonus play day rewards.
We knew how to be bored. It was in that quiet space and stillness where we became imaginative, inventive, introspective and inspired — where we became ourselves. When kids actually have time to be bored, creativity and innovation emerges and they might just discover something new about themselves.
Boredom Fosters Independence
By constantly fixing a structure for them, kids become dependent on external resources to fill in for the boring moments. They become used to entertainment and stimulation being delivered to them on a platter rather than truly experiencing boredom. Give them an opportunity to tap into their own internal resources to gain a sense of confidence and independence rather than always providing for.
Remember when we taught our babies how to self-soothe? Whether we eventually removed the pacifier or let them cry it out, they learned how to be self-reliant.
Boredom Fosters Self- Drive, Determination and Motivation
It’s important that we continue to encourage and motivate them, but it’s imperative that they sometimes learn to fall and stand up all by themselves. Allow them to pick activities for themselves, and let their minds wander, to pursue their own interests and ambitions and to discover who they are–separate from their screens.
Here are some ideas on how you can help bring the boredom back and help foster their creativity, independence and determination:
Reduce the screen time
Today, screen time has replaced “downtime” and we are raising “double-screeners”. Few kids have the attention span to sit and read a book, play a board game or even watch a TV show or movie on the big screen, without ANOTHER screen in their hand.Yes technology is here to stay, but balance is the key here. There is nothing wrong with technology, but it is a TOOL, not a way of being in the world.. Our children do not need total on-line privacy. They need boundaries, accountability, insight, and infinite grace – just like we do. Begin by saying no to the iPad at the dinner table and turn off the television well before bed time. Seriously, does a kid need to watch Peppa Pig to get a peaceful goodnight sleep?
Sure there will be bickering and lots of dramatics at first, but keep your stand and you’ll see boredom shine. They’ll eventually find a way to read a book before bed and spend time setting up a play tent instead of watching an episode of Sponge bob
Don’t always over-schedule
Play schools, summer camps, winter camps,spring camps,autumn camps (ah!the list is endless). While as a parent, I realize it’s the most convenient way of learning, it isn’t necessarily always the best. It can be counter-productive most time. I don’t need to send mini-me to a camp just because everyone on my mommy whats app group is. Know what works best for your own child and when it’s too much, set limits between structured and unstructured time.
Train delayed gratification
As a parent, our natural tendency is to provide, but begin to train delayed gratification early on in parenting. ‘I want this toy!” “We get it when we go to Hamleys in the evening”, ” I am bored!” “Use my phone”, “I want chewing gum” “finish your meal and you get chewing gum”. We have the best intentions — to make our children happy — but unfortunately, we make them happy at the moment but miserable in the long term.
Instead, make them wait – it’s ok to have ‘I am bored” moments multiple times in the day – this is the first step to creativity. Gradually increase the waiting time between “I want” and “I get” and avoid handing out a reward every time they do something they are supposed to be doing. The school doesn’t hand out candy bars for reaching school on time!
Resist the Role of being Director -Entertainment & Fun
We have created an artificial fun world for our children. There are no dull moments. The moment it becomes quiet, we run to entertain them again, because otherwise, we feel that we are not doing our parenting duty. When kids complain that they are bored, resist the urge to “fix it.” Remember the pacifier? Instead of turning on the TV, handing over their phone or driving them somewhere, let them be bored. Sit back, relax and watch what they come up with.
Be a role model
The traffic signal scene outside school is typical – Mom on her phone, kids in the back seat with iPads, tablets, etc. Let’s show our kids that we are able to detach ourselves from technology regularly, accept boredom and discover ourselves. Through our own actions, our kids can learn how to handle boredom without always wanting the latest xBox, the iPhone 8 and the Netflix password to drown-out or fast forward the boring parts.
Increase social interactions
Unfortunately, technology replaced the outdoor time. Also, technology made the parents less available to socially interact with their kids. We need to teach them to communicate with others without texting. An app can teach my child english and a cartoon can teach my child a moral lesson, but technology has a far way to go before it’s actually able to help kids develop social skills. You can’t stand in a boardroom and deliver you product presentation through Whatsapp text!
So next time when your child says to you they’re bored, instead of reeling off options or handing them a screen, why not simply say, “Great! Soon the magic will begin” and walk away. They’ll probably think you’re crazy at that moment, but in the race of life – they sure are going to be grateful!