“I’m soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo bored.” My coworkers and I were discussing our latest project when I received this text from my son. I had been in meetings most of the morning, being bored was the last thing on my mind, but it is summer break and so I can’t say I was totally surprised.
How about baking something with your sister?
Why don’t you draw some pictures?
Don’t feel like it
How about reading a book?
Play a board game.
Done, now I’m bored again.
Set up the dominos and knock them down
Maybe you can relate to having a similar “conversation” with one of your children? It’s tough for everyone involved. I tried thinking about what I did to occupy my days in the summer. I loved to read, so I could spend hours sitting with a book but if I had to think of something beyond that, nothing really stands out. I’m sure we spent time outside, which is difficult here in Phoenix where the temperatures are way too hot most of the day.
As parents we feel it is our responsibility to keep our children are occupied. I’m not sure when this began, but it seems like recent generations believe a “good parent” feels it is their responsibility to solve the “I’m bored” plea. We “help” them schedule their time with activities, however when there is nothing left on the calendar, they don’t what to do. In an article posted for Psychology Today, the author writes “Being bored has become this frightening and dreaded experience to which we parents must respond immediately. Boredom is not up to a kid to figure out anymore, it’s a parent’s issue and a parent’s problem. Boredom is a state that our children shouldn’t have to endure, and allowing our kids to experience it, not taking it seriously, might even be a sign of parental neglect. As we mistakenly imagine it, boredom is a case of a moment not fully lived, a moment deprived of interest. ”
The easy answer is to let them have their screens. They can watch YouTube or Netflix for hours on end or use their gaming device to play with friends. These devices are also their social connection to their friends, take away their device and you take away their friends…..that’ s blog for another day.
Getting back to our discussion about boredom, there are proven benefits. The one quoted most often is boredom increases creativity. Think about all the fantasy world adventures or games using mismatched items have been invented out of boredom? It is only when you are desperate to find something to do that your mind has permission to wander and draw connections with unlikely pairs. It’s not always easy to get our kids into this creative space, especially when they are so accustomed to having everything laid out for them, but if we are willing to be patient, creativity is always just under the surface. Our kids just need to find one thing they find interesting to be the spark.
Which leads me to another thought, what if my children don’t find anything interesting? Of course, this is an exaggeration, but sometimes it feels like it is true. You hear about the wonder kids who start their own business at the age of five or who have a fascination with computer programming as soon as their fingers hit the keys. What happens if your child doesn’t have that one driving passion (aside from wanting to be a YouTube star)? Maybe they haven’t found that one thing that lights them up yet, I know plenty of adults who haven’t either. Cultivating curiosity and exposing them to different ideas, topics, situations and opportunities is key.
The Psychology Today article I referenced earlier also says “Secondly, when a child says I’m bored, it’s because he can’t find anything that interests him. But where is he looking? Usually, he’s looking outside himself. When we say we’re bored, it’s because, in essence, we have nothing to distract ourselves from ourselves. We’re stuck with just ourselves and our own attention to pay attention to. Unfortunately, we’re being conditioned to experience ourselves, our own company, as nothing interesting, or simply nothing. When we frantically shove a next activity in front of our child because he’s bored, we’re creating (and supporting) his belief that without something added to himself, he’s nothing.”
The opinion of this author may feel a little extreme or too clinical, but I think it makes an interesting point – who says we must be entertained all the time? Why do we resist sitting back and enjoying quiet, unscheduled time? These types of days are the complete opposite of the scheduled, time-based days our kids expect. What if we just woke up and let the day unfold with whatever we decide sounds like fun in the moment? Few of us allow for a day like that.
After the text exchange above, I replied that I didn’t have any more ideas and he’d have to figure it out (which he eventually did). The next time your kid says, “I’m bored”, as hard as it is, resist the urge to fix it for them. You’ll have to tune out their complaints, but in return they’ll be tuning into themselves. They may never realize it, but the benefits will stay with them for a lifetime.
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Photo by Matthew T Rader on Unsplash
I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.