What?! Do you even know what ‘bored’ means?
I thought I still had a few more years before my little human learns about the concept of boredom; after all, he’s very easy to please. Just give him an old cardboard and his favorite Mcqueen toy, and he’s good. But then there it was, the two words parents dread the most: I’m bored.
The first few times my son complained about being bored, I’d panic, frantically spouting off every possible entertainment I could think off. I’d remind him of his toy cars, his books, building a city with Legos, painting a picture, playing outside with his bike...I’m even guilty to giving in to another 30 minutes of screen time just to wipe the word out of his mouth.
Perhaps due to my self-imposed working mom guilt, I was always pressured to “solve” this problem right away. On paper, that may sound like top-notch parenting but in reality, it’s actually counter-productive.
The Case for Allowing Kids to be Bored
Determined to make sure my son never goes through a single moment of boredom, I surveyed the other moms in our office, asking them what other fun activities I should be introducing to my bub.
Some suggested that I keep my kid busy with music lessons, literacy classes, and sports. Others chimed in to say I should schedule more playdates with their kids.
One of my colleagues, on the other hand, Amy, a mom of five boys and obviously more experienced in this whole parenting gig than I am, shocked me with her answer: “You know what, honey, you don’t have to be on 24-hour entertainment duty. Let him get bored!”
“Boredom is great for kids! In fact, boredom leads to creativity. You’ll see,” Amy said matter-of-factly.
At the time, it was difficult for me to process her answer. I thought, why would you do that to your kid? Wouldn’t that result in an even more severe case of ennui?
Seeking further answers, I shared Amy’s advice to my husband and surprisingly, he agreed! He said that one summer break, ages ago, he and his younger brother complained to their mom that they were “bored to death,” in an attempt to convince her to let them join a summer camp they can barely afford at the time. Tired of her kids’ whining, their mom solved her kids' boredom—not by enrolling them in a summer camp—but by giving her boys more housework in addition to their regular chores!
To cut the story short, they learned never to proclaim boredom again! And that’s when they explored and reveled in the power of imagination—they invented games, buried treasures, built a rocket ship, and turned their living room into a fortress! According to my husband, the boredom of his childhood gave him space to just be and created a lasting impact in significant and defining ways. Well, I’m not surprised, he now runs two successful businesses.
The Perks of Boredom
American poet and essayist Joseph Brodsky once likened boredom as a window to creativity. “Once this window opens, don't try to shut it; on the contrary, throw it wide open,” he said.
Brodsky’s right (to be honest, I don’t know him. But he said nice things about boredom and creativity, so…) Boredom isn’t something we should fear for our children, but something we should help them embrace. Because let’s face it, we won’t be there every moment of the day to help them make things less boring.
So why is boredom not a bad thing after all? Let me count the ways.
Boredom helps create self-reliant kids
When children are bored and have got “nothing to do,” it forces them to take initiative and think for themselves...just wait a few minutes.
Boredom helps children form relationships
Children that are given time and space, with nothing to distract them, often get the opportunity to engage with their environment and develop their interpersonal skills. They learn to communicate, make eye contact with other kids, and learn to be more responsive to other people’s feelings.
Boredom makes children happier
For your child, being bored may be, well, boring. But actually, it could make their childhood happier and more memorable overall. Remember my husband’s “boring moments?” Well, turns out, those childhood memories are actually the ones he holds dear--not material things.
Boredom gives children an inner quiet
With screens, social media, and the like, “busy” tends to be the trend, giving us little time to be still and let our minds wander. The thing is, staying still helps our kids (and even us) to become more self-aware and get to know ourselves better.
Boredom makes parents saner
Finally, not only is boredom good for our kids, it’s also good for us, parents! By allowing our kids to get bored, we also get the chance to take a step back and let the kids figure things out for themselves...which means, more mommy and daddy time!
HOW DO YOU RESPOND WHEN YOUR KIDS SAY THAT THEY'RE BORED?
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