Saturday, February 7, 2015

On boredom

Boredom is not the enemy.
It is not the parent's foe.
It is the child's inspiration.
It is the goal.

Okay folks, let's talk boredom today.  Let me start by saying that I LOVE to plan activities for my children.  I plan them because they are fun/educational/interesting/fun/memory-making/fun, but NOT to "keep my kids busy."  That is their job.

I believe that we have seen a huge decline in the amount of childhood play for two reasons:

1) Overuse of Screens
2) Lack of boredom

I will address the screens issue in another post, but here I am going to discuss boredom.

In this uber-connected, Pinterest-perusing, ability-testing society, it is very easy to feel like your main parenting responsibility is to keep your child occupied and enriched at all times.  The years are short and time is already running out for them to master all the skills you'd love for them to have.  And so you fill their days to the brim with great things: school, gymnastics, piano, horseback riding, taekwondo (just to name a few of my family's activities).  Add in competitive sports and, heaven forbid, your child needs some form of therapy- PT, OT, speech- and your week is full to bursting.  When are our children bored (besides all that time we spend in the car between activities)?

When are they bored and not buckled in?!

It is when our kids are bored that become inventive.  They pretend, they scheme, they plan, they build, they problem-solve and occasionally draw murals on our walls.  They create worlds that delight them, scare them, intrigue them, and then they figure out how to deal with those emotions.  They care for one another, or argue.  They have fights, play separately, get bored all over again, and discover that playing together is worth getting over the fight.  They fall down, look to see if you noticed, and then get up and brush themselves off.  They practice being adults- they practice being just like us.

So please, oh please, oh please, leave time in your week for your kids to be bored.  When they come to you and complain that they are bored, nod your head and say, "huh" and then begin a mind-numbing task like picking lint out of the dryer vent.  Invite them to join you.  Offer to find them something to sweep out in the garage (but do NOT make them do their chores...see "chores should not be punishment if you actually want kids to do them.")  But most of all, just ignore them and be boring yourself.  Don't engage them and they will eventually tire of you and find something else to do.

When they come to you and request balloons, tape, help reaching the dress-up bin, get them what they need and then return to being boring.  You'll be amazed- their play will get better and better, and then one day you'll ignore your children while you work on a blog post (ahem) and you'll come upstairs to find that your daughters have planned a party- complete with balloons, party games, dress up outfits for the whole family, a calendar of events, handwritten signs (who says play can't reinforce academic skills) and wrapped up "gifts."  They are working harder than most employees on a good day.  They are conversing, compromising, problem-solving (because tying balloons is hard!), working together (not sure how they got the balloons taped so high on the wall, probably don't want to know), and demonstrating all the skills they need to be grown.  Demonstrating all the skills they need to continue to learn for the rest of their lives.

So if we run out of time for those bagpipe or fencing lessons, I feel confident that they will find a way to pick those things up in the future if they would like.  Of course, they might be too busy planning parties- or running the country.

Embrace the boredom!

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