We’ve all been called upon by our children to fix their state of being weary and unable to engage in satisfying behavior.
It sounds a little something like this:
I am so bored. There is nothing to do!
That simple and oh-so-common phrase has the power to create guilt, annoyance, and anger for any parent on the receiving end.
There is, in fact, SO much to do, and our duty as parents is not to be the jester, event coordinated, or entertainer 100% of the time.
Also read: How to respond when your kid says they are bored.
In reality, those cries are actually signs you are on the right track to teaching your kids a valuable life lesson.
The next step, where you have to chose between letting them REMAIN bored vs. giving them something to do, is where the lesson hits home.
Boredom is an Opportunity
Somewhere between the time that I was a kid and now, parents have seemed to take it upon themselves to feel the need to solve their kid’s boredom laments.
Growing up in the 90’s, if I told my parents I was bored, they would simply tell me to go find something to do.
This usually resulted in my sisters and I making up a new game, gathering neighbors for a kickball game, or building an epic fort.
I see many modern parents feeling a sense of failure when their children are bored. If they can’t find something for their children to do, they turn to screen time.
It feels good to solve our children’s problems; therefore, our kids keep asking and we keep answering.
Unfortunately, this cycle is depriving our children of a big opportunity. The opportunity to be bored.
There are intriguing benefits to boredom.
Studies have actually linked boredom to creativity. One British study asked subjects to complete a creative challenge (coming up with a list of alternative uses for a household item). One group of subjects did a boring activity first, while the others went straight to the creative task. Those who were bored were more productive and efficient.
Another older study gave participants abundant time to complete problem-solving tasks. Once all the obvious answers were exhausted, participants gave more and more inventive answers to fend off boredom.
Boredom fosters creativity and confidence. It adds color to playtime and imagination.
Giving our children the opportunity to be bored is like giving them a blank canvas to paint on.
Parents are the Gatekeepers to Boredom
As parents, we are the gatekeepers to our kid’s boredom.
In a world where screen-time is instantly accessible for many kids, we have to commit ourselves to actively allowing our children to experience boredom.
This simple 3-step method will guide you through using boredom to nurture your kid’s creativity and confidence.
Step One: Trust Your Kids
Naturally, when our kids are happy, we feel good. like good parents.
Seeing our children struggle with boredom-induced discomfort and conflict can be uncomfortable at first. Set your guilt aside.
You must have faith that your children have the ability to work through those negative feelings and turn it into something positive.
Humans, even tiny ones ,are wired for innovation and creativity.
Give them the chance to be bored and figure out what to do. I promise they will be just fine.
Step Two: Create Opportunities for Boredom
As parents, you may have to intervene to actively create opportunities for boredom.
This one has always been hard for me. My kids love activities and sports, so our schedule gets packed pretty quickly.
Resist the urge to pack your kid’s schedule. Give them nights off. We do our best to only enroll our kids in activities they absolutely love, and to not pack their week with activities.
Additionally, screen time must be limited. Most children do not have enough self-control to limit screen time on their own.
If you are having a hard time limiting screen time for your kids, try this simple 7 step method to realistically balance life and technology.
Step Three: Give them Control
Once you have successfully freed up time for your children, pass them the ball.
When children have the freedom to occupy their time, their imagination can take the front seat.
Resist the urge to suggest structured activities or crafts. Allow them to think of things to do on their own.
Lastly, unless their safety is at risk, allow children to get dirty, engage in mildly-risky play, and work through arguments on their own.
Stuck inside? Try the best no-cook playdough recipe you can make with (or without!) a stand mixer that I have found!
Next time your kid tells you they are bored, remember that it is an opportunity to give them the gift of boredom.
Their initial moans and groans will make you question if it really is a “gift”, but when they grow into resilient and happy adults they will thank you.
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