Boredom is good!!
Boredom teaches some of the most valuable skills we will ever use In life. Parents are afraid of letting their kids be bored. But why? Why the need to have them occupied every minute of every day?
“Mommy, I’m bored.”
When I was a kid, those were 3 words that never fell out of our mouths. Mom’s response was usually to occupy us with some horrible chore, scrubbing the bathroom floor, cleaning out the cupboards or weeding flower beds. We very quickly learned that it was going to be much more fun to occupy ourselves. We climbed trees, invented imaginary friends, played with real friends, rode our bikes and usually got quite dirty. BUT, we weren’t scrubbing floors.
I always thought it was horrible of my mother to expect us to do such horrible tasks when we were so little. I vowed that I would never ask my kids to do such terrible things.
Then I became a Mom and I heard “Mom, I’m bored”. I think it was the only thing my kids knew how to say. It was their go to response for everything! Suddenly, I hear myself saying, “Go find something to do, or I will find you something to do”, and they were off like a shot and I had become my mother…
Here’s the thing about boredom;
Boredom teaches us amazing things.
- Problem-solving skills – I needed to NOT scrub floors, so I solved that problem by climbing trees.
- Self-awareness – when I was little, scrubbing floors reminded me of Cinderella. I knew we did not live in a land of magical Princes and I was not going to be rescued, so I was not going to start a life of scrubbing floors.
- Decision-making Skills – I didn’t like the choices my mother had for me, so I decided to make some choices for myself.
- Creative Thinking – My sister & I built forts, climbed trees, and pretended we had lovely little prefect lives. We had careers, husbands, and mansions in the trees. We were creative and we had huge, endless imaginations when we were little, that guided us through the rest of our lives.
Today, kids are glued to some sort of device from a very early age. I see toddlers playing games of phones while they wait in line at the grocery store. Electronic games do not allow you to develop these skills as effectively. There is always a button that gives you further instruction. They enter an imaginary world that is completely designed for them, they don’t get to make any choices or creatively influence the story. They just follow along like little sheep. There are several games that promote creativity, problem-solving or decision-making, but they are not designed for real world issues. My sister & I created our imaginary world from the world we actually lived in. We chose the parts of life we liked and inserted them into our imagination and we corrected the parts we didn’t like. Skills we still use today.
Guide to Introducing Technology and other handy resources here.
The greatest skills our children are lacking:
- Interpersonal Relationships – When my sister & I fought (and we fought a lot), we learned quite early that it was best for us to settle our differences, because Mom’s solution was not going to be fun. So we taught ourselves to compromise, to reason, to be fair and to apologize.
- Effective Communication – In our tiny little, perfect, imaginary worlds, we still had needs. There were no adults there (because we didn’t want them), so we had to learn to use our words, to say what we needed, and say it in a way that was polite and respectful.
- Empathy – One day, when we were in our imaginary world’s, I slipped and fell out of the tree, hitting my head on a rock. I don’t remember a lot about that, but I do remember watching as my sister suddenly had super-human speed & strength. She was out of her tree, beside me, helping me up and screaming for Mom or Dad all in the blink of an eye. She was my Hero that day. She never left my side, sitting there, right beside me as the doctor stitched my head back together. She was there holding my hand. She was there for the next few days as we moved our imaginary worlds a little closer to the ground (problem-solving & creative thinking). I knew she felt bad, even though none of it was her fault.
- Managing feelings/Emotions – I think the worst sin was to swear at either of my parents. Yes, they made me angry. The expectation was, that I would use some of my Effective Communication skills to try to manage my anger and respectfully state my case. I developed quite a skill and still use it today.
- Dealing with stress – kids have all kinds of stresses in the real world. We learned to deal with it in our imaginary worlds.
I think the most important skill is Critical Thinking. Critical thinking is what allows us to learn from our mistakes. Take all of the skills we have learned and apply them to create solutions. Allowing children to experience Natural Consequences is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. We have all had that argument about wearing a coat. Some days you just have to let them figure it out by themselves. I will write another post about Natural Consequences later (it’s a topic all by itself).
So, in short, unplug your kids. Let them be bored. Let them get dirty. Let them run, play, create, believe, argue, fall and scrape a knee. Let them be kids, but most importantly; let them learn.
Loads of love