The Benefits of Boredom
Like most Michigan parents, as I turn the page to August, I can’t help but count the days until school starts. It’s an unusual year this year with Labor Day being so late; our kids still have a full five weeks of summer left! It’s a blessing because we can take a few deep breaths and savor these hot summer days; it’s a curse because . . . well, the children are getting antsy. And someone has to entertain them.
There are so many options for how to fill up our kids’ summer time these days – sports camps, science camps, art camps, theater camps . . . the possibilities for enrichment experiences are endless. Like everything, there is parental pressure to make the perfect choice, to craft the ideal summer. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could lay that pressure down? Can we all let ourselves off the hook for designing the perfect summer experience for our children? Yes, we can.
Let’s talk about the benefits of boredom.
This from child and adolescent therapist, Lynne Master, owner and director of Learning Disabilities Clinic: “Learning to be resourceful and to enjoy one’s own company are fundamental to becoming an autonomous individual. Children whose parents offer constant stimulation, entertainment, and presence are more likely to suffer from boredom. The screens become their lifeline and passivity becomes their style.
Through boredom, children can learn how to plan and use time. They begin by asking the right questions: What would I like to see, or fix, or read, or cook today? Who shall I call or write? What books do I want to read? What project would I like to finish? What chores are my responsibility as a family member? By brainstorming all the possibilities and picking an activity, a person can choose not to be bored.“
Dr. Charles Fay, President of the Love and Logic Institute, concurs and takes it one step further by suggesting parents design “Boredom Training Sessions.” Listed below are the basics:
• Pick a time that's convenient for you, and consider how the kids might react. Do this when you are prepared to have whiney, upset kids.
• Be ready to hand the "boredom problem" back. This involves responding to "This is boooooring" with "I bet that's frustrating. What do you think you are going to do?" Wise parents offer suggestions, such as: "Some kids decide to do some extra chores." "Some kids decide to ride their bike." "Other kids decide to read or color." Resist the urge to tell your child which suggestion to implement. Instead, provide a sincere, "I love you. I can't wait to see what you decide."
• Provide a dull period of time for your kids. "Dull" means no screen time, no friends over, and no playing with the kids.
• Watch your kids learn and grow. This will not be fun…for anyone…in the short term. In the long term, you'll be blessed with kids who are far less demanding, far more content, and much better prepared for life.
Sol Gordon, the noted family life educator says, “If you’re bored, you’re boring.” Since the world is so full of interesting things and ideas, it is a line worth repeating!