We are all raising our children in a society of constant engagement—from organized playdates to piano lessons, from afterschool sports to video games. It’s a rare occasion our children have free time. It’s no wonder that by the time we’ve emptied out the last school day’s lunchboxes, our kids are already whining, “I’m bored!”
The good news is that research suggests it can be good for children to feel bored as long as parents don’t rush to rescue them every time they play the “I’m bored” card. Children need the opportunity to experience boredom, and then learn how to cope with it. Psychologists agree that boredom can inspire creative thinking and motivate problem solving. Teresa Belton, PhD, a researcher with the University of East Anglia UK, interviewed people known for their creative success. “They all said boredom can instigate new thinking and prod them into trying new things,” she reports. “If people don’t have the inner resources to deal with boredom constructively, they might do something destructive to fill the void. Those who have the patience to stay with that feeling, and the imagination and confidence to try out new ideas, are likely to make something creative out of it.”
Our job as parents is to allow our children to experience that uncomfortable feeling of boredom so they can draw on their own inner resources. Jane Nelsen, Ed.D., author of “Positive Discipline” insists “it is not your job to protect her from all boredom and frustration. Allow her to be bored and to have her feelings about it. Empathy is fine, but she will benefit from learning to handle boredom and frustration – and to know that she can. How else will she develop her disappointment skills?”
The “Positive Discipline” series offers these tips for parents on dealing with bored children:
- Children have a sense about when they can hook you into feeling sorry for them and trying to fix things. You may have noticed that when you try to fix things for them, nothing you do is good enough.
- Have faith in your children. It is contagious. Your children will follow your lead and develop faith in themselves. Don’t be afraid to involve your children in tasks around the house or in a routine that fills in some of their time. This will also help with boredom.
- Your children may be bored because they need some adult help to set up programs, activities, and outside interests that they can be engaged in. There are cases where children are bored because they need adult help to learn about resources that are available and how to access them. Others are bored due to over stimulation.
- Avoid the temptation to believe it is your job to overprotect your child from experiencing every frustration life has to offer. However, don’t see this as an excuse to go to the other extreme.
In an attempt to help our parents address Tip 3, we are looking forward to sharing a variety of programs and activities we know young children love. Dr. Nelsen notes that brainstorming ideas with children ahead of time can help them be prepared for when that dreaded boredom strikes. We’re calling our list “Summer Bucket List,” and we’ll be adding to it throughout the summer. Click on the icons on the right hand side of the page for details on each activity. We encourage you to try out our ideas, come up with your own and share with us your #summerbucketlist experiences!