“Mom/Dad, I’m Bored”

If you are a parent, then you know very well how difficult it is to keep kids engaged and busy in something productive these days. Allow them screen time and they will sit for hours on end with no issues. However, once the screen is taken away, notice how quickly their interest dwindles in toys, books, or any other play. They may flip through a book or two, color a page in their coloring book, kick a ball back and forth but soon you can see their expressions and body language changing. Shoulders droop, smiles downturn, and you hear the dreaded “I’m bored” statement. At first, we try to ignore it, then when it gets repeated we try and give solutions “go read a book”, “why don’t you play a game with your sister?”, “where are your color pencils, draw me something pretty!”. All the suggestions are usually blatantly turned down. Then the persistence increases and turns into whining, pulling on your shirt while you are cooking, and sometimes even turns into crying. Kids constantly want something to do (the most attractive being TV or the iPad), however, we know that screen time must be monitored and limited or it can be detrimental to our child. So, what do we do when our kid is just plain bored? The answer is simple. Do nothing.

Discovering Their Inner Voice

“Children need to sit in the nothingness of boredom in order to arrive at an understanding of who they are. And just as important, children need to sit in the nothingness of boredom to awaken their own internal drive to be.”, states psychologist Vanessa Lapointe. When our children are constantly bombarded with one stimulating activity after the other, they are not given the chance to hear themselves or their inner voice. They aren’t given the space to go inside their heads, awaken their imagination, and discover that amazing inner world. Boredom and having “nothing to do” gives them that opportunity.

Through my observations of my son and daughter, I have seen how it works. Their initial boredom kicks in and they begin to complain and whine, I just brush it off and let them be without offering any solution to cure their boredom. I want them to figure it out on their own. My son lies down on the floor in utter defeat, but my daughter is quicker with finding something to do. She loves to organize things, so I see her take out her basket filled with clips and hairbands and she starts grouping them together, humming to herself as she does. I see my son lift his head up from his fetal position and open one eye and catch sight of his dinosaur. His hand reaches out for it and I hear a “roarrr” sound come out of his mouth. That’s when I know that they are good to go.

In their little heads, they experienced boredom, complained about it, realized they weren’t going to get any outside help and would have to help themselves, made decisions and found solutions. I find that pretty impressive, considering they still struggle in putting on a t-shirt on their own!

Enhancing Creativity and Discovering Interests

Unstructured time gives children the opportunity to explore their inner and outer worlds, which is the beginning of creativity. This is how they learn to engage with themselves and the world, to imagine and invent and create. Childhood is the time when our imaginations are the most unleashed and free, when creativity is starting to bloom, and when the world has no limitations. Kids believe in their cores that they can be whatever they want. They flourish when we leave them to explore, discover their interests, be free.

If we fill all their routines with school, homework, structured activities and screen time – when will they have that chance to listen to their inner voice, discover what they are passionate about, imagine, invent, and play! Studies have shown that when in our mind we are bored, we tend to start daydreaming, and daydreaming sparks creative thought. We can see this in action when our kids, in their boredom, doodle some great artwork in their notebook, or invent a new game.

Growing up, I don’t remember getting bored for too long. We didn’t have any other option besides keeping ourselves entertained in some way or the other. No phones or laptops or iPads. No fancy toys. Just siblings, neighbors, books, and the outdoors! I am grateful to have had those opportunities to explore, invent, gain a love for reading, and spend valuable time with people. I want my kids to have those same experiences – to discover themselves and this beautiful world we live in. I think the best way to start is to let them get bored!

 

References:

Lapointe, V. (2017). Why you should do nothing when your child says, “I’m bored”. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-vanessa-lapointe/why-you-should-do-nothing_b_9818144.html

Weir, K. (2013). Never a dull moment. Monitor on Psychology, Vol. 44, No. 7. Retrieved from, https://www.apa.org/monitor/2013/07-08/dull-moment.aspx