| from Dr. Kathy Koch |
If your children have frequently complained about boredom, you’re not alone. If they haven’t much, I’m guessing they’re either naturally creative or you worked hard to keep them entertained with fun activities or busy with projects. Or is it possible they’re on technology so much that they’re not bored? My guess is that it might be a combination of all of that.
Boredom is a fact of life and today’s children may regularly struggle with it. Helping children figure out how to handle boredom well is essential. Knowing why they’re bored is the first step. Knowing boredom’s benefits will fuel your motivation.
Technology entertains children of all ages and can make almost all other tasks seem boring. Tech is fast, about them, easy, new, now, entertaining, always available, and more. If your younger children struggle when they’re bored more than your older ones did, this may be why. (Have you heard them say, “Board games are ssssooooooo slow!!!”)
Some parents offer children something fun to do every time they say they’re bored to decrease their complaining and to keep them happy. I understand this. But, at some point, parents need to help children handle it when they’re nothing to do and increase their initiative by telling them to find something to do. If not, we’re contributing to the problem. (And, I’m sure you’ve heard that if they complain again, that “something” can be cleaning a toilet.)
As I wrote on pages 77-78 of Screens and Teens, “Boredom cultivates reflection, generates ideas, develops curiosity, increases creativity, and inspires vision. Letting our thoughts wander sparks ideas that might not have been able to surface in the busyness of life. Rather than telling ourselves we’re missing out on something important by pushing the pause button on occasion, we need to tell ourselves and our teens that there is much to be gained by allowing boredom to enter our lives every once in a while.”
Decreasing tech use so children get used to entertaining themselves in other ways is helpful. The entire family can get on board. I’d say “they must.” If parents aren’t willing to make changes, it’s understandably hard for children to. Children may complain initially, but this testimony (recorded on pages 67-68 in Screens and Teens) is typical. After some initial pushback, this can happen:
“Today at lunch we had a little “meeting” to see what their [our teens’] thoughts were about all of the BOREDOM on media-free days and even on the media days once media was over. . . . we wanted to let them in on the decision making. . . between the three of them, they decided to actually INCREASE to 3 media-free days a week and then the oldest typed up a list of 28 ideas that they brainstormed of what they could do during media free-time. Can’t thank you enough for your gentle push in this direction!!”
You can also make fun things visible so children more easily think of something to do on their own. Rather than putting all the games in the game cupboard, leave some out. Put out jigsaw puzzles, coloring books, Sudoku books, craft projects, building blocks, and more. Put outdoor toys by the backdoor.
Also, parent to increase children’s curiosity. Dare the children to figure out how something in the kitchen works that they’ve maybe never thought about before. Have them head outside and list 20 questions about what they see outside. Or have them write riddles or a story about what they see. Have them list facts about older relatives and questions they’d like to ask them and then arrange a time for them to do that. Curiosity can prevent boredom!
Perhaps Albert Einstein will motivate you. He declared, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”
Dr. Kathy Koch (“cook”), is the founder and president of Celebrate Kids, Inc., based in Fort Worth, Texas. She has influenced thousands of parents, teachers, and children in 30 countries through keynote messages, seminars, chapels, banquet talks, and other events. She is a regular speaker for Teach Them Diligently, Care Net, Summit Ministries, and Axis. She also speaks for other organizations, churches, schools, and pregnancy resource centers. In addition, she hosts Celebrate Kids conferences through their Ignite the Family conference division. She is also a popular guest on Focus on the Family radio, she was featured in Kirk Cameron’s movie, Connect, and she has written and published five books with Moody Publishers, including Five to Thrive, Start with the Heart, Screens and Teens, 8 Great Smarts, and No More Perfect Kids (with Jill Savage). Dr. Kathy earned a Ph.D. in reading and educational psychology from Purdue University.