“Mamma – I am bored” says your little one.
And that dreaded declaration fills you with an overwhelming guilt.
To you - the dedicated and committed parent - the statement sounds like an accusation. You consider it a personal affront.
And you jump up to correct the situation. To make things right.
You rush around to arrange an activity for your child. Or if you can’t – you arrange for entertainment by switching on the TV or another device.
But should you?
Should you assume responsibility for your child’s entertainment?
Should you wallow in guilt if they are bored?
The answer is NO.
Why parents should allow boredom
Creativity is the mind’s voice that can only be heard in the silence of boredom.
Children need to have time in which they are doing nothing. They need to get bored in order to use their imagination and unleash their creativity. Children must be taught to cope with the panic of boredom so that they can reach the stage where the brain can be creative
Children need to get bored to start dreaming
It is important that children have the time to just “stand and stare” so that they can observe and dream. Dreams are essential. Every invention and innovation was someone’s dream before it became reality
Boredom is an opportunity for self-discovery
Boredom is the child’s opportunity to spend time with himself – to listen to what his mind and heart are saying and find out who he really is.
Being alone and unoccupied is an exercise in building self-esteem
.Being alone and potentially bored tells your child that he does not constantly require someone else to be happy. In the silence of boredom children smile to themselves and say “I like myself.” “I enjoy my own company.”
Constantly providing entertainment can set children up for failure
Rushing to entertain your child whenever he is bored or diligently filling every minute of your child’s day with “things to do” is a mistake. When children are occupied like this, they begin to expect constant stimulation and instant gratification. This can set up children for failure, because as is well known – success is always the result of persistence and the ability to endure the torture of delayed gratification – both of which are extremely boring. Instant fixes to boredom can also kill the motivation and self-reliance required to organize entertainment.
Devices are the wrong way to escape boredom.
Devices offer entertainment temporarily. They set off the Dopamine reward circuit in the brain which makes your child crave devices when they are not around – much like an addiction
Enduring Boredom is an essential life skill
It is important to teach children how to endure boredom. Because as they grow older - bored children are likely to turn to dangerous activities and substance abuse to satisfy their brain’s demand for stimulation.
What Bored really means and what you should do about it
A child who is complaining of being bored is not necessarily saying that he has nothing to do. He could be saying one of the following.
Remedy - Make eye contact with your child. Draw him into a bear hug. And rejuvenate him with a smile and if possible some laughter.
Remedy - Allow children to move around. Allow jumping dancing and shouting. Yes – children need to vent all that energy. It is wrong to restrict them. Just let them be.
Remedy - Allow children to play on their own. Don’t be afraid of messes.
Remedy what children perceive as boredom, but teach children to encounter and endure actual boredom. Because as Leo Buscaglia said and I quote
“A child develops best when, like a young plant, he is left undisturbed in the same soil. Too much travel, too much variety of impressions, are not good for the young, and cause them as they grow up to become incapable of enduring fruitful monotony.
A generation that cannot endure boredom will be a generation of little men, of men unduly divorced from the slow processes of nature, of men in whom every vital impulse slowly withers, as though they were cut flowers in a vase.”