“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.”
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As I get into my car with my daughter after school – a school bus full of children passes by. A bunch of children call out my daughter’s name and wave.
My heart fills with pride. I feel happy and satisfied.
Like every other parent in the world – I want my child to be popular and have lots of friends.
Friendships are extremely important in life and no one needs to tell us why.
Every human being wants to belong. Every one of us wants to feel appreciated, needed and loved. And having friends fulfils all these needs.
It can be emotionally devastating for a child to be rejected by his peers and feel left out. It can impact the child’s self-esteem severely, and lead to behavior problems and depression.
How to make friends and sustain friendships is one of the most important skills a child needs to master in the early years.
Through friendships children learn social skills like cooperation, sharing and conflict management. Friendships strengthen a child’s sense of belonging. They hone his ability to understand what others are thinking and feeling and this helps him to adjust socially later in life
It is a myth that childhood friendships are automatic and effortless. As parents we need to build social skills and qualities into our children that will help them attract friendships
Here are the 5 things you should teach your child – to ensure that his life is enriched with friendships
Teach your child how to Smile
Smiling is the first sign that you are open to being friends. As city dwellers we tend to isolate ourselves in our little self-sufficient islands even as we live in close proximity to millions of other people. It becomes a habit to avoid meeting the eyes of the people around you. It becomes a habit to look the other way so that you don’t have to smile. And that is what your children learn from you.
As they watch you - children learn not to smile.
Even if a child is dying to make friends – if he doesn’t smile – he comes across as unfriendly and unapproachable and loses out on opportunities to make friends.
Smile – and encourage your child to smile.
Make it easier for your child to learn how to greet
The first step towards making new friends or penetrating a group of playing children is to walk up and utter a greeting.
If your child is waiting to join a group of playing children he may be able to make eye contact with a child from the group, but unless he can instantly greet the child with a “Hi!” or a “Hello!” to start a conversation - he could miss out on the opportunity to join the group.
It is not easy for children to utter a greeting if they are not used to it. And it becomes even more difficult when they are trying it in testing circumstances where they know that there is a chance their greeting may be rejected or ignored.
To make it easier for your child to greet – throw greetings around freely – when you are at home and when it is not necessary to be formal.
Get up in the morning and say “Good morning”
When you walk into the house shout out a “Hi!”
Yes – social skills need to be practiced repeatedly to emerge automatically and seem effortless.
Teach your child to admire and compliment
Handing out a genuine compliment is another easy way to make friends. Everyone likes someone to notice and like things about them and it can be an easy way to start a conversation
To compliment without sounding fake, one needs to be generous and genuine. Both of these qualities are learnt by children from their parents.
Make it habit to hand out compliments when your child can hear you.
Admire that nice sweater on another little one. Include your child in the admiration too. Tell your child –“Look – have you seen what a lovely sweater that little girl is wearing? Let’s walk up to her and tell her” Take your child with you as you walk up to deliver the compliment.
Don’t compare – it teaches children to envy instead of being generous.
Teach your child kindness and consideration
Kindness begets kindness and is a wonderful place to begin a friendship.
Children learn kindness by watching their parents being kind.
Hold the door open for a child you don’t know. Encourage your child to pick something up that an old woman has dropped.
Offer to help a neighbour with her heavy bags up the stairs. Allow someone to move ahead of you in the queue.
Let your child join in as you perform your little acts of kindness and consideration – allow them to experience the joy that being kind brings. It is a joy that is almost addicting.
Build your child’s self esteem
A child who doesn’t have friends can easily fall into the trap of “Nobody likes me.”
When your child comes back to you crying and dejected - envelope him in your unconditional love. Tell him how wonderful he is because he is polite, friendly, kind and considerate. Encourage him to build on these qualities.
Politeness, kindness and consideration are sure to elicit positive reactions from the recipients and make him feel more likeable
Rejections are inevitable in life – but as parents it is most important that we ensure that these rejections do effect our child’s self-esteem.
If you want to be liked by others – you must first like yourself.
Build positive self-esteem make sure your child knows he is likable
Give your child plenty of opportunities to play and interact with children
Just because two children are thrown together – they will not become friends. You cannot force friendships upon your child – even if those friendships are most convenient. You may want to hang out with your friend – but you must accept it if your child does not get along with her child.
If your child is unable to find friends in a particular group – ensure that you give him other opportunities to socialize. There is no point in insisting that a child make friends with children of your choice.
Enrolling children in non-competitive activities gives them a wonderful opportunity to interact and build friendships around shared interests and must definitely be a priority for parents who have shy or friendless children.
As loving parents we are often unable to see why other children don’t want to be friends with our perfect and wonderful child. This can make us feel hurt and defensive.
To avoid feeling hurt we often try to replace friends with devices or buying them more toys. We try to convince our children that they don’t need to be friends with “those nasty children” and we keep them away from group play to avoid rejection and tears.
Spending more and more time alone however, only ensures that children lose out further on social skills. And this is counterproductive. Children must learn to deal with rejections, anger and conflicts because these are a part of normal social life.
Children need friends. And whatever you do you cannot compel other children to be friends with your child
Help your child build the social skills he needs to initiate and sustain friendships