Despite a dizzying array of toys and gadgets, resources and equipment, our children still come forward with the pronouncement that they’re bored (usually delivered in a pleading, whiney, sad voice).
And of course, they want us to ‘fix’ it.
Now, there are plenty of opinions on why children get bored - hardy favourites are today’s over-indulgence in technology, over-scheduling of children’s time by their parents, severe reduction on children’s unsupervised play range, and children having greater expectations of their parents as playmates – but they are no more the cause of children’s boredom than “go outside and play” is the solution (you’ve tried that and you know that doesn’t work!).
It’s not a shortage of things or activities that lead children to feel bored, it’s an inability to manage their own unstructured time. And, it’s not unique to today’s children - it’s not even unique to children. As teenagers and adults, we too struggle to learn to manage our time well. It takes practice and experience. Our children need to develop their own abilities so it's essential they get experience in deciding for themselves how to use periods of unstructured time - or they'll never learn to manage it.
Maybe even more important, unstructured time gives our 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.
Children need to get bored, and the remedy for “I’m bored” is not ever more creative and compelling activities. It’s not even to come up with activities at all. The remedy is to provide the space and encouragement for our children to develop and practice their own time-utilisation skills.
How Do We Help?
- We listen. Listening opens the communication channels.
- We connect. Just by chatting and snuggling, our child will probably get the ‘refuelling’ they need and be on their way fairly quickly. Most of the time when children are whiny and unable to focus, it's because they need more deep connection time with us.
- We encourage. Once we're conﬁdent that our child has a full ‘love tank’ we can revisit the what to do question (if they don’t already have some ideas themselves). We just keep reminding them that figuring out how to enjoy their own time is something they must learn for themselves (but of course we can help brainstorm the possibilities).
It’s not only okay to let our child be bored, it’s important that we do so; their boredom means we’re doing our job as a parent.