It’s the weekend and you’re probably hearing this a LOT at home — “Maaa, am booooooooooored!”
It’s too hot for your child to step outside…
Their play friends are away…
The brand new toys you bought last week have exceeded their lifespan…
And your child is sitting on the floor and looking at you exasperated!
Well, before you get all worked up or rush in to save your child from the boredom monster, first understand this…
Boredom is NOT the bad guy here!
In today’s fast-paced world, we feel that children need to be kept busy constantly. So we force things onto our little ones forgetting something that all young minds require…
Time spent doing nothing.
(It’s ironic that as adults, we’d give anything to receive this ‘time’, but children just want to get out of it!!)
Well, this ‘time spent doing nothing’ is extremely important for children to develop characteristics that would build their personality, and shape the person they turn out to be.
And what’s more? It builds their creative abilities!
When your child is left alone, they learn to imagine better in order to entertain themselves, and their creativity improves along with it. They tend to find out-of-the-box solutions to their boredom.
And here’s how this helps in the long-run…
Research has proven that children who are encouraged to think creatively tend to exhibit higher self-esteem and motivation. And what’s more is, creativity, when expressed in childhood, is the highest predictor of future success.
But what do we actually do when our children get Bored?
As parents, we rush in to ‘save’ them. It’s the norm, almost.
This is because we feel that boredom is a very negative emotion. We don’t want our children to get cranky or irritable, just so we can carry on doing our daily chores.
So, what do we do?
In most cases, we quickly search our pockets and hand over colourful lit up screens for the child to play with quietly.
Seems like the perfect solution to boredom, isn’t it?
Wrong. And, here’s why…
It restricts their innate abilities
When we keep children constantly busy (with whatever it may be), and don’t allow them to sit in the nothingness of boredom, we don’t allow their minds to wander.
We restrict their inner channels from taking control of their imagination and expressing their natural preferences.
What does the child actually enjoy doing?
What is the child naturally inclined towards?
Where does their talent truly lie?
The self-exploration that takes place when a child is bored enables them to better understand themselves.
Your child will be forced to find an alternative – an internal way of keeping themselves occupied.
They’ll start to break apart toys and put them back together. (Their instinctive talent here could be engineering)
In order to develop a sense of self, they need to be left idle. In other words, they need to be bored.
But when you hand them a smartphone…
They end up passively engaging with it without doing anything else. Here, your child isn’t exploring or thinking about what they like doing. Your child does not realize their potential or talent.
By giving them a screen, the discovery or self-exploration would never have taken place.
So if you feel that your child simply isn’t responsive or motivated, let me tell you this — they simply didn’t have the environment required to develop these abilities.
But are children able to handle boredom?
The answer is NO. And there are 3 main reasons for this…
Our children are used to highly engaging surroundings. Take the whole environment screens are based on, for example…
Mobile phones and tablets make it possible to do a million different things at once, with every want satisfied at the touch of a finger.
Television is fast-paced, exciting, and addictive. We use television as a bait to get kids to eat, to get them to keep quiet, and to allow them to do our chores.
All this is highly stimulating and highly engaging so the child is hooked non-stop. And while they are so busy consuming the colourful content, they don’t have the time to think or explore or discover by themselves.
Rigid schedules at school:
The rigid studying hours at both home and schools can have a huge effect on their self-expression.
This sort of inflexibility stops the child from understanding what they really want to do and prevents them from actually doing it.
Schools give children activity after activity to engage in, as well as a pile of homework to do. If the school is encouraging self-expression and creativity through these activities, that would be highly beneficial.
But most often, schools tend to order children to perform task after task, without explaining why or considering their individual preferences.
When our kids are used to environments this engaging and are constantly busy, they feel trapped and helpless when they’re left alone with nothing to keep them that busy.
They either don’t have the time or the resources to discover the things they like doing.
Lack of interaction:
Another reason could be a lack of interaction with parents and friends, which is required for a sound mental state.
This would allow them to be content and feel positive enough to not mind being on their own as much.
If these reasons aren’t convincing enough for you to realize the benefits of your child being bored, let’s take a look at another key effect of your child being allowed to spend more unstructured time…
So what should you do when your child is bored?
a) Encourage it:
Spend a good amount of time interacting with them and encourage them to spend time with themselves.
Give them outlets to be creative, and maybe even initiate and help develop their creative thought process. Ask them about the lives their soft toys lead and what they think about outer space.
b) Respond rather than react:
It’s important for us to respond and not give much of a reaction when children complain of boredom. We need to acknowledge their emotions and then ask them for their ideas on how to solve the problem of boredom.
We need to encourage children to find alternatives to screen time when they’re bored. This should be something that would interest them and excite them even more than screen time.
Encourage doing something different every single time. Something innovative, creative, and simply, out-of-the-box. This would condition children to automatically think inventively and creatively when they’re bored the next time.
PRO TIP: Another idea is to try an activity box like Flintobox! These are challenging activities that are great alternatives to TV/mobile phones. The boxes are packed with highly educational and interesting games, puzzles and books to teach kids concepts over a period of time. For more info on Flintobox activities, click here >
c) Tap their talent:
Find out where their creative inclinations lie and make sure they have relevant outlets to express these inclinations. If they like drawing, make sure they have the material to do so handy. If they’re interested in a sport, enrol them in a class.
d) Focus on individuality:
The important thing here is for you to understand that your child is an individual with preferences, just like you are. Listen to them and understand these preferences. Encourage them to express themselves and explore their internal drives and selves. Show them ways of spending their time by thinking about the things they like and let their imagination flow.
e) Inspire them to think:
Inspire your children to think when they’re bored by getting ideas out of them. Tell them they can use screens once they’ve done something different and creative for a while, maybe played outside for a bit, have read something, etc. (You can even throw in a chore or two). At the same time, don’t force them too much. Show them the fun they can have outside of screen time in a way that they will choose the activity over screen time.
Allow your children to understand themselves and simply be the truest versions of themselves.