After eight exhilarating days in Costa Rica, my family and I waited in the security line at the San Jose airport to return home. With an iPhone in her hands, headphones in her ears, my daughter, 11, rolled her eyes and actually exclaimed, “I’m soooooo bored!”
Seriously?! My husband and I exchanged looks and asked our daughter WHY, after a week’s worth of adventure, she couldn’t handle the lack of excitement at the airport. This certainly wasn’t the first time we have heard her cry boredom. She declares boredom whenever she puts away her laundry, helps set the table, accompanies me on errands, and even while spending the day tooling around the city.
We are raising the first “all-technology” generation. Entertainment is at our kids fingertips 24/7. And herein lies the danger.
Whether it’s the newest episode of Dance Moms, a binge-watch of The Walking Dead (I’m not sure which show’s characters I find more disgusting), the latest Xbox game, the constant stream of YouTube videos, SnapChat stories, Instagram posts, Facebook posts, selfie-streaks or Musicaly’s, the choices to amuse and entertain our kids are endless and available around the clock.
This Gen X mom remembers the time when only three television networks existed and programing actually stopped shortly after midnight. Remember when The Late Night Show was followed by local news, the national anthem, static, then … complete darkness?
Today, screen time has replaced “downtime” and we are raising “double-screeners.”
Few kids have the attention span to sit and read a book, play a board game or even watch a TV show or movie on the big screen, without ANOTHER screen in their hand.
While watching the Grammy Awards, my kids actually asked to fast-forward the slow parts. We were watching in real-time! My 9th grader told me that he has listened to music on his headphones in the classroom. With my mouth agape, my son explained that when another student asks a question to which he already knows the answer, he listens to music instead. Never a dull moment, right?
It’s growing increasingly more difficult to keep our children entertained and today’s kids literally do not know how to handle boredom. It’s critical that our kids, in real-time, learn how to cope with life’s boring moments without the urge to press mute or fast-forward.
1. Boredom Fosters Creativity
Gen X parents like me were raised without today’s structure, supervision and stimulation. We devised our own amusement; we created games, skits and songs, constructed forts out of blankets, built houses of cards and played outdoors for hours. Sound familiar?
We KNEW how to be bored. It was in that quiet space and stillness where we became imaginative, inventive, introspective and inspired — where we became ourselves.
When kids actually have time to be bored, creativity and innovation emerges and they might just discover something new about themselves.
2. Boredom Fosters Independence
When all of our kids’ time is filled with structure and stimulation, our kids become dependent on external resources to fill the lulls, even to think and problem-solve and are often uncertain how to occupy any free time they do have.
When kids truly experience boredom and tap into their own internal resources (rather than depend on external stimuli), they gain a sense of confidence and independence.
Remember when we taught our babies how to self-soothe? Whether we eventually removed the pacifier or let them cry it out, they learned how to be self-reliant.
3. Boredom Fosters Ambition, Motivation and Drive
When all of our kids’ time is chock-full of entertainment or structure, they don’t have an opportunity to motivate or awaken their own inner-drive.
Now more than ever, kids need to experience boredom; to allow their minds to wander, to pursue their own interests and ambitions and to discover who they are–separate from their screens.
5 Tips to Bring Back Boredom
1. Establish Limits and Boundaries Around Electronics
Set rules that mandate screen-free zones. Include a daily shut-down time as well as limits to double-screening. Screen-free zones might include family gatherings, meal times, short car rides or specific times of day.
2. Be Careful Not To Over-Schedule
Ensure that your kids’ schedules include a healthy balance of structured and unstructured time. Know what works best for your own child and when it’s too much, set limits or make adjustments.
3. Resist the Role of Julie McCoy, Cruise Director
Parents: It’s not our job to fill every minute of our kids’ day with stimulation and entertainment. We are not cruise directors. When our kids complain that they are bored, resist the urge to “fix it.” Remember the pacifier? Instead of turning on the TV, handing over their phone or driving them somewhere, let them be bored. Sit back, relax and watch what they come up with.
4. Boredom Does Not Excuse Kids from Obligations or Commitments
It makes me crazy when I hear parents say, “I didn’t make him go because he’d be bored.” It’s OK to be bored! Life brings boring moments and our kids must learn how to handle them.
Whether it’s a religious service or a family event, your kids’ (potential) boredom is not a sole reason to excuse your kids, especially if it is their own commitment, obligation, or is something that is important to you.
5. Parents As Role Models
It’s a challenge for adults to escape today’s constant activity. While we run from place to place we, too are entertained with screens even at gas pumps, restaurants and grocery stores. Rarely is there space in our own lives to let our minds wander.
Let’s show our kids that we are able to unplug regularly, embrace boredom and discover ourselves. Through our own actions, our kids can learn how to handle boredom without the need for headphones or a remote control to drown-out or fast forward the boring parts.
Originally posted and printed on www.girlillawarfare.com. Amy Hertzberg holds a Master’s in Social Work and is a Certified Professional Life Coach. She specializes in coaching women and parents. To learn more about Amy’s parent coaching and Aim Life Coaching, please visit www.amyhertzberg.com