How many of us have heard those dreaded words — “I’m bored” — from our kids, particularly during a string of weather-related off days from school, the weekend, spring or fall break, or summer vacation?
The definition of boredom implies the absence of amazement. A bored child is basically one who is frustrated with not being amazed. Wait. Wait just a minute! I don’t recall getting the memo that a parent’s responsibility is to amaze their child! But I do think that we can be facilitators of amazement for our children.
When our kids were young, my husband and I were on a busy schedule doing life. With work, school, church, baseball, piano lessons, scouts, and all the rest—there just wasn’t any extra time for anyone to be bored. This was a time before personal electronics, so our kids learned to entertain themselves in down times. Our son loved baseball and embraced all the information that goes with that sport. As he got older, he added music to his interests, learned a lot about bands and record companies, then taught himself to play the guitar. Our daughter did all the usual “girly” things—playing baby dolls, Barbies, and American Girl dolls. When she was really young, she enjoyed pretending to be a restaurant server—always asking for our food orders. Later, she spent (lots of) time singing into the handle of our upright vacuum cleaner. (Ah, the good old days!)
I know that childrearing today is different. Children have so much thrown at them from school expectations and extracurricular activities. With free time at a premium, I can understand how today’s parents may feel forced to plan that free time.
A couple of years ago, a friend announced on social media that she had planned every minute of spring break for her school-aged children. I remember being surprised that she found that necessary. Where was their free time? What about time for them to just chill? That was when I realized the method to her madness. She provided areas of amazement for her kids to explore. Having each day’s slot filled made sure that there was an intention for something productive to happen. Then if plans changed, there was an activity to work with. She was armed with a plan.
Basically, I think that—rather than do nothing—we parents need to train our children to seek things to amaze their minds. We must be prepared to fill in the blanks with productive, meaningful activities. Help them explore the options. Watch for areas of self-improvement or self-enhancement. serving others at an animal rescue center or soup kitchen. Instill in children the importance of serving others.
Arm your children with ideas. Investigate various arts or skills to find what sparks your children’s interests. Play one season of a sport, then mark it off the list if it doesn’t click for that child. But be ready to try something else. I’m not saying to completely fill a child’s free time. Instead, help them find areas of interest that they enjoy on their own.
Parenting is a giant juggling act. Growing a productive, self-sufficient, good-hearted child requires a push/pull action by parents. We watch for them to develop independence, but we also can be ready to supply options. Help them find their hobbies, skills, and interests! Then, perhaps you won’t hear: “I’m bored!”