Boredom is often thought of as the bane of our lives, sucking the breath out of a day or activity. It can be difficult to deal with boredom at any age, but chances are that if someone is vocalizing it, it is your kids.
You may have heard that ‘bored people are boring people’ – and that’s true. Who wants to hang out with someone who is easily bored or needs you to come up with entertainment ideas? It’s way better if they can find some themselves.
All of this said, there are benefits to being bored. I know, that sounds crazy, but it is true, and here is why.
Being bored – and finding ways to occupy yourself – can build a ton of important skills in children. Just think about the structure of it. First, they figure out that they are bored. Next, they ask you to entertain them. You say no, so they are back to square one. What does one do when one wants to solve a problem? They develop a solution. They have to figure out how to make their situation better; and that builds necessary skills.
A few of the skills that children may develop are problem-solving skills, confidence, creativity, and organization. Just like when you are put in a position where you need to solve your own problems on a daily basis, it becomes second nature. If you never have to do something, you are more likely not to.
Once one learns how to solve a problem, they get better at doing it time after time. When you find that you are good at something, you develop pride within yourself. If your children don’t realize this on their own, find the least patronizing way to say, “Good job! I’m proud of you for figuring it out and you should be proud of yourself.” I say “least patronizing” because, come on, I can hear the eye rolling now!
When a child is able to be proud of themselves, it feeds into other areas. They may slowly have confidence making new friends or speaking up in class. As much as we think of these things as independent instances, confidence and a healthy self image are through-lines that connect it all. If they are able to be built up in one area, it will likely continue on (slowly) into others.
Finding their own ways to do things and have fun is difficult. It takes a creative mind and lots of imagination – particularly during those times where your child is not allowed to use electronics for entertainment. The more they are able to get out of the “I’m bored” box, the more they will enjoy themselves. Whether they pick up a book, paint a picture, practice an instrument or put together a play, they will be using their imagination.
This is a great time to support your child! Be their audience. Let them perform the play or instrument for you (when you are done doing what you have to). Put the painted picture up on the fridge or have a discussion about the book they are reading. Show some interest in hearing about their activities and they will be more likely to continue them.
Helping your kids understand why they feel bored and how they can change it is a great learning activity and a way to bond with them. It gives you the opportunity to share things about your life and how you solve those moments for yourself. Life is not a big ball of entertainment on a constant basis. Learning to be alone with yourself and have those quiet moments is a skill.
Teach your child how to have these moments – and that they are okay. There is nothing wrong with being alone with your thoughts and focusing on an activity. In fact, with all of the chaos in their world (school, homework, friends, music, video games, etc.), learning how to deal with boredom could turn into those moments where they get to take a deep breath.
People that aren’t creative or imaginative and can never find satisfaction in what they have are the people who are most often bored with life. Bored people really can be boring people.
It is our job as parents to help our children become well-rounded individuals. By allowing your child to be bored, you are helping them develop skills. Children who can learn to find ways to enjoy the situations they find themselves in can become people who are much more interesting. When someone is interesting and able to “roll with the punches,” they become people that other people want to spend time with. Help your child become that person.
This isn’t a kid benefit, but it is a benefit! We parents have a lot on our plates. We need to manage so much all the time. When our children can manage something for themselves, it is one less thing that we have to worry about.
Teaching your children ways to occupy themselves and be independent can help you have more time for yourself to do what you have to (or maybe even want to!) do. This doesn’t mean that you don’t spend time together, but if there are a few hours on a weekend where you have to get some stuff done (or take a bath or practice healthy mental health challenges), it is okay to expect your child to manage their time by themselves. This is easier as children age, but even a five year old can look through a book or color by themselves for half an hour while you take a breather.
The bottom line is, allow your child to be bored. Every once in awhile, when your family is having a rare relaxing day, let your child try to figure out what to do. While you may have to provide some suggestions for your child to get started, being bored can drive some incredibly creative decisions and ideas. See what they come up with – it will serve them well.