It’s baaack!!! The end of the school year is approaching when children whoop for joy as they anticipate weeks of fun, fun, fun. Right!? We parents know what it really means – long days and evenings filled with sweaty, BORED kids.
How can we help our kids stay occupied this summer? An enlightened mom I know with four children ranging from high school age to kindergarten is thinking of writing ideas on index cards and having them available for the kids to use as a resource when they are bored. This idea, along with some field trips she has scheduled, may be the ticket for some fun this summer. I tried allowing only educational TV last summer and much to my surprise, the kids loved it! Okay, those are good ideas, but is anybody else out there tired of being the family camp counselor? Do our children really need us to solve their summer boredom problems? I started to think not.
The Positives of “Boredom”
So when I came across the book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson, Ph.D., I discovered one of the hottest tips ever for solving the summer doldrums. A tip so new, so innovative that it may be quite shocking to some! He suggests that when our kids whine, “I’m bored”, we might try responding with, “Great, be bored for a while. It’s good for you.”
What? What could Dr. Carlson mean? Won’t all that boredom turn our kids into marshmallow-brained zombies? No, he claims, because he is not talking about hours of idle time or laziness, but simply trying the art of relaxing, of just “being” rather than “doing.” He says when we allow our children (and ourselves) to be bored, even if it is just for a few minutes a day (watching TV does not count), it takes an enormous amount of pressure off them and us to be performing and doing something every second. Carlson says that sometimes kids’ minds, just like their bodies, need an occasional break from stimulation. “When you allow your mind to take a break, it comes back stronger, sharper, more focused and creative.”
Re-framing “just doing nothing” as something positive and good for our children as opposed to being merely a waste of time is a strong theme in David Elkind’s book, The Hurried Child. His belief is that children nowadays are not allowed their childhoods, that they are pressured and rushed to perfect skills, achieve, always be striving for some goal which will further their development. In fact, he too feels that children need many opportunities and much time for free, unstructured play in order for them to grow and develop in a healthy and balanced way.
Barbara Coloroso, in her book Kids Are Worth It, states that “we as adults are often uncomfortable with being alone, quiet and reflective.” If we see our child sitting quietly, we may encourage her to play, to find someone to do something with. If a child likes to go for walks by himself, he is prodded to go with a friend so he has company and someone to talk with. Quiet and solitary contemplation is not encouraged or valued (in our society). And yet, for children to grow in inner discipline and to get to know and like themselves, “they need time to be alone and be still.”
With this new perspective in mind, it may be possible for parents to take a more relaxed view of summer vacation, and to feel comfortable in just letting their children be. It can take the pressure off us to know that we do not always have to find entertainment for our children, and that in fact we will actually be helping them by encouraging them to be alone, quiet and still for periods of time. Balanced with some planned family activities, practicing enjoying boredom may make this the best summer ever!By Claire Gawinowicz, Certified Parenting Educator
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