“Mom, I’m bored.”
“There’s nothing to do.”
“I don’t know what to do.”
What do you do or say when you hear this? Especially these days? I’m a firm believer in letting (my) kids be bored. Hang out in that boredom and figure out for yourself what you can do. I’m happy to provide a suggestion or two. Usually this is “How about cleaning up the basement or going outside?” They typically don’t take me up on these suggestions, but they do find something else to do pretty quickly. And they usually stop telling me how bored they are for at least the rest of that day.
I’m a provider of care, nourishment, shelter, minor medical triage, and clothing. Definitely NOT in my job description is providing entertainment on demand. I will schedule an outing or activity for us to do as a family, which is usually met with resistance, but I decided years ago that I will not be a short-order cook, a volunteer problem-solver (meaning you can ask for help, but if you entitledly tell me a problem, don’t expect me to jump up and handle it for you), or A BOREDOM VANQUISHER.
I want my kids to learn to think for themselves instead of always relying on someone else to direct them. I want them to use their bright little imaginations and the many resources at their disposal. Their internal world is just as important, if not more so, than their external world.
Now, lest you think I’m just tooting the horn that is my own, I’ll say I am far from a perfect parent (does that even exist?). I don’t have a handbook. Flying blind by the seat of my pants here. I’m sure I’m giving my kids all sorts of complexes that they’ll work out in therapy as adults. But on this particular topic, I’m stubbornly sticking to my principles.
Look, I get it. I was a kid once too, and I remember the agony of being bored. But boredom is always temporary and best solved on one’s own. I love seeing the products of my kids’ creativity or hearing them play a made-up game with each other. Creativity drowns in over-scheduling, too much screen time, and having no time to just think. Being busy is NOT something to take pride in and does NOT determine your value in life.
I’m pretty sure my parents used the same method with me. Allowing boredom forces you to stretch your mind and think in new ways. You are the master/mistress of your own destiny, to an extent. A bonus benefit is that it lets Mom have a little peace and quiet, which is always welcome.