This title might be deceiving. I don’t mean 3 ways to entertain your kids so they aren’t bored. I am talking about building the muscle and resilience within them so they don’t turn to complaining about being bored the minute the iPad or TV is turned off.
Here are 3 ways you can help make this happen.
1. It is a very different world for a young person to when we were young. They live in the instant world. I remember as a kid having to sit through TV shows I hated to get to the ones I liked – but in 2018 this doesn’t happen anymore. They can watch whatever they want, when they want it on Netflix or Youtube. When my daughter asks for a snack in the car and we tell her to wait until we get home, she carries on endlessly until we give in out of frustration. She gives a new app on the iPad about 4 seconds to load before getting tired of waiting and opening another.
These simple moments of instant gratification may be causing more harm than we can see.
The ability to delay gratification is a huge indicator of success later in life. Health, wealth & fulfilment – these are all dependent on the ability to delay the enjoyment until a later time. Don’t eat that cookie right now. Don’t sit down in front of the TV but go for a run first. Don’t buy that top on your credit card, but save up for a few weeks. Work hard now so you can afford to go on that holiday next year.
Allowing our children to get everything they want instantly affects this development. It hinders their ability to handle stress. The reality is that the real world; the working world of offices and work sites aren’t like this. People don’t get what they want, when they want it all the time. If someone wants a pay rise, they don’t just get it, then need to put in the work and prove their worth far before they ever bring it up.
Try to teach your children to wait. To take a breath or do something else first. This will reap dividends in their psychological development and reduce the desire to get what they want as soon as they want it.
2. We have created these worlds where young people must be in a constant state of fun.
Video games, youtube, texting friends, playing at the playground. The moment our children aren’t doing something, we feel something is wrong so find something else to fill the void with. There is rarely time for them to just sit and be quiet. Or perhaps further, do something they don’t want to do – like help out around the house or in the kitchen.
Basic monotonous work is actually good for us. It builds resilience. It is the same muscle in our brains that makes us teachable at school.
When we flood our children’s lives with fun activities (because seeing our kids having fun makes us feel like good parents) we fail to exercise this muscle. When our children confront a problem at school they say things like ‘It’s too hard’ or ‘I can’t do it’, because the workable ‘muscle’ doesn’t get trained through fun – it gets trained through work.
3. Technology rules the world for anyone under the age of 18. If you want to see a teenager at their worst, take their phone away for an hour and watch all hell break loose. Compared to what happens on a screen, real life is ‘boring’. It is hard to compete with what they see on youtube or TV, and this changes their perspective of what is normal.
When you go to the gym for a long period of time you develop what is called muscle memory. This makes it harder and harder to tear the muscle and grow because your body adapts and gets used to the high level of strain. This is the same with the brain. When a child plays video games for 4 hours, their brain gets so used to high levels of stimulation that anything less than that can be seen as boring.
I don’t have a suggestion for how much screen time is right – nor do I have any specific rules for my own kids. But it is important to understand that when we default to technology as a babysitter it may be causing more harm then good.
Being bored is a complaint my 4 year old daughter pulls out regularly. It isn’t something we have taught her, so she must have picked it up at preschool. When she does it, we stop her and tell her that nothing is inherently boring and that she needs to find a way to make them interesting, whether this be cleaning up her room or eating her dinner.
I hope you can find a way to beat the boredom and ultimately set them up for success in school and beyond.