‘I’m bored, Mum’
Few words seem designed to strike at the heart of parental guilt with quite such precision as these. Parents today seem to regard stimulating their offspring as being on a par with feeding them their five-a-day – something without which their precious growing minds will simply be unable to fully flourish. If we want our children to reach their potential (and which parent doesn’t?), we must stimulate, educate and excite, to stop bored kids. Boredom has no place in the home of today’s anxious parent.
Over-stimulation from birth
Our quest to stimulate starts as soon as our babies emerge from the quiet and peace of the womb into a world that will constantly bombard them with fast-moving images, attention-grabbing sounds and ever-changing novelty:
- We propel them into stimulating nurseries
- Buy them ‘educational’ toys with multiple features
- Enrol them in exciting music, dance and art classes
- Send them to schools replete with interactive white-boards and extra-curricular activities
- Take them to museums and violin lessons at the weekends
- And, if there is a spare moment after all this, sit them in front of educational TV programmes and iPad apps
If they still dare to be bored, we feel we have let them down, and, often hang our heads at this shameful dereliction of our parental duties, frantically search for new and scintillatingly educational means of sweeping away their ennui
Children need downtime
It’s time to stop this over-stimulation of our kids. Some children can need downtime more than uptime. They need to be bored, to be forced to make their own entertainment and they need time away from the fast-paced constantly changing environment that increasingly makes up their world.
Stimulation can be addictive
When children are reared on a diet characterised by constant change and novelty, they become unused to sustaining attention on any one thing for any length of time; they never need to, since they rarely encounter much that demands such intense concentration. Their world is a smorgasbord of snappy images and soundbites, ready to be changed as soon as their attention wanes and it becomes ‘boring’.
In our quest to keep them from boredom, we are making them more bored, for novelty is addictive: the more we have, the more we crave. And hence, their tolerance for boredom is reduced and they get bored more easily. Yet instead of embracing that boredom, we rush to eliminate it in our quest to be the perfect parent.
Boredom can be good
- Boredom facilitates mind-wandering and daydreaming
- In the absence of external stimulation, children will create the most wonderful adventures in their heads
- They can write books and newspapers, poems and stories
- They can play shop and school
- They can draw pictures and make models
- They can think, reflect, muse and ponder
In short, they could become tomorrow’s innovators, inventors and entrepreneurs. They will develop curiosity and problem-solving skills as they work out new and better ways to do things.
Lets embrace bored kids. Boredom is a journey. Who knows where it will take them?