This is boring.

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Boredom is something that most of us feel on a daily basis. Nobody enjoys being bored, and very few people embrace it. With the rise of smart phones, we adults rarely allow ourselves to be bored. There is always something to check, something to learn, a status update to like, a picture to snap – the list goes on and on. With all of these ‘fillers’, we wonder what the next generation will learn about boredom? Will they learn to fill all of their downtime with screens?

We think that boredom can be a very good thing. Kids are having more screen time now than ever before, and while there are some great sanity-saving benefits, screens might be doing more harm than good. We constantly meet parents whose children have become addicted to their iPads, which have created a lot of negative and obsessive behaviors. Constant screen time is also associated with antisocial behaviors, as we know in adulthood, relates to the feeling that people aren’t truly present in life if they are always on their phones.

Maybe we need some good ole’ fashioned boredom!

What boredom teaches kids:

(1) Creativity
When you allow your children to experience boredom, they will learn to fill their time with other activities. Can your kids entertain themselves with limited resources? Why don’t you try naming all 50 states. Can they make a game out of nothing? Why don’t you try finding everything in the room that starts with ‘S’. While waiting for food at a restaurant, are they kept amused by paper and a pen? Have you heard of the game called dots? Click here for an online example, but you can literally play this with a pen and a napkin. While you wait in line at the airport security check-in, why don’t you play the hat game? All you need to do is take turns coming up with all the different types of hats you can think of. We’ll start you off – baseball cap, beanie, fez, yarmulke, visor… your turn!

(2) Self Control
Exposing your children to boring situations from a young age teaches them that the world doesn’t revolve around their comfort. Sometimes we think that we have to thrust an iPad into the hand of a whining child the minute some kind of boring or lengthy situation occurs. Yes, it’s far easier to keep them amused with screens, but you may be creating a rod for your own back. What will happen the day the battery is flat, or you get an important call while your child is playing Minecraft on your phone?

(3) Problem Solving
Problem: This trip to Great Aunt Mildred’s house isn’t fun because there’s “nothing to do”. Solution: Find something to do. If you keep solving problems for your children, they won’t know how to be resilient. While fixing their kid-sized problems now feels like the easiest way to stay sane, as they grow their problems grow with them. Are you preparing your children for real life?

(4) Patience
A couple of weeks ago, we blogged about curbing childhood impulsivity. Despite the special needs that your child may face, you are still able to teach them to be patient. Nothing of worth ever comes quickly or easily, so let this liberate you towards directly teaching your child patience. It may feel mean, but consider the long-term goals.

This week, think of some ways in which you can create some strategically boring situations for your children and encourage their creativity!

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