This post is the first in a series written by Creative QT Founder, Adam Hinkle, full of marginal parenting advice, honest-to-goodness funny stories about his five kids and why he's passionate about families Making Time Together.
It seems like at least once a day my kids would come moping up to me and say with the saddest puppy dog eyes ever and say, “I’m bored.” It’s kind of funny that they ask the guy who is categorizing expenses in Quickbooks for entertainment advice. Most often, the truth is, they aren’t really bored at all. They’re simply being lazy.
The dirty little secret is, if you let your kids be bored long enough, they will finally get up, grab a stick, or whatever else they can find, and pretend it’s a sword, baseball bat, golf club, horse or who knows what else….. they’re naturally amazing at finding things to do.
Kids are actually great at entertaining themselves. They would just rather not take the time and energy to create something to entertain themselves with; they would rather you do it for them and deliver an activity on a silver platter.
The down side of doing it for them is that the creativity and imagination it takes to come up with an activity can be nurtured and developed into the same creativity and initiative it takes to be a great engineer, entrepreneur or general world saver.
One idea I adopted from Dennis Prager is when your kids say, “I’m bored” reply with, “well, you must be a boring person. There are a lot of interesting books to read and a lot of interesting hobbies to try… you aren’t doing any of those, are you?”
It sounds totally heartless, but my kids realize that I’m not being totally serious. The underlying message is that they need to go and try things, experiment, learn and explore the world.
That’s what childhood play is all about: discovering the world around you.
What are the opportunities, what are the tools available, what are my God given talents? This can often be an uncomfortable place for kids to be, as it naturally stretches them beyond their ability and in turn takes them out of their comfort zone.
When we bypass this process and give them a never-ending stream of cut-out pieces of foam that they glue onto paper where the instructions say to, we deny kids the opportunity to discover frontiers they can explore.
As we raise kids, one of our biggest jobs is to push these frontiers further and further out, offering more opportunities and more responsibilities until they are grown up and ready for the great big world they will live in.
This may sound like I’m taking my kid’s boredom a bit seriously, but what I do take seriously is their mindset. And, boredom is a mindset where they sit helplessly waiting for something to happen or someone to offer them an exciting life. So, my message to them is that they aren’t bored, they are being lazy.
They are capable of doing and creating so much more than they realize and we need to teach them that.
So instead of letting them be bored and wait for life to happen to them, we need to encourage them to get up and engage with the world around them. As they grow, that world will get bigger and we need them to grow with it.