It wasn’t until I read the recent blog posts by Andrew Campbell and John Spencer related to boredom that I realized that, like many emotional states, it is complex and can mean different things to different people. Andrew wrote about boredom and daydreaming being important for creativity. John wrote about it in terms of a being a choice and also discussed the kind of boredom that he would not want his kids to experience. Both shared other good points and stories and I encourage a read of their posts in full.
I am quite certain that I have made the statement that it can be good for kids to get bored. I realize now that I may have meant many things by that opinion. I often found that after a structured and busy school year, my kids felt a bit out of sorts those first few days into summer. They had gotten used to a rhythm and a schedule to their days and weeks and I think the summer ahead could seem vast and confusing. I found it usually took about two weeks for them to transition to a different pace in their days before they could settle into summer “mode”. Even if kids say they are bored, I am not always sure they know that is what it really is. I can understand how parents can feel unsure if they are offering the appropriate space and response. As John referred to, it can come with some discomfort. As I thought on it more, it wasn’t really just boredom I wished for my kids. I think it was more about allowing them the experience of more unstructured time and getting more used to that, and them giving them the space and support for them to pursue some of their own interests or try some new activities. At times it took some patience and perseverance, but things usually worked out for the best. I think an important part of this is helping kids feel okay about exploring different things and taking time to daydream and enjoy a different pace without feeling guilty or anxious. I think we may not realize that our task and efficiency-focused days and lives as adults impact our kids. I think there is a lot of necessary dialogue that may need to occur to keep things on track. Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is also a consideration in this.
I also got thinking about the downside of boredom – it could also lead to negative behaviours and bad choices. It could also be an attention issue as well. If children become used to having their lives structured and planned for them and are “entertained” too much, whether by technology or other activities, does the effort to attend to and participate in self-directed interests and open-ended activities become very difficult? Even now as I watch my own kids involve themselves in hobbies and creative tasks, their sustained attention is quite remarkable. Amidst the many uncertainties of parenting, this leaves me feeling very reassured as a parent.
I look forward to more stories and experiences that could support parents with this topic.