Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Is There a Boredom Shortage?

          It’s that time.  Summer is ending, and families are running out of ways to entertain the kids, as many parents count the days until their stir-crazy kids can go back to school. 
          It’s as if we have all agreed to mount a War on Boredom.  We pack our kids’ lives so full of campouts and trips and sports and programs that their entire summer reads like the appointment calendar of a CEO.
          And today I’m calling it out.  Boredom is good.  Yep, there-- I’ve said it.  Boredom is absolutely necessary to a happy life.  But because it’s unpleasant, a bunch of silly parents 30 years ago decided it had to be avoided at all costs.  We began this era of “Supermoms” and “Superkids,” enrolling them in enrichment classes, competing to get into the right pre-schools, giving them every opportunity in every hour of the day to get jump on the competition.
          What a crock. Years ago no parent gasped in horror when a kid said he was bored.  Instead, the parent asked him what he was going to do about it.  And we made our own entertainment.
          The result?  Creative self-starters who knew how to roll up their sleeves and solve problems, instead of waiting for someone to entertain them.  We built forts, put on plays, made spook alleys in our basements, made stuff and sold it door-to-door, started lawn trimming companies, told jokes, taught littler kids how to tumble or dance, ran libraries out of our bedrooms, wrote poems, held art festivals, read books, went on scavenger hunts, designed puzzles, learned to cook, climbed trees, trained dogs, grew vegetables, told scary stories, and made up our own games to play.  For free.
          There was no limit to what our imaginations could conjure up—we could pretend to be forest fairies, spies, movie stars, cowboys, zombies.  We could watch clouds tumble by in the day, and stars gather at night. Granted, it was safer then to run around a neighborhood, but you could be just as creative on stormy days cooped up at home, simply because you had the mindset that your joy was up to you.  And that’s what’s missing today—the chance for kids just to think for themselves.
          When someone directs your life every minute of the day, you become an automaton.  You don’t plan or imagine because there’s no point—your schedule is already determined.  There are also adult-levels of pressure injected into these activities, far more than most kids should have to manage.  And then parents wonder why their child seems depressed and unmotivated.  Look at primates and big cats in zoos—they’ve lost their freedom and they know it.  And they act just like many kids today: Listless, flat, miserable.
          Having choices and self-determination is vital to happiness.  When those are stripped away, you are living in a prison of sorts.  And even though you go to Taco Bell and have your own bedroom and the latest sneakers… you don’t have the freedom to invent or dream.  Someone else is deciding everything for you.  What we need to do is allow kids to get good and bored.  Then watch and see what their brains can do.  You will be amazed.

Check out my website, jonihilton.com, and watch a few of my YouTube Mom videos.  You might even find some fun stuff to do on those wonderful, boring days!

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