Today's world of “instant everything” has left us little room for idle time. Unfortunately, sometimes, the same can be said for our kids. “Technology has created a new normal, namely, constant engagement,” said Nancy Colier, a psychotherapist and author, said in an article for Psychology Today.
“With tech has come the expectation that our kids (and even us adults) should be able to live in a state of uninterrupted entertainment and pleasurable busyness, 24/7,” she said. On the contrary, there’s a lot to gain from finding that there’s “nothing to do.” Here are a few reasons why you should let your child be bored:
1. Because you can’t be your child’s entertainer 24/7 It's a mistake to think it’s a mom or dad's job to “cure” boredom whenever their child comes complaining about it, said Richard Rende, Ph.D., a distinguished developmental psychologist. “Recognize that it's not your place to come up with solutions to the boredom problem,” he said in an article for Psychology Today. “Boredom is a signal that your child needs to come up with something on their own.”
Plus, your child's just going to keep coming back to you to keep him entertained — even when you're busy. Instead, Rene advised parents, “When they say ‘I'm bored,’ smile sweetly and say ‘Okay, got it. So enjoy your free time and figure out something to do that isn't boring to you.’ And leave it at that.”
2. Boredom fosters skills like creativity and problem solving There are amazing opportunities for growth when there’s “nothing to do,” said Michael Ungar, Ph.D., a family therapist and renowned researcher on the topic of resilience. “Children who experience a lack of programmed activity are given an opportunity to demonstrate creativity, problem solving, and to develop motivational skills that may help them later in life.”
Other experts agree. “It's the downtime for scribbling, making a car out of a cardboard box, or exploring the backyard that fosters the skills your child needs to be successful and fulfilled,” psychologist Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, author of Einstein Never Used Flash Cards, told Redbook. If you need more convincing, problem solving takes first place at Future Jobs Report's list of top 10 skills children need to thrive in 2020. Creativity comes in at the third spot.
3. It can lead your child to find his interests Ungar actually encouraged parents to schedule boredom (a.k.a. free time) into their child’s schedule where the TV, tablet, phone, or computer are turned off. It’s here that children get to explore other options like making a paper mache sculpture, trying to bake cookies, or fiddling with kuya’s guitar. Who knows, out of boredom your child may take an interest in the potted plants at home and start a lifelong love of gardening?
Give them the space to find what makes them happy. Said Rende, “It's certainly true that sometimes those experiences stimulate what becomes our passions... But it's also true that sometimes ‘doing nothing’ is more important than ‘doing something’ even if it doesn't lead to anything.”
4. Feeling boredom at a young age helps your child deal with it in the future Boredom is an unpleasant feeling. Think of how it feels like to wait at a doctor’s office or to be stuck in terrible traffic. “It can make you angry and frustrated. Boredom can also influence your actions in negative ways. Bored people are prone to overeat, for example,” Art Markman, Ph.D., a cognitive scientist at the University of Texas, in an article for Psychology Today.
Learning how to deal with boredom at a young age can help your child overcome negative things that can come from it. “Some young people who do not have the interior resources or the responses to deal with that boredom creatively then sometimes end up smashing up bus shelters or taking cars out for a joyride,” said Dr. Teresa Belton, an author and expert on the impact of emotions on behavior, told the BBC.