“Only boring people get bored!” This was the snappy response I repeated back to both my son and daughter whenever they used to complain to me that they were bored during their summer vacation. It didn’t take them long to learn that I was not inspired by their boredom to stop what I was doing and immediately begin entertaining them. As a matter of a fact, I haven’t heard this complaint in years – they have learned that they are in charge of their own entertainment during the summer.
My own Mom used a different (yet effective!) technique to handle our complaints of summertime boredom – she would threaten us with chores. She would tell us that if we couldn’t find something to do, then she could find some chores that needed to be done. This technique was pretty effective for me! The threat of having to do household chores was enough to inspire me to figure out something to do. It inspired me to find a new series of books to read (I was an avid reader when I was younger), invent a game for my sister and I to play, or to call up a friend and find something to do together.
“Obviously, younger children thrive when given adult direction and daily schedules, but pre-teens and older kids can gain valuable life skills that they can use as adults.”
I am so grateful that my mom required us to figure out how to entertain ourselves when we were young. It taught me a very important skill – how to find a way to pass the time in a worthwhile way. When I tell my kids that only boring people get bored, I truly mean it. I want my kids to grow up to be adults with interests, passions, and distinctive ideas, and this won’t happen if I dictate their schedules during their “downtime”. They need to figure out for themselves what interests them and what passions serve to inspire them.
Let me reassure you that it is ok to purposefully allow your older kids to experience boredom during the summer – there are so many benefits our kids can gain from this. Obviously, younger children thrive when given adult direction and daily schedules, but pre-teens and older kids can gain valuable life skills that they can use as adults. We don’t want our kids to grow up to be adults who sit around all day being lazy or just watching TV; on the contrary, we want our kids to grow up to be interesting, stimulating people who fill their time with positive activities.
So what are the positive aspects of summertime boredom? Below are just a few reasons why your kids can benefit from this time of year.
They Can Discover New Interests And Passions
When we allow our kids to be bored, this encourages them to find new things to do or to figure out how to use what they already have in a whole new way. For example, maybe your child already knows how to use the family photography equipment and Photoshop program, and when given large amounts of unstructured time, they might stumble upon using the equipment and computer program in a whole new way. Having a large amount of unstructured time might also permit your kids to turn small, introductory interests in a certain topic into a life-long, in-depth passion.
Conquering Boredom and/or Frustration = An Important Life Skill
When managing boredom, kids (and adults) can handle it in one of two ways: either passively or actively. A passive way of handing boredom is to watch TV, turn on some YouTube, eat when not hungry, etc. Not a lot of creative juices or brain waves flowing in this scenario. Actively tackling boredom is done by taking on a project, researching a new hobby, reading a book, creating an art project, etc. All of these active methods of handling boredom encourage our kids to be interesting, happy, curious, and intelligent people. As parents, we might become uncomfortable watching our kids go through the initial stages of boredom, but allowing our kids to experience this feeling and to figure out positive, active answers to their boredom is a gift that smart, modern parents should give to their kids.
Your Kids Need a “Formal Education Vacation”
Academic work can be pretty intense for our modern kids and it makes sense that they should take a “Formal Education Vacation.” During the school year, their brains are constantly memorizing, analyzing, computing, etc. During the summertime, they should switch cognitive “gears” and use their brains to imagine, create, discover, and invent. This should be done without a time limit – let your kids take as long as it needs to work on a project. Both types of thinking are good for our kids! While our kids need to learn the formal thinking skills taught in the school system to cultivate a successful adult career, it also benefits our kids to exercise their brains creatively and less formally in order for them to develop into well-rounded people.
Summertime Boredom Inspires Self-Discovery, Self-Motivation, and Initiative
Summertime can be a great time for our older kids to learn important life skills that help to shape them as successful adults. For instance, when a child is left to their own devices to entertain themselves, more than likely they will find something to do. If they decide to make a movie starring the family dog for instance, they also learn some pretty important life skills such as learning how to start a project on their own, figuring out the steps needed to accomplish the project, managing frustration when the project doesn’t work out exactly right the first time, and mostly importantly – doing something simply because it is fun without an extrinsic reward.
Balancing Unscheduled Free Time With Planned Family Activities
So I’m not saying that parents should be completely hands-off during the summer. That would be lazy parenting! I’m suggesting that summer break should be a balance of planned family activities and unplanned “down time” where our kids learn the important skill of handling their own boredom. Think of this as a life-long skill that, if mastered during their youth, will encourage them to be interesting, productive adults. Provide some structure during the week such as planned family outings, play dates with friends, or regular trips to the library, but then let your kids fill in the gaps with ideas of their own. In this way, you are modeling what it looks like to be a healthy, interesting individual.
The Take Home Message
As always, I believe that parents should parent with a purpose (Parenting The Modern Family Rule #2), and the lesson with allowing our kids to handle their own summertime boredom is to let them discover for themselves how to conquer boredom on their own. Remember to think long-term – if your kids can tackle this life-skill during the summer this year, then next summer will be a breeze! While being a parent means putting in the necessary time and effort to parent appropriately, it should also mean enjoying spending time with your kids. Wouldn’t it be more fun interacting with your child while engaging in their interesting hobby than simply idly watching TV with them?