It’s important to learn to just “be.” Be still. Be with yourself. When I was little, I was always on the move. Because I was raised as an only child, I didn’t have companions at home, so I wanted to be out with my friends or out in the world all the time. But sometimes, I had to just learn to deal with boredom. I had to learn to entertain myself.
Nowadays, children don’t have the opportunity to learn to entertain themselves because technology is inescapable. Unless they have very intentional parents, children almost always have a device with them to keep them occupied. Parents use devices as babysitters for their toddlers, students use devices in school, and babies are using devices to keep them entertained in line at the grocery store. While walking through the mall, I noticed even the rental strollers are now equipped with screens to keep children stimulated while parents shop. Isn’t all of the activity in a shopping mall, stimulation enough for a child? Whenever there is a moment of unstructured time, you see children using technology to escape boredom, to escape having to be still, to escape having to be with themselves. According to the World Economic Forum, boredom stimulates creativity and “provides an inner quiet that helps children with self-awareness.” I fear we are creating a generation of children who cannot find peace in being with themselves.
When we purchased our car, we had the option of including a DVD player at no additional cost, but this was a feature I was not interested in. I wanted my kids to tune in to the world, not tune out. It was important to me that our children observe the world around them and notice what is happening out there. It was also important our children learn to be okay without a device in front of them all of the time.
Why are parents so afraid to allow their children to be bored? It is not a parent’s job to entertain their children constantly, however, we have a generation of parents who believe keeping their child entertained during all waking hours, is their duty. As wel- intended as these parents are, there are devastating consequences to providing nonstop entertainment. In the last several years, we’ve noticed a huge trend of incoming kindergarteners struggling to participate appropriately in classroom routines and activities. They need to be constantly stimulated, and don’t know how to handle the low-key pace of classroom instruction or down-time. In great numbers, students are entering kindergarten with weak social-emotional skills, and then fall behind academically because they are unable to sit still and attend during whole-group instruction.
In grades K-5 I frequently hear students say “this is boring” when learning letter sounds or skip-counting, as if they shouldn’t be responsible for participating if it doesn’t interest them. Parents unintentionally feed into this notion when they provide constant stimulation and don’t set limits on screen-time. If you want to be a great parent, let your child be bored.