Monday, July 7, 2014

The Value of Boredom and Other Observations

Sitting by my pool this summer has caused me to reflect on different types of behavior from various children that have visited my house. All children are annoying sometimes, but some children, let's face it, are more annoying than others. 

This is my observation. I've sat on the patio in my favorite chair with my laptop, working, for countless hours. For many of those hours, I've listened to kids play/fight in the pool, too. There are two types of kids, I've decided.


1.  These are the kids who use their imaginations to play with one another, or even alone. They come up with games in the pool and find ways to keep themselves entertained for hours. Generally, they problem-solve pretty well too. I try to stay out of the fights because there is value in figuring out how to resolve problems and get along. Don't get me wrong -- I've yanked some kids right out of there! But generally, they are pretty nice to have over.

2.  These are the kids I don't love hanging out at my house. Their stimulation seems to be all external. They slap the water with the pool noodles, and once they are board with that, they start hitting each other. They usually don't follow the rules (I only have 2), and seem incredibly bored right off the bat. They pester each other, tease, make fun of someone else, etc. You get the picture. If/when a fight breaks out, I have to step in or else it will escalate, not resolve itself. 

The imaginative kids hate playing with these kids because these kids act like bullies. I don't necessarily think it's because they are mean, but rather, they have not been taught to use their imaginations. They've been propped in front of a TV or computer, or iPad, or iPhone for so long that they don't know how to entertain themselves. The kind that comes from within. The kind that makes you push through boredom to the other side. 

I am totally guilty of letting my kids watch too much TV, but I think it's super important to acknowledge the damage done when we allow our kids to be constantly stimulated.  Boredom is important to embrace. We learn who we are through boredom because we are forced to figure out what interests us. As parents, it seems like we are so afraid for our kids to be bored. They don't need to be constantly entertained. 

I do see one common denominator between these groups of kids. Group number one - the imaginative kids - come from homes where the parents are actively engaged in what they are doing. Either the mom or dad is home with them when the kids are home. 

Group number two, the external stimulation kids (since it sounds nicer than what I really want to call them), seem to be home a lot by themselves. When my son was in early elementary school, he used to call these external stimulation kids "daycare kids". I know this has the potential of offending people. It's not my intention, but I do think it needs to be said. There is an effect on children that are in daycare instead of with their parents, or as they get older, go home to an empty house. With kids of all ages, and having had lots of kids in and out of my home over the years, I'm fairly comfortable writing this post. 

Half the battle is just being aware of and making time for other things where the devices and media are turned off. Anyone can do that, right? How about us as adults? Are we able to do it, too? How comfortable are you with boredom? .......

3 comments:

Marlene Dotterer said...

Let me throw out another possible cause. When I was kid, we were called "latch-key kids," the ones who went home to empty houses. That was me. Worse, I was the product of a divorced family, with only one parent in the home, at least until my mother remarried when I was 12.

But imagination has never been my problem. I'm a daydreamer and a reader, and fancy can send me off on an exciting adventure in the blink of an eye. Hoo boy, did I live in my head! I even write SF and fantasy books now.

But see, I READ. Constantly. From the time I was four, I couldn't pass by a closed book. I even read the backs (and fronts and sides!) of cereal boxes and milk cartons. I watched plenty of TV, of course, and a lot of my book ideas come from that as well. And movies, too. But it was the books that started it all and fed it like oxygen to a fire.

I don't know how to interest kids in reading, and I'm sure if you suggest it to them or to their parents, they'll look at you like you're crazy. It helps to expose them to it from a very early age and KEEP exposing them to it throughout elementary school.

Parents who work outside the home probably have less time to do this with their kids. Although now that I think about it, I was a single parent with five kids, and I had to work, plus I went to school. But I read to my kids every day. But see, I love to read. That makes a difference, too.

Janie said...

This would appear to be a false dichotomy. The children you dislike could be non-neurotypical, or hyperactive, or just not like your kids.

Their parents may be struggling with depression or actively engaged more than you think. The imaginative kids could be more neglected than you think.

This read as judgmental. The good advice could have come through without reminding parents that if their kids are more difficult to handle that they are actually disliked and the parents are judged. Which is many people's fear.

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