If you are like most parents, you often hear your child complain, “I’m bored.” There are various approaches parents take in dealing with their child’s plight, but I found Julie Lowe’s simple response to her children’s boredom intriguing and helpful.
We told our children that every time we hear the words, “I’m bored” (and all versions of boredom: “I’m tired”, “Nothing to do”, etc.), we would assign a chore to do. It didn’t take long before the words slipped out and thereafter, my kids appeared to find ways to occupy their time.
But Lowe notes that though this technique may change the behavior of our kids, it won’t get to the more fundamental issues in their heart. In other words, it’ll change the fruit of complaining about boredom, but not the root that causes boredom. It’ll erase the symptom, but not the sickness. It’s start, but not an end.
Three Counsels for Parenting Bored Kids
Knowing this, Lowe then offers three counsels for how parents can get at the heart of their frequently bored child.
1) Help Them Exchange Passive Entertainment to Active Engagement
“When left to their own devices, they will often turn first to technology which allows them to be passively entertained rather than actively engaged in a hobby or activity. By spending time on social media, video games, TV or movies, they are, quite literally, entertaining themselves to mindlessness. When there is a moment of silence or inactivity, the adversity of boredom descends upon them and they feel incapable of overcoming it. “
So help them exchange their go-to entertainment for actively engaging hobbies by introducing them to engaging activities like crafts, art, music, building, writing, reading, sports, robotics, and more. For a huge list of actively engaging options, here is a website dedicated to actively engaging hobbies.
2) Help Them Foster the Gift of Stillness
“There is something lost when we do not learn to just sit, to be quiet, swing on a hammock or take a walk without something bellowing in our ear. We all need to stop and smell the roses, experience creation, to cease striving and know that He is God. We need to learn to enjoy such moments as a delight, not a period of boredom. Like us, children need to learn to reflect, contemplate, and meditate on the things of God. How will that happen if we do not endeavor to instill this in our children?”
I personally believe of the best ways to do this is by learning to do it yourself. One of the things I am learning as I watch my fellow adults is that we often have no idea how to sit still. So, before helping your child foster the gift of stillness ask yourself if you even have it! Learn to be without the TV, the phone, or any other amusement device and your kids will pick up on the unique gift that stillness is.
3) Help Them Think Outside of Themselves
“There is a world of need, service, job opportunities, education and life to be lived and they need to be nudged (or sometimes dragged) in the right direction. Teens are not going to wake up one day and feel charitable and ask to go serve in the local food pantry. It requires cultivating generosity and a desire to serve…As parents, we have to be willing to do the hard work of steering our kids towards service and imparting within them a desire to be other-centered.”
What are various family service projects at home, at church, or in your community that you could do with your child? In your example and leading (not just your words), how are you cultivating a servant’s heart in your child?
At the end, Lowe’s final word gives the principal behind the practice, as parents we must carefully study, “what captures their affections and (equip) them to thoughtfully steward their free time.” Find out the things that excite them and help them plan their schedule accordingly.
I encourage you to read her whole post here.