Is there a secret training camp where kids practice saying, "I'm boooooored" before collapsing in a heap, clearly about to die from the symptoms of Lackofentertainmentitis?
Summertime and boredom go together like peanut butter handprints and the couch cushions (what, is that just at our house?) The good news is you can ditch the guilt and let your kids be bored for a bit. Psychologists say allowing your kids to be bored during the summer is actually a good thing.
As a full-time nanny, I've noticed a shift in the way kids play. The same kids who used to pretend all day long, now have a hard time even entertaining themselves at a playground unless someone else guides the experience. This doesn't seem to be an isolated problem. While kids have always begged for entertainment, the need to be entertained has grown.
So what's changed? For one thing, kid's schedules today seem to be as jam packed as many adults. While it's not bad to expose kids to activities and experiences, psychologists suggest that having too many commitments can be detrimental, and can keep kids from learning how to occupy their own thoughts and find what truly interests them.
The answer? Let kids have time to be bored. Psychoanalist Adam Phillips noted in 1993 that, "The capacity to be bored can be a developmental achievement for the child." He goes on to state that often a child is reprimanded for being bored, when really, adults should simply let the child grapple with the boredom.
Child psychologist Lyn Fry says, “Your role as a parent is to prepare children to take their place in society. Being an adult means occupying yourself and filling up your leisure time in a way that will make you happy. If parents spend all their time filling up their child’s spare time, then the child’s never going to learn to do this for themselves.”
To keep everyone from going insane, Fry suggests taking time to help your child develop a list of boredom activities—things they can do when they feel that itch of boredom coming on. While some of the activities may require adult help, many should be things they can tackle on their own. Then when the dreaded boredom strikes, you can send them to check their list and put the responsibility back on them.
Fry also said, "I think children need to learn how to be bored in order to motivate themselves to get things done. Being bored is a way to make children self-reliant."
So if you've heard "I'm boooooored" at any point today, you're not a bad parent, you're teaching your kids to be productive and self-reliant, and that deserves a pat on the back.