I know I will draw a lot of flak for saying this, but I just say it anyway: being bored is good for you, it’s good for the kids too.
Nowadays, we are surrounded by so much entertainment that it is very hard to get bored. Have you tried to just remain silent for 10 minutes, and see how you can last that? Just keep your mind focus on breathing, and see how long before some random thoughts disrupt your thinking?
I bet a lot of us can’t even notice it when some thoughts hijack our consciousness. This is a good evidence showing that we are not even aware of our own thought, let alone master it. In fact, that’s the whole point of meditation: it’s not so much on the oriental philosophical or religious mumbo jumbo, but rather an exercise on mind, an exercise on awareness. Your thoughts are not you; as modern science discovers, your thoughts are just random electro-chemical reactions than happen in the background of your brain neural networks, that somehow get bubbled up into your consciousness. The very first step to be freed from incessant worry and the tyranny of thoughts, is to be aware of them.
By definition, entertainment is meant to keep your mind occupied, so that you don’t feel bored. So that you feel that you are doing something meaningful, even though you really aren’t. It’s just to let your mind doing something. So when your mind finds that it suddenly has nothing to do, it sends out SOS message: help! I’m bored, please, give me something to do!
If we as adults have problem keeping ourselves bored, the kids even more so. But intentionally keeping them bored has a few benefits:
It makes them more creative.
Newton discovered calculus and the law of gravitation when he was retreating to his hometown after Cambridge closed down due to bubonic plague. Having nothing to do, he pondered upon the secrets of the universe and revolutionized mathematics and physics. Likewise, sitting at his desk after finishing his patent examination work, Einstein had a lot of time to be bored, and he used the time to come with with quantum theory and relativity theory.
Two data points don’t make a trend, of course. But if they were born today, most likely they would be distracted by games and social medias and less likely to be bored, and there goes our understanding of the universe.
They will find ways to entertain themselves
It’s a measure of self-reliance and resourcefulness to be able to find ways to entertain yourself. Parents can’t be there all the time to answer to their kids every single demand. There was once upon a time when parents would just leave their kids to their own device, because they were just too occupied with house chores and their own work. But then the child psychologists convince us that doing so is a form of parental negligence, that if we continue to neglect our kids, they might suffer a lack of sense of security later when they grow up.
So in order not to inflict permanent damage on our kids, we rush to their every whim and cry, so much so that they become dependent on us to relieve their boredom. They don’t get to exercise the inner resourcefulness they have deep within themselves. Another potential wasted. What if when they grow up and you won’t be around to entertain them? Will they be able to cope with the boredom? Overindulging your kids with your attention seems like the best way to create crying babies.
It puts gives them the right perspective, about themselves
They are not the center of the universe, and neither they should be the center of the parents. This point is important for them to sink in. A child who is used to have his attention demand fulfilled on demand is more likely to suffer a cultural shock when he faces the real society, a society that doesn’t really give a damn who he actually is, and who really doesn’t care what he is doing or whether he is accomplishing something. The universe goes around regardless of what you are doing, or not.
So, you have to figure out yourself what you want for your life, and set your own goal, and monitor yourself to it. This is a self-discovery process that everyone has to go through themselves. You need time for yourself to do that, and you need to get bored enough to embark on this journey of self-reflection.
Parents free up the time!
Taking care of kids is stressful, not so much because the workload is heavy, but because they demand your attention all the time, and the moment you think finally they can handle themselves, suddenly they come to you: perhaps a fight breaks among them and needs your intervention, or perhaps they poop or piss or hungry, or perhaps they are just bored and they want your involvement, or perhaps they just can’t stand to see you doing nothing. You just don’t know, but the effect is nonetheless the same: you can no longer enjoy the activity that you want to immerse yourself in.
Training up kids to face boredom themselves is a way to free you from the tyranny of incessant demand.
Today is the second day of Chinese New Year, I believe a lot of parents are busy running around with their kids, and fulfilling their demand. If so, try to take a step back, and try to ignore them once in a while. You might find that your kids are a lot more independent than you think.