The Most Untapped Parenting Tool On the Planet

When you were a kid, how many times a day did you go up to your mom and say: “I’m bored”? For me, it was at least five times each day. 

There is a restlessness that comes with childhood– and adulthood for that matter. It makes us want to fill each moment without any gaps. And yet, it’s worth considering the question: Is there any merit to letting ourselves and our children experience boredom?

Recently, I read an article from Maria Popova, in which she collected thoughts from thinkers of the past, such as Bertrand Russell, Adam Phillips & Søren Kierkegaard– on this very topic.

Her conclusion?

Boredom is vital to a deep human experience, because it can breed creativity, inventiveness and the ability to have patient thought.

While I hate being bored more than almost anything, I resonate with this concept. Going back to my childhood, I remember my mom’s response to my ever-present boredom issue. She’d always say: “If you’re bored, go find something to do!” I remember looking endlessly through my closet, sighing heavily and wishing for something to do… But then do you know what would happen?

I’d make something up.

In the life of our children and in our lives, we must realize this power and harness it. It’s the easiest thing in the world to avoid boredom—through distraction, busy schedules and technology. I know I’m guilty of this. However, this can sometimes stunt creativity. By spoon-feeding our children activities, we could be allowing them to miss out on some pretty awesome creative adventures

This week, pay attention to the way you treat boredom– in your life and the lives of your children.  If you find yourself recoiling when that old familiar feeling washes over you, remind yourself that boredom can actually be its own form of productivity.

The next time your child wants you to come and create an activity, tell them to try it on their own.

The next time they get bored– don’t fix it. 

I’m not going to lie– this is harder than it sounds. Since reading Maria Popova’s article, I’ve been doing a little experiment. Every morning after breakfast, I tell my daughter she has ten minutes to play while I journal. I let her pick what to do and help her get started, but then she’s on her own. She hated it at first, but now most mornings, she already has something in mind and will take responsibility over the activities. Other days, she pouts, lays on the bottom stair and stares off into space, until I tell her that “play time” is over.

Regardless of her attitude, this time has given her open space (within a structure)— time to be independent and a little bit of boredom that has led her to be creative. (She often ends up painting or coloring!) As she gets older, I will expand my “experiments’ and give her more free reign. 🙂

Moms, let’s leave room for our children to think, to create, and to daydream

“A generation that cannot endure boredom will be a generation of little men, of men unduly divorced from the slow processes of nature, of men in whom every vital impulse slowly withers, as though they were cut flowers in a vase.” -Bertrand Russell

4 Replies to “The Most Untapped Parenting Tool On the Planet”

  1. This was wonderful and thought provoking .Thanks for giving me good stuff to mull over and apply to my parenting!!

    1. Awesome! Glad it was helpful, Amy! 🙂

  2. MIchael D Yearley says: Reply

    I love this thought. I think it is so true, and I love the 10 minute idea. Brilliant!

    1. Thanks! Yes, I loved Maria Popova’s quotes on this topic– she has such good, deep thoughts! And yes, 10 minutes is a great place for us to start! I’ve started pushing it a little longer to see what happens. 🙂

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