In defense of letting kids get bored once in awhile

In defense of letting kids get bored once in awhile

It’s that time of year when cabin fever is starting to set in, the new holiday gifts have lost a bit of their luster, and there isn’t a gift-giving occasion to look forward to. The kids are getting antsy. In fact, they’re probably getting bored.


I am all in favor of letting kids get good and bored.

On the Tween Us Facebook page a few weeks ago I shared  an article from ABC News about a 12-year-old Oklahoma boy named Cade who hand wrote a letter to every single NFL team asking why he should cheer for them. The article states that he started writing because he was “kind of bored.”

Lo and behold, he came up with a way to keep himself buys, if not entertain himself. Cade got bored and then got busy writing letters. And good things followed.

And do you remember the cardboard wonder that was Caine’s Arcade? That was something he started to create when he had time on his hands and no one to entertain him at his dad’s place of employment.

Kids who are bored will, eventually, find a way to not be bored.

Boredom leads to creativity.

They even learn practical skills, like letter writing and finding addresses or ways to make new things, like games out of boxes. Or maybe they lose themselves in a good book.

Bored kids whose parents aren’t expanding their horizons for them usually find a way to entertain themselves. They discover new things and create new worlds.

Giving kids the gift of unstructured time allows them to do so. And that’s true even of tweens and teens.

I completely missed this for years as a parent and still have to remind myself of this fact on a regular basis. I like the idea of her doing something productive and working towards goals. There are benefits to classes, for sure, and you don’t want to miss out an opportunity to develop their skills, socialization, etc.

But I’ve been surprised by what my tween has come up with when given unstructured time lately. Granted, she’s not doing anything covered by the national news. Things like playing volleyball with a friend after having fun with it in gym class. I didn’t know she liked volleyball, and I was pleased that my indoor kid headed outside for an hour, on a chilly day, no less.

I know that not every kid is good at entertaining him or herself. Boredom isn’t always comfortable, especially for kids who are used to being seriously scheduled and/or constantly entertained. But a little practice with boredom certainly isn’t a bad thing.

I can’t help but wonder what will happen with kids who have every single moment scheduled for them when they are on their own.

No one said life would be exciting all the time. We do our kids a disservice if we give them the impression that life is always full of fun and excitement.

And if they can’t create their own fun and excitement? That’s perfectly okay too, because I’m willing to bet there are some chores around the house that need doing. There will be days full of chores and other mundane tasks throughout adulthood and they may well be boring.  Why not let kids get used to it now?

I also think our kids may need a few minutes to themselves regularly to breathe, just be, and figure out who they are. Isn’t that part of the work of adolescence? It’s hard to do that when you are constantly on the go.

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Filed under: Parenting

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