I invited a friend to a social gathering recently, and when I told her the location and venue she said she won’t have fun if her kids are bored.
I was shocked.
I wasn’t shocked because of the bluntness of the suggestion. I was shocked because worrying about my kids’ boredom had never even crossed my mind. Sometimes kids are bored.
And, quite frankly, I don’t care if my kids are bored.
There are numerous reasons why boredom is not a concern of mine, but here are the top five reasons.
1. Life Can be Boring
When the Anthony kids say they are bored, I give them one chance to go find something to do.
If they persist in their supposed boredom, I give them a chore. After that chore is completed, they are free to go and find something to relieve the boredom on their own.
If they come back and tell me they’re bored again… they get another chore.
This is a routine that happens at home and out in public. I’ve made my kids sweep other people’s floors and wipe down counters in other people’s kitchens. (Consistency is important.)
Life is not always exciting.
There will be times in life that you get bored.
When that happens, there isn’t going to be someone with a preplanned craft project waiting for you. No one is going to appear and take you outside for a game of kickball.
There will be a point in every person’s life that they are responsible for their own entertainment.
Why wait until kids are grown to give them that responsibility?
2. Boredom Leads to Creativity
Due to the “bored means chores” rule, my older children are very hesitant to tell me that they’re bored.
Instead, they’ve learned to entertain themselves.
Granted, there are four of them so they basically have a party everywhere they go.
I’ve seen them invent some incredibly fun games using only two paper plates. They have pretended to go fabulous places in cardboard boxes and closets. They have decided on their own to make cards for nursing home residents out of copy paper and four crayons.
Given the opportunity and freedom to create, kids will.
If you constantly hover over them with a bag full of stuff to keep them entertained, they won’t.
And by keeping them entertained, you are teaching them that they can’t entertain themselves.
You are literally making them dependent on you for their entertainment.
So, unless you want to spend the rest of your days as Mary Poppins pulling stuff out of her magical bag, you should probably stop bringing a bag full of stuff.
3. Bored Kids Don’t Fight (as much)
If I give my kids a bag filled with fun activities, the first thing they do is argue over who gets what.
If I tell my kids to figure out something to do with each other, I’ve shifted the paradigm.
Now they aren’t competing with each other for limited resources. Instead, they are a team trying to solve a problem together.
And when they do succeed in solving their problem, the joy and pride on their faces is amazing.
They love telling me about what they created, and they always build each other up, bragging on the ideas that their sibling suggested.
If I know that there is a guaranteed way to encourage cooperation among my kids, why would I ever do anything else?
Isn’t one of the major goals of parenthood to raise creative people that are able to work well with others?
4. You’re Not a Cruise Director
Speaking of goals of parenthood, one of our primary goals should be to teach our children how to live life without us.
Yeah, that’s super sad.
But it’s also true.
You’re not a cruise director who’s primary job is to direct your children’s entertainment.
You’re supposed to be teaching them about becoming an adult that can fully function without you.
Part of that means letting them figure out how to entertain themselves, or *gasp* how to not be entertained.
I want my kids to eventually be able to sit at a table and participate in a conversation that isn’t all about them. I want them to be capable of being fully engaged in things that don’t totally interest them.
That’s part of being an adult.
Adults sit with other adults and listen to each other talk. The conversation isn’t always interesting.
People often talk to me about things that I do not care about at all like: the stock market, cars, fishing, professional sports, politics, golf, and almost anything to do with Great Britain.
But I do care about the people talking, so I listen and converse about topics that are of no interest to me.
The value is in the relationship I’m maintaining with the speaker.
5. Life Isn’t About Being Entertained
Our purpose in life is to love God and love others.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ – Matthew 22:37-39
Teaching children to serve is much better than entertaining them.
We want our kids to be the sort of people who are always willing to lend a hand. This is part of our effort to be deliberate about parenting.
At this point, I’m just modeling what it means to serve. I’m showing them what it looks like to be in the kitchen preparing food for others to enjoy, rather than just showing up to eat.
I’m not able to do this at every meal because we’re Baptist and we eat at church a lot.
But what we’ve modeled has been noticed and imitated.
At the Valentine’s Banquet, Brinley, 8, asked if she could help serve rather than go to watch a movie with the other kids.
I was so proud.
She did it without prompting or discussion.
She just saw that there was a need, and she wanted to help.
That’s what life is all about.
Love God, love others.
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh ; rather, serve one another humbly in love. – Galatians 5:13
Sometimes boredom is good.
We are learning to be grateful for the boring times of life. In fact, some of the best times in life aren’t exciting. Some of my favorite moments from the past ten years have been found in the quiet spaces of a lazy Saturday spent being silly with my husband and our little budding comedians. We laugh and we dance and we enjoy each other.
No tablet, device, or game can come close to that.
How do you deal with bored kids?
**Side Note: please don’t misunderstand me, and think that our kids have no toys.
In fact, they have so many toys that I briefly attempted to be a minimalist before quitting minimalism completely.
But we make an effort to buy them toys that will help them in some way. We want to give them things to play with that will help to make them into better adults. We try to choose toys that either encourage brain building, creativity, teamwork, or some other desirable trait.
Here are some of our kids’ favorites: