Why boredom is good for kids

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My son came up with bug headbands for a birthday party made from pipe cleaners, styrofoam balls and lots of glue and glitter. The kids looked adorable. He also got to wear a birthday crown.

Do you remember being bored as a kid? I do. But it never lasted. I could go outside when we lived in town and go ask a neighbor to play. Or, I’d jump on my bike and ride around the block. We could run over to the house down the street that had an extra lot with a brown quarter horse named Snoopy. I’d climb on the fence to pet the white strip that ran down his nose. Most of the time I’d read, or play library and create library cards for all my books and arrange them by author on my bookshelves. Boredom just wasn’t a thing. Our mom was strict about TV and it wasn’t an option. She allowed two half-hour shows daily that she circled in the TV Guide — and they were usually on PBS.

These days, many kids never experience boredom because they lose themselves in a device like an iPhone or iPad. They don’t know what it’s like to have to use their imaginations and find something creative to do. I don’t think it’s helping them to be entertained externally all the time. I wrote about promoting a creative spirit in kids last week, here and here.

Without creativity and an imagination, our kids won’t be problem solvers or discover new ways of doing things. If your kids are bored, so what? It’s okay. Ignore the whining and let them figure it out.

 In the Sarasota Herald Tribune, parenting experts Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman wrote Allow your kids to embrace boredom

 Have you noticed that our generation of parents is terrified of letting our kids become bored? Their anxiety is what drives them to pack a boatload of amusement options when they leave the house.

A few years ago, a waiter at a restaurant in North Dakota told us about a trend in his community. One local mom had created a custom quilted bag for holding multiple tablets so that every member of the family could be distracted and amused while they waited for their meal. It was wildly popular, he said.

Not only is our society’s pervasive reliance on amusement killing conversation and opportunities to connect and build relationships, it’s also preempting opportunities for boredom. Boredom is important for building imagination, creativity and innovation in our kids. Of course we can’t force these things into our children but we can set up an environment that will support the journey.

When we allow our kids to grapple with boredom on their own, rather than providing for them structured activities or distractions and amusements, imagination and creativity may come to their rescue!

“It is possible for boredom to deliver us to our best selves,” said author Nancy Blakey. “If we sit still long enough, we may hear the call behind boredom. With practice, we may have the imagination to rise up from the emptiness and answer.”

If we provide our kids with a constant stream of amusement options, which includes a plethora of extracurricular activities, we rob them of the opportunity to explore the open space in their own minds where the imagination hides.

They make a good point about having a structured schedule. With piano, swimming and homework, there wasn’t a lot of time for my kids to get bored during the school year. The summers gave us more hours for imaginative play. Also, swim meets when the kids would be sitting under a pop-up tent for hours on end resulted in some imaginative play. We’d be at a meet for five or six hours and they’d race for only a few minutes here and there. I remember observing some very creative verbal word games.

According to the article, the authors suggest having bins and jars filled with all sorts of things in easy reach for your kids like popsicle sticks, fabric, string, paints, googly eyes, papers of different colors and textures, glues, etc. Their suggestion:

Then let your kids get good and bored. Don’t offer many suggestions. Simply say, “Oh, there are lots of things you could do. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.” It may take time but eventually their imaginations will awaken and lead them to new horizons.

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The bug headbands made an appearance at several birthdays.

What do you do when your kids are bored?

 

How Social Media Is Changing Parenting

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Free play at the beach.

Parenting has changed through the years. We all know that our childhoods were a lot freer that our kids’ schedules. Well, except for that dang list my mom would leave us. My brother and I were latch-key kids and Mom would write a list of chores on a yellow legal pad. She’d fill up the entire thing, sometimes both sides. Her handwriting was atrocious and it was a chore just to read the list! It was her method of keeping us busy while she was taking classes at the University of Washington. Better than a babysitter, because she’d come home and the house was clean and dinner would be ready!

According to a study from the University of Alberta, social media is partially the reason why there’s a big change in parenting today.  In an article called How social media altered the good parenting ideal by Michael Brown, University of Alberta, he explains why. Here’s an excerpt:

Social media has altered perceptions of what good parenting is and may play a role in the reduction in the amount of time kids spend just playing, according to a University of Alberta study.

“It has long been known that children today aren’t playing outside as much as they used to, nor are they playing as freely and without supervision as they used to do,” said U of A Ph.D. student Shannon Pynn, who led the study. “We were looking at why this has happened when we realized this idea of free play kept coming up in terms of good parenting.”

Pynn said this “good parenting ideal” refers to how parents understand what’s expected of them from their social network, people in their community and the broader society.

“It’s basically what parents think other parents think is good parenting,” she said.

What she wanted to know was how the good parenting ideal changed in relation to active free play and why.

Pynn and her colleagues interviewed 14 sets of parents and grandparents to get a feel for what free play looked like when they were children and parents.

One theme emerging from the interviews was that some parents today parent differently from how they were parented because they are expected to have their kids in structured activities, said Pynn.

“That’s one reason free play isn’t so much of a thing anymore—kids are playing a lot more sports and participating in many more structured activities, so they don’t really have the time to go outside to play anymore.”

Pynn said structure crept into free play because of heightened safety concerns propagated by social media. Because news is so readily accessible, events like child abductions, for instance, are affecting the behavior of parents a world away.

“Social media makes it all feel a little closer to home, when in reality statistics show that kids are actually safer today than they were in the past,” Pynn said. “The safety concerns are not really founded, but they’re heightened because of social media. That didn’t happen in their grandparents’ days.”

As well, Pynn said parents are concerned about being judged on social media platforms or on any number of parenting sites.

There’s a lot more to the article and it’s well worth reading the entire thing.

Looking back, I did most of my parenting without social media. It wasn’t a thing yet. But there still was pressure from our school community to sign our kids up for certain activities. We chose swimming after trying tennis, ballet, golf, tee ball and karate. Both kids like liked swimming and we found a second home at the pool and a whole new set of parents to hang out with.

Swimming does take a lot of time and our days were structured. Before swimming there was more free play time. We have a park nearby and they used to have really awesome equipment, like a stagecoach for the kids to climb on. I’ll never forget the tall scary slide that freaked me out whenever my toddler son would climb to the top. I’m glad my kids got to play in the park before the city replaced the “unsafe” equipment with rubber padded ground and non-slippery slides.

There was also lots of beach time in the summer. The kids would use their imaginations creating kitchens or castles out of sand. Of course, they also fought over sand. Because there’s nothing like your siblings sandpile, right?

Once they were swimmers, we’d have their swim friends over to the house and they’d play like crazy. I remember a game called sardines which is like a reverse hide-and-seek. I loved  the laughter and sorely miss that sound in my empty nest.

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Celebrating Natasha’s birthday. Probably my son’s idea!

What are your favorite things your kids did in free play before social media told us how to act?

Take a moment to watch funny video of 1980’s vs. 2019 moms

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Parenting in the 2000’s.

I ran across a hilarious video on Yahoo News. Here’s a link to the video which pokes fun at moms from different generations–the 1980’s mom versus a mom today. The video has more than 6 million views: 1980’s Mom Vs. 2019 Mom: Summer Edition.

According to the article by Catherine Santino called “Hilarious Video Compares Parenting During Summer in 80s vs. Today and It’s So Accurate” parents have changed through the years. Although I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, we were outside a lot in the summer. Mom dropped us off at the pool and didn’t pick us up until the end of the day! We were unsupervised for our entire lives, it seemed. If we weren’t at the pool, we were tramping through the woods with machetes, making forts and clearing trails. Or, we were riding on country roads for miles and miles on our bikes. Here’s an excerpt from the Yahoo News article:

Before the age of parenting blogs, summertime was a lot simpler for families. Kids roamed free in their neighborhood streets, pool safety was lax, and no one judged a momwho only remembered to slather their children in sunscreen once a day. But in 2019, parents have become substantially more…involved. Meredith Masony of That’s Inappropriate recently shared a video comparing summer moms in the 1980s versus today, and the result is hilariously on point.

In the clip shared to the That’s Inappropriate Facebook page, Masony portrays the 80s mom who feeds her kids Pop-Tarts for breakfast, gives out ice pops like they’re going out of style, and insists that baby oil is far superior to sunscreen. The video then cuts between Masony and Tiffany Jenkins (of Juggling the Jenkins), who represents the hyperaware, health-conscious moms of today.

“I’ve been reviewing all of the sunscreens and it looks like SPF 1,000 is gonna be our safest bet,” she says while slathered in lotions. Later, she announces it’s “essential oil time”, which will, of course, be followed by a sound bath. Meanwhile, Masony’s character barely knows where her kids are.

I was closer to the 2019 mom, without the essential oils and ostrich milk! I let my kids eat a lot of mac and cheese and Goldfish crackers — and Pop Tarts. I tgot them out of the house to the park, beach and pool. They did have a lot of “unsupervised time” although I was close by at all times! I remember them riding their bikes or walking to the park without me when they got older and I was ready for an anxiety attack.

When they were in high school and we were at the beach in the summer, they started having bonfires at night with their friends, without me. That was tough — because there is nothing I enjoy more than sitting around a campfire at night at the beach. I was thrilled they wanted to share the tradition with their friends, but heartbroken to not be included.

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The 1990’s.

What style of parents are you? Are you more of the 1980s parent or the 2019 one?

Do you need a coach to wean kids off phones?

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Before smart phones. My kids learned to be creative at the beach.

What is one of the major things parents want help with? Why do they hire coaches? In an article in the New York Times by Nellie Bowles, she explains that they are worried about screen time.

There’s a new trend in America to hire coaches to help parents in everything from bedtime to getting into colleges. I’ve read about parenting coaches in several articles and wrote about it here. Also, I was interviewed by a reporter, Jennifer Graham, for her article about parenting coaches.

Here are some excerpts from the latest article in the NY Times about screen time coaches:

Parents around the country, alarmed by the steady patter of studies around screen time, are trying to turn back time to the era before smartphones. But it’s not easy to remember what exactly things were like before smartphones. So they’re hiring professionals.

A new screen-free parenting coach economy has sprung up to serve the demand. Screen consultants come into homes, schools, churches and synagogues to remind parents how people parented before.

Rhonda Moskowitz is a parenting coach in Columbus, Ohio. She has a master’s degree in K-12 learning and behavior disabilities, and over 30 years experience in schools and private practice. She barely needs any of this training now.

“I try to really meet the parents where they are, and now often it is very simple: ‘Do you have a plain old piece of material that can be used as a cape?’” said Ms. Moskowitz. “‘Great!’

“‘Is there a ball somewhere? Throw the ball,’” she said. “‘Kick the ball.’”

When my first born was a toddler, I went to a mommy and me class put on by the city. I guess in a way it was like having a coach. We sat around on the floor with our kids in our laps and sang “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “I’m a Little Teapot.” I knew those songs from my own childhood, but it took the class to remind me of them. Next, we let our kids work on a simple craft followed by snack time of grapes and cheese heads. It was a short little class a couple days a week and it helped me with parenting by connecting me to parents of kids the same age.

In my town, we don’t have a lot of kids, so getting to know other parents was vital. We formed our own little mommy and me group and spread blankets on the grass at the park and talked while our kids played on swings and slides.

My kids’ younger days were before screens took over. We had an apple computer and a few disks with children’s programs and smart phones didn’t exist. My biggest battle back then was with Barney. My son would literally freeze and get glued to the big screen when that purple dinosaur came one.

Here’s more from the NY Times article about screen time:

Among affluent parents, fear of phones is rampant, and it’s easy to see why. The wild look their kids have when they try to pry them off Fortnite is alarming. Most parents suspect dinnertime probably shouldn’t be spent on Instagram. The YouTube recommendation engine seems like it could make a young radical out of anyone. Now, major media outlets are telling them their children might grow smartphone-related skull horns. (That, at least, you don’t have to worry about: no such horns have yet been attributed to phones.)

No one knows what screens will make of society, good or bad. This worldwide experiment of giving everyone an exciting piece of hand-held technology is still new.

Gloria DeGaetano was a private coach working in Seattle to wean families off screens when she noticed the demand was higher than she could handle on her own. She launched the Parent Coaching Institute, a network of 500 coaches and a training program. Her coaches in small cities and rural areas charge $80 an hour. In larger cities, rates range from $125 to $250. Parents typically sign up for eight to 12 sessions.

“If you mess with Mother Nature, it messes with you,” Ms. DeGaetano said of her philosophy. “You can’t be a machine. We’re thinking like machines because we live in this mechanistic milieu. You can’t grow children optimally from principles in a mechanistic mind-set.”

Screen “addiction” is the top issue parents hope she can cure. Her prescriptions are often absurdly basic.

“Movement,” Ms. DeGaetano said. “Is there enough running around that will help them see their autonomy? Is there a jungle gym or a jumping rope?”

Nearby, Emily Cherkin was teaching middle school in Seattle when she noticed families around her panicked over screens and coming to her for advice. She took surveys of middle school students and teachers in the area.

“I realized I really have a market here,” she said. “There’s a need.”

She quit teaching and opened two small businesses. There’s her intervention work as the Screentime Consultant — and now there’s a co-working space attached to a play space for kids needing “Screentime-Alternative” activities. (That’s playing with blocks and painting.)

In Chicago, Cara Pollard, a parent coach, noticed most adults have gotten so used to entertaining themselves with phones, they forgot that they actually grew up without them. Clients were coming to her confused about what to do all afternoon with their kids to replace tablets. She has her clients do a remembering exercise.

“I say, ‘Just try to remember what you did as a kid,’” Ms. Pollard said. “And it’s so hard, and they’re very uncomfortable, but they just need to remember.”

They will come back with memories of painting or looking at the moon. “They report back like it’s a miracle,” Ms. Pollard said.

The No-Phone Pledge

When I was a child, I played with Barbies. I made puppets from Woolite bottles and fabric and yarn. I drew and colored. I made perfume out of rose petals I pounded with a rock and mixed with water. I walked into the woods with a machete and chopped trails into blackberry brambles. We also rode bikes and picked wild blackberries so mom would bake us a pie. I also read a ton of books.katrob 2

What were your favorite activities as a child and how do you limit your children’s screen time?

 

 

Old school vs. new school parenting

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Me and my big brother.

Which is best? The way we were raised, back when parents weren’t involved and we roamed free all over the countryside? Or, how parents are doing it today, attending every sports and piano practice, totally focused on our children’s every move?

According to Deon Price in an article in the Daily Republic called “This Youth Generation: Is ‘old school’ or ‘new school’ parenting best for raising a child?” he compares the two styles and it’s kind of funny to look at how different they are.

For example, many adults remember when it was okay for teachers to paddle kids at school. (I remember the boys were the ones getting paddled. I don’t really remember that technique used on girls except for one teacher who liked to showboat.) Parents were allowed to do that too, and some used a belt rather than a paddle. Today, I think “Alexa” or a neighbor would call the cops on a parent that whipped a child. My parents weren’t into punishment or maybe my brother and I were just pretty darn good kids.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Speaking with parents, youth and anyone raising children, I pose the question: Does “old school” or “new school” parenting work best for the proper upbringing of a child?

This discussion often gets even deeper when it begins to penetrate the surface into different cultural and socio-economic environments. Parenting styles quite often drastically differ, depending on the generation. What is considered strict old-school “tough love” would be considered excessive or maybe even abusive to some. What some modern parents call nurturing and bonding may be considered babying.

What is obvious is that our environment has changed, which has inevitably affected the way parents deal with their children.

Here are just a few examples:

Having an opinion vs. talking back: New-school parenting supports the gesture of “allowing a child to voice his or her opinion.” Old-school parenting says, “You better know when to hold your tongue or you may lose it.” Or, “Don’t let your mouth write a check that your behind can’t cash.” I believe in a healthy balance between the two. At least explain the reason for your parenting decision and ask if your children have any questions so that there are no misunderstandings.

Butt whipping vs. time-out: Time-out is what new-school parents use to deal with inappropriate behavior by a child. Old-school parents use butt-whipping – and as one parent put it, “You also got a lecture during that whipping.” There is a strong opposition against any physical discipline of a child. Some are simply calling it violence and abuse regardless. That in my personal and professional experience is ridiculous. When progressive discipline is in place, the child’s response will determine the level of discipline that should be applied. As a balanced, responsible parent, it’s good to remember to discipline with love and not anger. Never discipline a child while you are angry. Maybe it’s a good idea for the parent to take a time-out before they decide on a butt-whipping.

“Yes sir” vs. “What”: According to one old-school parent, “Children respond back to their parent(s) and/or elders by saying ‘what?’ In my day, if my dad called one of us and we answered with ‘what?,’ we were in for it.” The new-school style has gotten a little soft when it comes to expecting respect from children. “Yes sir” or “Yes ma’am” when responding to an elder person was mandatory. It’s rare to hear the words sir or ma’am from today’s generation of children.

I remember being outside most of the time as a child. Do you remember that, too? We hiked through the woods hacking a trail with machetes or rode for miles on our bikes to visit friends. Evenings were spent playing a softball game called workup where the older kids dominated and I stayed in the outfield forever. It was boring, but it was the place to be under the street lights. Doing all of this was usually without our parents knowing or caring where we were. We came back to the house when we were hungry.

Whether you prefer old school, new school or a combination, there is no black-and-white, clear right or wrong way of parenting. However, it is wise to discerned how we perform the duties of the most critical role on the planet. Please share your thoughts.

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My kids in a more structured life centered around swimming.

What are your thoughts about old school vs. new school parenting? What style do you most closely follow? 

RIP My Dear Friend

One of my closest friends from childhood passed away unexpectedly one year ago. I miss her so much. The pain of losing her has not faded with time.

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Rebecca with my baby girl.

I have a sadness in my heart ever since I looked at Facebook this morning and saw that my friend since childhood, Rebecca, passed away Saturday.

She had a huge personality, was fearless, beautiful and brilliant. I received private messages from her on Facebook constantly, and I noticed I didn’t reply to the last one which I received Saturday afternoon—the day she died.

I wonder if she knew she was leaving us? I had no idea that she was ill, but I’ve since learned that she had diabetes and died from DKA (Diabetic ketoacidosis).

The first time I met Rebecca was at my own house. Her older brother Paul had been hanging out with our family for a few weeks that summer before seventh grade. One day, Rebecca decided to come over to our house with him because she wanted to meet me. We went to different elementary schools but for junior high the town’s elementary school students would all attend the same school. I was shy and wouldn’t leave my bedroom to meet her. Finally, my mom coaxed me out to meet Rebecca Coombs and our friendship of a lifetime began.

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The last photo she sent me of herself. “When my baby grand wants a kiss, I oblige. Sir-Mix-Alot this as good as I can get! lol.”

She was the opposite of me in so many ways. She was bold, outgoing and not afraid of anyone or anything. Her long straight black hair hung past her waist and she had a huge smile. Some of my fondest memories were her introducing me to Taco Bell—which I still love today. I got a burrito supreme today in her honor.  Also, because of Rebecca, our entire high school won the local radio station KJR’s competition for a free concert—which was the first rock concert I ever attended, “WAR.” I went with her to see Natalie Cole at the Paramount in downtown Seattle, too. She introduced me to so much music and laughter. I remember always laughing with Rebecca and her sister Mary. Mary became as close of a friend to me as Rebecca.

Rebecca was one of a few students from our high school that went to the University of Washington with me. I remember spending the first night in the dorm, with Rebecca in a sleeping bag on my floor.rebecca 1

My sophomore year Thanksgiving weekend, I was home and I went with Rebecca and Mary to a concert at a local Grange. I was going to ask a family friend who was there to a Tolo (a dance where the girls ask the boys for the date). We were crossing the street on the Bothell Highway when I panicked at the oncoming lights of cars. I froze in the middle of the street. I grabbed onto Rebecca’s parka hood and she wasn’t able to escape the oncoming pick-up truck either. I shattered my pelvis and Rebecca lost a kidney. We became connected by that one experience forever.

Later on, she married the family friend who I was going to ask to the dance. The marriage didn’t last that long and she did find someone she said was the love of her life, who sadly died a few years ago. Also, her brother Paul died years ago as well as Mary’s husband. Her life had so much tragedy, yet she stayed positive and filled with joy. Near the end, she moved to Hawaii to be close to her son Jake, who she was so proud of. She posted pictures of her new life and her grandchildren whom she called “the grands.”

I will admit she was much better at reaching out and staying connected. Throughout our lives, she’d call me and during the last few months send me private messages on an almost daily basis. One funny story I remember about Rebecca was she called me up and asked who Bill Gates was. She had attended the Microsoft Christmas Party with a friend who worked there and met Bill Gates. She had no clue who he was. It was well known in Seattle that Bill was looking for a wife. He had asked her to Sunday Brunch and she said no. She told me that he was kind of a geek and she was felt awkward and made up an excuse why she couldn’t go.

I miss my dear friend and how full of life she was. God bless you and RIP, Rebecca.

 

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What happened to May Day celebrations?

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In first grade, my teacher Mrs. Iverson showed us how to make May Day baskets from pink and yellow construction paper. We drew ivy and flowers on the paper baskets with our thick crayons before going up one-by-one to our teacher to get the handle stapled on.

On the way home from school, we walked together picking dandelions and soft lavender-colored clover to fill our baskets.

images-6We took turns “May Daying” the neighbors.

I climbed the steps to Mrs. Fixie’s front door. She was the grandmotherly lady with the neat white bun on top of her head who often gave me home-made oatmeal cookies.

I hung the basket on her doorknob. Then, I rang her doorbell and ran as far as my first-grade legs would take me. I hid behind a hedge and watched her open the front door and scan the neighborhood.

images-9Then, she looked at her doorknob at the paper basket filled with flowering weeds.  A big smile broke across her face.

“Happy May Day!” I yelled jumping up behind the shrubs.

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Where did this fun tradition begin? But, more importantly, where did it go?

Do your kids make May Day baskets in school? Do they surprise your elderly neighbors with baskets of flowers and sunshine on May 1st?images-8

My mom is in an assisted living home two states away. She’ll be getting a delivery from FTD today of a little basket of flowers. The card will read “Happy May Day! Love, ?”

She’ll call and thank me and I’ll say, “I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about!”

She’ll say, “Really? I could have sworn it was you! I wonder who sent me these flowers?”images-7

That’s how we keep our May Day tradition alive. My son sent me a text to wish me “Happy May Day” first thing this morning. My daughter may pick some snap dragons and roses from our back yard and pound on the door tonight after school and her swim meet.

I’ll run outside and won’t be able to contain the smile on my face as I race around the yard trying to catch her.

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Happy May Day, everyone! How do you celebrate May Day? Do your kids make baskets?

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