Why Boredom Is a Good Thing

randk 6

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 their iphones. Before COVID, many parents had their kids involved in too many activities like swimming, piano, theater, dance, etc. that the kids didn’t have a chance to slow down while juggling hours of homework. Today, with shelter in place, many kids probably are bored. And that’s not a bad thing. Bored kids 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.

randk 9

The bug headbands made an appearance at several birthdays.

What do you do when your kids are bored?

 

Tips to Promote Creativity in Kids

With so many parents at home with their kids, I was thinking about how they must be looking for creative and fun things to do — besides getting the homework done. The Coronavirus may be causing uncertain times, but we do have more time. Perhaps parents can take advantage of the lack of extracurriculars — racing from the pool to ballet, etc. — and let the kids play. I think we may look back on these days as a time when we could breathe, relax and play. 

christmas 2

I’d let my kids have a tub of large chalk and draw all over our patio. It drove my husband crazy to come home from work and see our kids and their friends drawing all over our back yard. It hosed off, though. Also, I’d buy a roll of butcher paper and let them paint or draw across the patio, hoping they’d keep it on the paper.

At the beach, they’d build villages with drip castles and loved to play chef at a restaurant. I’d patiently taste each creation (pile of wet sand) and tell them how delicious it was.

I remember taking my kids to a photographer for Christmas pictures. I had them all dressed up in their matching red and green Gymboree outfits. My daughter was a baby and my son three. My son moved all the chairs and benches into two rows all facing forward. We asked him what he was doing and he explained he was building an airplane (the two lines of furniture were the seats and aisle.) The photographer was extremely patient as I tried to put everything back in it’s place.

My mom was big on creativity and she allowed us to destroy our living room with forts of card tables and sheets, dig to China and build a pond for polliwogs. I remember making dozens of puppets with Woolite bottles as the heads and swatches of fabric for the outfits. Mom did get annoyed with me for chopping out a chunk of fabric from the center of all the yardage of fabric in her sewing room!

What exactly is creativity? Here’s a definition:

noun

  1. the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.
    “firms are keen to encourage creativity”

 

Here’s an excerpt from Greater Good Magazine 7 Ways to Foster Creativity in Your Kids by Christine Carter:

Many people assume that creativity is an inborn talent that their kids either do or do not have: just as all children are not equally intelligent, all children are not equally creative. But actually, creativity is more skill than inborn talent, and it is a skill parents can help their kids develop.

Because it is a key to success in nearly everything we do, creativity is a key component of health and happiness and a core skill to practice with kids. Creativity is not limited to artistic and musical expression—it is also essential for science, math, and even social and emotional intelligence. Creative people are more flexible and better problem solvers, which makes them more able to adapt to technological advances and deal with change—as well as take advantage of new opportunities.

Many researchers believe we have fundamentally changed the experience of childhood in such a way that impairs creative development. Toy and entertainment companies feed kids an endless stream of prefab characters, images, props and plot-lines that allow children to put their imaginations to rest. Children no longer need to imagine a stick is a sword in a game or story they’ve imagined: they can play Star Wars with a specific light-saber in costumes designed for the specific role they are playing.

Carter has a bunch of tips of things we can do to promote creativity that includes giving  kids space and resources for creative play. Also, she says it’s important to allow our kids to make mistakes and fail. If they’re afraid of failure their creativity will be stifled. Limiting screen and TV time will give kids a chance for art and reading. Another bit of advice is to not tell our kids what to do. For example, I made my daughter take piano lessons for years against her will. She would have been much better off following her own passions like making mosaics and painting. For years she made gifts for her friends by getting a few supplies from Michaels and using her creativity. For a complete list of her tips, read the article here

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robkatrock

 

Does Parenting Ever Get “Easier?”

randk 8

My kids once liked to wear the armrest covers from our beach rental as hats.

I remember getting advice when my children were babies and toddlers from complete strangers who said, “Don’t worry, it will get easier as they get older.” An example of that was at a drug store and my son sat on the rubber mat of the automatic doorway and cried and cried. He wanted to get a pinwheel and he proudly brought his own dollar to buy it. He didn’t understand that the cashier was taking it away from him for good! He wanted it back.

I’ve been through babyhood to adulthood with my kids and I will tell you — it does not get easier. I have a friend who had four kids old enough to babysit my young kids. She used to be a “mom mentor” to me. She said, “It doesn’t get easier, it just gets different.” Other words of wisdom from her were “Bigger kids, bigger problems — like wrecked cars and flunked college classes.” Yes, I found these words to be true.

Which gives a mom more stress? Changing endless diapers or hearing that your child flunked an exam in college? Or, when I got a call from my son over a week ago who said he was knocking on doors for the election and a person “self-quarantined” for Coronavirus answered the door and took materials from him. I got a call from him minutes ago saying “Mom. I have a fever. I have a sore throat and cough. Those are the symptoms.” I’ll take the drudgery of picking up dirty clothes off the floor and changing puked on sheets any day of the week compared to what I’m feeling this minute!

In an article in The Week called Why ‘It gets easier’ is a parenting myth by Claire Gillespie, she discusses that having babies who are dependent upon you for everything is tiring, but as children enter their teens, we are faced with a whole new batch of problems.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Hang in there — it will get easier.”

The well-meaning words of a fellow parent. Someone whose kids were older and more obedient than mine — on that particular day, a fractious 3-year-old wrapped around my leg as I tried to wrestle his 10-month-old sister into her stroller.

I’m not usually one to take unsolicited parenting advice, but this I clung to.

Nine years later and I’m still waiting for it to get easier. Okay, so my son doesn’t form a vice around my calf in the supermarket parking lot anymore, but life with a kid on the cusp of teenagedom is just as challenging as the pre-school days. And while my almost-double-figures daughter is a lot more helpful during shopping trips, she’s as challenging as she was before she could walk and talk, just in completely different ways.

After a lengthy gap, I’ve gone back to the beginning. This time next year, I’ll have a toddler and a teenager. We’re already taking bets on who’ll be the most erratic. I reckon the odds are pretty even.

In some ways, that well-meaning bystander in the supermarket parking lot all those years ago was right. It does get easier, insofar as kids become more independent. They learn how to feed themselves, use the bathroom, get to grips with zippers and buttons and laces. They need you less for all the practical aspects of parenting that take up so much precious time during hectic mornings. When they start school, you even get a few hours’ respite from being at their beck and call.

Being in the position of comparing a very young child with two significantly older ones has confirmed to me that, as exhausted as I am from breastfeeding on demand and changing endless dirty diapers and simply being “on duty” around the clock, kids are easier when they’re younger.

Founder of Your Village Erin Royer-Asrilant, who has a master’s degree in psychology and a specialty in child development and family relationships, agrees that while the most physically taxing years were when she had three toddlers, she now faces other, more emotionally difficult parenting challenges.

“As my children have become more aware and spend more time out in the world, they have come up against things that I, even as a parenting expert, have to do some problem-solving to figure out,” she says. “There have been numerous occasions when my kids have had issues with something a teacher did or said. One time, my son was so distraught because he wasn’t voted to be on student council that he couldn’t stop crying when he got into the car after school that day.”

An unavoidable part of growing up is dealing with, well, grown-up stuff. My 90-year-old grandfather is currently seeing out the end of his life in hospital, and my two older kids have lots of questions that I don’t know the answers to. Mainly, they want to know what will happen to him when he dies. Years ago, when they asked me the same thing about our kitten after she had to be put to sleep, they accepted a vague response and were comforted with cuddles. These days, I can’t get away with bluffing.

katrob 4

My toddler and newborn. I didn’t get much sleep back then.                                                                                                                 But now I have new reasons to lose sleep!

 

Here’s my question, do you think parenting ever gets easier? In what ways do you think it does or does not?

Why boredom is good for kids

randk 6

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.

randk 9

The bug headbands made an appearance at several birthdays.

What do you do when your kids are bored?

 

How Social Media Is Changing Parenting

katrob 1

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.

rknatashapartyhats

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.

meandrbeach

The 1990’s.

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

What do you think about unsolicited advice?

My kids

My kids

I wrote this post about unsolicited advice several years ago. I keep on repeating the same mistake. When my kids are going through an uneasy time, I jump with advice on what they should do. This especially angers my daughter and she snaps at me. My so will listen calmly and then ignore whatever I have to say. I really need to stop this constant need to fix everything in my children’s lives! They need to experience life and learn on their own. Mommy can’t do it for them. Here’s the story I wrote about unsolicited advice:

A few weeks ago, my daughter was telling me how she’d missed practice because she had a midterm and the time conflicted. Her coach wasn’t happy, she said.

“Well,” I said, “maybe you should call her and explain. Or, better yet, next time you’re going to miss practice, let her know in advance.”

“Mom, I’m telling you something. I don’t need your unsolicited advice. A simple ‘that sucks’ would suffice.”

I was offended. My feelings were tweaked, not exactly hurt. I thought, what is going on with her?

This week she called and asked for my advice about a sticky situation with a friend. I get it now. She had a problem she couldn’t solve on her own. She wanted my advice and then she would handle it from there.

In her dorm room getting settled.

In her dorm room getting settled.

My mistake has been offering advice when my perfectly capable, adult child is making her own decisions and finding her own way. She does not need her mom telling her what to do all the time.

This was reinforced again when she called with an issue with her university and paperwork for the fall quarter. I gave her a few suggestions of who to call, what to do.

“I’ve done all that, Mom. I’m just telling you about it.”

Yes, I understand now. She’s sharing the trials and tribulations in her life. She’s not asking me what to do. If she needs my help she will ask me.

With teammates after breaking the 8 and under 4 x 50 relay record.

With teammates after breaking the 8 and under 4 x 50 relay record.

I should be thankful that my daughter likes to share. That she can figure things out on her own. That she’s got a strong head and can handle the daily tasks of living in a house, paying utility bills, handling school bureaucracy, and getting a speeding ticket.

Welcome to adulthood! I guess a simple “that sucks” from time to time is all she needs.

How do you handle unsolicited advice when someone offers some to you?

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