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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?

 

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Encouraging Kids to Be Creative Part 2

What comes to mind when you hear the word creative? Maybe you imagine a beautiful painting, or maybe you think about telling the story of our Founding Fathers with ambitious rap and hip-hop driven music as they did in the hit musical “Hamilton.”

You wouldn’t be wrong, though creativity is more than artistic expression. It is finding new solutions to problems and creating a message that will stick in the minds of the listeners. It is connecting to remote groups and bringing hope to the hopeless.

Creativity is what is needed to bring lasting change to our world. In fact, we would go as far as to say that creativity is the new intelligence.

Let’s take Steve Jobs, for example. His genius was in his ability to see things differently than everyone else around him. According to Rick Tetzeli, executive editor of Fast Company and the magazine’s resident Jobs expert, “Everyone else in the industry insisted on selling computers by their specs — by how fast it was, by how powerful it was and how cheap it was — and Apple always understood that that wasn’t the way to sell.”

Steve Jobs wasn’t the technological genius behind Apple; he was the visionary. Jobs could see the future through the eyes of the average Joe. “He got power into the hands of people, and people can do amazing things with these tools,” Tetzeli said.

Creativity is imagination, and imagination is the secret ingredient of any kind of achievement. “If a thing cannot be imagined first — a cake, a relationship, a cure for AIDS — it cannot be. Life is bound by what we can envision,” said author Nancy Blakey.

Creativity and imagination are the keys to the future. They will solve our energy crisis. They will continue to make our lives and work more powerful.

The article goes on to talk about how so many things in the Jetson’s cartoon have become true. Without imagining things, we can’t create. You can read the rest of the article here.

Parents work to boost our kids’ test scores by hiring tutors or enrolling them in special classes. We also can go a little nuts to give our kids a leg up in their sports by paying for private lessons and coaching. It’s important to look at creativity, not as an innate personality trait, but as something that can be encouraged, too. Yesterday, I wrote about tips to grow our children’s creative spirit. You can read that here.

I was talking with my son about how fortunate they were to grow up without much screen time. We had an iMac but it was before everyone was on the internet and iPhones didn’t exist. We had several disks with kid friendly programs and most often the computer was used to watch DVDs. My son said he was grateful to be born prior to iPhones. He said he thinks kids today never get the same connection to their parents because there’s always a screen in between them. I was more worried about parents posting every second of their children’s lives on social media and how that affects kids today. Children may view every moment as a posed event and they get quite good at posing. But my son’s comment made me look at how my life has changed since I’ve had an iPhone. I can barely remember a time without it or when it’s not within reach.

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I wish I knew what they were pretending with all their friends.

Maybe it’s time to cut down on my screen time to work on my own creative spirit.

What suggestions do you have to boost creativity in our lives?

 

 

Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman are the pioneers of the homeschooling method “Cradle to Calling Education.” They travel the U.S. and Canada speaking to parents and homeschoolers. For more information, go to fromcradletocalling.com, visit the Cradle2Calling Facebook page or follow them on Instagram @cradle_2_calling.

Tips to Press the Pause Button as a Parent

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Just breathe!

One of my kids’ principals from elementary school talked about the “mother bear” syndrome. It’s that creature that comes out of our skin when we think our child is being harmed. The mother bear may come out when our child is being bullied, or comes home upset about something their teacher or coach said.

I’m sure we’re all familiar with that gut-wrenching feeling when we want to protect our child. It starts with a burst of adrenaline and may result into marching into the principal’s office or picking up the phone to chew out a parent about their kid being mean.

In a parenting article, ‘To make sound decisions, employ the power of the pause,” in the Sarasota Herald Tribune, Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman offer tips that will help us as parents as well as in the rest of our lives. Here’s an excerpt:

The pause is the space you intentionally create in your mind to pull back from circumstances and retreat into a quiet corner of your psyche — a place where you can calm your nerves, think about the end result that you want to achieve and plan the steps you will take to reach it.

The pause can mean the difference between reacting out of raw emotion and responding out of rational choices. Often, it can mean the difference between strengthening and ruining relationships.

Few things spark an explosion in our emotional state like a conflict can. But when we pause, sometimes even excusing ourselves from the room, we can take slow, deep breaths to calm our bodies and regulate the fight or flight hormones that are coursing through our veins. We can pray or meditate for a few minutes, and then we can ask ourselves a few critical questions:

– What emotions am I feeling?

– What triggered these emotions?

– What is the root problem here?

– What is my role in fixing the problem?

– What is the best outcome in this situation?

– What is the best way to reach that outcome?

Instead of reacting to a situation from the intense emotions sparked by the conflict, the pause gives you the advantage of responding thoughtfully, carefully and calmly.

I used to be an emotional parent who would react at the slightest wrong-doing I perceived. Through the years, I learned to wait at least 24 hours before taking action. Action to me meant sending an email, making a phone call or showing up in person for a face-to-face meeting. Often, after I slept on it, I had clarity. In most cases, the problem went away on its own. Then a new one would pop up. Can you imagine how much energy and outrage it would take if I reacted to every uncomfortable moment my kids’ encountered?

Now, I use the pause in my own life if there’s something I need to deal with. I weigh the pros and cons, decide what outcome I want–and if it’s worth the energy to pursue at all. It makes life run smoother in the long run. I’ve written about this here.

My kids call and ask for advice on how to handle a situation at work or with a roommate. I offer the same advice of taking a pause. Wait a day or two before making a decision. When we’re flooded with emotion, it’s hard to make the right one.

From the article:

As parents, we can also coach our kids through this process. When we see emotions begin to spike, we can gently pull the child aside, help them calm down and then walk them through the same problem solving questions that we would ask ourselves.

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Walking outside and enjoying nature can put things in perspective.

Do you have any other tips to offer for making rational decisions when we get upset? Please share below, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Did you know gratitude has health benefits?

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I’m grateful for these two.

I try to have an attitude of gratitude. I didn’t realize how many benefits being grateful brings to your life until I read “Gratitude yields health and social benefits” by Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman in the Sarasota Herald Tribune.

Here’s what they had to say:

Positive emotions such as gratitude open our minds.

With Thanksgiving having passed, we may want a jump start on our New Year’s resolutions. Research shows such a long list of health and social benefits that families might want to focus on cultivating an attitude of gratitude all year long.

Researchers at Northeastern University found that grateful people are more likely to be patient and make wiser decisions.

Gratitude also makes us more likely to take better care of ourselves. In one psychology journal, a study showed that a grateful attitude correlated to a greater willingness to eat healthier foods, exercise more and go to the doctor. Some research even shows that being appreciative boosts willpower.

Counting our blessings before bedtime can also translate to better sleep. One researcher said it may help soothe the nervous system. Not only can gratitude improve our quality of sleep, it can also help us fall asleep faster and sleep longer.

The health benefits of gratitude can’t be overstated. It’s been shown to decrease physical pain, reduce symptoms associated with depression, decrease blood pressure and boost energy levels. In fact, simply cultivating a lifestyle of gratitude can add an average of seven years to your lifespan.

Being grateful also makes us more resilient, less envious, more optimistic, kinder and more social. It’s no wonder that the more grateful a person is, the more likely the person is to have strong social connections, healthier marriages, larger friendship circles and improved networking skills.

Not only does gratitude have the power to transform our health, our social lives and our careers, it can transform our personalities. Research shows that gratitude contributes to a wide range of positive character traits. It makes us humble and it makes us more generous. Together, these traits combat entitlement and self-centeredness. Grateful people are more willing and able to focus on others and can therefore contribute more broadly to their communities.

We the parents have both the opportunity and the obligation to raise children who will have a positive and transformative effect on the future. As we focus on grooming an attitude of gratitude in our kids, we are not only improving their own quality of life but we are helping to change the world one child at a time.

I do believe it’s our duty as parents to instill gratitude as a trait our kids should embrace. One way is to start a gratitude journal. Another tip is to ask your children at dinner or bedtime to name three things they’re grateful for. In the book I’m reading called “Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance” by Julia Cameron, has exercises to list 10 things you cherish. Another day there I was asked to write 10 things I’m thankful for. It’s not a bad thing to do. By the way, I gave my husband a journal of gratitude and he’s enjoying writing a few things each day.

As parents, I think we need to let our kids and family know how much they mean to us. It’s that time of year!

What are you most grateful for in your life?

Would you change your parenting if you could travel back in time?

rkstuffedanimalsIn an article called “Parenting with the end result in mind” by Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman, from Pop Parenting printed in the Montgomery Advertiser, they ask the question, “What would change in our parenting if we could see the future adults in these little people we are raising?”

That makes me look at my children today and wonder what would I change if I could? I’d have given them more chores, not picked up after them and let them make more decisions and mistakes. I wouldn’t worry so much about grades, homework, or focus on performance. Would that have changed who they are today? Probably not. My kids are kind people with character. They have compassion and they care for their environment and other people. It would be a little tweak on my part to help them be more self-sufficient and a little steadier on their feet as they explore the years post college graduation.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

How would we talk to them, and what kinds of choices would we make if we were completely aware that we are raising the future parents of our grandkids and someone’s future employee or boss and a future spouse and next door neighbor and someone’s friend — maybe (hopefully) our own future friend and possibly even the person who will one day take care of us when we can’t take care of ourselves.

It’s a powerful perspective. They say hindsight is 20/20, but we don’t have to wait until the aftermath to reap the benefits of that perspective. Humans have the unique ability to project their imaginations forward and then turn around and examine the present from a potential future. We can think about what we want the end result to look like, and we can make decisions to help us get there.

Case in point, when we are fully aware of the future adult standing before us, we will probably react differently than we would if all we could see is the three-year-old who just smashed a jar of spaghetti sauce all over the kitchen while trying to get to the snacks that he’s not supposed to take without permission in the first place.

For one thing, keeping the end result in mind is a great way of remembering that most of the mistakes our kids make are just part of their learning and maturing process. The challenges of the toddler and preschool years are just a season. The emotional battles of the teen years are also just a season.

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Beach walk with my daughter this summer.

What would you do differently if you could look back in time?

What is white space and why do we need it?

 

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White space to be superheroes.

In a parenting article in the Herald-Tribune from Sarasota, FL called “White space is important for kids to develop interests,” Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman, parenting experts, explain what white space is and why kids need it.

In my opinion, we all need white space in our lives. It’s a time to reflect and think, without the TV on in the background, or checking out your social media on our phones.

From the article:

In art, the white space is sometimes called negative space. This offers an interesting play on words because many parents view the white space — the unscheduled, empty time in their child’s day — as something negative, something to be avoided.

But just as negative space is critical to art and rests are vital to music, white space is critical to a child’s ability to develop thriving interests.

In practical terms, white space is totally unscheduled time. It’s time when kids don’t have homework or activities or chores or screens or visiting friends. It’s time when they are left to grapple with themselves — alone — probably bored, thinking to themselves, discovering things.

White space can be challenging for most people at first, especially if they have been conditioned to fill quiet and empty moments of the day with people, tasks or entertainment. But it is in the white space that human imagination is called upon, an inner-thought life develops and significant interests can develop.

Many parents are afraid of white space. They think it is unproductive, maybe even a waste of time. They think it’s an opportunity for kids to get in trouble. Some are afraid their kids will drive them nuts or make a mess or wreak havoc in some other way. Some parents even fear their children will miss out on other things. Others are afraid their kids will resent them for enforcing times of white space.

Ultimately, these parents do not have faith in the process. But the truth is white space allows kids time to learn how to think about things. When there is no other voice but their own telling them what to think — no friend, adult, video game, TV show, YouTuber or even the author of a book — they have to grapple with things on their own, in their own minds.

In these moments, a deep inner-thought life can develop. The skill of communicating with oneself and learning how to think about things begins to take root. And often, from this inner wrestling match, deep interests may arise.

In my children’s lives, they were extremely busy. I do think a lot of their time in the pool, staring at the black lane on the bottom of the pool, gave them time to think. Also, the full days at the beach allowed them time to be creative and create everything from sand castles to kitchens and lie back and stare at the blue sky and ocean waves.

As for my own thought process working on a mid-grade children’s novel, somedays it may seem like I’m not getting anything done. In reality, I’m thinking. I’m mulling things over. That’s when problems get solved and creativity is allowed to spark.

 

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Time to explore and figure things out.

What are your thoughts about white space and how do you use it in your life?

 

Have You Ever Considered Homeschooling?

 

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More time for swimming.

In an article I read this morning, “PARENTING: Consider the benefits of homeschooling” by Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman in the Herald Tribune of Florida, it lists a number of benefits to homeschooling, from learning at an individual pace to not being bound by a school calendar.

Here are the first few paragraphs:

Have you thought about homeschooling your kids? Most people can easily make a list of reasons not to homeschool. That was Jody’s story when her oldest child asked to be homeschooled at the start of seventh grade. 

“I’m not a teacher,” she thought. “I have no idea how to homeschool and really no desire.” But her son was serious and, after great consideration, she and her husband chose to honor his heartfelt request.

Very soon, Jody realized that children are not containers that we can pour information into. They are more like hunter/gatherers of knowledge and understanding, picking and choosing from the world around them, learning at their own pace and in their own way.

Jody’s son did not return to school until college. He’s now approaching his 30th birthday. He and his wife are both attorneys in New England.

We often tell parents that if their intention is to simply bring school into their homes, they may want to reconsider. In many cases, school does it better. But if they are looking for something unique, if they want to give their child a different experience, a more customized and pervasive education, homeschooling can be a great choice.

For starters, it gives families the time to focus on teaching important life skills and grooming character traits that will help kids become successful adults who offer strong contributions to their communities.

Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman are mothers with nine children between them, from an attorney to a pre-schooler, and one on the autism spectrum. Together they host a nationally syndicated radio show, “POP Parenting.” They are also freelance writers and international speakers. Get more information on their website, jenniandjody.com.

I found this interesting because my oldest child, my son begged to be homeschooled and I didn’t have the confidence to do it. By the time he went to high school and our daughter was beginning the middle school years, I decided to homeschool my daughter. I knew several families on our swim team that homeschooled their children and they were exceptionally personable, smart, and the kids I enjoyed the most.

My daughter and I went to the Irvine Spectrum, an outdoor shopping mall, to meet with a person from Springs Charter School, which offers an academy and home school programs in So Cal, to get more information about their homeschooling program. We signed up that day and the next thing I did was research curriculum. I took my son, who had made it through middle school already to help me pick out materials at a CHEA convention in Long Beach, CA. I was shocked to see hundreds of vendors from Rosetta Stone to small book dealers. It was fun and overwhelming, but my son steered me through it–making sure the curriculum we selected was as rigorous as the one he had—or better. One my favorites was Beautiful Feet Books, history through literature.

What I discovered with Springs Charter school was that we were required to meet with credentialed education specialist each month, and had to turn in all work. She made sure we kept on track and we weren’t slacking. They also administered the same standardized tests as the public schools at a nearby University classroom. We went on several of the 75 field trips offered each year like whale watching in San Diego, a trip to Medieval Times and SeaWorld. I was shocked that SeaWorld and Medieval Times were filled up to capacity— completely by homeschoolers.

 

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We got to experience New Orleans complete with several trips to Cafe De Monde.

The benefits we experienced: my daughter and I grew closer together. I was able to teach her basic life skills like banking, auto care, cooking, etc. We got to travel with my husband on business trips—New Orleans was our favorite. She got to learn at her own pace and in her own way—history lessons out by the pool or reading in the tub! She met her swim coach at the high school track in the early am when there wasn’t swim practice and ran with her. She had more time to hang out with friends. She loved crafts and had time to explore mosaics and quilting. She could work on swimming without being too tired for schoolwork or falling asleep in class.

Another huge benefit was getting to visit any place in Southern California during the week and avoiding the big crowds and lines you find on weekends. After our three years homeschooling for middle school, I went to work with my husband and my daughter entered our local high school. Although we loved the three years, it was time for both of us to move on.

 

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Sailing in Santa Barbara during the homeschool years.

Have you ever considered homeschooling? What were your reasons for homeschooling or not homeschooling?

 

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