How many times have you heard that? The book, Last Child in the Wood: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv explores boredom and how we need to use it to get our children back outside.
Today boredom is an epidemic. Children are leading a life of being entertained constantly. The author talks about how the concept of boredom didn't begin to develop until the nineteen century. He shares how a historian researched the concept of boredom from medieval times. If someone displayed the symptoms of what we now call boredom they were thought to be committing a sin in what they described as a "dangerous form of spiritual alienation" and were devaluing of the world and its creator. Of note though was that since the concept of boredom didn't exist neither did the concepts of "interesting, thrilling or exciting." (There must be opposition in all things). When labor-saving machinery, the valuing of the individual and the pursuit of happiness arrived on planet Earth the emotional state of boredom was born.
Boredom is good though! It forces a child to make a choice. What are they going to do now? In the past I gave my children to big of a range of ideas; mostly all entertainment based. However as I've applied the "headgate" principles, which would be limiting all entertainment options, the child will be forced to use their creativity. When bored Louv says they will, "turn to a book, built a fort, pull out the paints and create, or come home sweaty from a game of neighborhood basketball." Boredom creates an opportunity! As I have dropped the lopsided amount of entertainment out of our lives I have noticed that my children play outside more, read more, work on their musical instruments and sketch more.
I have a friend that always tells her children, "I am not your entertainment committee." I think this is more important counsel than I've realized. I seem bombarded with ideas that if I want to be a good parent I should take them to the movies, provide video games, hand held video games, trips to the mall, videos, excesses clothing, diversity of friends and play dates, amusement parks, organized sports, etc. I believe the reduction (or absence) of such makes me a good parent. (see note below)
My children don't need to be provided with everything at their whim. How will this prepare them to be a responsible adult? Why would they want to even be an adult? (Read this book: Boys Adrift by Leonard Sax for more on that topic).
I give us all permission to allow our children to be bored. When they are bored suggest they go outside. Allow them stare at worms and bugs, birds and clouds and feel the sunshine. They will think great thoughts and feel peace because they are in nature, God's creation.
I have had to create new rules and guidelines for their lives now that I've "pulled the plug." When we drive somewhere they are able to bring a book, notebook or their sketchbook. However, unless we are traveling a far distance, we will not watch movies or listen to books. (Driving four hours down to Utah isn't far enough for me). I tell them to look out the window and think deep thoughts; look at the country side, see the animals and vegetation. When my children were all little I would play games with them. I would ask them what animals we were seeing, what crops we passed and what color of cars we saw. I would ask them any questions I could to get them to observe their surroundings and to keep them from screaming and fighting with each other. I want them to learn about the world because they see it and experience it. Not just because they see pictures in a book or saw it on television.
As a side note; we are driving in my husband's old car a lot now because it has better gas mileage then the suburban. They actually have to touch each other now and it has been WWIII. Who knew 3 boys could get into so many fights on the way to town (45 minutes) for groceries? Guess what though? I'm going to drive the car EVERY WHERE I can now until they learn to get along! It is not an excuse for me to say, "Driving with three boys is just too hard. I think I'll buy handheld game systems or MP3 players so they can pass the time." No way! This is a call to arms. I am not caving in and letting them entertain their way through life! They have to be responsible, hard working, non-entertainment based kids that will be prepared to usher in the Savior and the Second Coming. I will be a mother who knows that entertainment is not the answer to my frazzeledness.
The examples I provided were simply examples. Please do not take anything personally. I am sure all of the things I listed can be valuable if used in the right circumstances. Please do not be offended if you allow your children to watch a show in the car when you go run errands or that going to an amusement park is bad. I provided examples to the principle of boredom and those were things I have personally reflected on.