Monday, June 28, 2010

"I'm Bored Mom."

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.


Kassie said...

Love this. We too pulled the plug on games and movies and it's been interesting. Lots more book reading and playing with siblings is occuring, as well as helping mom. Thinking those old games will be banished forever.

Chocolate on my Cranium said...

We have to drive 45 minutes to get to town too! And the scenery is not so inspiring to look at during certain times of the year. We live in beige country.

"I give us all permission to allow our children to be bored." Love that! I've noticed with my own children that the younger ones are never bored. It's the older ones who have been exposed to too much TV that have the trouble. They are learning though! Especially now that TV is no longer an option. ☺

Rebekah said...

Another good post! I want to read that book too. Lately I have realized that a lot of the changes I've made are in harmony with what the scriptures teach us but for some reason I needed someone else to tell me how to do it and give me permissions to "get rid of all the toys" or "let them be bored". I was so conditioned by our societies social norms! I don't need all this stuff and entertainment! But I am glad for the permission as it's helped to unveil my eyes! I hope more of us can begin to see the things that are “wicked traditions” and stop them without needing justification.

Also, I know why you gave your disclaimer but I think you don’t need to be concerned with hurting someone’s feelings. If people take offence to what you have to say it is their issue and they don’t have to continue reading your blog. You have power in your writing and like Charlotte Mason says when we explain to our children reasons for certain things we diminish our power of authority with them it can be the same thing with disclaimers in our writing. After all, as one who believes in the Constitution and Bill of Rights (Limitations) we have” the freedom of speech, or of the press”. Besides, isn’t using disclaimers a way to be politicaly correct/”abridge” (censor)? Just a thought, thanks for sharing yours!

The Lazy Organizer said...

A friend of mine and I were talking about free time and learning for younger children when she pointed out that Adam and Eve were created and then left alone in the Garden. They didn't even have books to read! (Hmmmm, maybe I wasn't so crazy to get rid of all our entertaining children's books!) I'm sure they learned volumes just from studying God's creations, as my children do.

Boredom is a fabulous teacher.

Misty said...

So much of what you said just caused me to think more clearly and also made me feel validated.

I love what Rebekah said about wicked traditions, and all the other comments! It's so nice to know mothers who know and be inspired by them. I am so glad to know you.

Googs said...

Thanks for that! You said things so nicely and I agree with Rebekah that you don't need the disclaimer. Those that are ready to hear the message will take it and make their lives better and those that are not, can move on.


Shanny said...

I'm enjoying your blog! Lots of encouragment! I'm just curious to know how old your children are. It helps to understand the dynamics you are working with better when you share stories. Thanks very much.

Being A Mother Who Knows said...

Rebekah-Well said! Perhaps now you have given me permission to stop with the disclaimers! Love it. : ) Thank you!

Shanny-my children are currently 12, 10, 9 and 8. You can read a bit more about us on the "contact me" page.

Thank you all for your great thoughts. There is so much wisdom in what you all are sharing. I love it! It is very inspirational and motivating for me.

We are Ben and Rebecca said...

What kinds of activities did you do with the kids when they were toddlers? We haven't had tv for 9 months, and it's great. Sometimes I feel frazzeled trying to put together an activity for him while I'm trying to feed the baby. Any suggestions of things to do?

Being A Mother Who Knows said...

Rebecca-I have written a blog post to answer your question. I am almost finished with it. I hope that it will give you some ideas. I should have it up by tomorrow night?