Let Them Be Bored: Helping Your Child Become Socially & Emotionally Independent (Part 1)
Our job as parents is to raise our children in a safe and healthy home, teach them about the world, and help them find their way. Ultimately, preparing them to be functional, capable, independent adults. We are not here to fix their every problem or make their lives free of obstacles (i.e. bulldozer or snowplow parenting). Nor is it to constantly provide entertainment for our kids (we can let them get bored). We want our kids to be able to navigate their own emotions, thoughts, and social interactions, and that can’t happen if we keep solving all their problems for them.
Independent and unstructured play time is vital to a child building these skills. However, these days kids’ schedules are jam packed. There is always a practice or event to go to, so they don’t have time to get bored. Kids often feel too much pressure to excel in so many things as well. It seems like our days are filled with school, activity, homework, dinner & bed time. We are always rushing from one thing to another. So what can we do to help them learn how to navigate their emotions, solve their own problems and take responsibility over their own feelings and actions?
We are going to…
- let them be bored
- let them fail
- have open and encouraging communication with them about their problems, thoughts and emotions
This blog will focus on the first…
Let them be bored.
Boredom will allow them to use their creativity and imagination. When we were young we got kicked outside and we ALWAYS found something to do. This creative and imaginative thinking starts the internal process of problem solving.
Boredom can lead to large motor skill development.
When kids are bored they will start climbing, digging, or building things. They will create a body awareness of what they can do, where they can fit, and of how strong they are. This body awareness and accomplishment will lead to confidence! That confidence will be their internal backing for wanting to tackle other obstacles in the future.
Boredom will lead to more social interaction.
If you’re bored and outside you seek others to keep you company. So there is more play with siblings or neighbors. Together, kids will create games and rules to play by. And when left alone, they will work through disagreements on their own. This gives them practice in negotiation, problem solving, compromise, and working together. None of which would be learned if a parent just jumped in to solve any and all issues that arise.
If the weather is too severe to be outside, indoor unstructured play can have many of the same benefits. But instead of large motor skill development, indoor play usually has more to do with fine motor skill development. If left alone to be bored, kids will start drawing, writing, sculpting (playdough), or building (blocks, LEGOs). These activities engage the brain for thinking, creating and problem solving. They also improve the fine motor skills used for writing.
Boredom will also:
-Teach delayed gratification
-Allow your child to sit with their thoughts and feelings
-Develop a personal understanding of their thoughts and feelings
-Allow time to interpret the reasons behind their thoughts and feelings
-Time to ponder life and the way things work
-Put them in the position of being responsible for their own feelings and actions
Your child may protest being bored and want to immediately be entertained by you, or some device. But when they are left to sit with their own boredom for long enough, their brains will start working and developing their skills. So let them be bored. Throw them outside if possible. Give them the time and space they need to play and learn in an unstructured environment.