Boredom May Let the Brain Recast the World in Productive, Creative Ways

I purposefully did not sign my kids up for summer camps this summer – at least for a couple of weeks. And to ease them into this strange new world of having nothing to do, I gave them something of a schedule at first. Then I let them go cold turkey.

Watching my kids grow up – going from daycare to pre-school, and then before-care, school and after-care during the ten months of Sep – June, then spending those precious days of summer enrolled in one structured camp or another – I began to

a) remember, with some  idealization, I am sure, but also with some reality, my own bored, endless days of summer vacation, and

b) watch them grow instantly restless when they had “nothing to do.”

My youngest in particular is prone to this. Within 60 seconds after one activity is complete (and I’m not making this up) he’ll turn to me and say, “Dad. I’m bored.” Of course, the inherent command in there is, “And you need to do something about it!”

Though I typically respond with, “Nice to meet you, Bored. I’m Dad.” or some other similarly annoying remark, he persists.

All of which led me to this summer’s experiment which, in at least one incident, met with unqualified success. It was when my oldest son, who is 12, came to me and said, “I wish I had a job.”

Ah! Such music to any parent’s ears!

I responded by giving all three of them a job, which was to paint three sets of exterior stairs. I paid them $20 each for what probably amounted to around 8 or 9 total man hours. But the best part was that they jumped into it with excitement and energy.

Now, I understand that the promise of cash at the end of their labors had a lot to do with their enthusiasm, and that that too will wear off, likely more quickly than I could hope or even imagine. But I do think boredom had something to do with it, and I strongly believe we do our children a huge disfavor by not allowing them to grow bored – and more importantly, to find their own way out of it.

See the link below for more reading on the matter.

Mind – Boredom May Let the Brain Recast the World in Productive, Creative Ways – NYTimes.com.

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