This week I have decided to force my 13 year old son, Link, to be bored. He is probably the lowest maintenance of my kids. If I stock the freezer with frozen pizza and give him free reign on the video games, he won’t bother me for a week. However this parenting thing is not about figuring out how to get the kids to stop bothering me. It is my job to occasionally force my kids into learning and growing even when what they really want is to be happy and relax. Since summer began, my son has spent 90% of his waking hours attached to various forms of electronic entertainment. I like video games. I think they can be educational. However a healthy person is balanced among many pursuits rather than just one. The trouble is that when Link is detached from electronics, he doesn’t really have anything else to do. He wanders around aimlessly and pesters me to know when he can play a video game again.
A week ago I took Link camping. While we were there, his electronic game habit was assisted by my dad who passed around his iPad and Nintendo DS3. However there were only two devices, lots of cousins, and limited battery life. Link had to go for hours on end with no electronics. At first he sat or wandered aimlessly and I spent some time thinking about what could entertain him. However I was feeling lethargic and I began to be curious. Bored children get creative. They think up stuff to do. This is one of the inherent risks of boredom and why parents spend so much time and money to make sure their kids are entertained. I began to wonder what Link would discover to entertain himself. After wandering aimlessly most of that first day, he began to participate. He helped build a fort. He went on a hike or two. He played cards with cousins. He returned to the electronics as often as possible, but even separate from them he managed to have a good time.
We came back from camping and the old pattern returned full-force. If I want Link to have some non-electronics-related hobbies (and I think he will be a happier person his whole life if he does have some) then I have to limit the electronics time. I have to let him be bored for hours every single day until he starts to get creative about avoiding boredom. It is going to be work both for me and for him, but work is necessary to accomplishment.
To be fair, I’m going to apply the same limitations on the kids and on myself. We could all use a little more boredom and the resultant creativity.