“I’m bored” is an expression that many parents and teachers hear all too often. In ancient times, when I was a child, my parents’ response to my boredom was simple, “Why are you telling me?” or if I was more insistent, “ Go bang your head against a wall “.
The message was clear; it was my responsibility to manage my boredom. No arranged playdates, no suggestions to watch TV or play computer games, no money to go to “the mall”, no worry or concern that boredom was a real problem. The only alternative they offered was chores around the house.
They were confident that I would figure it out. Interestingly, they were right. Children, when left to their own devices, will figure out how not to be bored. They don’t need our help. In fact, recent research has indicated that the management of boredom is important to the development of the child. Self -management of boredom has been linked to creativity, problem solving, imagination, adaptability, and general feelings of competence and self-confidence. The thought that adversity is important to development is one that many parents struggle with. Boredom, failure, frustration, mistakes, sadness, and the effects of social pressures, are often emotions that we try to keep our children from experiencing, inadvertently avoiding the benefit these experiences might offer. These “unhappy” moments, in many ways are connected to our ability to solve problems, persevere, find motivation, and in general become more confident and independent. Avoiding the realities of life, even at a young age, can leave us unprepared for what so many of us call “the real world”. Our responsibility as educators and parents is not to prevent our children from having that experience, but rather to make sure that we in some way control the frequency and intensity of these “dark side” events.