Posted by: angiefm | April 29, 2009

On Boredom

I ended my last post with a sentence about boredom inspiring creativity and remembered that we have a saying in this family:

“If you’re BORED, it’s YOUR fault!” 

I have met a good number of children who go around saying, “So BORING”.  Expecially when they come to our home.  😀

One Chinese New Year a few families came over to our home and a Primary School aged boy came up to me and said, “Can I watch TV?”  I said no and explained that in our home, we only watch one Disney video on Friday nights (okay we’ve relaxed it recently to include Ninja Warriors and My Dad is Better Than Your Dad, but at the time, that was the rule). 

A few minutes later the same kid came over and said, “Can I play computer?”  (Forget the fact that that is an ungrammatical sentence.)  I said, “No, we do not play computer games in this house.”  A short while later, same child comes to me and announces for all to hear, “Aunty Angie, your house VERY BORING.”

And this scene has repeated itself countless times over the years.  Now I’m going to make a GROSS generalisation here … so please try not to be offended.  I find that among primary school aged children, I get the “so boring” mainly from school-going children and less from homeschoolers. 

Over-Scheduled Children

My hypothesis is that schoolers have their day so well planned for them – when to wake up, take the bus, start school, through each lesson of the day, CCAs after, tuition and other “enrichment” classes on the weekends, that they have lost the art of self-entertainment. 

Technology

The other contributing factor I believe is the over-reliance on technology to entertain.  TV, computer games, hand-held gadgets, mobile phones … you name it, they have it.  And without them they don’t know how to pass the time.

Let me reiterate that this is a GENERALISATION and that there are schoolers who don’t have this problem, and homeschoolers who do.

How We Deal With It

I can only speak for ourselves.  We have had to deal with “bored” children ourselves, especially when they were younger.  But giving our children the wherewithall to deal with boredom is a great life skill. 

This we do in part by minimising exposure to media – little TV, the weekly computer game, no mobile phones or hand-held anything. 

We also have them spend time alone during the day.  We call it “Quiet Hour” and it is a much prized time for everyone (with the possible exception of Tim sometimes who seems to need to talk to someone all the time).  During this hour, they get to do anything they choose to do (no TV, no computer games) but ALONE.

The other thing we engage our children in is conversation.  Lots of it.  Though I have to admit that this takes a lot more energy than one usually supposes!  So we have people over, or we go to other people’s homes and have THEM talk to our children.  Ha ha ha.  Once they are able to converse with others (especially adults) or to sit quietly and attentively and listen while adults talk, that really helps take the edge off the times when they have no choice but to just sit.

And sitting quietly is a skill you can actually teach them.  Our children are not allowed to run about in church.  Or in restaurants during a meal.  Even at home they need to sit during the meal and are not allowed to leave the table till they are done and ask to be excused. 

If you have more than one child, you will also need to teach them to resolve conflicts themselves.  I don’t have a formula for you, because every situation is different.  But one rule of thumb here is no carrying tales.  We have our children talk to the “offending party” to try to resolve it before they come to us.  If anyone comes complaining, our first question is always, “Have you talked to him/her?”  Only if they have tried and failed, do they come to us for resolution.  9 times out of 10 they deal with it themselves.  The other thing we do is to remind them how blessed they are to have siblings to live, play, talk with.  In fact, we count our blessings every so often to show our children how little really we have to complain about.  The Good Lord has truly been sooooo GOOD to our family. 

The result of all this is that our children can entertain themselves and each other for hours each afternoon without coming to me for anything.  They can sit right through 10-course Chinese dinners without having to leave the table except to go to the toilet.  🙂  They sit in church (okay, sometimes they squirm) for about 45 minutes before they are dismissed for their Sunday School classes and for special services, they sit for an hour and a half.

I personally know adults who cannot amuse themselves and who resort EXCESSIVELY to shopping, eating, movie watching, online games, pub crawling, ANYTHING to avoid going home and being alone.  So I really want our children to be able to deal positively with boredom, not just because I want to take my afternoon naps (though that is certainly a great short-term benefit), but so that they will be set up for success later in life also.

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Responses

  1. This really strikes a chord with me. We don’t have a TV and I too do not encourage video or computer games. And I do find that my children can occupy themselves. However, the flip side of all this is that others view me as some sort of extremist and they also wonder why I am DEPRIVING my children of wonderful things like Barney and Mickey Mouse… but really, I let them watch if its on TV (say at grandparents house), I just don’t bring it into my home as we actually can find more profitable things to do than stone in front of the TV!

  2. I thought we were the only odd parents who watch Ninja Warrior with our children! 🙂

    Baby’s still staying in, eh? Soon, soon…
    But with the Swine flu thing going on, there may be more fuss going to the hospital. When I had my #1, it was SARS (got shooed out of hospital less than 24hrs after delivery), and now with #3, it’s Swine flu.. sigh.

  3. Hi, I wanted to introduce myself. My name is Teresa and I’m here in Los Angeles, CA. I just wanted to let you know how much I love your blog. We recently had a baby who was born with a cleft lip and palate – among other medical issues. We were and still are semi consumed with all of his issues that I’ve been tempted to put my almost five year old in Kindergarten. Your blog is helping me have perspective again. Thank you. I need all the encouragement I can get! I just signed up for the printable art and I’ve been reading Parenting with Love and Logic. You are making a difference in our household. God Bless you! Thank you for taking the time to do this.

    -Teresa

  4. Hey! We are faithful followers of Ninja Warriors too! Agree about how boredom is good for the soul and about adults who can’t bear to be alone 🙂

  5. Hi Teresa,

    I’m Victoria. I have two children. My second child is also born with cleft lip and palate. Jsst like to encourage you to stay positive. I’m also currently homeschooling my older girl.

    • Victoria,
      I just saw your post! Thank you for your encouraging words. I would love to talk to you some more if that’s ok with you. My email address is treesheart@gmail.com. You can see some pictures of us on my personal blog at treesheart.blogspot.com.

      It’s so good to know that you’re homeschooling your older child.

      Teresa

  6. my 2 boys are few of those who’d go “so boring…” all too often. the twins are still too young to do that… and i hope they won’t start on it. thks for sharing. i think i’m starting to rely too much on the tv for my own sanity sake. now i realised its crucial to teach my boys the art of being “STILL”. praying for wisdom on this. they’re getting too restless for their own good.

  7. Thank you for sharing. I’m a homeschooling parent from Malaysia and I continue to be amused at how little homeschoolers differ from each other, and how much we all have in common – regardless of where we come from. When our boys were much younger we too didn’t have TV, and computer games were allowed only on weekends. It’s true: our kids know how to occupy themselves 🙂 We’re just a causeway away, and homeschoolers in M’sia and S’pore ought to connect for the sake of our fledgling hs community.


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