Boredom: The Lazy Parent’s Strategy for Inspiring Creativity

Published by Lori Pickert on August 19, 2013 at 10:42 AM

Here’s how the standard line goes:

Kids need to be bored! They’re over-scheduled! When we’re not shuttling them from activity to activity, their screens are standing by to entertain them 24/7! Boredom is the answer!

Here’s the thing, though. I’m never bored. Like, never ever. And before I wrote about this, I checked in with both of my kids.

Me: Are you ever bored?

Son: [Thoughtful pause.] No.

Me: Ever?

Son: No.

I asked the other son and his answer was the same. We talked it over and agreed: There aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the things we want to do. And we’re not talking about the kind of time most people have — just a couple of hours after work, after school, after dance/swim/soccer, after homework, and so on. We are people who have giant swaths of free time. Our schedule is as wide open as the Montana sky. We are the least harried family on the planet.

We still don’t have enough time to do all the things we want to do.

Space + time + materials + experiences + skills = interests that spill over the edges of every day. My kids get up every day excited to do the things they want to do and they never run out of things they want to do. And we don’t do any activities. And we schedule nothing.

 

So, sorry, but here it is:

 

Boredom is a really crappy, cheapskate answer to helping your kids develop creativity and authentic interests.

 

Boredom? That’s what you’re offering? You funnel immense resources into your child’s education and planned activities. You pay for class fees, sports equipment, uniforms. You drive hither and yon. You spend all the really nice fall Saturdays sitting in a camping chair on an athletic field wearing a hat and sunglasses and clutching a large cup of coffee. You cheer from the stands. You pack the duffel bag. You buy everything on the supplies list.

 

But when it comes to that part of your child’s life where they develop their own authentic interests, explore their unique talents, develop creativity, and learn to be self-directed — your contribution is a chunk of empty time and boredom. Huzzah!

 

No. Not huzzah.

 

Children need unscheduled time! Yes, they do. Unscheduled by someone other than themselves, that is. My thirteen-year-old just came to me a week ago and asked me to sit down and help him hammer out a schedule. He had so many projects he was juggling, he was starting to feel like he wasn’t going to meet all of his goals. He wanted help building a schedule and he wanted me to buy him an alarm clock. The kid who doesn’t have to get up and go to school wants an alarm clock so he can get up earlier so he can work on his own projects.

 

We sat down and worked out a schedule — a schedule that includes things like swimming, playing Xbox with his dad and brother, walking the dog, and playing badminton with me after dinner. There was even time to watch TV. “I didn’t think I’d ever be able to watch TV again,” he marveled.

 

So how do you get a kid like this? A kid who has all the free time in the world and is still thinking he won’t have time to watch TV because he is so interested in pursuing his own projects?

 

We need a complete sea change in how we think about helping kids balance their scheduled time. It’s not about teaching them to deal with boredom. It’s about helping them connect with their own interests and ideas.

 

We pour all of our money, time, and energy into supporting kids’ scheduled activities, but we don’t invest anything in their “free time.”

 

We want them to choose intellectual, creative activities — in general, we want them to choose higher-value ways to spend their time. But how do we support that?

 

Parents bemoan the fact that all their kid wants to do is watch TV and play Xbox. Yet the heart of their home is set up to look like a shrine devoted to exactly those two things. There’s a TV the size of a twin bed and every chair in the room — the most comfortable chairs in the house, by the way — are arrayed around it in rapt devotion. The Xbox is nestled alongside.

 

When you compare that shrine to screen-based entertainment to the area of the house devoted to their child’s other interests… Oh, wait. There is no area like that.

 

We invest time, attention, and resources in our kids‘ organized activities. Those, we go at with the energy of Henry VIII attacking a turkey leg. But when it comes to our kids’ “free time” they’re “free” to be bored out of their skulls until they are hit with an epiphany and realize they want to learn how to build and program their own robot.

 

In absolutely zero places in adult life do we take a group of intelligent people we want to encourage toward meaningful, worthwhile activities and say, “The key, ladies and gentlemen, is to get them really bored first.”

 

It’s only kids who are expected to be put in at the absolutely bare, gravelly bottom of the well and MacGyver themselves somewhere good. It’s only kids who we cut loose like an untethered astronaut in deep space to “make their own fun.”

 

Think about how often you wish you had some time to yourself. Now imagine that you get an entire afternoon next weekend to yourself, but you have to spend it in a hotel room where the TV and the Wi-Fi are broken and your phone has been confiscated. How do you feel now? Energized and excited about filling your time? If you get bored, maybe you could “weed the garden,” “write a poem about your favorite pet,” or “invent your own board game.” Fear not —boredom is the gateway to innovation — necessity will lead you to fill that time and enjoy yourself!

 

Why do we think dance and soccer and tae kwon do need to be scheduled and organized, but creative play should happen all on its own?

 

Because it’s not enough for children to develop interests outside of simple entertainment — TV, Xbox, Minecraft. We want more than that. We want them to really work for it. Like soldiers dropped in the middle of the jungle without a map or canteen to find their way back to base, they need to be given nothing and somehow make their way to an authentic, deep interest and onward to challenging, meaningful work.

 

Good luck, kids!

 

The whole “kids need to be bored” strategy is doomed from the start because it’s a whiplash-inducing 180 from the way the kids spend the rest of their time — you can’t flip the script from “totally scheduled” to “totally on your own” and not hear the scream of resisting gears.

 

To keep a child entertained and scheduled 95% of the time and then leave them naked and resourceless and expect them to use that time well (after going through the requisite period of boredom) is not the optimal way to teach a child to manage and fill their own time.

 

Boredom, rather than being an on-ramp to creative play and invention, is just as likely to be the on-ramp to passive consumption and a fear of empty time.

 

There’s another way. It’s cheating, I know, but we could actually invest in our kids’ interests and abilities. We could maybe scale back from the twin-size TV to the crib-size and put that money into materials and tools. We could create a studio space for our kids — not a cobwebby basement or attic space that no one ever goes to because it’s in the Siberia of the house, but a warm, central space that is as warm and beckoning as that plush faux-leather shrine competing for their time.

 

If a house does have a studio, it usually belongs to the parent. If there’s a workshop, it belongs to the parent. The two spaces we typically allot to kids are their bedroom and the shared TV space. Anything creative is called “craft time” and the dining table is cleared off while it happens — but usually that table is covered with the detritus of life. There’s no space that is always waiting for a child to build and create. There’s no time set aside and protected so that making can be part of everyday life.

 

Does always-available electronic entertainment destroy a child’s ability to create, design, make, and do? Not if they produce what they consume. Not if you feed and support their interests and give them enough time to take them further. Not if you don’t artificially limit the amount of time they can play so they can only be a passive user.

 

They need time to achieve mastery and become a creator. But not just time — they need support. They need space. They need tools and materials. They need collaborators and cohorts. They need community. They need a parent who appreciates their interests and their efforts. They need a mentor.

 

They need the habit and routine of coming regularly to the space and to their own ideas.

 

We put all of our energy and resources into our kids’ organized activities and trying to shore up their deficits. Anything that they do well, anything that interests them, we assume can be left alone to develop on its own. Are you crummy at reading and great at science? We’re going to laser-focus on reading and cross science off our list of concerns.

 

When it comes to things our kids do well or things they care about, we figure that’s something we can safely ignore. Why invest in something that’s fine on its own? We give them the minimum — a chunk of free time — and go back to worrying about where they don’t measure up.

 

One article I read recommended that we schedule boredom. I have a different idea: Let’s schedule not-boredom. Let’s schedule interest and excitement and creativity and experiences and meaningful work.

 

Championing boredom for kids doesn’t even scratch the surface of best practice. We can do so much more than just leave a hole in their schedule where they can wallow. Boredom is the least possible effort we can make in the right direction.

 

We can invest in our children’s interests, abilities, talents, strengths, and ideas.

 

We can invest in their unscheduled time and flood it with tools, materials, collaboration, and support.

 

We can build a place in our home that honors making and doing, not just watching other people make and do.

 

We can build a family culture that celebrates meaningful work.

 

Give your kids too many bored afternoons and you run the risk of making them so fearful of empty time that they’ll try to avoid it like the plague. Make it too challenging for them to discover the pleasure of making ideas happen and they may never discover it.

 

Compared to over-scheduling, boredom seems like a valuable anteroom to having ideas and doing higher-valuer activities — the first step down a path toward self-direction.

 

But boredom is the easiest, chintziest, least-effort-expended way for you to help your kids head down that path. And the return on your scanty investment is in no way guaranteed.

 

You can do better.

 

Give your kids a workspace — an art studio, a workshop, a lab for ideas.

 

Give your kids a block of time devoted to making and doing — and protect that time. Make it one of your big rocks. Honor it. Invest in it. Give it at least the same level of attention that you give soccer and tae kwon do.

 

Give your kids an example to follow. Don’t just send them off to do something that you yourself never do. Live the life you want them to live. Work alongside them and become a family of doers.

 

Forget about boredom and become the kind of people who are never bored, because there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the things you want to do.

 

•••

 

Note: There are still spaces available in the new PBH Master Class — sign up here!

30 comments

Comment by amanda on August 19, 2013 at 12:49 PM

love this. we get questions from people - why aren't they playing soccer? why aren't they having _______ (fill in the blank) lessons? and my standard answer is, they are kids. they need time to be, to do nothing, to draw, to read, to explore. my kids have the better part of every day to do all the things they want to - even use all the glue, the cotton balls, catch frogs, etc. i *wish* i'd had that kind of time when i was young.

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 19, 2013 at 02:47 PM

thank you, amanda. :)

Comment by sandphanie on August 19, 2013 at 01:32 PM

Wow! What a powerful post. I love how you turned the "kids need to be bored" mantra on its head.

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 19, 2013 at 02:47 PM

thank you! :)

Comment by Beth Covalt on August 19, 2013 at 01:54 PM

I echo the "WOW"! I am simultaneously convicted and inspired. This. Is. Excellent!

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 19, 2013 at 02:47 PM

thank you! :)

Comment by dawn suzette on August 19, 2013 at 02:49 PM

Thank you! What a great post Lori! You make so many great points.
This one stood out for me:
"When it comes to things our kids do well or things they care about, we figure that’s something we can safely ignore. Why invest in something that’s fine on its own? We give them the minimum — a chunk of free time — and go back to worrying about where they don’t measure up."

What a missed opportunity! And this is pretty selective based on parent intrest as well - sports intrests carry more weight than say science in some families I know. So sad for the kid who eats up all things science related!

I, like Amanda, get questions often about why the kids are not signed up for this or that. They are plenty busy with their intrests thank you!
And they resist any pressure from others to sign them up for things they say will be "a waste of their time."

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 19, 2013 at 05:02 PM

 

What a missed opportunity! And this is pretty selective based on parent interest as well - sports interests carry more weight than say science in some families I know. So sad for the kid who eats up all things science related!

i think sports is one of those areas where parents feel it’s really beneficial, even when the kid isn’t interested. from my time running a school i know there are a lot of kids on teams that don’t want to be there. :/

I, like Amanda, get questions often about why the kids are not signed up for this or that. They are plenty busy with their intrests thank you!

And they resist any pressure from others to sign them up for things they say will be "a waste of their time."

love that they are protecting their own time — my kids do that, too. :)

Comment by kirstenf on August 19, 2013 at 04:04 PM

Wow! That was totally unexpected! I totally thought you were going to recommend boredom (I'm always up for the lazy parent option...), and I fell right into your trap. I would always have said that boredom's the thing they need, but of course you're right, it's not. What I'm thinking of as boredom is simply just time. My kids don't do anything scheduled outside of school, and my son is constantly telling me he nevertheless doesn't have enough time to do all the stuff he wants to do. He's never bored! But I do need to spend more time helping him go deeper. I'm definitely guilty of thinking he can do that so I can just leave it. He could be doing so much more! And he'd love it. I really have to start journalling. He keeps saying things to me, and I think 'I should write that down'. But I never do. It feels a bit weird. But I think it would be the thing that would take us further. I'm gonna do it. Now. Bored schmored.

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 19, 2013 at 05:21 PM

 

I fell right into your trap.

 ;o)

My kids don't do anything scheduled outside of school, and my son is constantly telling me he nevertheless doesn't have enough time to do all the stuff he wants to do. He's never bored! But I do need to spend more time helping him go deeper. I'm definitely guilty of thinking he can do that so I can just leave it. He could be doing so much more! And he'd love it.

not only can they take their ideas further, but you establish a family culture that honors that kind of engagement and work. :)

I really have to start journalling. He keeps saying things to me, and I think 'I should write that down'. But I never do. It feels a bit weird. But I think it would be the thing that would take us further. I'm gonna do it. Now. Bored schmored. 

yes!!! :)

Comment by Sarah M on August 19, 2013 at 06:45 PM

This was a total zinger of a post. I have actually told my husband before that "I haven't been bored in years!" and I often think there aren't enough hours in the day for everything I want to do. After reading your thoughts about abundance and trying to include everything one wants to do (awhile back), I have been implementing that model in our own home. Our kids seem to really appreciate that, even down to the language of "We DO have time for everything in our day, here's what we need to do, here's what we want to do, what goes first?" etc.
My kids are still fairly young and something that has always been a part of our lifestyle from infant-hood was nap time. My kids haven't napped for years, but we still have a daily 2.5 hour alone time. We are all in different rooms. To admit it, it's probably more for my sake, as I need a break from everyone at least once a day. The creativity I have seen come out of those quiet times where they are alone, thinking, playing, talking to their teddy friends, etc. though, has been so fun to watch.
We have kind of a weird, small, wonky space we're living in for a year, I just *really* need to be more intentional to create a room where not only they can play, but they can keep projects out to come back to. That has always been the hardest thing for us (my husband hates seeing stuff all over the dinner table every night), and personalities clash over that one. I hear the phrase, "if you build it, they will come" aptly applies to this conundrum.
Sarah M

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 19, 2013 at 07:14 PM

 

Our kids seem to really appreciate that, even down to the language…

love that!

I just *really* need to be more intentional to create a room where not only they can play, but they can keep projects out to come back to. … I hear the phrase, "if you build it, they will come" aptly applies to this conundrum.

you got it. ;o)

keep me update! and join the forum if you want to talk it out. :)

Comment by Stacey B on August 19, 2013 at 08:02 PM

Ah boredom, it is a pretty complex issue around here, actually it gets confused with engaged (or in our case having a child who until recently hated to play by himself). In our house we have no scheduled activities outside of school, we wrestle enough with sending him to school that trying to layer anything else on top of that seemed unfair for him. But I hear "I'm bored" often it isn't that I think promoting boredom is good, but I do think that always jumping in to entertain or create the activity for him isn't right either. I am more than happy to facilitate projects he wants to do and try to have the space for him to explore art material and some science stuff I think there is something about those moments where you let a child, especially a busy one, pause and work through boredom (which unfortunately is more of a reaction to free time that they aren't used to).

Maybe I'm not talking about boredom and more about the idea that kids need time to get to know themselves, that it isn't the boredom that I am willing let be but I just want him to stop for a moment and look inside himself about what he needs just then. I think in this plugged in screen time culture the idea of that time to mull is equated with boredom, because kids are so used having things instantly available.

Another thing I have noticed over the past few years is that as his interests grow deeper his lists of things he wants to do grows, as does his time he is happy to spend by himself. In these cases boredom is actually disappointment. Like this evening when he had it in his mind that he and Papa would go to the skate park, but by the time we got home from errands it was too late.

Like everything with your own kids you need to learn when to let them sit within themselves and when they need suggestions.

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 19, 2013 at 08:16 PM

 

I think there is something about those moments where you let a child, especially a busy one, pause and work through boredom (which unfortunately is more of a reaction to free time that they aren't used to).

that’s the 180 i was talking about — if they aren’t used to it, then no wonder they balk and complain. unscheduled time should be baked in from the beginning.

i think you’re absolutely right that parents shouldn’t leap to solve kids’ problems — momentary boredom or frustration, etc. but that’s a different issue, of course.

Maybe I'm not talking about boredom and more about the idea that kids need time to get to know themselves, that it isn't the boredom that I am willing let be but I just want him to stop for a moment and look inside himself about what he needs just then. I think in this plugged in screen time culture the idea of that time to mull is equated with boredom, because kids are so used having things instantly available.

interesting idea — do you think the child identifies that as boredom or the parent?

as his interests grow deeper his lists of things he wants to do grows, as does his time he is happy to spend by himself.

this has been my experience as well.

Like everything with your own kids you need to learn when to let them sit within themselves and when they need suggestions.

agreed! and learning to negotiate that line takes time and effort.

Comment by Stacey B on August 19, 2013 at 10:14 PM

"Do you think that he identifies this as boredom?" Sadly this is something that he's only started saying since he started school, before that he just would talk about wanting attention, I think he is getting it from other students or the teachers. I know that he did experience a lot of boredom last year in school especially in math where he was done so fast during class and they didn't have anything else for him to do.

The growth I've seen this summer in terms of his own interests really has shifted our conversations, now it is more when can he do what he wants to do. He has also finally come into imaginative play which gives him a new outlet. And when he can't think of anything else to do he goes next door to the coffee shop and hangs out with is friends (all of whom are over 20) and talks about skateboarding, music, and what ever else.

Which makes me think about another part of this "boredom" issue is that kids so often are isolated in their own homes, they no longer can just go out and play with the neighbor kids, we try to give him as much freedom as we can in the city, luckily for us we have a great group of neighbors who are always happy to have a conversation with him, or keep half an eye on him if they are outside and he is in the garden.

I think those long days of just being with other kids, not because you are in an activity, but simply because they are who are around is important. There is more negotiation and relationship (on many levels) involved with a group of kids who don't necessarily agree on everything hanging out with adults monitoring them.

Comment by Rachel Wolf on August 20, 2013 at 08:43 AM

I enthusiastically agree while simultaneously disagreeing with passion. ;-)

Here is where I come at it from: it depends on the temperament of your child.

Our home and our life I suspect look similar to yours. Except in our world of personalities it looks like: "Space + time + materials + experiences + skills = interests that spill over the edges of [almost but not quite] every day."

Because I have one child who who tends to be more melancholic and - on occasion - gets bored.

Here is where boredom serves us: I don't rescue him. I don't fix it. I let him flounder and struggle a bit and then, like magic, that robot he's building becomes a priority or he finds a stack of lumber and starts building a catapult.

For him boredom is a transition between activities that sometimes provides him with motivation to take care of his own needs.

His life is brimming with activities he is passionate about, and most days overflow and bedtime comes hours too soon, but sometimes not. And I let him have at that boredom every time. Because we don't have screens to entertain us. And we must take charge of our own happiness.

Love your words, Lori. Thanks for making me evaluate where I stand on this conversation. ~ Rachel

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 20, 2013 at 10:20 AM

 

Here is where boredom serves us: I don't rescue him. I don't fix it. I let him flounder and struggle a bit and then, like magic, that robot he's building becomes a priority or he finds a stack of lumber and starts building a catapult.

i enthusiastically agree with *you* that parents should not leap in to help children whenever they hit a patch of boredom or frustration or difficulty but should help their child manage it instead. :)

the last of the umpteenth articles i read on “let your kids be bored!” said that when children say “i’m bored” you should respond by immediately giving them your attention. :/ then after five minutes, abandon them again.

what i’m advocating here is, of course, not leaping to fill the child’s time but building a routine that supports a life in which they would be much, much better equipped to deal with boredom on their own.

Comment by eb on August 20, 2013 at 04:37 PM

Hi Lori,
I appreciated this article and it made me nervous/judgemental about my parenting and my own lack of enough crafty interests! I have a really small home and it's just me and my daughter and I work full time. my daughter and I spend a lot of our together time in make believe play and stories/books but there is no craft room space (there is a table and art supplies in the living room...we don't have a tv or big computer... it's a pretty simple /small home.)
do you have any suggestions for creating this space and also...i'm not super crafty ):...I would love any suggestions you have.
my daughter is very physical - moving her body, swimming, gymnastics play...which I foster in the home and at the park and pool...but I grew up being BORED and use things like facebook/email to escape the boredom monster(after she goes to bed)...I don't want to pass that on! I loved reading /was envious reading how your kids are never bored and don't have enough time to do stuff they want to do...
THANKS!!!

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 20, 2013 at 10:03 PM

 

hi eb, please don’t feel nervous or judgmental on my part! you should join our free forum — we have a thread on making project spaces in small homes (we have people who live on boats and in RVs, in a yurt … small spaces abound :) and we can definitely brainstorm with you about how to make that happen. :)

http://project-based-homeschooling.com/forum

join and either start a thread or introduce yourself in the appropriate thread and i’ll hook you up with some helpful links. :)

Comment by Kara on August 21, 2013 at 07:14 AM

As another poster mentioned, I think when I am talking about boredom, what I actually mean is time. This article has got me thinking about what I mean when I say "boredom" - both as a parent and as a writer who writes for other parents and has used the phrase "the gift of boredom."

Initially when I read this, I bristled, thinking, "I'm not lazy and I'm not a cheapskate or a crappy parent because I believe that a little boredom can be a gateway to good things and I think kids need blocks of unscheduled time." I know I'm not those things.

But, as I read more and thought more I thought you know, I'm not bored. And I bet my kids aren't bored either. In fact, we've carved out a pretty wonderful life for ourselves. So much of how we live I see reflected in your words here (the workspace, the investment, the encouragement, guarding their time and honoring it, the help when I'm asked for it)

So, now I wonder if the problem, what gets lost in translation, is that I've been using the word "boredom" to mean free time to pursue their own passions but using the word "boredom" implies a nothingness, emptiness, a negative thing - time and space with nothing to fill it and no investment on my part as a parent, and that just isn't true.

I think I need to be more careful about the words I choose to describe this time and space. I don't want to negate a very good thing in our lives.

So, thanks for giving me something to think about, even if I felt uncomfortable and defensive at first. A little squirming and re-thinking is a good thing from time to time :-)

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 21, 2013 at 03:11 PM

i think boredom is pretty well recognized as what it is — the sad or miserable empty feeling of having nothing to do. and there are many, many, many blog posts written about kids’ boredom being a positive thing *and* beneficial for developing creativity. i just think we can do better than that — a lot better. :)

Comment by Stacey B on August 21, 2013 at 04:14 PM

I wonder if people who talk about letting their children be bored have actually said no to a bunch of ideas their child had before they got to bored.
ex:

Child: can I make a volcano this afternoon?
Child: can I make a fort out of pillows?
Parent: that's a lot of set up and clean up.
Child: can I play Plants vs Zombies?
Parent: you played this morning.
Child: can we go to the park with the stream?
Child: will you read to me?
Parent: I have stuff to get done around the house.
Child: I'm bored.
Parent: Can't you come up with something to do?

Comment by Faigie on August 21, 2013 at 08:37 PM

I wish I had read this post years ago. We have to TV or xbox but my kids who were not readers were always bored . I think just being in an overscheduled school system where they dont teach them to think probably did that. My problem is that I am never bored but, I couldn't get my non reader kids interested in anything. Sigh...Like I said I wish I had seen this years ago

Comment by renee @ FIMBY on August 26, 2013 at 10:35 AM

Oh my goodness. What a fabulous, fabulous read.

I'd say we are a non-bored house. I am never bored, neither is my husband. Our kids have moments. I would call them transitional spaces more than anything. The space of time before they have sunk their teeth into something (after finishing something else).

Our older two kids (14 & 12) are also getting to the stage where they are asking us for help in scheduling their days so they can meet all their goals. Their goals, not our goals handed down to them.

So much of what you said in here Lori is just so, so true, like this:

It’s only kids who are expected to be put in at the absolutely bare, gravelly bottom of the well and MacGyver themselves somewhere good. It’s only kids who we cut loose like an untethered astronaut in deep space to “make their own fun.”

As an adult I love being cut loose but you can bet I want a few resources at hand to do that. A camera, a computer - for writing, researching, and editing said photos, perhaps a journal, nice pens, etc... And I think that's exactly what you're saying here.

Cut loose is all fine and dandy but without a structure of some kind - a space structure, a time structure, a resource structure (ie: a supportive, collaborative, resource-rich learning environment) being cut loose feels like a free fall.

Comment by zisforzen on August 28, 2013 at 08:50 PM

What a powerful post Lori. It is stirring many things in me, similar in nature to your other readers it seems. I think I have a tendency to rescue; seeing boredom in my son stirs up feelings of fear in me for whatever reason. At the same time, I have experienced boredom as a positive catalyst in our relationship. I have a kid that will play by himself for hours to the detriment of his social and problem solving skills. Boredom can offer me an "in" to be with him without coercing him to play with me. I imagine this might be the opposite of many of your situations.

But what's coming up for me today (as I read your article for the 3rd time) is that many of your PBH strategies - writing project ideas on the wall comes to mind - are not only a way to help him go deeper and learn to learn, but also a way of learning to address the emotion of boredom (if it is an emotion?). A technique that I expect will help snowball ideas and motivation to create over time by reducing the energy needed to get started on something. I don't know if I'm making sense, but for me the take away is yet another benefit/skill that can be nurtured through the PBH approach. How to move from "I don't know what to do I need to watch TV"... to ... "I could do this, this or this" with a funnel of ideas (and the mentorship and skills to execute them) to choose from over time.

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 11, 2013 at 04:24 PM

 

not only a way to help him go deeper and learn to learn, but also a way of learning to address the emotion of boredom

A technique that I expect will help snowball ideas and motivation to create over time by reducing the energy needed to get started on something.

YES. it’s important to realize that i’m not saying kids should never be bored — i’m saying we can do a LOT more to help them learn to fill their empty time than is often suggested in pro-boredom rhetoric.

and if we invest in kids’ interests and help them learn to become self-directed, they won’t react to empty time or that feeling of boredom by feeling anxious and tuning out — they’ll have a whole host of resources (inner and outer) for figuring out what to do with themselves.

and yes, i hit on that quite often — it is EASY to not start on something, even if you really WANT to do it. the tiniest things will prevent us from getting started: the table isn’t clean, i’m not sure where my tools or materials are, i don’t have what i need, i should do research first… we can make choices that make doing and making *easier*. it’s a lot of little things working together — the space, the materials, the habits, the routine, the attitudes, the experiences.

and — i’m writing something about this right now, in fact — over time, kids are building up their confidence in themselves as well as their reserve of materials, resources, experiences, and ideas. instead of very random experiences on the rare occasions they have empty, free time, they can become people with a lot of hobbies and ideas and personal projects.

Comment by Kylie on September 5, 2013 at 06:07 AM

Fabulous! Probably one of the best I have read on here yet. I for one never have enough hours in the day to get to all the projects I'm working on. Love it!

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 11, 2013 at 04:16 PM

thank you, kylie! :)

Comment by Robin on September 11, 2013 at 11:33 AM

Great post! So funny...my 16 year old just got an(other) alarm clock. His old one fell off the nightstand years ago and was never replaced. He has been getting up at (gasp!) 9am. That is a feat in and of itself! He's usually lingering in bed until 10:30am.

The thing is, he always gets done what he wants to get done even with a late start time. I do give him a daily checklist of "required" skills to work on, but after he completes that, he's free to do whatever.

His most recent invention was a really, really long skateboard made from old fence boards and parts from an old skateboard. The boys in the neighborhood love it. It's so long, the middle bows and bounces. My son claims he can gently bounce and it picks up speed...some sort of kinetic energy thing...I have no clue.

Gotta' love those projects.

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 11, 2013 at 04:17 PM

that is awesome. :)

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