One Tuesday night last month, I received quite a shock when my 6-year-old was returned to my apartment door by a police officer. About 15-minutes before the police officer showed up, my oldest daughter had come in for a drink of water. We told her she had a few minutes before it was time to come in and asked her to get her sister. Her response “Oh, yeah she’s right here.” Except she wasn’t.
It turns out, that sometime in the last 40 minutes my youngest had nabbed her sister’s scooter and headed down the block (about two doors down from the front of our complex) to the Starbucks. A barista found her when she tried to order cookies and milk through the drive-thru. Yes, cookies and milk.
Needless to say both kids were grounded. The youngest for leaving the complex and my oldest for lying to us about her sister. It was an epic parenting fail, for sure. I grounded both girls for a week. No TV, no tablets, no cellphone, no computer and no playing outside. (Note: Make sure you can handle the grounding you hand out).
Having bored kids is not fun, but then…
The first few hours of grounding day number one were somewhat trying. The kids were “bored.” I felt guilty that they were bored. I kept thinking that I should have a million ways to entertain them. I was pleasantly surprised, however, when within a few hours, they were entertaining themselves. My oldest made doll houses out of old soup boxes and my youngest was reading books and playing with toys. They were fine. The next few days were much easier because I knew they were perfectly capable of entertaining themselves.
Michael Unger, Ph.D., published an article in Psychology today that says we should actually schedule time for our kids to be bored. “Children who experience a lack of programmed activity are given an opportunity to demonstrate creativity, problem solving, and to develop motivational skills that may help them later in life.”
In short: kids may perform better in school and life if you let them get bored. There are millions of ways kids can shut their brains off including endless TV shows and gadgets. If you fill their hours with endless activities, they will have a harder time to develop the skills to find things that entertain them and manage down time when they get older.
I read this fun blog post, by Kristen who talks about dealing with children who feel entitled to endless entertainment. I’m guilty of the same thing! The endless nagging of “Why don’t we ever do anything fun,” is not only a gross overstatement, it drives me bonkers!
Being bored leads to forts, capturing lightning bugs, mud pies, homemade dolls, talent shows and treasure hunts. Structured activities are a great way to teach kids and electronic devices can be useful learning tools, but nothing beats the tried-and-true life lessons learned when a child figures out something to do on their own.
Shut the TV off, banish the structured projects and tell your kids to entertain themselves. Your house may be a little messier, but the memories will be richer.