"A child's mind is not a container to be filled but rather a fire to be kindled." ~Dorothea Brande
It started with two simple words: "I'm Bored".
I took my two children (ages 11 and 8) on their first hikes of 2018 this past weekend. They had developed an interest in hiking and adventured with me throughout the entire spring and summer of 2017, but lost their "oomph" over these past winter months. After a lengthy car ride, complete with two stops for snacks & bathroom breaks and four hours of listening to The Land of Stories on CD, we arrived at the majestic Gooseberry Falls just north of Duluth, Minnesota. Upon exiting the vehicle, the three of us bee-lined for the middle falls and began exploring each in our own way. My son (age 11) proceeded to find as many ways to cross the falls on each level as quickly as possible by climbing, crawling, and leaping his way to and fro. My daughter (age 8) was more interested with taking in each view and detail, and quickly fell behind her brother's attempt at moving through at such a fast pace. After about 45 minutes, my son declared the words no parent ever loves to hear. He told me he was bored, and had already crossed the falls in every way possible. It occurred to me that he had been reprogrammed to expect busyness as the norm, and in the process lost his ability to be mindful of his surroundings, aware of who he is as a person, and in the moment.
It occurred to me that he (my son) had been reprogrammed to expect busyness as the norm...
I looked at him in that moment before responding and saw the eyes of a curious, innovative, and brilliant young man. I knew he wasn't "bored", but instead had lacked the ability to trigger his imagination, creativity, or stillness that innately belongs to every human. It was at that moment I decided I would not become the savior of feeling boredom for my kids, but instead love them more by letting them figure things out on their own. My response to my son, "Boredom is a good thing, and you have the power to choose how you will see it". He looked at me, rolled his eyes like the pre-tween he is becoming, and began investigating the tree roots that grew in amazing twists and turns among the rocks. He found his entertainment through the challenge of building awareness of his surroundings, and I was pleased to see a smile and wonder return to his face.
"I think it's necessary to let kids get bored once in a while - that's how they learn to be creative." ~Kim Raver
Giving kids the opportunity to be bored actually benefits them in the long run. According to Dr. Vanessa Lapointe, R. Psych., "Children need to sit in the nothingness of boredom to awaken their own internal drive to be". When we share a list of options for them to choose from, we are denying our children of a significant learning opportunity - one that strengthens their own minds to become independent or discover themselves a bit more deeply. Letting our children be bored is a GOOD thing, and now that the summer break is upon us, it is crucial that we remember it.