It may sound counterintuitive, but letting your children “be bored” more often could actually lead to less boredom, more creativity, and greater self-sufficiency. Instead of organizing and micromanaging every task and activity, experts say leaving kids to entertain themselves could help them learn to manage their own time. As an added plus, you get a little more time to yourself.
What are the benefits of boredom?
1. Intrinsic motivation
“Children need to sit in their own boredom for the world to become quiet enough that they can hear themselves,” says psychologist Vanessa Lapointe. “So many parents have come to me over the years desperate to crack the riddle of why their children appear to ‘lack motivation’ or ‘not care.’ The sad truth in many of these cases is that this was never allowed to come out of their children. The child’s sense of self and the child’s sense of being was never allowed to awaken. There was simply not enough stillness.”
In a 2014 study, researchers asked a group of participants to undertake boring activities like writing down telephone numbers from a directory. After that they were tested for creativity, coming up with as many uses for a pair of foam cups as they could imagine. The participants who had endured the boring tasks ended up thinking up more uses for the cups than those who hadn’t. The results suggested that boring activities resulted in increased creativity, and that daydreaming served as a mediator between boredom and creativity.
3. Happiness later in life
Dr Teresa Belton, an expert in the impact of emotions on behavior and learning, says boredom can be an “uncomfortable feeling” and that society has “developed an expectation of being constantly occupied and constantly stimulated.” When children are allowed to decline that expectation, and pursue the art of “being” or doing as much or as little as they feel like, they learn to make themselves happy. This is an invaluable skill to carry into adulthood.
How to let children be bored
Letting children be bored involves making space for imagination and creativity to grow. Set aside time for children to play, focus on their ideas, experiment with arts and crafts, spend time outdoors, read or write, go for walks, and just “be.” If you set aside a similar space for yourself, you’ll also be role modeling the behavior you’d like to inspire in your kid. Make time to slow down, do nothing, wonder and express curiosity rather than constantly trying to achieve something and find the answers. Boredom is an education in and of itself, and you can make it known to your child just how important it is for growth and well-being.