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Myth Busters:
Can Boredom & Kids
Be a Winning Combo


Hi, and welcome to a new episode of The Mompreneur’s Guide to Work-Life Harmony. My name is Iva, 



And I'm Desiree. 



So let's dive in and really smash that belief that we all have as parents that boredom is a problem that we need to fix in our kids. 



Yeah, I know that is so interesting isn't it? It's definitely a misconception I've had for the longest time. 



Yes and I think we all buy into this idea that we are the ones that need to provide the solution to this so called problem that is boredom. But actually, the best thing that we can do is allow our kids to explore the boredom, and to see what they actually are able to come up with in that scenario. So instead of panicking and worrying that they're bored, a good approach would be to say, Okay, well try and find something that entertains you and that amuses you, on your own and just allow that space for them to come up with something because most likely they will, they will because children and this is very related to the whole boredom is not a problem to be fixed idea- is that, free play, is actually great for kids. So, when we are stepping in and telling our children how they need to play so that they're not bored, or what to do to entertain themselves, we're actually doing them a disservice, because when they are allowed space to really explore free play, this unstructured time really gives them an opportunity to imagine, and to be creative



I was just gonna say it really plays upon their creativity and that whole imagination doesn't.



Yes, yes, and it's, I mean, it's, it's a virtuous cycle, because the more that they have to, the more time that they have to engage in unstructured play, the more creative they become, the more they use their imagination, and at the same time because they are being left to their own devices, they are forced to continue to be more creative and to continue to come with more and different ways to amuse themselves so



Now I have a question for you. So I only have one little boy, right, and he, he loves being around people and love loves being around other kids and stuff so he always looks for people to play with. And he does enjoy company, so we obviously, when we're at home always looks for me and says ‘mama, mama, can you play with me? You need to play with me this’ and he always wants me and my attention which I don't always have because you know there's a million things to do at home too. So, like, what advice could you give me, for example to handle this, to really encourage him to explore on his own.



I would say that one of the alternatives that you can use because, as you said he don't he doesn't really have any siblings around that he can, that he can play with and you also have things that you need to do on your own. So, a good option that you could explore with him is getting him a, like a stuffed animal or some sort of action figure that he likes that he's familiar with. 



That's a good idea, 



And that he can be entrusted with taking care of that teddy bear or that action figure, and say, you know, now it's time to give it a bath. Now it's time to feed it. Now it's time to take it out for a walk and, and he can emulate a lot of the things that you do with him during the day so now he's in the driver's seat because he's in the role of caretaker with his Teddy, or doll or whatever it is that that he wants



Or his Spiderman toy



Or his Spiderman toy, whatever he wants to take care of. And I think that this is a great exploration for them to feel adult-like in that they are looking after something on their own.



I love that! I'm going to try that straightaway this afternoon. Thank you!



Yeah, let me know how it goes. Because there's that element of them replicating and mimicking what we do as parents to them. And it also plays into this idea that they are also adult-like in that they are doing it to do something else so now they have that power they have that sort of control of the situation of deciding, you know, if the doll goes into the water; if the doll is going to eat; If the doll has to go a nap now. And then he just allows them, again, to create that unstructured play of however they want to take the storyline, or however it is that they want to approach the situation of them being in the driver's seat.



That's cool- can't wait to observe that. 



Yeah, no, absolutely, and I would say, another great resource that helps you switch around this idea again, of worrying that your child is bored, or that you have to fix it somehow, and then you get frustrated because you get the sense that you have to be now, also an entertainer, as well as doing the rest of the million tasks that that we have going on,  I great parenting resource that you can check out is a book called The gardener and the carpenter by Allison Gopnik. And it's a great book that I highly, highly recommend to all parents out there, because it truly changes the parenting approach and puts it pretty much on its head, from what we usually tend to believe it's supposed to be like, versus what is actually a great approach to allow our children to thrive and to actually be their own person, at the end of the day. Which is what we all want our children to.



Yeah, giving them that freedom to create their own personality and their own little traits without us, kind of putting them in their heads. Isn't it?



Right, and also because we tend to look at parenting- so the premise of this amazing book is that we tend to look at parenting like it's hard work, like it's work, it's a lot of work, it's hard work, it's thankless work. 


And we think that we need to put in a lot of effort into it because it is a job, like it's work. But she pushes that idea to the side and actually comes up with this notion that parenting is really an act of love. And when you change that in your mind and you say like ‘how can I love my child better?’, then it opens up a whole new world of possibilities of how you can really respond and show off to the different situations that come, that come up during the day, as you are raising your children. 


So we, you know, we tend to worry that we're making the best choices for them all around, right? In  everything that they do, that they eat, how they engage their time, and there's a lot of pressure and anxiety around having that notion that we are the ones that have to come up with all these things so that we are making sure that they turn out to be great adults and amazing human beings. 


But when you see it from her point of view, in the book, and you really say, ‘Okay, I'm responsible for a certain set of conditions’ but then, the choices that he makes based on just this fertile ground that I'm making sure that I allow for them to have, is completely up to them. And then, it relieves so much stress from this pressure of thinking, ‘Oh my god I didn't give my kid Brussel Sprouts two days in a row, so now they're not going to like vegetables and it's going to be, you know, a child that is going to be addicted to sugar’, and you can take it down a rabbit hole, very, very quickly. But instead if you, if you use the approach of saying like ‘Okay I'm a gardener. I'm just making sure that the soil and the environment is good enough for them to thrive, then, however they decide to thrive and in the moment that they decide to do so, it's completely up to them. 



I love that and it's like we're setting the boundaries and sort of the tone right, but everything else is up to them and their creative minds and their personality traits, because again, every child is so different and we have to allow them to be different as well. I mean, within certain boundaries but still, I really really, liked this analogy.



Yes, and there's also another great example that I always bring to mind when it comes to my kids and also when they tell me that they're bored or they don't know what to do. You know they're getting to this whining act of common entertain me and come and solve the problem for me in a way, I always go back to this example: I once heard Jerry Seinfeld, talk, and he was explaining that when he was a child, he had to go and run errands with his mom, and he was, he was forced to, to go out with her to do the errands, but then there was this_ one of those mechanical toys, you know the ones that you put coins in and they start moving. They're usually like helicopters and little cars and you just ride them for a little bit. And he said, you know, for me that was the equivalent of Disneyland, it was like the most exciting thing for me. 


And within the context of things is not such a big deal but it because he, he got bored so much out of running all this errands with his mom. He said, it allowed me to really get my mind, flowing with all these ideas and these notions, and then he later became a famous comedian, you know he had a very successful TV show. He’s the type of person that you can tell that has tapped into his creative juices from very early on because he was left to his own devices to figure it out, and to see what things he was able to come up with on his own and to provide that entertainment and I think it's a great reminder of how our children also probably get to benefit more when we just lead them and let them figure it out on their own, rather than us being there, telling them how they need to play. Because they own play! That's their arena, that’s their turf. If there's anyone that knows how to play and how to do it properly, it's them. It's intuitive. It's part of their nature.



It's true, and a definitely a mean as a mom, listening to this, definitely takes the stress away from and the pressure away from me a little bit as well. So it's good I think, it benefits both sides for sure. I know. 


Another idea that's really present I think at this time especially is technology and screen time, and all these devices around them, because nowadays like, before I remember when I was a child I had to “go play in your room” and I was really thinking is what am I gonna do? What am I gonna play? And I had all of these imaginary post office games and whatever. But now, we say okay you're bored okay mama doesn't have time. Go watch the iPad. And seems like such an easy solution but it's actually, I mean, we all know, it's not ideal and giving a device to keep their brains engaged all the time is actually counterproductive because their brains will really become dependent on this outside stimuli, and it's, you know like everything that we just discussed before, that really, then goes out the window because then they don't have that space anymore to turn on this part of their brain that's the creative one. The display of imagination because we fill it with these counterproductive tools, right. 


So, it's I'm definitely guilty of this, a lot of the time because I feel sometimes I'm alone, I mean, now I will try out your new tactic but that was sometimes a quick solution for me but it really does not serve them very well. I mean there's always a time and a place I think where you can introduce it, that's definitely the case, but not all the time. 


And another idea I think is also, I think we're also guilty of this all the time, especially living in this part of the world I feel where we tend to provide excessive structure, and countless activities for our kids, every single minute of the day.



Oh my God, yes.



Don't you think that now I feel…okay I'm a first-time mom, and I'm obviously observing sort of the environment around me as well. I was just like ‘Oh my god, these kids are really busy, you know?’ and like they have school already for a long time. I don't remember going to school for that long of a time when I was little. And then, after school, they have these clubs and these things and all of these activities, and like geez, but they're just kids as well it's quite a lot to handle. And I felt a little bit, Okay, my little one is three. I don't have any after school activities should I? Should I start putting him in like additional things, like additional clubs or sports or music or something? Again this like guilt starts taking over.



And you know, it's interesting that you bring this up because Alison Gopnik, the the author of The Gardener and the Carpenter she even says it in her book, that our modern society wants to shape, you know, our three-year olds into Harvard freshmen, pretty much. As you say, by keeping their timetables so packed and busy with activities and extracurricular things that we feel or that society feels that is going to give them a leg up, academically, and that it’s going to prepare them to be, you know, better professionals, and to really get into the top universities and, you know, everything_ getting that corner office, if you will. 


And so yes, this excessive structure, and excessive time management, on their behalf, is something that really can hinder what we said previously: their ability to find out what they truly like and what they truly enjoy. So one of the possible downsides of going down this route might be, and most likely, it can be, that you end up having adults that in their probably mid-20s, early 30s, are already having midlife crisis, because they don't know what they want in life. 



That's right, that’s so correct 



Yes because their parents and society have always been the ones telling them what they needed to do, when, what, how. And when they get to have the reins of their own life and to be the ones in control, they really don't know, they cannot cope.



Yeah, because of all these choices as well. I mean, there's, I find there's nothing wrong, definitely I do want to explore as well as he gets a bit older, you know, like different sports, something he enjoys and try a few things out and really get him to stick with something, or even he's very musical, so maybe like a music instrument or something. So, I mean there's nothing wrong with like nurturing like a hobby and like playing on their talents and all of that. But I find, what is done nowadays with kids is excessive and it doesn't allow for this free time of play or even play dates. I love playdates because, again, the kids get so creative when they're with each other. They even benefit so much more from that. Than sitting with yet another teacher who tells them what to do and how to do it.



Yes, obviously. Yeah, I agree with you, I believe also in the power of having these extra-curricular lessons and activities that give them a sense of testing the waters of something that they might like and enjoy to do for a long time as a hobby or even as a profession, but the extreme is the problem. And thinking that keeping your child in back-to-back activities the whole day until they collapse at night is giving them some sort of benefit for such a young mind, I would say the answer is probably not, because they do need to allow their brains to be in free flow, and you cannot be in free flow, If everything has been structured to the tiniest detail.



It's so true. And that's why, I mean, I'm such a fan of unstructured play, as well I mean, you know, when I was always planning and dreaming about being a mom, you know, you have all of these things in your mind as well like these, you know, setting up like a playdough corner, and then a little kitchen corner with wooden toys and, you know you either play this or that and then you put that away to start with something else, you know like, yes and no. I mean, for some kids that works, but this unstructured play and to just say, now go and play. I mean the other day, I did that with my little one, and I came into the play room, and I was laughing but it was just so interesting, the things he's built with his Lego and then playdough on top of that, in his little kitchen with a carrot sticking on top of that playdough, but he was in his zone. I have no idea what was in his head, but it was so cute this unstructured like free play of so many things and I was a bit worried, gosh, it’s so quiet what is he doing, but you know it was



That is a good kind of quiet when you know they are fully engaged, their imagination is literally taking over, and they are coming up with all these things, and really it's a powerful thing to behold, to see them in their element because that is truly their element.


And, and I just wanted to go back to something that you mentioned before as well about the use of technology. And I think that we are starting to find out that not all technology is created equal. So there's, there's like the Twinkie kind of technology. And then there's the Brussel sprout type of technology, and if it doesn't mean that we need to completely not expose them to any technology whatsoever. But just to be very conscious about which is which for them also respected to their age and their developmental childhood that they're in. So, it's our responsibility and I would say that's a big one on us, that is truly one of our job descriptions, to be very conscious and mindful about how the technology comes into our homes, and how they make use of it, because just like fire, technology can either cook your food or it can burn down your house and you don’t want it to burn down your house- you want it to cook your food.



Yeah, I like looking at it that way. It's true, I mean if it does save like a few minutes of mom sanity at the end of the day, when you just need to put dinner on the table right, and just need these extra minutes that, so be it. And I mean, I think this is a disclaimer for this whole, all the topics we're talking about today, that every parent will find their own way to deal with this situation. And there is no right or wrong. You need to figure out what works for you and for your child. I think we're really exploring the different ways here, this is what we believe in. But there will be parents who handle it completely differently and that's fine and it works for them. But yeah, I think it was really, really important that we put all of this out there, and I will definitely go and use some of these tips, this afternoon for sure.



You said it right there. Whatever works for you and your child, then by all means do it that way. As long as whatever works is coming from a place that is giving you peace of mind, and is making you feel like you are empowered, as a parent, and not making you feel stressed, anxious, worried, and feeling like you're not really… like you're coming up short on all ends because then that is definitely not the route that is that is working. So, a shout out to all parents to make sure that the decisions that they make, yes, that they are for the benefit of our children, as parents, that's the number one reason why we do something, but that also, in doing so, we feel empowered, as parents, and not feel like we are adding more stress and pressure to our lives. 



And for me personally, this just took away so much of my mom guilt, because now I don't have to feel bad when I think my little one is bored because he should be bored because that will bring out the best of him. So, very valuable lesson here.



Yes, absolutely. So, boredom is not a problem, 



Not a problem to be fixed



Not a problem to be fixed, and allowing them to be bored, is actually extremely beneficial for our children, especially nowadays in the context that we're in. We shouldn't fret about it, we shouldn't worry about it, we should embrace it and turn it over to them. How are they going to fix that situation for them? And trust me, they will, because it's ingrained in them to be creative about it.



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Books Mentioned

The Gardener and the Carpenter by Alison Gopnik




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