Is it Okay for Our Kids to Be Bored? Building Motivation and Creativity

You can already smell it in the air… pollen? Well, yes. But, I’m talking about summer. Children everywhere rejoice at the free horizons ahead of them! Parents, however, see right through this and know that by June 10, their sweet little ones will be whispering those seven letters that can make the summer screech to a halt- “I’m bored.”

All of us have heard this from our kids. My parents heard this from me during my childhood. They typically responded with, “Go outside.” Ugh, how could they?! Some parents today kick swiftly into gear at the mention of this phrase. IPads appear, Netflix is switched on, iPhones are handed out- anything to avoid the guilt associated with torturing a child with boredom.

As summer quickly approaches, it’s important to understand that “boredom” is not a curse word, especially relating to our kids. Actually, it can be of great benefit to them if we will just back away and let it happen sometimes.

  1. Boredom helps them practice for life. Our kids will grow up and stand in line, sit in doctors offices, drive in traffic, and endure tedious work meetings. Hopefully, they are used to managing this by then.
  2. Boredom builds creativity. Parenting author Nancy Blakey says, “I cannot plant imagination into my children. I can, however, provide an environment where their creativity is not just another mess to clean up, but welcome evidence of grappling successfully with boredom.” Yes!
  3. Boredom builds motivation. When I’m not setting up everything for my kids, they are forced to self-motivate and think. This too will be another skill that’s useful down the road. As child psychologist, Lyn Fry said, “If parents spend all their time filling up their child’s spare time, then the child’s never going to learn to do this for themselves.
  4. Boredom builds contentment. This applies to adults too… we GO too much! Some of us can hardly sit in quiet without wanting to hop up and do something. Contentment is strengthened when we bring calm and peace to our homes, teaching our kids that life is not just a series of activities that we jump one to the next.
  5. Boredom creates contributors, not consumers. If we allow it, our children will naturally slip into constantly “taking.” That’s how we’re all born! Allowing them to experience a little boredom gives them a chance to build and contribute, rather than simply wait for someone to do that for them.

“Preempt the time spent on television and organized activities and have them spend it instead on claiming their imaginations.” ~ Nancy Blakey

I can hear you asking, does this mean I just sit in a chaise lounge with my lemonade all summer?! Well, part of the time, but we are in this to train future adults, not toss them into the yard and hope for the best. With that in mind, here are a few ways to guide our kids through the boredom:

  1. FIRST, love on them. Cuddle them, eat breakfast with them, share regular and meaningful conversation with them. Parenting is a balance between making these deposits and building independence in them.
  2. Get them outside. The outdoors is somehow fertile for a child’s imagination. Things come to life out there that don’t in the house. Let them sweat, get dirty, and create out there… without your help.
  3. Create a no-screen zone. Give yourself permission to say YES to screens during the summer, but also to say NO sometimes. Screens will provide relief from the immediate boredom issue, but they will not shape creativity or encourage motivation. What they may do (as most parents know) is start an argument of some kind;)

This summer, be reminded and encouraged that you are doing a great job. Even during the “boring” days, there are chances to help our kids grow in character and life-skills. We can guide them to be creative, learn contentment, and gain motivation. This may not be glamorous, but it IS what counts!

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Giving Our Kids the Gift of Confidence: Daddyeous Protectosaur

The above photo is of my mother, circa 1987. And 1988. And 1989. You get the point. What was I doing while she was getting all this beauty rest? This:

Oh, and this:

All. Day. Long. When I was a kid, summertime meant that my friends and I would hop on our bikes and head over to a baseball field in our neighborhood. Sometimes along the way, we’d grab Baskin Robbins ice cream, then spend literally hours at the field. The end of the day would come and we’d come home dirty, exhausted, and ready to do the same thing the next day.

My mom would ask about the day, tell me to get cleaned up for family dinner, and remind me that I still had jobs to do around the house. During the day, she hadn’t texted me, called me, or found-my-iPhone.

What’s out of place at this “kids” playground? The adult!

Fast forward to today. Check out this photo captured by yours truly, budding amateur photographer. You’ll notice a gorgeous modern play structure designed for the enjoyment of little ones. You’ll see the detailed colors and thought that has been put into the creation of a fine zone for children. You’ll also come aware of a seating area for adults in the bottom right corner of the photo. This area is empty, because you can also observe the main feature of my work of photgraphic art: daddyeous protectosaur in his natural habitat. He is posted within easy sightlines of his prized creation, poised to pounce if she happens to slip or if any child dares be mean to her. He is sipping his nummy latte, but deftly only has the cup over the bottom of his eyes for maximum peeking efficiency. In this pose, daddyeous protectosaur is ready for anything. Unfortunately, his child may not be.

Is there a balance we can reach? Can parents today raise independent kids without turning them completely loose in a dangerous world? I believe the answer is YES! Accepting that our kids will sometimes fail is key, although difficult. Not checking their every move and step, but allowing the consequences of both is critical. Many of us have that backward: we check up on every single thing they do, then save them from any negative results that come from their actions. We pester, nag, and chase them about chores and homework, then blame anyone but them when they are held accountable.

What are a few ways that us parents can let our kids grow up and begin to walk on their own two feet? Try these to start with and you’ll be thrilled with the future adults you begin to see bloom:

  1. Let them play. I catch myself often wanting to micromanage my kids’ play, but I come to realize that they’re doing fine without me! Some of the best play happens when we’re not hovering so much.
  2. Don’t answer for them. When an adult asks our kids “How are you?” or “What’s your name?”, we can train them to answer that person politely for themselves.
  3. Allow them to do some tasks on their own. It’s amazing what kids can do- basic cooking, cleaning, yardwork. The only thing that often holds them back is that we won’t let them.
  4. Have them order food for themselves. Kids of nearly any age can learn to look a server/cashier in the eye and speak up to order their meal. This is a great area to train them in speaking to adults and an awesome confidence builder.
  5. Let them try to solve their own small problems. It is every parent’s instinct to swoop in and rescue their child. The reality is that we won’t always be there to do that. A child that never has an opportunity to problem solve will seek out help as a teenager, a young adult, and beyond. This will leave them vulnerable to accepting help from the wrong sources if they cannot find the confidence within themselves.

These kids are gifts from God and sometimes all of us can lovingly treat them like China dishes, making sure that they don’t break or crack. What may help them more than that is realizing that God has given them to us to prepare them for a life that is ahead. That life is full of victories and hardships alike. We can gently expose them to some of these things now to strengthen their roots as a capable child of God. Then when mighty winds come later, they can stand strong and not topple. Not only that, we may get some extra beauty rest like my mom did and be extra beautiful when we get into our sixties.

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Focus on character: You’re a Human Being, Not a Human Doing

What am I praising my kids for- Is it for what they DO, or for who they ARE?

That is a question I constantly ask myself while trying to build confidence in Bauer and Reese. For kids at ages 10 and 12, I want them to know I absolutely love being their dad and I always accept them, even when they fail.

The easiest thing to do is default to praising their accomplishments. I mean, it comes naturally right? When Bauer does well at basketball, it’s the normal thing to say “great shot.” When Reese gets a good test score, I’m used to telling her, “I’m so proud of that good grade.” But focusing on the accomplishment itself doesn’t tell them we’re proud of THEM, it tells them we’re proud of what they DID.

Reese has always been a good speller. A highlight of her school year is the annual spelling bee. She studies for the weeks leading up to it and works super hard to get the words right. I remember doing the same thing when I was 10. The only difference between her and I? She gets the words right. She has typically finished well in the bee and a good friend hilariously joked to me recently, “Ya know, Reese is like the Tom Brady of the spelling bee. She’s already won enough and she should just be done now.”

Going into this year’s bee, she practiced and prepared as usual. The bee came and it was really fun. All the kids were so brave and confident. They were spelling words that you wouldn’t imagine, all in front of a pretty big audience! Finally, after a tense spelling battle, Reese misspelled a word. She was out. An awesome girl from her class won the bee. That sweet girl had also worked very hard, studied the words, and been excited and ready for the competition.

When the competition was over, I knew that Reese would be disappointed. I went up to her, gave her a hug and told her this: “Reesey, I’m proud of your courage in front of all those people. I’m proud of how hard you worked. I’m proud of how brave you were to take that on.” I focused on her character, not on what she had done.

The year before this, she had won the spelling bee. Afterward, I saw her and said something like this: “Reesey, I’m proud of your courage in front of all those people. I’m proud of how hard you worked. I’m proud of how brave you were to take that on.” I was not proud that she had won, I was proud of what what she had done to get there- effort, hard work, determination.

The best part about focusing on character rather than accomplishments is that it’s something our kids can control and repeat in the future. They can’t control if they always win, get an A+, or finish in first place. However, they can always be strong, brave, honest, loyal, courageous, trustworthy, and kind. These traits will get them somewhere in life and will also result in great rewards. Those traits are what I praise.

The truth is that there will be times when our kids finish last or don’t win. So what do we praise then? Instead of giving them a “Great job honey!” that they know is obligatory, we can build up the person that they are and are still becoming. They aren’t appreciated because they win something or finish in a certain position. They are loved and accepted because they are a human BEING, not a human DOING. When they know this from us as their parents, they can focus on building strong character, rather than doing things to win. Then great results will naturally follow.

Each one of us is a human BEING, not a human DOING!

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Exposing our Kids to the Right Things: Everyone Else is Doing It!

I couldn’t BELIEVE the things my parents would NOT let me watch when I was a kid.  In my mind, EVERYONE got to see all the best movies and they basically had run of the television in their homes.  I remember how badly I wanted to watch some of the coolest action movies when I was a wee lad.  Well, that was a no, and now I know why.

As Renee and I continue to try raising independent kids who can confidently think for themselves, I am careful to remember that there is a balance in doing this.  We want our children to grow to be strong, wise, and ready to face what life has for them.  We also do not want them exposed to dangers that may permanently or irreparably harm them. Continue reading Exposing our Kids to the Right Things: Everyone Else is Doing It!

Confidence in Kids: You Can Buy the Milk This Time

“Make it a point to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable every single day.  You’ll be amazed by how empowered you’ll feel.  And naturally, if you pass this lesson along to your kids, you’ll help them become confident and empowered too!”  Read on as Natalie Charrette, 8th grade teacher and Vice Principal at Bay Christian School, shares how she taught her kids to overcome fear of the unknown.

Instilling confidence in our children, now grown, was always a parental priority for my husband and I.  We always made it a point to role-play different scenarios to teach our son and daughter how to speak clearly, look a person in the eye when talking and shake hands firmly.  We taught them to listen more and speak less.  We conversed often about stepping out of their comfort zones and when feeling in doubt, ask questions within a conversation.

When our son, Tyler was in junior high, we attended a neighborhood party, which he begrudgingly joined, although it wasn’t an option.  We gave him the mature task of conversing with an adult at some point during the evening, to which he just gave us the “yeah right” look.  Part way through the party, as my husband and I were mingling we noticed Tyler, surrounded by an unfamiliar family.  A mom, dad and kids were all talking and laughing with him.  My husband and I looked at each other inquisitively and wondered who this family was… or who our son was for that matter!  A little later, Tyler joined us in amazement at how well that question thing went.  “So, this dad asked me if I played sports.  The next thing I know we’re in a full conversation.  I just kept asking him questions, then his family started talking to me.  Before I knew it, we were all laughing together.”

Mission accomplished, our son learned a new skill that made him realize that speaking with adults and people you have never met is not as scary as it seems.

When our daughter Michaela was nine years old, I told her we were going to swing by the store to grab some milk.  She smiled and nodded in agreement until I parked the car in front of the store and handed her some money.  “Why are you giving me money?” she asked.  “So you can buy some milk,” I responded.  Next, it was a back-and-forth with her attempting to convince me that she just couldn’t do it.  I continued to coach and encourage her that she could.  After all, she had accompanied me on plenty of shopping trips.  “Just come with me,” she pleaded. “You’re a big girl, you got this!”  I insisted.  Finally, she hopped out and went off to buy a gallon of milk.

I will admit, I sat there anxiously.  “What if?” I kept asking myself as I peered into the grocery store windows, watching everyone enter and exit.  Although in reality she was only in there 8 minutes (I counted), it seemed like an eternity.

Sure enough, she bee-bopped out with a huge confident smile on her face and a gallon of milk in her hand.  “That was easy, the lady at the checkout was really nice” she grinned.  I just smiled and said, “Great job, you can keep the change.”

Another lesson learned.  The sooner we can accomplish the uncomfortable or scary things in life, the sooner we will discover our God-given talents and be able to use them for great purposes.  God’s plans for us are often much bigger than our own, pulling us away from our safe space.  However, the more willing and trusting we become, the wider the doors of opportunity will open for us.  These are lessons that can build confidence for both us and our kids!

Natalie Charrette is an always-laughing wife to Chris and proud mom to Tyler and Michaela.  She is also the 8th grade teacher and Vice Principal at Bay Christian School in Concord, CA.  In her spare time, she is the owner of Simple Steps Organization, where she finds joy in helping people organize their spaces and their lives!

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Natalie with her husband Chris and two kids, Tyler and Michaela (Michaela is drinking her coffee with milk).

 

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Raising Responsible Kids: The Fistfight That Taught Me a Parenting Lesson

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It was my first year on the job as principal when these two eighth graders got into a fistfight.  It may have even been my first month.  I was so excited about beginning in my new position, that I hadn’t even considered there would be problems along the way.  I’m far past that stage now to where I typically beware of slipping on a stray banana peel if some issue hasn’t popped up by 11a.m. each day.

I’ve discovered over the past several years that we don’t have many good old fights at our school.  The few that we do have just involve pushing or name-calling, kind of like a skirmish in the NBA.  But this day involved actual haymakers and it was clearly instigated by one of the two kids.  To shorten the story, Student One turned a quiet recess snack time into a game of “let’s see what happens when I fire a ball at Student Two’s head?”  Well, what happened was that Student Two quickly changed that game into “let’s fight” and the gentlemen were soon in my office.  They were red-faced and looking as if they had both just run the mile at P.E. Continue reading Raising Responsible Kids: The Fistfight That Taught Me a Parenting Lesson

Leaving a Life Legacy: What Will My Quilt Look Like?

There was an empty seat at our Christmas dinner table that year.  Grandpa passed away on August 17, 2008, leaving a huge vacuum in our tight-knit family.  Grandpa was not just any “grandpa” to me.  He was the Best Man in my wedding, my roommate for 14 years as I grew up, and my mentor & friend who taught me that there has never been a better golfer than Tiger Woods.

Eight of us sat around the Christmas tree, remembering that the year before it was nine of us.  Mom and Dad had special gifts for us three pairs of “kids-and-spouses” to open at the same time.  Mom was sure to mention that these must be opened last.  We all held the gifts and curiously opened them together once all the other ones had been unwrapped.  Then we froze as each of us, along with our loved ones, began to cry.  Inside the beautiful wrapping was a quilt with a note that said in part, “This quilt, made of Grandpa’s shirts, pajamas, bathrobe and jeans, was made with our love and tears for all of you to treasure and remember.  ~Mom & Dad”

I am looking at the quilt right now.  It is like looking at different parts of Grandpa’s life.  I can remember different experiences and memories with him in each square.  The brown and yellow plaid shirt is the one that I left at his house one time.  He liked it, so he adopted it as his own.  The bathrobe reminds me of his last Father’s Day, sitting in Grandpa’s room watching Tiger dominate the U.S. Open with an injured leg and listening to Gramps joke and laugh with me, my dad and my son.  The gray wool shirt is the one he would often wear to church to dress up.  Grandpa loved God and everyone knew it.  The jeans are tired and worn out.  He mowed, painted, nailed and built.  Grandpa was a hard worker all of his life.

Grandpa’s quilt represents a life well-lived by a Godly man.  Each fabric is woven with years of experience and Godly wisdom that my family and I can model.  When I grow old, I wonder what my quilt will look like.  The decisions I make today is the yarn that knits those squares.  If I am to pass on a meaningful legacy and heritage to my children, my choices happen now.  I just pray that my quilt is as rich, full and inspiring as Grandpa’s.

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