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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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