Admittedly, this is something I personally struggle with. It used to be, that all my time with my daughter was filled with bonding activities and nonstop entertainment. I justified it as “she’s only young once”. At the end of the day, we were both exhausted but I felt a sense of accomplishment. Which begs the question…
Fear of Missing Out or FOMO, as is dubbed by social media, is leading us all to believe that life is supposed to be “happening” all the time, especially for our kids. If their everyday is not filled, then it’s…well, empty. Parenting has become a competitive sport, with guilt being our biggest enemy. Pressure from other parents, concern that our child will somehow be disadvantaged, endless commercialized recommendations trigger the message that we are not doing enough when actually, we’re doing too much. Children, like adults, have their own threshold for stress. What will happen if we try doing less?
Unstructured play is a set of activities that children create on their own without adult guidance. Children, naturally, when left to their own devices, are very much capable of productively passing the time. More importantly, science says letting them helps build their brains better. Do we give our kids the opportunity, though? With all these technological distractions, extracurricular activities, lesson plans, projects, homework, etc., we think we’re setting them up for success when in reality, over-scheduling children is counterproductive. Screen time will never replace down time. World-renowned cosmologist Neil deGrasse Tyson shares one profoundly simple piece of parenting advice: “Let kids be kids”.
How can our kids learn to rely on themselves if they always respond to an external stimulus? Being bored allows them to turn their attention inward. Without trips or treats, they have nothing to do, nowhere to be–except figure out who they are, and what they like. It lets them reflect, dream, and act, without you. It sounds a little scary, I know, but isn’t that our ultimate goal–to raise our kids to be self-reliant? Boredom fosters the ability to fall back on one’s own resources, a life skill best developed when young.
You’ve heard “Happy Wife, Happy Life”. Once you have kids: “_____ Mom, _____ Children”. Fill in the blanks. Studies have told us of the correlation between the mother’s emotions and the mood of her baby. You probably read something similar when you were pregnant. The truth is, the way our moms feel will never not have an effect on us, no matter how old we get. The same goes for our children. When you’re stressed, they are too. So, relax. Don’t wait till they’re knocked out before you do. Model the behavior you wish to see. Remember you are a human being, not a human doing. Be comfortable with boredom moms, it’s good. Your kids will believe it once you do.