Summer is here and you might be wondering what to do when the kids are bored at home. There’s a way to tame the boredom beast…but it might not be what you think.
Guest post by Jamie Jeffers of Medium Sized Family
Your kids are bored at home. You can tell, because they’ve told you, oh, about 100 times since breakfast. And it’s only 9:45.
It’s an epidemic. Talk to any other parent about school letting out, and they’ll tell you they dread keeping their kids occupied all summer long.
Everyone’s got an opinion on the topic, too. Some say it’s important to keep them stimulated. Others say it’s best to let them get bored. They’ll get creative eventually. Besides, better to learn how to occupy yourself now while you’re young.
They have a good point. Kids need that space. But the problem runs deeper than that.
Let’s figure out why our kids are so bored and what we can do to change it.
Why Your Kids Are Bored All the Time
In my house, telling Mom you’re bored gets you one of two things. Either you get to do a chore (since you have free time on your hands anyway!) or you get the old, “Good! It’s a life lesson to learn how to be bored. You’ll figure it out.”
Unfortunately, ‘letting them figure it out’ nearly always turns into bickering. There’s got to be a better way.
Why are kids so bored?
People like to look at their past to learn from our wise ancestors. We talk about it when we choose our food. Why not when we choose our parenting styles, too?
While we were at lunch one day, my dad got to talking about the good old days. You see, both my parents grew up on farms. They worked hard every day. Even young kids were expected to pull their weight…probably more than their weight at that age!
Boys drove tractors before they hit double digits. Girls worked in the fields, too… planting, weeding, and taking care of younger siblings. They had high expectations and not a lot of downtime.
When my dad was in high school, he was able to sneak away a few hours per week to run cross country. It felt like a real treat to be able to participate in that sport. It impressed him so much that he was bound and determined that, one day, his kids would be allowed to participate in sports no matter what it took.
Something To Be Proud Of
While I wouldn’t suggest putting our kids to work all the time, there is something to be said about raising children with a strong work ethic. My parents didn’t struggle to fall asleep when they hit the pillow. In stark contrast, most nights my own kids can hardly settle themselves into bed long enough to let their bodies fall asleep.
These days, we work hard to give our kids everything they want in life. More activities, more toys, more screen time.
But one thing we aren’t giving them is pride. You can’t buy pride. It isn’t something you can pencil into your schedule. You earn pride through hard work and determination.
You can bet that my parents knew exactly how much work went into the food they ate each day. They had sunburns, sweat, and not a lot of free time. But they could see the results of their hard work.
The Feeling of Boredom
When our third born was younger, he would tell me he was hungry all day long. After a while, I began to realize that he wasn’t always hungry. Sometimes he was just feeling an emotion that he didn’t understand. Instead of recognizing sadness, anxiety, or (yes) boredom, he simply called everything hunger.
So what if our kids are doing the same thing with boredom? What if they aren’t bored so much as they are unfulfilled?
Putting It Into Action…Literally
Humans create and work hard. It’s what we’re built to do. Until recent years, we’ve had to break our backs just to have enough to eat and shelter over our heads. These days we can practically live on our couch for an entire long weekend and not miss out on anything.
Aside from all the free time we have in the modern age, I think we’ve lowered our expectations too much. Yes, let’s allow our kids to be kids. Let’s not strip them of their innocence and childhoods.
But we’ve swung that pendulum too far the other way. Our kids are bored because they aren’t expected to do much. They don’t appreciate down time.
Your kids need to sweat. They should be out in the sun, working hard on a project they can call their own. Whether that’s mucking a stall in the barn, tending to a garden (pull those weeds by hand!), or building something with tools, together you can get a project going. Kill two birds and finally get that project going that you’ve been putting off since you moved into the house.
Let your kids experience good, hard work that lasts for an hour or more. Work alongside them and you’ll be amazed at what you learn about them.
When you get back into the air conditioning, they’ll recognize that moment as a sweet rest.
It probably won’t happen right away. Kids have an addiction to being busy (with their phones and devices especially). Help them to recognize this as rest time. Not bored time.
Then dream about what your finished project will look like. (Maybe a clean basement you can finally use!)
Yeah, our kids are bored all the time. Now, let’s fix it.
Remember, you’re willing to drop everything to drive them to every lesson and game. Now spend your time investing in some sweat equity and see what happens.
Do you think some hard work would end the bored at home problem? Or would it just create new problems?
Jamie is a mother of 5, clawing her way out of credit card debt. She dreams of bottomless coffee and scones that magically appear on her desk where she blogs at Medium Sized Family. For practical money saving and parenting tips each week, join her newsletter!