I know. It’s all over the place. Our kids are too entertained. We need to let them get bored. Boredom isn’t bad. Boredom is the breeding ground for creativity. Don’t be a helicopter parent. Remember your childhood of the 70’s or 80’s. You’re their parent, not their playmate.
Even with all that, I still refuse to let my child get bored.
When my child gets bored, she melts down. She finds nothing productive to do with her downtime. Sure, she gets creative, but only to think up innovative ways to torture her brothers or trigger massive family chaos and conflict. She cannot tolerate boredom. Welcome to the world of twice exceptionality.
In some ways, her brain works very fast and is very creative and needs a lot of stimulation to be satisfied. In other words, she bores easily. In other ways, she doesn’t yet have the executive functioning skills to be planful or focused or regulate emotions well or problem solve effectively when she’s just a tiny bit dysregulated. So, she bores easily and can’t find ways to resolve it. Hello meltdown.
Boredom is an emotion like any other emotion. And, like any other emotion, it isn’t all good or all bad. It can be unpleasant, but it also can be the trigger to amazing new creations. The tricky part comes when we have children who cannot yet tolerate unpleasant emotions. It’s hard to get to the helpful parts of an emotion if we can’t first tolerate it.
Yes, I think, in general, our kids need more boredom in their lives. My sons get kicked outside with “nothing to do” amid grumbles and groans regularly. They manage to find something and end up more engaged and with more regulated bodies and souls than before they were bored. But, they have the skills to tolerate and regulate their unpleasant emotions.
Our kids need more boredom in their lives, as they are ready. We need to teach the emotion regulation skills that help them be prepared for boredom. Our kids need distress tolerance skills built up, and we probably need to coach most of our 2e and gifted kids on what those distress tolerance skills look like. They might need visual prompts or lists of boredom busters or baskets of stress tools that help them regulate when they are feeling icky. We need to tiptoe into the boredom to give them small exposure to it so they can build up their tolerance.
Managing boredom is a learned skill, and sometimes we forget that our primary job is to be teaching our children how to function in this complex world. They are not born with the skill to manage boredom. Think about a bored infant. What do they do? They scream until somebody comes and entertains them. Our asyncronistic, development atypical kids might still be screaming until somebody comes and teaches them how to entertain themselves. I lucked out. My sons were both able to teach themselves how to be self-entertained at an early age. Cub could flip through books, crawl around, and play hide and seek with himself for hours when he was 6 months old. But, it is unfair to expect that every child will be able to do the same. It is unfair to became angry with my daughter when she cannot do the same things.
It is also unfair to set her up to fail by subjecting her to something before she has the requisite skills. And so, unless I’m intentionally helping her tiptoe into it to develop her new skills, I will continue to refuse to let my daughter get bored.