teach the art of doing nothing

Should you teach your children the art of doing nothing?          

If you’re a parent, you should be able to relate this? Imagine you’re driving to the grocery store. You are going a long drive and your child is on the backseat of the car and she won’t stop throwing tantrums, she is screaming, having a meltdown. She wants attention. Why do you think she’s behaving the way she is? What makes children throw tantrums? Is it boredom? Is there more to it? Does it make it essential for parent to teach your children the art of doing nothing?  

We live in times where we have it all planned for our children. How they spend their summer vacations? Which classes they take before Lunch? Which sport their coach in after lunch? The activities they attend in the evening? The children simply go from one activity to another perhaps acing each one of them. But not knowing what to do, when these activities are over? They don’t know what to do when there is nothing to do.

As we teach our children in excel in all trades, have you forgotten to teach them how to champion nothing?

Do you know, how to pass time when there’s nothing to do. Back in the day we knew exactly how to crack this code. Our summer vacations used to be more relaxed, perhaps more relaxed than we’d like them to be but that’s how they were. There would be days at a stretch where we had nothing to do, no activities, so we would come up with our own. We would draw squares and rectangles on the ground and then hop, skip, and jump, play with our dog, kick a football, fly a kite, pluck flowers or just paint. We knew how to deal with boredom. Children today perhaps don’t but whose fault is it?

Have we taught our children the art of being idle. As some of you may be thinking isn’t an idle mind a devil’s workshop, maybe it is! But that’s the workshop a child cannot afford to ignore. She learn how to conduct herself when there’s nothing to do.

A study found that boredom is the primary driver of backseat tantrums. It is neither hunger nor does it have to do with the length of the journey. This study is by a certain Dr. James Hind. He says there’s a formula to predict tantrums. This one here T stands for Time, E for entertainment, F for food, and S for siblings. What Dr. Hind is saying is that the chances of a tantrum are reduced by every minute a child is entertained. If she’s given food, the tantrum is delayed by 15 minutes. If there’s a sibling in the backseat, then there is a trouble in the Paradise because the chances of a tantrum then increased by 10 minutes.

The study says if you’re going on a 17 minute journey than 32 minutes into it a child is likely to ask, Are we there yet? This question is then repeated at least four times during the rest of the right and it’s not like the child is always eager to reach the destination. It’s just that she does not know how to deal with having nothing to do in the backseat. She’s not skilled to handle boredom. How about just staring out the window or counting trees or lampposts or just appreciating the changing landscape.

Today children will count trees if there is a worksheet asking them to do that. They will also appreciate the landscape if there is an activity, asking them to capture what they see from the window. But coming up with these activities on their own as a way to kill time and that a lot of them can’t. And why do you think that is? Because between swimming classes, martial arts, Vedic maths and science club, parents have left no scope for the child to experience boredom, to find ways to circumvent it.

And we’re not blaming the parent here, we get where they’re coming from. Parents want the best for their children. They want them to excel, become all-rounders, excel in science olympiad while also leading the school swimming team.

Being a star performer, it’s not really a matter of choice. It is a necessity across the globe. There is fierce competition for colleges and then for jobs. If you aren’t ahead of the curve, then you’re left behind. So parents do all they can to prepare the child for the future. Experts in Britain say that they too is the chair of Britain’s Independent Schools Association.

“Its’ good to be involved in activities but I think it’s really important to get the right balance”-Graham Gorton

And that’s exactly our point! Below is what else Gorton says. “Children like their own company, they lose the capability to amuse themselves, if everything is put in front of them in an organized, structured, and club type of way.”

You know children learn the best from experience. And boredom is a great teacher. It helps in a child’s emotional development, helps us build tolerance to less than ideal experiences. Most of you will agree that life is not a perfect picture. There are bad days! Most of you would agree that life’s not perfect. There are days that are bad. Most bosses are less than ideal, so with relationships and circumstances. Boredom prepares us for those less than ideal experience.

Is boredom really helpful to teach children?

Stephanie Lee is a senior director at an American nonprofit called Child MIND Institute and this is what she says “life requires us to manage our frustrations and regulate our emotions when things aren’t going our way. And boredom is a great way to teach that skill.”

1. Boredom also helps a child find value in our own experience, develop our own worldview.

2. Boredom helps children strategize, figure out ways to keep themselves engaged, entertained.

3. It helps children develop problem solving skills.

4. It makes them creative. And this is something that studies have proven over and over again. Here’s one example, boredom fosters Imagination and creativity.

How do you think that happens? When a child is bored, she comes up with activities on her own without adult supervision. She learns how to make optimum use of resources around her. She learns to express herself through what’s available. And these are lessons that go a long way in life. Boredom teaches how to sit still to be at peace to day dream.

5. Boredom also instills a sense of independence. And that’s very, very important because when children grow up, parents won’t be around to entertain them all the time, or fill their schedules with engagements. A child must learn how to manage their own time. A child must learn how to motivate herself. And these are life skills that boredom can teach. This does not mean that don’t enroll your child in activities. I’m making the case for balance, a balance of activities in free time. Keeping the child scheduled packed is not top-notch parenting and most activities do not necessarily do good to your child.

For starters, she may become exhausted or confused. She may not have the time to figure it out, What is it that she really likes? So there are plenty of reasons why one need not be afraid of letting our children be bored. If your child is too young, she may complain at first even throw tantrums but eventually she’ll find a way to keep herself occupied. Her creativity will flourish, and this journey can be life changing. So the next time you go on a long drive, you may find her carrying her own color pens or toys to keep herself busy.

What should you the parent do to get there?

Find the right balance. Set aside some free time for your child, encourage creativity. When your young child comes to you saying she’s bored, tell her she can do anything. Anything that she wants. She can make a zoo with a toy animals, play with the dog, race cars, rearrange her toy shelf, dress her doll, go out and play.

Give him/her a nudge and let her figure out the rest. If needed, give your child an example of how to structure free time. She can start by doing an activity of a choice and take a little nap, eat some snacks, and take the dog for a walk. Show her that a lot can be done when there’s nothing specific to do. Show her how to deal with boredom and make teach your children the art of doing nothing, even enjoy it.