Like most parents, we want the very best for our three boys. We understand that they live in a world very different to the one which Craig and I grew up in. We realise that the ability to adapt, change and think creatively are essential for our kids to not only survive but thrive.
Human brains love to fill in the gaps. They want to solve problems more than just about anything else. They want time and space to be able to process information at their own rate. In these three keys there lies the kernel of the three things you can do as a parent to NEVER have bored children.
We introduced one of these keys when our eldest son was a baby and the other two over the past nine years as we have parented. They are easy to implement and cost nothing (they could save you a lot of money). It could make you feel like you are the laziest parent on earth, and they work!
1. The more the toy does, the less the child has to think for themselves there are less gaps for their brains to fill-in. So – we removed all toys that looked and sounded like ‘the real thing’ focussing on things like wooden blocks (which could be a cellphone, a car or a part of a tower), pieces of cloth (which could be capes, rivers, skirts etc)and so on. The older boys live for their Lego, which can be used in an unlimited amount of ways. The only ‘educational’ toys we have are books.
2. We are warm and responsive when they come to us, but largely we get on with our day and ignore them. They can involve themselves with what we are doing or find their own entertainment – which is what they usually chose.This also ties in with the practise of Boring Cuddles when they are hurt ( Quick Way to Stop Children Fussing. ) – we are there to emotionally support them but don’t buy into their dramas or feed them to make them worse – they do the work, they get the benefits. We also don’t tell them to harden-up or get-over-themselves.
3. We removed ALL electronic and battery-run entertainment. Yes, they went through withdrawl and were angry with us initially. Yes, we weaken every now and again, but the general rule is none for our under nines and very, very limited for our boy who is nine. Every single time we weaken and allow them to watch something or play with something electronic we end up with one or more bored children. Every day that we stay strong and keep the boundary we have children who can entertain themselves for hours.
I call this open-palm parenting. We are there (especially for emotional support, but also to help them learn new skills from hammering, to washing clothes, to reading) but we let them ‘come and go’ as they please. We don’t push them away and we don’t enclose them in our fists so that the world can’t get to them.
Children do leave home. They need to have as many chances as possible to solve problems for themselves before they do – even if those problems involved towers which fall down, bikes which crash or fruit which is sour if it’s picked too soon. By solving as many problems as possible they learn that they can manage and they learn how to think. The bonus for us is never ever hearing those dreaded words, “IIIIIIII’m boooooored.”