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Parenting: Part 2—Redefining Boredom

Boredom Creates Opportunities for Us and Our Children

In my pursuit to change our response to the word “boredom” in our home, I continually find more benefits of unscheduled time, particularly in our children’s lives as they work toward maturity and independence.

I heard a quote recently in a video found at featuring Simon Sinek that said, “Boredom makes room for creativity.” It was in relation to the epidemic of technology and social media on our culture.

There is truth to that statement, there is a kid’s movie that I watched called “Robots” and a primary quote/theme in the movie was this; “see a need, fill a need” and it has really increased the amount of needs I take the time to think about and notice, while simultaneously increased my creative problem solving. Instead of seeing the need and wondering who has a solution for it, I begin to think of what solutions I could come up with for the problem.

The issue that we run into with our children starts in the first part of that statement, “see a need.” If we are constantly filling our children’s minds and lives with things to distract them and keep then entertained, will they ever see a need in the first place?

Boredom first allows us the space to notice.

But it doesn’t stop there. Once they notice, what response are they going to have?

The most common scenario for people is that they will notice, but instantly look up the solution on Google instead of exploring options that they might have for themselves. When I was younger I had to wait until I got home and look up the answer in a dictionary or encyclopaedia, which trained my brain to remember and consider the level of importance I attributed to different things. Now I look things up immediately, and promptly forget that I even had the question in the first place.

We need to help our children realize that even if there is an answer to find online, it’s entirely possible that you might be able to come up with a better one. An even more novel concept would be to not need the Internet to survive at all!

Boredom helps our minds remember, exercise and be creative. Instead of relying on the expertise and knowledge of others, we become innovators and creators of solutions.

Space for thought, reflection and creativity for our children requires space – that space is often called boredom. When my children say they are bored I get excited, I ask them how they are doing and engage with them relationally while walking them through different feelings they may have or may need to sort through. Their complaints of boredom become initiation for me to “see a need, a fill a need” with them and teach them to be creative and process, to be innovators and problem solvers.

Boredom = Time for Spiritual Development and Relationship with Jesus

Boredom, the word and the typical feelings related to the word, is starting to become a word with positive associated feelings for me. Instead of the usually associated feeling of emptiness and needing something to do to fill the time, it’s become an opportunity for REST, CREATIVITY and RELATIONSHIP. There is one kind of relationship that we often neglect and that is the spiritual one; our relationship with Jesus.

Matthew 6:6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.

Learning to spend time with God and to develop ourselves spiritually is a difficult task, even for adults. Scripture tells us to pray and to be alone with God in “your room” and I can’t help but think that when I go into my room to talk with my wife, I don’t bring along things to distract me. If I have my phone, or if she has hers, it kills the conversation entirely because one or the other of us isn’t fully engaged.

It’s the same thing with God, we won’t be fully engaged with Him if we have things distracting us. How many times have we walked away from prayer saying we couldn’t feel or sense God’s presence or direction, but if we were to actually think back we might find ourselves admitting that we brought things with us, even if they were distractions and thoughts (click here for a post on settling the thoughts of and in your mind). It’s a discipline that most in our culture are terribly inadequate at. The practice of quiet and putting our thoughts aside to be able to focus on God is undervalued and rare.

It doesn’t stop there though, what about when we read our bibles, do we just race through the chapter and forget everything we just read or do we absorb it and take the time to allow God to speak to us through the words on the page?

And then there is the reality that the Holy Spirit is the ultimate counsellor, OUR counsellor in fact. When we are having a hard time and need His comfort, or maybe we want to express gratitude and excitement, do we allow ourselves the quiet in our hearts and minds to find that comfort and consolation or even celebration in and with Him?

Our spiritual development and the condition of our soul’s growth is entirely dependent on our being able to practice silence, quiet and relationship with God through His son Jesus and comforted by and through His Holy Spirit.

Just like I can’t talk or sense my wife’s intention to comfort me if I have extremely loud music on when we are trying to talk, we need to settle the noise in our lives and minds to hear God.

That becomes even harder when we allow our kids to believe the concept that boredom is a curse, something to avoid and run from. If that is true, then moments where things slow down enough for us to give attention and focus to God feels even more awkward and the discipline of quiet time with Him isn’t just foreign, it feels wrong and out of place.

The next time our children comment on the space that they have that isn’t filled with busyness, point out the gift of time that God has given them. Suggest that it’s His invitation to them to be with Him and give them tangible examples like when you lie with them in bed (or whenever you give uninterrupted time to them) before tucking them in to listen, talk and engage in their lives.

There is no doubt that we need to teach our children this, but we can’t very well teach them something we don’t know how to do ourselves can we. Model the value and use of unscheduled time MUST happen. It’s time for us to consider whether we are running from boredom or embracing the opportunity.

1 Cor. 11:1

Click HERE for Part 1—Redefining Boredom

© David McVety – September 2016

David McVety is the Assistant Director of Doing Family Right.

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