I love kids. I have always loved talking with kids of all ages. Lately, I am noticing a disturbing trend. Bored kids who are boring.
When I have an opportunity to meet a new child regardless of age, I love to start a conversation. Usually, a child has a favorite sport or hobby or activity. Sometimes we talk about the book they are reading or something they are building. My underlying thought is to engage this little human to find out how they are growing. I am genuinely interested in what they are thinking, how they are processing their surroundings and what new opportunities they are chasing. Clearly, my assumption is that they are growing. Shouldn’t we all be growing?
Children are visibly in a state of growth. Development in their physical appearance should be matched by their emotional, academic and social maturation. Skills increase. Talents emerge. Curiosity evolves.
Childhood is such a minute part of a full life. As a parent, I intentionally guided my five children, as well as others, to immerse themselves in the glorious advantages of being a kid.
Once I met a 12 year old boy who was the oldest in his family of six. His maturity and serious expressions created curiosity for me. One day at the park when he came to sit with his mother and me, I began to talk with him directly. I asked what he loved to do in his free time. I asked if he had read any new books that maybe I should read too. I asked if he had succeeded in completing the outside clubhouse he was building with leftover lumber. Later that evening, he asked his mom if I had ever met a 12 year old boy. When I heard this, I smiled. He was not used to adults being so interested in his growing. What would be missed by not talking to this clever young man. Obviously, the things he was learning as a boy would make him a man. The skills, the conversations, the Bible he read, the worldview he learned, the kindness he copied from his parents, the leadership he practiced, the curiosity that his parents nurtured all marinated into the man he became years later.
So many times children are not really seen. Perhaps people think they will be boring. I have always thought of children as budding adults. What they think now moves toward what they will thinks as an adult. The younger years offer opportunity to learn scripture, to establish a personal relationship with Jesus by reading the Bible and praying daily. Childhood affords time for long walks with a magnifying glass and a notebook for jotting observations. These early days with light responsibility provide endless opportunity for relationship building, learning a new skill, reading important books, chasing imagination and making memories.
Curiosity is an indication of the potential, osseous development in children. Today, many children have been dulled by a series of long established, mind numbing patterns of long hours in front of a screen. Technology has its value in learning with younger ones, but the excessive usage for so many appears to be stunting their intellectual, social and emotional growth.
What makes a child boring?
You have met them. Remember the last time you sat down beside a child of any age? Did you see light in their eyes? Were they interested in talking with you? Or were they face down in their screen? If you initiated a conversation, did you sense that you were being annoying by interrupting their screen time? If they were polite when you tried to talk to them, was clear that they were glad when you were done? Conversation was just NOT their thing. Whatever was going on on their tablet or phone was entirely more interesting than you.
Maybe their parent was insisting that they talk to you, but they have nothing to talk about. They don’t play sports. They don’t play outside. They don’t play an instrument. They don’t do crafts. They don’t bake. They don’t draw. They don’t build. They don’t really have close friends. What do they have? Media interaction for hour after hour.
Granted, reason might lead you to be concerned about how a child who is boring as they develop into an adult will become suddenly interesting and social as they cross the line between childhood and adulthood. You know the result of living bored often carries into grownup years. Sad, but true.
The contrast in types of children that I have met recently has been notable. Some of the kids who I have spoken with are just the most fascinating little humans. You know the kind. They have an interest that captivates them entirely. Their enthusiasm for a new lego build or a chunky, hand knitted blanket just bubbles over as they communicate every last detail. If I am clever enough to ask the right questions, these delightful soon-to-be adults will tell me about the new piano songs they are learning, the new hiking trail they found or the best thing about their new puppy.
Think back into your childhood. What were the skills that you learned that have carried into your adult life? What are your best memories? What makes you smile when you think about being a kid?
When my youngest son was starting high school, we took a week to reorganize three bedrooms. We talked about the process before we began. The donation bags were gathered. The paint was purchased. Together, we dreamed up his new living space. The planning took months as we were in the spring semester of school. Once school was wrapped up, we set aside four days to complete the project. The process involved cleaning out closets and drawers. Baseboards were cleaned and taped in anticipation of paint. Donations were dropped off. Excitement was high. When we finished repainting, moving furniture, repurposing, painting and buying a few new items, the dream was complete. It was a wonderful time together. Now my son is confident to paint a room, sand and repaint a dresser and reorganize a space!! This experience was a successful expression of learning, togetherness and creativity. What project could you do with your child?
Technology is a necessary part of our society. However, my contention is that children should be significantly delayed from interacting with digital items. Screen time should be absent or extremely limited for most kids outside of required academic assignments. Otherwise, the addictive nature of most games and movies will zap the life out of a kid. Digital overload destroys a child’s potential to use his imagination. One of my friends suggested five minutes a day per year. For example, a six year old child might have 30 minutes a day for screen time while a 15 year old might have an hour and a half for all screen time. Remember, you are the parent. God gave your child to you for you to guide. Children are naturally creative. Given time they produce the most interesting ideas.
Generous blocks of free time propel a child to use their imagination to create. What a gift! Time is a gift. The hours in childhood unfettered by busyness, an overloaded schedule and excessive media promote growth.
Grow your child with these 10 Ideas:
1. Go outside. It is simple. Take a walk. Go swimming. Climb a tree. Lay on the grass and stare at the clouds or the stars. Have a picnic.
2. Identify your child’s interests. Grow your child in things when they express curiosity. Listen to your child. Find resources for them to learn or experience something new. Find a master teacher to guide them in their pursuit.
3. Allow your child to be bored so they will pull forward their own thinking. Daydreaming can morph into reality dreaming.
4. Expect your child to be a reader. Ben Carson, the great neurosurgeon, recalls that his single parent mother required that he and his brother read two books a week. While no one around them was doing this, they reluctantly obeyed. In these hundreds of books they discovered a million new ideas. Encourage your child to read living books, science books, how-to books, history books and biographies. Steer away from fluffy books. Be leery of popular series. Read the books they are reading so you know what they are being taught.
5. Celebrate new ideas. Help your child think outside the box.
6. Talk about the needs of others. Help them do things to meet those needs. This might involve drawing a picture and writing a kind note. It might mean mowing grass. It might require a Saturday of helping someone move to a new location. Needs are all around us. Work to create compassion in your child. Develop growth in this way.
7. Provide tools for your child to express their creativity. Study your child. Identify their strengths. You are the parent. In a healthy situation, no one loves your child more than you. Gather art supplies, tools, craft options, fabric, lumber, books, chalk or paint. Join them as they learn. Teach them what you know.
8. Prepare them for adulthood. What do you need to know to be a grown up? Make a list? What did you not know when you started out into your adult life. Prepare them for this inevitable transition.
9. Encourage curiosity. Answer questions. Ask questions.
10. Listen to music. Turn it up!! Dance.
Be an example of a person who is growing. Don’t talk down about yourself when you are learning something new. Pursue areas where you need to grow. Growing takes time. I believe in living in a mindset of growing. For example, I have just started taking piano lessons again. Between mothering and homeschooling, I could not find the hour or two daily needed to keep up my music. So, I am starting to spend those hours on practicing my piano and guitar again. It is wonderful. As I am beginning the season of empty nesting, it is encouraging to hear the cheering from my kids back to me as I begin again to grow in my music skills.
Don’t let your kids be boring. Let them be bored enough without any digital options so they will launch into creative activity. Don’t stunt their growth by putting a phone in their hands or giving them hours in front of a screen.
Childhood is short. Don’t waste it.