Boredom is painful. In fact, boredom is more painful than the pain itself.
One study found that people would give themselves electric shocks rather than sitting alone for 15 minutes.
Most people prefer doing something—even if it's negative—rather than doing nothing.
Boredom is “the aversive experience of wanting, but being unable, to engage in satisfying activity.”
No matter how hard it is, boredom is good for us. In one study, doing boring activities before a creative task resulted in increased creativity.
Being bored leads to creativity through daydreaming. Daydreaming helps us explore seemingly illogical ideas. We thus find new and better solutions to our unresolved problems.
"Truly novel solutions and ideas emerge when the brain brings together unrelated facts and thoughts." — Sharon Begley
Benefits of boredom
It's hard to fight our urge to entertain our kids when we hear the sentence, "Mom/Dad, I'm bored!" But some boredom is great for kids.
- Boredom sparks creativity. Creativity takes place when we have enough space for daydreaming. Boredom gives children that space.
- Boredom leads to resilience. Resilience develops as children practice being with uncomfortable feelings. The discomfort caused by boredom is a great opportunity.
- Boredom creates decision-makers. Creativity sparked by boredom invites options. Picking one of those options by weighing the pros and cons is a great way to practice decision-making.
How to approach children's boredom
- Shake off your guilt. Your child's boredom is not your fault. Good parenting does not mean entertaining our children all the time.
- Fill up their "attention bucket." Kids benefit from uninterrupted attention—even if it's for 10 minutes! This fills up their "attention bucket." When their attention bucket is empty, you misinterpret their need for closeness as boredom. Put away your phone and get on the floor. This game might help.
- Validate their boredom. Chances are children immediately knock on your door when they feel bored. Say things like "It's okay to feel bored." "Sometimes I feel bored too." or "I like it when I get bored because it helps me come up with new ideas." You can then move on to guiding them into figuring things out. Read on to see how.
- Invite them to join you. One way to guide children out of boredom without entertaining them is to invite them to help you with whatever you're doing. This is a great way to bond too. Depending on their age, you might invite them to unload the dishwasher, organize socks, wash fruits and vegetables, organize your notes, etc.
- Help them prepare for when boredom hits. Prepare a calm, cozy corner in your house suitable to have some quiet time. Model sitting there. This corner might be close to books or other simple activities. One activity can be drawing papers from an idea jar. When you're together, help your child come up with of list of activities to do when boredom hits. Write these on tiny pieces of paper and put them in a jar.
- Trust them. Children have a vast imagination. Trust their abilities to entertain themselves. Support them when you see little signs of independence in an age-appropriate way. Help your urge to "fix" things. Do not try to teach them how to play with toys. Make peace with the mess. Allow time and space for free play.
Ellen Blakely, mom of two successful entrepreneurs, Sara and Ford Blakely, gave out her secret to raising successful kids: Letting them "get bored" and "figure it out."
Of course, kids shouldn't be bored all the time. If that's the case in your house, you might check to see whether they have a need for attention and closeness, access to enough age-appropriate activities, or enough opportunity to play in nature.
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