Archive for the ‘boredom’ category

Allow the opportunity for connection, exploration and “I’m bored

February 9, 2013

The weather outside is frightful today in New England. Many families are holed up. Some parents may be dreading a day of entertaining and refereeing the kids.

My suggestion is to treasure this day as an opportunity to connect. Spend some time together shoveling, making hot cocoa or cookies, or playing a game for a while. Get outside and revel in the snow together.

After spending some positive attention at a neutral time when the kids are not whining, fighting or complaining, go your separate ways and check in with them every hour or so. The younger they are the more frequently you check in.  Notice what they’re doing and offer encouragement by offering observations or asking questions. You can simply watch quietly and do not disturb a good thing.

Things might get worse before they discover the art of self-entertainment. Allow them to learn the joys of having a brother or sister. Boredom can lead to creativity. It is not parents’ job to solve a child’s lack of initiative. Encourage them by saying, “I’m sure you can find something to do.”

Remember the three steps to empower kids to self-entertain and avoid boredom:

1. Spend positive attention at a neutral time every day — at least 15 minutes. This type of connection can solve MANY larger behavioral issues.

2. Expect them to find something constructive to do independently. Allow them to do nothing and feel the stillness, even boredom. This is Zen! Do not solve complaints or bickering with TV or a video. Expecting them to find something to do will probably generate a mess. Allow it. Plan on spending time cleaning up together. The blanket forts, spilled flour, and toys spread all over the floor are evidence of creativity, initiative and cooperation (if you have more than one child).

3. Encourage their efforts in a quiet, low-key manner. Just watch silently.

As I tell my kids, YOU CAN DO IT.


Free kids from technology this summer

July 9, 2012
Kids can learn to go without technology during summer and any time. Give them opportunities to think , read and daydream

A group art project from where the slogan is, “Kids making things happen.”


“We have a rule when our grandsons visit. No technology,” said my friend Carolyn about when the boys, ages 7 and 9, visit their grandmothers’ pond-side home. “They put the video games away for the week and find other things to do.”

The boys’ older sister and a friend came also came to visit the two grandmothers, Carolyn and her wife Carole. The teens were allowed to communicate by cell phone with friends back home, 200 miles away.

“The cell phone is such a big part of teenagers’ social connections,” said Carole. That’s a decent compromise, especially because the teens agreed to visit to grandmas’ house.

All four kids enjoyed old-fashioned pass times, like playing hide-and-go-seek with kids in the neighborhood, playing board games and splashing around in the pond.

The boys are normally glued to gaming consoles.

Some camps have a similar ban on video games, cell phones and portable devices. Technology is prohibited at  Beam Summer Camp in Strafford, NH, just east of Concord. The remote location and lack of plugs make technology use nearly impossible.

“I couldn’t get cell phone reception,” said my daughter Kristen, 24, who led two afternoon “domains” at the camp where students choose what project to work on every afternoon. Beam Summer Camp oozes creativity — without technology.

Some families have technology-free Sundays. What would happen at your home if everyone — parents included — took a break from technology for a set time each week?

How do you manage technology use in your family? Have you brought up the issue at family meetings and asked for input? Are TVs and computers in common areas of the home and not sequestered in bedrooms? Do your kids self-monitor agreements made or are you judge, jury and police officer?

When you shut down technology, be prepared to allow boredom, from which creativity emerges. Daydreaming, reading, and staring at a spider’s web calm the soul.

“I’m Bored”

August 15, 2011
Kids who can't entertain themselves need to learn how by parents offering positive attention at neutral times then expecting kids to find things to do. Good parenting is about setting expectations and boundaries. Discipline is kind and firm and consistent. Parenting tots, tweens, school age and teens is all about cultivating a good relationship, using positive language and encouragement.

They eventually found a huge source of entertainment at the edge of pond, even though it's wet, sandy and damp.

Parents often react to a kid saying, “I’m bored” the same as to “I’m hungry.” Except the first is the kid’s problem, the second is a parent’s. Tweens and teens can solve both with minimal parental consultation.

Kids under age 11 probably need help getting food. If they have gotten sufficient positive attention at neutral times, they ought to be able to solve their own boredom.

I dipped back into parenting over the weekend while taking care of three kids, 6, 4 and 14 months. They were reluctant to explore our pond and played inside for quite a while on Sunday.

I resisted allowing them to watch more than one 60-minute video on a summer day and declined invitations to build something “really big with all of the Duplos.” I already fed them every two hours, picked up their constant trail, got them to bed, etc. I was not interested in being chief playmate and entertainer.

“Can we please watch another video?” they pleaded. After reading them four books they finally ventured towards the pond in light rain and started doing what kids are made to do. Get lost in the world of play, pretend and fun. Bounce off each other. Learn about relationships to each other, sand, water and light with minimum of parental interference.

It was fun to watch and care for them.We had “parallel play” — Bob and I weeded while they explored the pond. Two or more kids are always easier than a solitary child, who can self-entertain and invite friends over.

If your kids rely on you to solve boredom, changing the expectation will take a few weeks, protests, long sighs and even sitting with, gasp! nothing to do. Be patient. Creativity emerges from stillness. You will be amazed at the non-electronic entertainment they discover. Allow them to make a mess in the kitchen, yard, family room or bedroom. Creativity is always messy. Take time to notice their efforts and allow time to clean up with them.

Saying, “I know you can find something to do” is encouraging. As soon as a kid can utter, “I’m bored,” he is old enough for this solution: cleaning. Say, “Let’s clean your closet out today. The living room needs vacuuming. Put on these special cleaning socks and slide over the hardwood floors. Let’s crank up the stereo, put on dust mitts and dust the whole house.”

You can bet they’ll find something to do. Fast. Or maybe they’ll clean with you. Chores are one of THE best ways to develop self-discipline. That’s another post.


The kids go back to school Monday!

February 24, 2011

Dealing with stress, Part 2

For those of us in New England, the February vacation is almost over!

To get through the next three days and survive the stress of vacation [yes, vacations are stressful times!  here are a few suggestions.

1.Get outside with the kids. Sunshine, fresh air and trees are marvelous stress-relievers. It can be as simple as taking a walk in the woods, using some of that snow for entertainment, or walking in a city together.

2. Get a change of scenery. Get a library pass for a museum — any museum will do. Visit a train station and watch the trains come & go. Ride a public bus or subway. That’s an adventure for the kids. There’s always my favorite place — the library.

3. Get together with another family for a pot luck, games, and to play your musical instruments for each other. Great fun.

4. Trade child care with a friend so you can get out alone or with your spouse for some child-free time. Marriages that ignored will eventually crumble, like a building that is neglected falls into disrepair and become uninhabitable. Cultivate cheap thrills, like the suggestions in number one. Get out the x-country skis and snow shoes. Track animals in the woods. Trade sleepovers with another family so you can have the house together alone.

5. Cook something adventuresome that you normally don’t cook. Don’t worry about the mess.

Remember, this too, shall pass. They will grow up faster than you can believe.

Good parenting is sustainable and worth effort. Back to school is three days away!

All play and no work make Jack a dull boy

November 14, 2010

I’ve heard some encouraging stories about the impact of family meetings.

The mother of two daughters, 15 and 11 years old, and her husband have been holding family meetings for a few months since taking the online course Raising Able Family Management System.

“The kids suggested we start doing our own cleaning to save money, and use that money for vacations,” said the mom. “I’m going to give notice to our cleaning service because that adds up to a tidy sum that we can use for our vacations.”

When you calculate the cost of paying taxes on that income, the savings increase. When we had 11 straight years of college tuition, we all pitched in to do our own cleaning and netted at least $2,000 a year towards UMass.

A divorced father of two, a son age 18 and a daughter age 15, said of his family meetings, “They really got into them. They couldn’t wait to volunteer for chores. ”

That’s success! When children pitch in around the house they feel connected, significant and part of the team.

A 15-year study on adolescent health [ADD Health] found a simple recipe to keep teenagers out of trouble. When teens feel connected to home and to school they greatly enhance their opportunities for success in life.

Family meetings, family chores and family dinner provide a critical connection between children/teens and families. The young people might not be as eager as the kids described above, but don’t worry. Young people don’t always want to be seen as too cooperative. Deep down, children of all ages are yearning for connection to their parents.

And secretly, they want to be challenged, to be able to demonstrate competency, and to learn.

In the 1930s, researchers offered misbehaving children this consequence: unlimited recess.

Children who behaved were given the opportunity to learn. The children figured out the system quickly and they wanted to do the schoolwork instead of playing all day. And they did learn, with record-breaking results.

Too bad schools today haven’t used this approach. Let the students with behavior problems run around outside until they’re exhausted and cry “uncle” and they beg for the opportunity to behave properly and  learn in a classroom. The exercise will do them good.

Many people say they don’t want to work, but the reality is that work is where most people find satisfaction, connection and achievement. Home chores set up kids for success at work and in their own lives.

Tune into wireless camping

September 7, 2010

They're about as cute as they come. Children love camping together. It's a great adventure. Raising children outdoors teaches them to appreciate the planet.

BFF. Camping will do that for people, even when things go awry.

What a glorious view. Dry weather out west helps make camping more enjoyable. Even though camping with young children is a lot of work, it's worth it. Camping together connects families to the great outdoors, to each other and to friends.

Two families bond with each other and the great outdoors.

Hey Grandma, look at me! I can roll out dough with my cup. THat's what I love about camping- improvising. Camping is most fun when done with groups of people

Grandma and Bree roll out pie crust together at camp.

This guest post is from my nephew Sean who touts the virtues of family camping.

After a 10-day tent camping trip with my wife, daughter (almost 2 ½) and my parents followed by another 3 night tent trip with another family of 4, I said to Susan that camping “is a time to really tune into your family.”

There was a lot of “tuning in.”  As new parents, we were a little nervous about driving thousands of miles with a 2-year-old strapped in the back of our Suburban.  We had space to bring lots of camping amenities and plenty of toys and books.

We decided to forgo electronic gadgets and screen devices and stick to our convictions to use screen time very sparingly.

Our goal was to make it out to Glacier National Park in Montana, which meant about 9.5 hours of driving from our Seattle home.  We chose to divide up the drive into two segments, stopping in North Central Washington for the first weekend.

That drive went uneventfully as Breanna slept about half of the time.  We strategically plan to drive during nap times, so this one encompassed her afternoon nap.  Two days later, we were on the road again, headed to GNP.  After arriving in the park and the rendezvous with my parents, we realized that we had not even turned on the radio the entire drive.

We became so in tune with our daughter’s banter or sleep that we didn’t even need the background noise.  In fact, Bree kind of kept us entertained after learning a few driving games.  Soon she was asking things like “What do you see, Daddy?” or “What color, Mommy?”  Those games translated into object identification games including barns, animals, and various trucks.  So we learned together, and what started out in fear ended up in learning, listening and tuning into one another’s sights and sounds.

The camping trip had lots of outdoor time, inter-generational cooking and discovery time outdoors seeing wildlife, trees, lakes and plants.  We made it through several long days of driving and ended up with in Bend, Oregon– all without a single DVD player!

Back home, one of the biggest realizations hit me.  Breanna had a chance to really tune into us as well.  I was printing and trimming some pictures from our trip; running around as I sometimes do.

Breanna was in the room with the printer and paper cutter.  Suddenly I heard, “Daddy, look!”  I called back “What, Bree?”  “Campfire!” she exclaimed.  I ran around the corner to see the most meticulous campfire built with kindling and all.  Bree had squirreled away the steps in making a campfire during our trip, and without even knowing it we had taught her a new skill.

She had placed the paper strips on the floor as kindling and found some table legs to use as logs over the kindling.  I was excited to see that Breanna had a chance to learn from and tune into us without us even knowing it.  Of course this reinforced my motivation for always being the best person I can for the sake of my family, especially my child(ren).

We spent 25 nights in a tent this summer and learned a lot about each other.  We spent time with several other families and became more intimate friends through cooking, doing camp chores and having real-life sleepovers.

For me, there have been great opportunities to get away from house projects, computers and phones.  Road trips provided great talking and tune-in time for our whole family and camping allowed us to divide up tasks and learn new chores.

“Kathy says”

May 18, 2010
My sister Kathy cooking with one of her five grandchildren.
“This is fun, grammy! I love having my own apron, bowl and dough.”

Brianna, 2, is cooking with her Grandma,  my sister Kathy, who is 12 years older than me. Kathy taught me so much about raising children and living with them.     

 Kathy says the sure-cure for boredom is easy. When a child says, “I’m bored,”  it’s easy to solve their lack of creativity. Say, “The living room needs vacuuming.” or “Here’s a squirt bottle to clean the bathroom.” 

Because of this miraculous cure, my children learned to tap into their inner resources and solve their boredom by finding something that interested them, or feel the boredom for a while until they were motivated to take action. 

I was always willing to support their quests, while not taking the responsibility to entertain them.   

Kathy is the second oldest of my parents’ nine children and served as the assistant mother. I’m the eighth in the family.  When children are around Kathy instinctively knows how to include them. She is often willing to take the time to give them their own bowl of pie crust and apron. 

 Kathy was/is like my second mother. Every young mother needs someone like Kathy to turn to when facing myriad challenges of raising children. Kathy unabashedly loves Martha Stewart, and can cook, decorate, sew and garden as well as Martha, if not better. Kudos to mothers, sisters and grandmas like Kathy.