Dad, What Can I Do?

Here it comes. There are occational moments around my house where my almost seven-year-old son will say, “What can I do? There’s nothing to do.”

I’m a fixer, so I’ve always been quick to list off a number of things after suggesting he help with cleaning up. But here is why I’m thinking of switching gears and throwing the question back at him, “I don’t know. What can do you do?”

Here’s five reasons why boredom is okay and why I should back-off and not be so quick to answer his question of “What can I do?” or the statement, “I’m bored.”

  • Creativity solves boredom. Letting your child be bored forces them toward creativity to solve their boredome. Create a game. Imagine with sticks. Invite friends to play. If he looks to me to solve his boredom, where is he going to look when I’m not around? Being bored can actually make you more creative.
  • Boredom can  influence motivation. My mom would say, “Only boring people get bored.” This is turned motivated me to find something to do, as I surely didn’t want to be a boring person. If no one is motivating my son to cure his boredom, then it’s up to him to do something about it, and maybe he’ll be more interesting as a result?
  • Free time for all. Letting your kids be bored and find something to do on their own can help wean them from the dependency on parents to find something, therefore freeing mom and dad up to hang out together. Or mom and dad can find some seperate alone time.
  • Real life involves idle time. Boredom can be a signal do to some self-reflection and align priorities. This article from Frontiers in Psychology offers up the opinion that boredom is both a warning that we are not doing what we want to be doing and a ‘push’ that motivates us to switch goals and projects.” Maybe a little deep for young children, but the self-reflection boredom can influence could lead to this improvement down the road.
  • Be bored and let your mind wander. Mind wandering may benefit mental function, improve creativity and encourage future planning. Maybe a good reason for dad to take some time on the couch and veg out without the TV or laptop. Just tell your kids, “Don’t bother me, I’m mind-wandering.”

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