new york times: let children get bored again!

CreditCreditLeo Espinosa


author and editor of the book review, pamela paul, writes about the importance of boredom in a new york times opinion piece dated feb the 9th, 2019.

boredom, she says, is far from the dull, boring, frightful state to be kept at bay at all times. in an era where constant attention grabbers are always at hand in the form of technology, structured activities, classes and social commitments, she urges us to make time for nothing for our kids and ourselves.


why though? what makes boredom so important?

it’s not boredom itself that’s important, but the ability to deal with and overcome boredom (on your own) that is. she writes, “when you reach your breaking point, boredom teaches you to respond constructively, to make something happen for yourself”.

peter gray in his book free to learn, talks about overcoming boredom (and entering a state of self directed play), as strengthening of an internal locus of control – the feeling of being in control of your own life. minus an internal locus of control, i.e. an external locus of control has been highly correlated to states of anxiety and depression.

moreover, embracing boredom is a pathway to creativity. lin-manuel miranda, in an interview with GQ magazine, credited his unattended afternoons with fostering inspiration, “…because there is nothing better to spur creativity than a blank page or an empty bedroom”.

once you’re bored, you are on the road to discovery – why is it that the most interesting ideas come to us in the shower? it’s because while engaged in a task as routine and monotonous as showering, our brain is left free to wander, to take off on a flight of fancy, to make the non-linear connections, that come to us as a new idea, or creative spark.

overcoming boredom also seems to facilitate self-awareness, deepening the understanding of ‘who am i?’ and ‘what do i choose to do with my time?’

and as in maria semple’s 2012 novel “where’d you go bernadette”, dealing with boredom is also simply good preparation for life – “you are bored. and im going to let you in on a little secret about life. you think its boring now? well, it only gets more boring. the sooner you learn it’s on you to make life more interesting, the better off you’ll be”.


recognise our own biases 

in today’s day and age we’ve been trained by contemporary culture to find boredom repulsive - “boredom is for boring people”; and instead, constantly reach out for quick fix solutions. little realising that a diet of evermore entertainment and stimulation might be considerably more harmful than a little boredom.

we’re programmed, also, to feel FOMO – that if every minute of our children’s days are not optimised, maximised, filled to the brim with the acquisition of skills and knowledge, that our kids will somehow be left behind in this crazy, ever so competitive world.

but what happens when the very skills your kids do need to flourish in the world of the 21st century, like creativity, problem solving, self awareness and the like – stem at least in part from boredom?

paul says “boredom is not a problem to be eradicated, it’s especially important that kids be allowed to get bored – and stay bored – when they’re young”.

so the next time your kids complain of being bored - don’t beat yourself up, or reach for entertainment or an activity - let them be, to ride it out by themselves, and come out considerably stronger, on the other side.


read the entire article here:

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