Parents, Don’t Be Afraid to Bore Your Kids

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by John Ellis

When we were expecting our first child, people with raised eyebrows and a condescending tone would warn, “Oh, your lives are going to change!” Well, duh. Of course, lives are going to change when a new baby is born. Change is a natural state of life. No offense if you’ve said or say this to new parents, but advising that, “Your life is going to change!” is almost nonsensical in its obviousness and unhelpfully wrong in some of its underlying implications.

Yes, as stated, life is going to change, but life would’ve changed without the baby. However, even with a new baby, life doesn’t need to change as much as some new parents assume and some old parents believe.

Children are wonderful, infuriating, and full of surprises. Each kid is different, and parenting advice is generally best taken with a grain of salt many grains of salt. The one constant for parents is that when kids are involved there will be no constants. What worked on one kid will fail miserably with the other kid. The rules and regiments of one set of parents will translate poorly to another set of parents. In other words, mommy blogs are mostly a waste of time.

All that raises the question as to why any parents should continue reading this “mommy blog” article. Well, parents should keep reading because this “mommy blog” article is for their benefit and not necessarily for the benefit of their snotty-nosed and whiny yet adorable kids.  

Simply put, my advice to parents is to bore your kids from time to time. Bore your kids on a frequent basis, in fact. And don’t do so just because it’s good for them (although, it is); do so because it’s good for you.

Before our first child was even born, my wife and I rejected the notion that our lives were going to change drastically. We decided that we weren’t going to stop doing the things that we enjoyed just because we had a kid. In our minds, museums, concerts, nice restaurants, and staying late at friends’ houses would still be on the table, even with a child. Whenever we would express our game-plan, “old” parents would roll their eyes, scoff, and condescendingly wish us “good luck with that.”

Well, over eleven years later, we’ve had much “luck” with that, in fact.

My wife and I have continued to do the things that we enjoy; we’ve never shied away from dragging our two children along as we explore “boring” museums, eat at “weird” restaurants, and talk late into the night with friends. Our kids are frequently bored, and my wife and I have next to zero sympathy for them. In fact, our kids know that ruining our evening by whining is a sure-fire way to receive discipline.

Don’t misunderstand, this is a two-way street. It’s not like our children only every do boring, “adult” things. Children’s museums, concerts for kids, movies featuring talking animals, huge outdoor mazes, zoos, and a countless number of playgrounds are included among our many family excursions. Our kids are not lacking for want of “child-appropriate” entertainment.

Like I wrote, though, it’s a two-way street, and we expect our kids to participate in activities that my wife and I enjoy. That’s part of being in a family. The family unit doesn’t constantly cater to just a few of the family members. That means, of course, that from time to time, some of the family members are going to be bored while some of the family members are having an incredible time. Furthermore, during those times, it’s incredibly selfish for the bored family member(s) to ruin the experience for the engaged family member(s). If you think that I’m not bored when watching movies featuring talking animals, you don’t know me very well. But, and modeling this behavior for my children, I bite my tongue and focus on enjoying my kids enjoying themselves.

To be clear, and my slightly tongue-in-cheek pronouncement above about “zero sympathy” aside, me and my wife’s approach does have a pedagogical objective.

Beyond just the fact that they need to learn that the family unit, much less the world, doesn’t revolve around them, we want our children to be exposed to activities that challenge them. We want them to grow up in an environment that includes a wide assortment of activities. And we want our kids to learn how to interact with things that are outside of their preferred comfort zone.

This approach not only enriches their lives, it also helps shape and build their imaginations. Far more important than grades, my wife and I believe that a rich imagination and a love for learning is vital to our kids’ education. Navigating boredom helps develop imagination and a love for learning. It’s a “sink or swim” kind of approach.

However, and referencing the opening trajectory of this article, having kids should not mean that you and your spouse should stop enjoying life and each other. You know what’s good for children? Happy parents. Trumping even that, you know what’s good for marriages? Happy couples.

Making sure that you and your spouse continue to do the things that you enjoy is important for your marriage. So what if your kids are bored. So what if they’re a little sleepy from time to time. They’ll get over it. And they may learn a thing or two in the process. One thing that they’ll definitely learn is that Mom and Dad aren’t going to cater to them. That’s a win for everyone.

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