Relearning Boredom

I’ve written before about my own lack of boredom–that I don’t even remember what it feels like to be bored.

I think, though, that I’ve learned how to be bored, and how to parlay that into creativity. It’s not the boredom that’s important, it’s the willingness to hear and follow ideas.

It’s a skill our students utterly lack. When you hear an elementary kid say, “I’m bored”, hat you are actually hearing is a complaint about the lack of structure. During the school year, there is almost never an unstructured minute. There is too much to accomplish, too many boxes to fill. It costs too much to risk loss of control with unstructured time.

This is a big problem in the development of our youth. They need to learn how to fill free time creatively. Not something extrinsic like Netflix or something fleeting like Facebook. We could all use the skill of filling down time in positive, uplifting ways: books, conversations, curiosity, creativity.

That’s why I’ve committed this summer to not offering “outs” to my sons when their bored. I might offhand list a few things they could do (readabookplayagamegooutsideplaythepianocleanyourroom) but I won’t tell them what to do and I won’t give them the easy out of hours on a screen. Wrestling with that boredom, and transmuting it into something positive, is a lifeskill they need and that they can’t/won’t get in school. They need to relearn boredom and how to react to it.

We can all agree that being told what to do is not how we want to spend our days; but we need to get our head around the idea that “I’m bored” is the brain’s way of saying, “Tell me what to do.”

And then ignore it.