Two days ago I watched a programme on tv, where they were discussing how happy a lot of parents are that the summer holidays are (almost) over and that the kids are finally going back to school. They were talking about how bored the kids were and that the parents ran out of ideas to entertain them.
It made me think about how I felt when my kids were still in school. I cannot remember ever being happy that the holidays were over. I was always looking forward to their holidays because that meant that I finally had time to ‘just hang out’ with them again. No more school runs, no more making lunches in advance, no more moaning from the kids about homework or being too tired to get up and everything else related to school. In the holidays they mostly were doing their own thing or we would just do ‘stuff’ (which could be anything). I’ve always loved spending time with my children, and still do. Now that they are not in school anymore, we are all together most of the time, but they don’t need me to entertain them constantly.
So what is the difference?
Children who go to school will be told what, when and how to do things all the time so when they are on holidays they are suddenly free from this. This feels good for a few days (like in the weekends) but after a while they probably start to feel awkward. They will crave planned activities, because that is what they are used to. They will probably do very well when you plan something for them, but they won’t (learn to) think for themselves, because that is not what they do day in and day out in school. The child says: ‘I’m bored’, so the parent tries to fix that by planning an activity for him. But does that actually help him in the long run? Of course it will fix the problem for the moment, but it won’t teach him how to deal with his boredom the next time it happens. I think it would be much better in the long run for the child to learn how to entertain themselves.
And if you think about it… They used to be able to!
Babies don’t get bored.
Every child is born naturally curious. Every experience is a new one, so therefore interesting. If you’re interested in something you cannot be bored. If a child would be allowed to explore their world without adults interfering with their natural curiosity about the world around them they won’t ever be bored. And the longer a child can enjoy the exploration of the world through endless curiosity the longer their attention span will be.
So why do we interfere?
Maybe it is our perception and expectation of the child. Maybe it is because we cannot stand the sound of the baby crying. But if it is the crying, is it fair to assume the child needs to be entertained because you can’t figure out what is bothering him? (I say this assuming that the nappy has been checked and the baby is fed and cuddled etc.) Is the parent only entertaining the baby to stop the crying (momentarily)? Will it actually fix the problem? I believe it won’t, because the reason is not boredom.
It is hard to put yourself in the child’s situation, without your own experiences and preconceptions influencing your thoughts. It is hard to stare, play and truly admire a little label on a piece of clothing for more than a few seconds. But a small child can. We process the fact that this is a label, know what it’s for and how it feels in milliseconds. The child doesn’t have this experience yet and might have tons of questions in his head while trying to make sense of it. Similar to how we might deal with a (to us) unknown object. We will look at it from all sides, feel the shape, squeeze it to see if it is hard, wonder what it’s for etc. etc. If we haven’t seen this object before, we take a lot longer to make sense of it. This works the same for a small child. And as the world for a baby consists mostly of unknowns and new experiences this will go on and on.
When a baby is being entertained all the time, eventually the natural curiosity will become less. The child will grow older and will go to school, where again he will be ‘entertained’ by teachers who tell him what, when and how to do something. Children are often not seen as complete individuals and their opinions and wishes are often not respected, because they do not have the experience. But where should they have gotten the experience if they have no or little say in what is going on in their lives?
Before you know it they become teenagers. And at this stage they might feel that they can make their own decisions. We now expect them to take more responsibility and be figure things out for themselves. But if they are more or less spoon fed up to this point, is that fair on them?
No wonder they rebel!
The need to control your child is your need, not that of your child.