For years parents have been concerned that their children were bored in class. Parents responded beautifully to their children’s cries of boredom. They allowed their children to fill their time with video game playing. Parents began filling the afternoons with all sorts of organized activities. Teachers rallied to fill the empty space with creative activities to eliminate boredom.
The definition of bored is a feeling weary because one is unoccupied or lacks interest in one’s current activity. Filling the time with busy activities was what was thought to be the answer, but it didn’t eliminate students from using “I’m bored” as an excuse for not completing work.
Was filling the empty space and less than interesting activities a good idea for solving the problem? It appears to have resulted in a generation of children who do not know how to entertain themselves without planned activities or devices. It also has impacted their ability to think creatively.
As neuroscience unravels the mystery of our brains and how they function, we are discovering we were actually doing a disservice to our children. The brain appears to quiet when a person is trying to solve a problem or come up with something innovative. The quiet space before the answer arrives or the idea pops into the mind, can be interpreted as boring to some, but it is that exact feeling creators need to experience and become comfortable with, so they can discover creative solutions to challenges.
Learning how to identify what children refer to as boring is very important. When asked what is boring, many bright children will say one subject is boring while another isn’t. They indicate the one that is not boring is the one that comes easily to them. In a sense, many students are labeling something that is hard as boring. Learning to work through the boring and practice the concept more will make it more interesting.
Too many children lose interest when they face a challenge, because they lack strategies for solving them. The most effective strategy is to quiet the mind and ask a question that will allow the brain to discover an answer. If stumped on a math problem, students can say, “I know this information. I need to find the best way to solve this challenge. Then they need to deep breathe and relax and move onto something else. The answer will pop in their heads if they allow the brain time to think. That means they can’t feel that space with something too stimulating. Going for a walk or getting up to get a drink of water will allow time for the brain to do its job. Skipping the problem and coming back to it often allows enough time for the brain to access long-term memory.
Celebrate boredom. It is an opportunity for creativity, not something that has to be replaced with something more stimulating. We all have to work through boring things. We can do it with resistance that will make it more difficult, or we can do it with reduced stress and ease to make it easier an more enjoyable. There is nothing more exciting than being stumped and relaxing into it, and suddenly finding a solution without working hard.
My mother was very wise. Her answer to our statement, “I’m bored,” was “Go get creative.” She instinctively knew what would follow. We did more with a shoe box for our Barbies than there were products on the market, and we created our own line of Barbi clothes. We sold some of our designs to classmates which started our