Sometimes developing the children in our lives means not doing more but doing less, not buying another camp or class, but encouraging a bit of boredom and seeing what happens.
I was raised in a two-parent household and my mother worked as a nurse.
In the summers when she worked the 3-11pm shift, she was home with my sister and me until 2:30. She made it part of our daily routine to come in from playing at noon. She made it a “lunch hour” in which we ate and spent the remainder of the hour in “quiet time” in our bedroom.
We were to stay on our bed but we could have anything we wanted. For me it was mostly library books and workbooks. She went to the school supply store at the beginning of summer and got math and language arts workbooks. I devoured language arts. It was so much fun to work with words. I grew accustomed to loving the written word in my everyday life and outside of class assignments.
The unluckiest kids in the neighborhood
I also put items onto my bed that I was going to play with during the hour, sometimes reorganize my jewelry box, open my piggy bank and count the money. The first week of the first summer of quiet time my sister and I thought we were the unluckiest kids in the neighborhood, deprived of a whole hour of play. I learned to like that quiet hour, although I would never admit it to my friends.
Adjust your thinking to view boredom as an opportunity for creativity and development for the children in your life. You never know what it might spark.
Tweetable: One mom found an idea that works for summer vacation–Lunch Hour. Find out more here. Click to Tweet
“I’m bored” should be two of the most thrilling words children say to us.
“I’m bored” demonstrates a child’s willingness to go outside their default game, the usual videos or familiar TV shows. This is our big chance to suggest activities that will engage children in one of their proven talents.
The child’s emotional payoff will make it easier next time to get outside the usual.
For some children, that could mean engaging in art or learning karate. For one girl, it meant party planning. At 10 years old, she was demonstrating ability in leadership and organization. She loved planning things and being in charge, and she was creative.
Her mother suggested that she plan a surprise party for her sister.
The girl shifted into gear with great enthusiasm. She dreamed up a theme and activities. She planned out the schedule of what should be done when. She created a guest list and invited people.
She designed a menu that would go with the party theme, then made a list of supplies and food for her mother to pick up. This 10-year-old was clearly in her element, and her joy in surprising her sister with a fun party and friends was evident.
Certainly there is a cost to supporting and encouraging a child’s abilities and interests.
Expect to see an impact on the way money will be spent, amount and type of family time spent, and choice of activities outside the home and school.
It could mean recruiting extended family to pay for lessons. As a great-aunt, I’m always looking for birthday gifts that the kids will like and use. Recently I made a comment to two of my nieces about the artistic ability I see in their children. I talked about gifting summer cartooning classes to the one who lives near the Charles Schultz Museum. We know her son is artistic, but let’s see if cartooning fuels a spark in him.
Learn to see boredom as an opportunity for creativity and development for the children in your life. You never know what it might spark.
Next week: The unluckiest kids in the neighborhood
Tweetable: Summer is here and “I’m bored” should be two of the most thrilling words children say to us–here’s why. Click to Tweet
“Nothing affects the environment of a child so much as the unlived life of a parent”. –Carl Jung
I saw that quote in Laurie Beth Jones’ book, The Path. Ms Jones gave permission to use her ideas in this post.
Where or how do you see your “unlived life” played out in your relationship with your child?
Use this exercise to help you take time to gather your thoughts– maybe write them down.
1. Think back to your own childhood. What were your parents’ (and other key relatives) unlived lives? Their dreams? Some people may not know. Perhaps their parents never spoke about having dreams. For example, did your parents think that people don’t deserve dreams? Or that such things are not meant to be shared? Or that you never cared enough to ask? Or that your parents didn’t trust you enough to share their deepest thoughts with you?
- How has this affected your life?
Your own dreams
3. What are your dreams for your life? What is your unlived life? If you do not know, why do you think that is so?
Your child’s future
4. How is your unlived life affecting the expectations and dreams you have for your children?
- Now go and ask your children, “What are your dreams for yourself? What do you love to do?”
- Pay close attention to whatever information you gather about the child’s desires or talents. What action steps do you want to take in order to increase your support for the child’s unique potential?
Next week: The gift of boredom
Tweetable: How is your unlived life affecting the expectations and dreams you have for your children? Click to Tweet
We’re all raised in families, communities and even entire cultures that barrage us with messages about what they want from us. “Get married,” “Make money,” “Buy your own home.” We usually forget when and how we first received these messages about what we’re supposed to do with our lives, just as we forget when and how we learned to eat with a fork. —Barbara Sher
Think about the messages the children in your life are receiving.
Some kids are groomed from pre-Kindergarten to get into an Ivy League college. Their parents have decided that’s what success is– plus it gives them significant bragging rights to be used against other parents.
But Stanford last year accepted only 4% of its applicants. Most of those who applied met enough of the qualifications to think they had a chance at getting in, but the vast majority didn’t. What’s the result?
A setup for failure
96% of the kids who applied– primarily kids who are not used to failure– failed. What do they do then? We may have prepared them for the Ivy League, but we haven’t prepared them for failure. And failure is actually an important part of life.
Maybe this particular example doesn’t apply to you. You’ve never put such unrealistically high expectations on your daughter. You just want her to grow up, get married, have kids, and be happy.
But again– what if that’s your dream, not your daughter’s dream?
What if she would rather move to New York to be an actress than move to the suburbs to be a mom? How will you handle that?
Barbara Sher says, “Parents have their own dreams and it’s those dreams they’re pushing, not the child’s. In their heads, they have images of successful sons and daughters…children who are impressive—and secure.
“Very few parents have… the calmness of spirit to realize that the most practical thing any child can do is to find their own vision—and follow it.”
We need to disentangle our own goals– and our own identities– from those of the children in our lives. They are different people than we are and they are on a different journey than we have been on.
How okay is that with you?
Next week: Parents’ unfulfilled goals and a child’s future
Tweetable: A discussion here about the need to disentangle a child’s goals from our goals and identity for them. Click to Tweet
Whenever I pack my suitcase for a trip, I check the weather at my destination and keep in mind the activities I will do there. Then I lay out my clothes on the bed and when I’m satisfied that I didn’t forget anything, they go into the suitcase. Generally speaking, I know what I will need.
But what about packing for children?
Most of them are not nearly as organized. And those who will be later in life aren’t developmentally ready to pack their own suitcases yet.
In this series on life purpose, we’re looking specifically at their journey toward meaning and happiness.
Fortunately, we have concrete data provided to us by the children themselves. Their blueprint—their abilities, strengths, talents, purpose, divine connection, subject matter they like working with, way of relating to others, and more—is within them already. These give us important clues about what they will need packed in their suitcases on their journeys toward meaning and happiness.
In order to know what they will need, we’ve been watching them since birth with an eye toward discovering their innate gifts and passions and potential. For instance, what can you see in the examples below?
A nine-year-old girl climbs higher up into the tree than any of the other dozen or so children at the party in the park. She nimbly climbs way up into the thin branches and then shouts joyfully down to make sure the adults are paying attention and acknowledging her progress.
What do you know about this girl– just based on two sentences? What talents and skills does she possess? What kind of affirmation is she (literally in this case) asking for? What does she not naturally see on her own?
A six-year-old boy has been dragged around to big event after big event because all of his extended family is in town for a wedding. He doesn’t say much, but watches carefully. Finally, after discovering that he has yet another gathering to attend, he bursts into tears and cannot stop crying. His parents make an unscheduled stop at a library to give him time to sit in a quiet corner and read.
What do you know about this boy? What would you guess has been going on inside his head? How could you encourage him to process all of his observations? What are his parents teaching him about self-care?
Based upon your knowledge of the children, what do we pack so they have what they need to find purpose and happiness?
- Lessons and coaching
- Experiences and activities
- Tools and materials
- Individuals and groups
- Self awareness and self care
- Knowledge and wisdom
For example, the girl may need lessons in caution. She may also need to be given a wider berth of experiences and activities to play to her strengths. The boy may need “permission” to practice regular time alone to take care of himself. He may also need a creative outlet for processing all of his observations.
Knowing the uniquenesses of the children helps you pack the right items in their suitcases–the ones they will need on their journey.
Next week: Be aware of your dream to raise impressive children
Tweetable: What are we packing for our child’s journey toward meaning and happiness? Find six essentials here. Click to Tweet