What can you do if you want to help your kids be more creative, so they have a solid foundation on which to build a fulfilling life?
One widely accepted psychological definition of boredom is “the aversive experience of wanting, but being unable, to engage in satisfying activity.” It’s often created by a lack of control or freedom. That’s why it’s particularly common in children and teenagers, because they often get dictated to and often lack the ability, experience, and discipline to cope with boredom.
Learning to cope with boredom means learning to create new ways to entertain the mind with what you have.
It also means developing a sense of inner strength, by not being able to rely on distractions. As philosopher Bertrand Russell, who spent time in prison, so eloquently said:
“The pleasures of childhood should in the main be such as the child extracts from his environment by means of some effort and inventiveness. Pleasures which are exciting and at the same time involve no physical exertion, such, for example, as the theatre, should occur very rarely. The excitement is in the nature of a drug, of which more and more will come to be required, and the physical passivity during the excitement is contrary to instinct. A child develops best when, like a young plant, he is left undisturbed in the same soil. Too much travel, too much variety of impressions, are not good for the young, and cause them as they grow up to become incapable of enduring fruitful monotony.
I do not mean that monotony has any merits of its own; I mean only that certain good things are not possible except where there is a certain degree of monotony… A generation that cannot endure boredom will be a generation of little men, of men unduly divorced from the slow processes of nature, of men in whom every vital impulse slowly withers, as though they were cut flowers in a vase.
It’s not a surprise that many Eastern traditions embrace and encourage boredom, seeing it as the pathway to a higher consciousness.”
Scientific research backs up the idea that it’s good to be bored.
In 2013, Dr. Sandi Mann, a psychologist at the University of Central Lancashire studied boredom. Participants were asked to think up inventive ways to use two styrofoam cups. Mann discovered that people who’d just spent time copying numbers from a phone book came up with more original ideas than their non-bored counterparts.
Mann believes that the subconscious mind might explain these imaginative leaps. When the study’s subjects were copying phone book pages, their conscious minds began searching their subconscious for stimulation. The subconscious is where creativity happens.
So if we want our kids to be more creative, and with the rise of automation we really should, then we need to let them be bored.
Unfortunately that runs counter to the competitive parent mentality, where conditioning has created a belief that good grades are the gateway to successful lives. A mentality that says time without activity is time wasted.
Our kids are growing up in wildly different to the one our childhood selves inhabited. Post 9–11, the 2008 recession, the affordable home era. They’re hyper connected and globally aware. We’d do well to remember how different that world now is. The school system hasn’t changed much in decades. It’s built on principles to produce adults for an industrial era. Just because something seemed like the best thing to do 30, 40 years ago, doesn’t mean it’s the best thing to do today.