Teaching Kids Self-Reliance Through Boredom and Disappointment
When kids are rather young it’s important to teach them how to deal with boredom and disappointment.
When kids are disappointed about something, many parents tend to try to distract them, to get them involved in something else. Ocassionally this is OK, but what does it teach them? They never really have to deal with their own boredom themselves.
It might be better to let them be disappointed. We all have disappointments in life, that’s a fact. Not everything goes the way we’d like it to. If they get disappointed, they may cry out of frustration, but then it’s over and they move on. It’s not a big deal.
Then, later in life when they experience bigger disappointments, such as the loss of a love relationship, they may not be affected so easily and they’ll be able to move on.
If our kids are disappointed and crying, we can show them compassion about their frustration, but as parents, we know from our own frustrations, that something else will come around for them. Disappointments are part of life. Yes, they’re unfortunate, but they’re not the end of the world. We move on from them. We might even learn from them.
Everythign happens for a reason. The people who believe this, don’t tend to be so crushed by disappointments in life.
Part of “self-reliance” is having kids learn to handle their own negative feelings and temporary set backs.
Dealing With Kids Boredom
Kids are going to get bored. We all do from time to time. But when kids get bored, many parents have a tendency to try to relieve that boredom for them. They either direct them into another activity, or they tell them to do something by themselves.
The truth is, however, people in general, and kids included, often become bored because they’re too highly stimulated. They’re used to being on the move, having a million things to do, and 5 tabs open at all times mentally.
And TV doesn’t help either with all its flashing and jumping images between one thing and the next, keeping that stimulation increasingly high. The result is that 3 seconds without change, it begins to seem like an eternity. And when it all stops, kids feel lost.
Facebook and texting keeps kids even more stimulated, and when it all stops, they don’t know what to do with themselves. They need something to fill that void. As soon as the stimulation stops, boredom sets in.
What if we simply let kids be bored? Boredom is just the mind going to fast. Slowing down for a while will do them some good. Once the mind calms down, innate intelligence kicks in and they know what they want to do. Slowing down helps to find their bearings.
Learning meditation can helps to calm and clear a mind from all the stimulations and mental chatter as well.
If we as parents run around trying to find something else to stimulate our kids, they will need more and more stimulation to be happy. There’s a lot of enjoyment that can come from the peace and quiet of just sitting quietly with themselves.
Do we want to be entertaining our kids all the time? Or do we want them to learn to entertain themselves? Yes, we do want to spend quality time with them, but we can’t be entertaining them all the time.
Part of self-reliance is kids learning to take care of their own entertainment and boredom. Most times, the most beautiful and enjoyable moments are the most peaceful ones, where we just deeply appreciate the little things going on.
Making the Judgment Calls That Lead to Disappointment
When teenagers want to go somewhere that you as a parent consider dangerous or inappropriate, it becomes a judgment call. There’s no way for you to know whether or not something bad will happen to them.
Your child usually wants to go. It seems like the end of the world if she can’t go. But we’re uncomfortable with the idea. So, how do we keep the conversation respectful and caring?
“Sweetie, I don’t know whether I’m right, but as a parent, it’s my job to make this decision. Some things are judgment calls. Do you agree that there are somethings parents need to make the decisions about? In this case, I’m not willing to take the chance to let you go.”
Your child may not like it. She may still say, “You don’t understand! I need to go!” Or, “Nothing will happen! It’s safe!”
You can reply, “I’m sorry honey. You may be right. But in this case, I’m not willing to take the chance, and here’s why……”
And you better have a darn good reason because if you don’t, she’s going. But is it a question of potential danger? If not, then you may be willing to take the chance, even if the odds are she’ll be safe.
As long as the child feels really listened to, and understood, and understands it’s a tough question for a parent and you’re doing your best as a parent to keep your child safe, and she feels a sense of understanding about that, even if she doesn’t like it, it usually ends up OK.
People can’t always reach an agreement, but they still need to feel listened to and taken seriously.
Some parents are tempted to quip back here and say, “Why should I take the time with this? I’m the parent! What I say goes!”
That may be true, but ask yourself, What do you want your kids to learn?
Do you want her to learn that when someone bigger than you tells you to do something, you do it? Then supposed a big guy comes along wanting to sexually abuse her? Or what happens when she’s in a situation where she can tell a smarter kid what to do? What do we really want our kids to learn?
Do we want our kids to learn that as a parent, these are the kinds of things we consider when we make decisions like this?
There are times when as a paernt you have to have the last word. But, if we want our relationship with our kids to prosper and for them to learn how decisions are made in life, and how to access their own common sense, then we want them to understand as much as possible where we’re coming from and how we see it.
We also want to listen to what they would do and be open enough to be affected by how they see it and have our minds changed.
The alternative is force of will and bad feelings. Is it worth being right all the time and have a bad relationship?
Some things are just common sense. Would we go walking alone at night in a neighborhood where people have been known to be shot, raped, or hurt? We don’t know that something bad is guaranteed to happen, but it’s obvious common sense.
Kids can understand the difference between judgment calls and common sense.
How Do We Know What Our Kids Need to Learn?
Kids need to learn how to deal with the world as they grow. We can’t leave that to chance. How will we as parents know exactly what they need to learn? By listening and watching carefully.
If a child is having a problem with a certain issue, such as being loud when you’re on the phone, that becomes a signal for what she/he needs to learn.
Kids need to learn many things that we as parents take for granted. If we’re too quick to get upset or punish, or use logical consequences, we’ve missed an opportunity to help them learn self-reliance. We’ll end up sending them out in the world unequipped for life.
So we step back and ask ourselves, “Why would she be acting like that?” “What doesn’t she understand?” Then we watch and listen with an open, clear mind. We’ll usually see what she needs to understand in the moment.
So if your child is making noise while you’re on the phone, ask yourself, “Why is it important for her not to make noise when I’m on the phone?” Is this a big enough issue for me to make an issue out of it?
We can’t make everything into a huge issue because then the impact of those really huge ones diminish. So we have to pick our lessons and battles.
There are many reason why you don’t want her making noise while you’re on the phone. The most obvious is that when she’s making noise, you can’t hear. It’s important for you to hear another person who’s talking to you. Noise is distracting. You can’t think well. You’re not at your best. It’s very important to be able to give someone your undivided attention. It’s respectful not to. What if the message was important or an emergency?
Those are your reasons.
Now you ask yourself, “What doesn’t she understand?” Then, step back, watch and listen.
Maybe she doesn’t even realize she’s making noise. Or maybe she understands that she’s making noise but isn’t thinking about anyone else but herself. Maybe she doesn’t understand that when she’s making noise, others can’t hear. Maybe she doesn’t understand respect.
Whatever you discover the reason is, that’s what you teach about.
If she gets caught up in playing and doesn’t realize she’s making noise or bothering others, you can say, “Sweetie, I know you’re not doing it on purpose, but here’s what it sounds like to me when you do that.” Then you have to demonstrate- how noise makes it hard for you to hear, so she gets it.
Maybe you’ll have her talk on the phone and you’ll make lots of noise like she was making. Or maybe you’ll have her try to concentrate on something and then make all kinds of noise around her.
In doing this, she needs to know you’re not trying to be mean, or that two wrongs make a right. You’re just trying to demonstrate what it’s like for her to experience the other end.
With love in your heart you can ask her if she thinks it’s important to be able to hear other people when they’re talking to her. Then you can have a talk about why you think being able to hear someone is important to you.
Once we hone in on the issue we have to stick with it, one way or another, until we come to a meeting of the minds. This happens through open dialogue.
Most kids under the age of 7 aren’t able to reason well. At that age we have to take quick action. We can still talk to them about why we’re doing what we do, which sets up the pattern as early as possible. But don’t expect children at this age to grasp what you’re saying. They pick up on the tone and get used to the approach.
Ultimately what we’re teaching kids here is what we’re modelling: how to step back from a situation to clear the head, gain perspective, see the big picture and have the best chance at knowing what to do.
When kids minds are in a calm, quiet state, they generally find their common sense. The more secure they are, the more access they have to their innate wisdom.
Kids can get out of control and not see how it affects others. They need guidance and support from their parents to teach them how to keep their bearings, how to function when things get out of control, how “out of control” happens. When they lose control it means they’re in pain, something is wrong, and they’re suffering.
We’re helping them to regain their bearings. Kids don’t want to be out of control. It doesn’t feel good. But they can’t help it. They’re doing the only thing they know how to do in that moment. If we take a step back, we can see what specifically needs to be taught in the moment, and patiently stick with it.