Making the most of a new life



It seems to be one of those issues that nearly all parents that I know struggle with. How much TV do we let our children watch and, for parents of older children, how much time are children allowed to spend playing video games etc…? TV watching is certainly something that is a consistent live issue in our house, and is likely to be for many years to come; and it is not something that is new. I remember that many of my school friends were not allowed to watch commercial TV at a time when children’s programming was on for only a couple of hours a day, something that seems very tame against today’s media choices for children.

Over the years there have been many reports and (oh the irony) TV programmes about how much children should or should not stare at a screen, whether it be a TV or computer (and the differentiation is becoming less all the time); and the internet has brought what seems to be yet another layer of worry to the already fraught lives of parents.

The alternative to this often seems to be that we must entertain our children if we are not going to allow them their electronic fix, which is where I found a story on the BBC website to be of great interest. It reported on work by Dr Teresa Belton of University of East Anglia’s School of Education and Lifelong Learning, who argues that boredom is not the negative issue that it is often made out to be because out of boredom can come our most creative moments.

I can see much sense in this argument since I have certainly found inspiration during times of inactivity, most notably when I spent six months in bed after a back operation in 1986; and in the months between my redundancy and the beginning of my coaching course last year. In both cases a complete change of direction in my life occurred and I regard them as very creative times in my life.

Now I am not suggesting that we submit our children to anything like that level of inactivity, but that we should sometimes resist the temptation to see the alternatives as being either ‘watching’ or doing something with Mummy or Daddy. Yes it may be boring: but boring can lead somewhere.

As I am thinking about this I realise that we saw something of that last Sunday afternoon. We had just come back from being outside in the freezing weather, we were all very cold, and I for one was certainly not wanting to entertain any further trips outdoors. All I wanted at that moment was to defrost with a hot drink. The boys were hankering after some TV and did not seem to be in the mood for anything else, when up popped the suggestion to get the Play-Doh (other malleable putties are available) out. An hour later the boys were still playing, occasionally involving us in their game and serving us Play-Doh food (Jake, apparently, was the Sous Chef). They played nicely together and were very creative.

Only time will tell whether reading about Belton’s research will change the way I parent, and there will always be times when it is easier to switch on the TV than any of the apparent alternatives. Nevertheless, thinking about it will make me less afraid of the ‘b’ word, and I will try to get the boys to embrace their boredom in the future who knows what they may create as a result.

6 thoughts on “Boredom

  1. I think boredom certainly breeds creativity, and maybe the trick is to not have things like TV on tap all the time. One of the things I’ll be trying to avoid as a father will be letting kids watch whatever’s on TV even if they have no particular interest in it, just because it’s easy and a good distraction. I like to watch TV for specific things rather than channel surf, but even as adults the lure of just flicking on the TV rather than doing something more active is a powerful one. I hope to have the energy not to overuse TV but I’m sure that, like every parent, I’ll stick my kid in front of it to keep him quiet for a bit! I read another interesting article today after a friend linked it on Facebook. Worth a read…

    • When we had just Jake were pretty strict about no tv before 5pm. We are
      much more lax now that we have Sam too. But we never have it on as background. We find that we sometimes just have to give into tv to get the essentials of daily life done.

  2. But where does this leave me and my mantra of ‘only boring people get bored!’

  3. I think TV’s fine as *a* solution as long as it doesn’t become the default solution – in the same way that many of us are conscious about not allowing ready meals/takeaways to become the default dinner option when we’re bored/tired/busy.

    I have to admit we’ve often been guilty of putting the TV on too quickly, but like you a little boredom and a firm no on the TV front has often encouraged our boys to get the Play Doh, Lego, cars, some other forgotten toy out – they’ve got enough of the blasted things! – and rediscover the joy of creative play. I’ve certainly found this an increasingly ptoductive solution now that our boys are 5 and 3 and much better able to play together and spark off each other’s ideas!

  4. We definitely give in to TV too quickly on too many occasions. But when we do not I am always surprised at the boys capacity to do other things once the grief of not being able to watch has fallen away. They are starting to play better together too which helps (but this is by no means a constant or consistent thing yet).

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