Want to become a great parent? Allow your children to do nothing

“Children also need time for yourself – disconnect from the bombardment of the outside world, to dream, to engage your thoughts and open yourself to what they are interested”. Visiting fellow, University of East Anglia Teresa Belton explains why both children and adults need from time to time in the clouds.

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Teresa Belton

Books, creative activities and sports clubs as well as iPad and TV – parents use every opportunity to engage and develop their children. What happens if you let the kids from time to time just to mess around? How will this affect their development?

I started thinking about this when in the 1990-ies examined the impact of television on children’s ability to tell stories. In many stories written by children from 10 to 12 years in five different schools of Norfolk, I was struck by the lack of imagination, and I thought that this effect – the influence of television.

Earlier studies found that TV reduces children’s creative ability. For example, in a large-scale study conducted in Canada in the 1980-ies, compared the children of three communities, one TV had four channels, and in the other one, and the third none.

The researchers studied these communities twice: first, when they just appeared the TV, and the second two years later. Children from the community without television scored significantly higher score on the skills of divergent thinking and the development of imagination. When these children began to watch television, these skills have fallen to the same level as other children.

But imagination is the most important property, it not only enriches personal experience, but necessary for the ability to empathize – to imagine themselves in someone else’s skin, and is also indispensable for the transformation of reality. And that’s to kill time and to protect yourself from boredom, children (and adults) often start to watch TV or – in our day – grab the phone and other devices.

Gradually I began to notice that some people of creative professions from time to time telling how important was boredom for the development of their work – in childhood and now. I interviewed some of them.

One of them was a writer and actress of the World SIAL. She told of how conducted the school holidays, sitting by the window and admiring the rural landscape, or in different “not characteristic”, for example, learned to bake cakes with the neighbor lady. Also, it was the boredom forced her to keep a diary, and that is how, she believes, began her writing career. “It’s very liberating when you’re motivated to be creative only smooth over time and desire something to fill it”, she said.

In turn, the famous neuroscientist Susan Greenfield told me that as a child she didn’t have any classes, and she spent a lot of time drawing and writing stories. Subsequently, these classes will grow in its work on the scientific study of human behavior. And she still prefers paper and pen to the notebook on the plane, always happy this time waiting for the forced pause.

Sports, music and other organised activity can certainly bring benefits to physical, cognitive, cultural and social development of the child.

But children also need time for yourself – disconnect from the bombardment of the outside world, to dream, to engage your thoughts and open yourself to what they are interested in.

Do not have to have any special creative talent or mind to benefit from boredom. For mental health it is important to let the mind from time to time in the clouds. Also, according to the study, if we do some ordinary, burdensome activity, our mind is twisted in this moment in the clouds, is likely to generate creative ideas and find solutions to problems. So you need to teach children how to enjoy idleness, but not to educate them in the belief that they must constantly be on our toes or something.

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What to do if the baby is bored

Parents often feel guilty when the kids complain that they’re bored. But it’s actually more constructive to consider boredom as an advantage, not a disadvantage. Parents have a role, but no need to rush to give ready-made solutions. And children in turn need adults nearby to help them create a space, time and place for pranks (within reason, of course, and the consequences of these games children will then clean up yourself).

They will also need some materials, but they don’t have to be elaborate – the simple things are often more versatile. We have all heard the story about the kid who chose an expensive toy box. For older children it can be a magnifier, wooden boards, a basket of wool, and so on – things that will give them many happy hours of employment.

But to derive maximum benefit from a potential time of boredom, and of life in General, children need not only material but also internal resources. Qualities such as curiosity, persistence, playfulness, commitment and courage, allow them to explore, create and develop the power of ingenuity, observation and concentration. They also help them to learn not to stay if something doesn’t work the first time, and try again. Encouraging the development of these qualities, parents are doing the children good service for life.

If the child has run out of ideas, ask him to solve some problem, this may encourage him to continue to creatively occupy themselves. For example, ask to find out what kind of food is his toy dinosaur he prefers to eat in the garden, or offer to create a movie with friends using the camera on your phone.

Almost all parents want to raise their children independent people, able to show initiative and think for themselves.

But when you child decide what to do with his time, you will learn nothing but dependence on external incentives, whether material goods or entertainment.

Trusting the natural tendency of children to take themselves, you are much more likely to raise an independent, sensible children, which is always a lot of creative ideas.

Actually it concerns us all. The ability to “off”, to do nothing and to leave thoughts in the far distance is useful also for adults. Let’s do it often.

Translation Of Maria Stroganova


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