Boredom Is a Choice

When I tell junior high students, “Boredom is a choice,” they are puzzled:  “But what if there’s nothing to do?”  I remind them there’s always something to do, whether it’s creative, active, or productive.

“But what if you’re stuck waiting, or listening to a boring speaker?”  Then I have my amazing brain to keep me company.  It’s full of memories of things I’ve done and places I’ve been, and I can open those memories like a scrapbook and page through them.  I’ve also seen hundreds of movies and read hundreds of books, and I can recall their plots to amuse myself.  I can indulge in some intellectual stimulation by playing word games (“how many words can I make from ‘pickle’?”) or math games (“how long can I double numbers and still add them in my head?”).

One of the reasons kids get bored is because they expect entertainment to come from outside sources.  When they complain to their parents about being bored, their hidden message is, “Amuse me.”  Sometimes they’re being downright manipulative, because there’s one thing they really want to do, and they’re letting their parents know they’ll be miserable until they get their way.

During summer breaks when my kids were younger, I would find myself frustrated by the complaint, “I’m bored!”  I realized it was frustration born of self-induced pressure to provide constant entertainment.  When I decided I didn’t need to be the cruise director, life got easier.  I reminded them that we had plenty of books, games, outdoor toys, and art supplies from which they could choose an activity.  I also suggested they could cook something, clean something, or build something.  Then off I went to do my own thing, unless they invited me to join them in whatever they chose.

As a parent, you should do your part to provide some fun outings and family time, but don’t feel pressured to be your kids’ only source of – or resource for – entertainment.  They can choose to be bored – or not!

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My Superhero Powers

Did you know I have superhero powers?  That’s right!  Using just one finger, I can lift a student out of his seat and transport him clear across the room!

I love demonstrating this at lunch.  I’ll say to the kids I’m eating with, “Pick somebody for me to use my powers on.”  When the victim is selected, I’ll stare in his direction until I’ve made eye contact, and then – with a serious look on my face – I’ll point at him.  He’ll raise his eyebrows and point to himself, mouthing, “Me?”  At which point I’ll rotate my hand and beckon with the same finger, often adding an ominous nod for effect.

It never fails:  he will immediately untangle himself from the lunch table and head my way.  When he’s close enough, he’ll ask, “Am I in trouble?”  Seizing the moment, I’ll reply with, “Why?  Do you want to confess?”  Only then will I smile, as the poor victim lets out a whoosh of air and says, “Dude, you scared me!”

Most of my students will tell you that my pointing and “looking” at them is scarier than if I were to yell.  I’m pretty sure none of them would ever consider ignoring me.  What fascinates me is why they find it so scary.  I don’t lose my temper or yell at students, and I’m known for being fair and reasonable, yet even when their consciences are clear, they’re filled with foreboding when I point and beckon.

If I were to analyze it, I’d probably discover their reaction is rooted in respect and relationship and a desire to please rather than to disappoint.  And once in awhile I do have to use my powers to reprimand someone.

But most of the time I do it for fun, and the victim enjoys a laugh along with everybody else!