Every parent hates hearing the dreaded “I’m bored” from their child. A natural instinct might be to fill their schedule, but boredom has many benefits. Emma Seppala, author of The Happiness Track, wrote about bad advice parents give their kids, such as “Stay busy.” She recommends encouraging your child to have fun doing nothing instead.
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In Western countries, people value busyness and excitement, but low-intensity emotions such as calm are just as important. Both East Asia and the West value positive emotions, but people in East Asia place more value on low-intensity emotions that they feel from more mundane activities such as taking a walk. Research has found that older Hong Kong Chinese adults are overall more satisfied with their lives than older European-American adults, and this mindset could be contributing to that.
Excitement can burn kids out, and free time is important for helping build kids’ creativity. Research shows that when we’re calm and not intensely focused, we’re more likely to come up with brilliant ideas.
Plus, balancing all those activities can lead to more stress. Children have been becoming increasingly anxious since the 1950s. By giving them more free time, it helps them better manage stress and relax. Music lessons and sports can be enriching, but it’s also important to give kids time to do nothing. Let them take a moment to stare at clouds and daydream.