Mar 242020
 

There are lots of two-word combos that pack an almost disproportionate amount of power. As a lover of language, I am intrigued by a number of possibilities.

  • Think big.
  • Stand up.
  • Time flies.
  • Heart health.
  • Forever love.
  • Take action.
  • Make memories.
  • Think different.
  • See success.
  • Finally bedtime.

These are all good examples of strong two-word phrases yet not one can come close to packing as much power as this one. Ready?

“I’m bored.”

(Of course to get the full impact try hearing them pronounced like this:  ‘I’m bo-ooo-r-ud.’ It is a sound that is particularly chilling for parents.)

It is a sound that is particularly chilling for parents. Click To Tweet

It may be unwise of me to raise questions about what it means to be bored: it’s not something I’ve often experienced. One of the reasons? I’m chronically curious. When I decided to revisit old blog posts about kids, parents and boredom, I tripped and fell into a rabbit hole. It’s name? “Reading about boredom.” And guess what? It was interesting. I wasn’t the least little bit bored.

To Study Boredom

Apparently the topic of boredom also appeals to social science researchers. As with many research topics, the initial struggle was with definitions. The articles I read described boredom as an emotional or psychological state that can arise when a person doesn’t have an especially engaging task or activity before them, is stuck in a “tedious time period,” or lacks interest in their surroundings.

I also learned the term “boredom proneness” and that there is a Boredom Proneness Scale. So, while many of us tend to minimize boredom as trivial, researchers have correlated it with depression and other significant life issues.

Additionally, researchers tell us there are three types of boredom:

  • circumstances are preventing us from doing something we want to do
  • we are obligated to do something we don’t want to do
  • there are factors that prevent us from being fully engaged in the task at hand

Ennui Among the Animals or Boredom at the Zoo

As I continued to think about the topic, I realized that animals get bored, too. Our dogs, ranging in age from a baby to a senior citizen, love to go to training. They love the five hour round trip. Nobody (except the human) gets to stay in for the entire class, but each dog gets enough mental stimulation to make for a very quiet, sleepy ride home.

Not to be outdone by engaged pet owners everywhere, the National Zoo now gives donors the opportunity to provide keepers with discretionary funds for added enrichment items ranging from food to toys and special scents for their charges.

I believe a high level of inborn curiosity vaccinated me against becoming boredom prone. To me, when that “meh” vibe starts to creep in, it’s a signal that my creativity needs slightly different time and space. It encourages me to check in with myself and my HALT: hungry, angry, lonely,tired.  It’s a nudge to try stuff.

Boredom is a nudge to try stuff. Click To Tweet

 

I guess that reaction is part of what makes me wonder why so many parents believe that boredom is bad for kids and  it’s their job to ‘fix’ it.  If  we respond like cruise ship activities directors on steroids what are we doing for the kids?  What do they take away from our behavior? What example are we setting?

Am I exaggerating? Just think about the number of times that, upon hearing this particular set of ‘magic words,’ you’ve seen parents leap into action. Like exhausted super heroes, they quickly shuffle through their repertoire of activities, snacks, electronic devices, and other entertainment to find the one special remedy that will most quickly put an end to the dreaded condition called boredom.

Unintended Messages

We all know that actions can undermine and contradict both words and good intentions. Attempts to alleviate another’s discomfort can be interpreted as thoughtful and kind and Boredom-Rescue behavior is no exception. All behavior can send powerful (and sometimes unintended) messages; intervening in our kids’ boredom could be interpreted as:

  • You deserve to be passively entertained
  • Your uncomfortable feelings are very important
  • Uncomfortable feelings should be avoided at all costs
  • Someone or something outside of you is responsible for fixing your feelings

And even if  those aren’t their take-away messages, how much thought have you given to what happens to your kids when you’re not around to entertain them? If we build our schedules and priorities around filling, enriching, and stimulating their every waking moment, how will the young ‘uns manage being in a group or in a classroom setting? Or alone?

Oddly enough, I started working on this post before Covid-19  hit our shores. As people gradually start to understand how such diseases spread, they are taking responsibility for their portion of herd immunity by self-quarantining. And, in the course of staying home, some of them are feeling bored. That might not be a bad thing.

Quiet Minds, Open Minds

I’m a huge fan of new ideas and experiences.  Novelty is great for brain health which, in turn, benefits us physically and emotionally. We live in an amazing time with no shortage of things to learn and do and think about and try.  And, given the opportunity, we will discover our passions and interests. Maybe there will be powerful new interests. But in the course of pursuing those opportunities, we will need to manage more than a few uncomfortable feelings along the way. So will our kids. But to seize those opportunities we will need to make sure our hearts and minds are quiet and open enough to recognize and seize those opportunities.

May 152019
 

Most people I know — especially other writers — subscribe to the “this may be good but I can do better” school of work. As a result, given the right combination of HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, tired) our minds can quickly flip over to “this will never be good enough.” That inner critic can grab hold and shake our confidence like a dog with a new toy. This is part of the reason that the online #WritersCommunity flourishes: there’s always someone there to be goofy or to share compliments with a floundering counterpart.

We thrive when others point out our good qualities and the things we are doing well. Compliments are some of the best gifts we can receive — especially until we learn how to provide this wonderful experience for ourselves.

That #InnerCritic can grab hold and shake our confidence like a dog with a new toy. Click To Tweet

I spent many years teaching women how to appreciate their own talents and strengths. While there are many ways to do this, one of the exercises I routinely used was called Building Emotional Muscle. Here’s an abbreviated version.

Below are 45 words for positive traits:

  • active, determined, kind, adventurous, energetic
  • lively, artistic, enthusiastic, loving, aware
  • expressive, observant, beautiful, forgiving, open
  • bold, friendly, patient, brave, generous
  • powerful, bright, gentle, ready-to-learn, capable
  • handsome, respectful, caring, happy, responsible
  • changing, hard-working, sensitive, confident, honest
  • strong, cooperative, imaginative, thoughtful, creative
  • inventive, unique, dependable, joyful, wise

Choose your favorite 5 and list an example of how it manifests in your life.

You can also use this list with some of your online (or in-person) “crew.” Tweet, text, or email an example of how each of them exemplifies one of these traits. Choose a day during the week or month to share this sort of support within that group. Eventually, each of you will have a great collection. In fact, while you’re at it, why not have each group member add 10 or 15 words to the list?

One of the problems with using this sort of technique to counteract your inner critic is that many of us have a hard time accepting compliments.

Sometimes this works best if you don't compliment the person directly -- let her overhear you. Click To Tweet

In that case, here are two more recommendations. First, don’t compliment the person directly — let her “overhear” you. Address your compliment for Ann to Barbara, like this: “Have you noticed the way Barbara’s writing has improved? Her creativity is really shining through!” Depending on the relationships between people involved, Barbara should either not respond or can say/post a simple “thank you.”

Finally, writing can be a lonely business. Comments on blog posts let writers know that someone is reading – and that alone is a great form of feedback. If you’re not sure what to say, refer back to this list. It makes a wonderful starting point for sharing compliments — online or in real life!

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Andrea Patten is the author of The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head.

May 272015
 

Have you made your summer plans yet?  Whether you are fortunate enough to be planning a family trip or trying to put together a decent child care plan, the school year is coming to an end and ‘what to do about summer’ has probably been part of your recent thinking.

Go paperlessWhile babysitting, dog walking and gardening are still options for a lot of kids, technology has certainly opened up some additional possibilities.

Seriously… so many of us joke about how much more intuitively middle and high school students are able to organize our laptops or set up a quick website.   Why not let them?

[Tweet “We joke about how much more easily kids  organize our digital media…”]

Let them help you make a list of some of those aggravating “to dos” that are cluttering up your office or your hard drive….  whether it’s labeling and uploading digital photos you’d like to share, scanning documents,  re-tagging blog posts for better SEO or setting up a FaceBook page for your business, the best person for the job may be closer than you think.

[Tweet “This might make a good virtual summer job for someone you know.”]

What other digital chores would you like to get some help with?  Recording podcasts? Adding media to your website’s library? Playlists and albums? Cloud back-up? Setting up meet-ups or a virtual book club?

What do your kids have to offer?  You may even want to help them share those skills with family and friends.  What do you think? What online chores would you like to offload?

Jul 302014
 
English: Shopping carts in ABC Tikkula.

English: Shopping carts in ABC Tikkula. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

[Tweet “There can be long-term benefits to changing a child’s short-term economic expectations.”]

When it is difficult to make ends meet there is a particular parental struggle that doesn’t need to exist:  it is not necessary to feel guilty about setting limits on previously over-indulged children.  In fact, even if you haven’t established a precedent of over-indulgence, there’s no need to feel guilty about setting economic limits.  Like any tough situation, this one holds potential for some valuable learning:  there can be long-term benefits to changing a child’s short-term economic expectations.

[Tweet “Of course it can be difficult to say “no” to someone we love.”]

Of course it can be difficult to say “no” to someone we love – and all parents want to be able to give their kids the best of everything.  But how do we define “the best”?  Can it be in the skills that we introduce and allow them to practice?  How about the benefits of budgeting?

Here are a few:

  • Setting priorities:  What is it they want the most?
  • Money management:  What is the relationship between saving and spending?
  • Planning: What will it take to get it?  What resources to they already have?  Which ones will they need to develop or find?
  • Self-determination: Are they willing to work for it?
  • Research:  Is there a way to get a better price on “the thing”?  Is it ever on sale?  Can it be found second hand?
  • Problem-solving: If they’ve not saved enough money how will they earn more?  Odd jobs?  Yard sale?

Giving your children a chance to learn the benefits of budgeting is a gift that will last far longer than… well… just about anything on their list!