‘Dad, I’m bored.’ (Here’s 3 things to tell your kids.)

Adam and Even didn’t have children prior to sin entering the world, but I sometimes wonder what it would have been like.

Would Cain and Abel have played well together, all day long, without fussing? Would they have eaten their food – even the Brussels sprouts and spinach — without complaining?

Then there’s this one: Would they ever have told their mom and dad: “We’re bored”? And would it have bugged Adam and Even as much as it bothers me when my kids say that?

I look at my kids’ toys – the ones in the corner, the other ones by the bed, and then the toys in the basement – and I think to myself, “How can you be bored?!”

But then I realize that boredom isn’t limited to my kids or even your kids. Adults, too, get bored, even if we don’t realize it. The average American watches more than five hours of TV a day [1] and checks their social media accounts 17 times a day [2]. Meanwhile, the majority of Americans read their Bible only four times a year [3]. In other words, we’re bored with God. And we want to be entertained.

It’s been suggested that boredom is a modern invention, and I tend to agree. Think about it: Our ancestors grew and preserved their own food, sewed and washed their own clothes, and built and repaired their own houses. They had very little time to be bored, and they didn’t have modern technology to “fill” the void.

I don’t know how often boredom is a sin, but I’m quite certain it’s not God’s original intent. After all, do you really think we’ll be bored in heaven?

So on those rare occasions that my kids say they’re bored, I try to make a few points:

1. It’s good to be bored. Well, at least sometimes. That’s because boredom can give birth to curiosity and creativity. Some of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ inventions were sparked when he didn’t have anything to do. He even quipped, “I’m a big believer in boredom.” Recently, my 8-year-old son was growing restless as I worked in the garden, and he was looking for something to occupy his time. Minutes later he and two of his siblings had organized a spontaneous scavenger hunt and were having a blast. And it didn’t require a TV.

2. It’s bad to be bored. Well, sometimes. One of the world’s greatest problems is what sociologists call the “unattached male” – men with no job, no wife, and lots of time to cause mischief. This idea translates to bored kids, too. Sure, my children might make their dad proud with an impromptu, creative game, but they also might get in trouble by, say, wondering what happens if you force a washcloth down the bathtub (yes, that happened) or put makeup on the couch (yep, that happened, too). Even if urge my kids to “go find something to do,” I’m watching them like an eagle.

3. It’s wrong to be bored. Boredom can be a spiritual issue – for all of us. What else do we call it when we as Christians continually choose TV over the Bible, Facebook over prayer, and a lazy Sunday morning over church? The Lord tells us to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10), yet we flee silence and tranquility like the plague, preferring to be stimulated by a mind-numbing screen. Yes, there’s a “time for everything,” but not if we’ve forgotten the main thing.

What, then, do we tell our kids? This: God created those moments that we call boredom for a purpose – for Him. Maybe it was meant for a quiet moment with the Lord. Or perhaps it was meant to appreciate this amazing world He made – the trees, the grass and everything else outside our door. Or it could be to use our God-given imagination to create something – a game, a picture, a song. Or maybe it even was meant to serve others – a classmate, a church member or the neighbor next door.

So the next time one of my kids tells me that they’re “bored,” I can tell them “I understand.” We’re fighting this battle together.

Michael Foust is the father of four small children and blogs about parenting at MichaelFoust.com

[1] Nielsen

[2] Informate Mobile Intelligence

[3] Barna

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