Jentrie Hales, community advocate, @techhealthyfamily
It was the witching hour here again in our household when my then 3-year-old asked the daily question: “Can I watch a movie?” I usually don’t have a problem with a movie a day, so this wasn’t a big deal to me. However, I felt that inkling to pause, and I responded instead this time with, “Nope, see what else you can do.” Immediately, there were tears and a level 7 tantrum on the kitchen floor. It was uncomfortable and loud and inconvenient, and I knew that if I caved in at any point, he would immediately cheer right up. Sound familiar? His conniption lasted a solid 45 seconds, and then, slowly, he came to terms with his reality. Within minutes, he created a game with a paper airplane and a basketball hoop. This experience was truly amazing to see this little boy harness the power of boredom while also enabling me the confidence to say “no” more often.
Boredom is something we ALL fight throughout the day. We fill every inch of our kid’s schedule with things and places to be; we don’t stop at a red light, wait in grocery store lines, or have five minutes of downtime without finding something to fill the quiet. (Cough cough, scrolling Instagram.) It’s not so much the boredom I love; it’s the ideas, solutions, and connections we get in that stillness. Stephanie A. Lee, PsyD, from the Child Mind Institute, states, “Boredom fosters creativity, self-esteem, and original thinking.” Research backs this up (like in this article from the Creativity Research Journal: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10 400419.2014.901073).
But you do not need academic research to know this for yourself. When driving in the car with no radio and no distractions, it is amazing what inspiring thoughts float around. Same for your children: When put in an environment with less, they seem to create more. Screens get in the way of this. It is so much harder to think creatively and get that reset when our senses are flooded with images and sounds. When this happens 5 to 9 hours a day, the average screen time for kids in the United States, real changes are made in our brains that overstimulate our neural pathways. This causes loads of dysregulation, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology. (https:// www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Children-And- Watching-TV-054.aspx)
So, parents, pause your podcast and consider joining me in a screentime fast this summer. This will look different for each family and individual and doesn’t have to be as intense as it sounds.
Here are some steps to put this plan into action:
1. Put it on the calendar for at least a week at a time.
2. Talk about your “why” openly and often.
3. Get a buddy to hold you accountable, preferably a friend your family interacts with often, and go through this experience together.
4. Set the parameters based on the specific needs of your family, don’t forget to include yourself in some degree in the fast.
5. Brace yourself for the negotiating, meltdowns, and pushback.
6. Follow through, stick with it, and watch the magic unfold.
Doing this will provide you valuable insight into who your wonderful family is again.
You will get to see what they are like, what interests them, what they are good at, and so much more, and then you all have the opportunity to build on those strengths. Parents included!
Here’s to joining the “Mean Parent Club” and making good decisions for our family even when it is uncomfy, unpopular, and inconvenient. Here’s to saying “no” more often and then watching the magic that unfolds. Here’s to watching boredom blossom into something beautiful. Happy Parenting!
DISCLAIMER: Some levels of screen addiction should be detoxed safely with professional support.
Jentrie Hales is a community advocate with five years experience empowering parents and children in different settings. She has been invited into classrooms, youth groups, and parent groups throughout Cache Valley to speak about healthy relationships with tech. She also professionally mentors families that feel overwhelmed with managing the tech in their homes. Follow her on Instagram @techhealthyfam or email her at email@example.com.