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Written by Cindy Hovington, Ph.D. Founder of Curious Neuron, Host of Curious Neuron Podcast

Did you know that boredom can help your child build important skills?

When a child feels bored, they need to motivate themselves to push through the moment, they need to be creative to think about how to fill this boredom (which is why it is great to refrain from offering screen time when you can).

Boredom, as an adult, is what can lead to us feeling disengaged from work, or not keeping up with a habit like an exercise schedule. We naturally seek out novelty since this is exciting and feel rewarding. However, when we build our tolerance to boredom, we find ways to internally motivate ourselves.

Here are 3 skills your child learns when they experience boredom:

Skill #1: Intrinsic motivation

As adults, we can give up more easily when something gets repetitive or boring. We naturally want excitement and novelty, but as we know, this isn’t always the case (i.e. work, exercise, etc.). In these moments of boredom, we need to feel intrinsically motivated to go on. Bouts or boredom as kids may help!

Skill #2: Delayed gratification and habits

Sticking to habits can be challenging especially when it becomes repetitive. We need to be able to push through these boring moments and see the end goal of our habit (delayed gratification). This is especially important in school (studying for an exam that leads to a degree).

Skill #3: Mindfulness and academic success

A study showed that students with high boredom tolerance put in more effort when a math task was difficult than students who avoided boredom. These students also had higher levels of mindfulness (being fully present in the moment). (Spann et al. Learning and Individual Differences 2020)

A note about neurodivergent children:

As you know, I have been keeping this in mind now when offering advice. I found a study that suggested these children might struggle a lot more with boredom and actually seek out more risk or sensory-seeking behaviors. If your child does this and it makes it more challenging for you, you can work on internal motivation during different activities like at the park. Have you heard the @curiousneuronpodcast episode with @on.the.hard.days where we discuss parenting advice for parents with neurodivergent children? (Golubchik et al. 2020)

How can you support your child’s boredom?

Boredom is an emotion that consists of low arousal and dissatisfaction. It is a skill that can be practiced. You can break this skill down into moments of low arousal (storytelling without screens or stimulation) or moments of dissatisfaction (saying no to their 100th snack of the day).

Is boredom difficult for your child or for yourself? Comment below to help others feel seen and less alone in their parenting journey.

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