Categories
parenting

The Upside of Boredom


“I’m bored.” 

Paul, age 8, says this roughly every 30 seconds. It’s not that he’s spoiled or overly entertained or more addicted to the internet than his parents. It’s that he’s 8 and 8 year olds bug their parents by saying they are bored even when they aren’t. (Paul said he was bored during the previews for The Avengers. I thought about the $40 I just spent to take him and rolled my eyes.)

I’ve turned the I’m bored syndrome into a bit of a game between us. When Paul says, “I’m bored” I look at him and say “Good. And do you know why it’s good?

Here’s what I’m teaching Paul. It’s the upside of boredom. 

Boredom leads you to creativity. And creativity leads to figuring out things that no one else can figure out. And when you figure out stuff that no one else can figure out that will lead you to world domination. Therefore your boredom will lead you to the world domination you desire. Therefore boredom is a very good thing, right?

It’s a not-so-subtle thing I’m trying to plant in my son’s head. I’m combatting my nature to roll my eyes or scold him by teaching values:

  • Creativity happens when we create space for it.
  • There’s a difference between staying occupied and doing something amazing.
  • I actually think he can create something which might dominate the world.

What are other upsides to boredom?

Photo credit: I Can Has Cheezeburger.com
Categories
parenting

Let them roar(ish)

We need to allow our kids to learn to roar.

At eight and ten years old our oldest are flourishing in the elementary years. Half of their existence is in the pretend world of video games, fantasy books, and made-up games in the backyard. The other half is the real world where they help with the baby, dominate academically at school, and run the shipping department for The Youth Cartel store.

The hard thing for Kristen and I is that they are growing up a little bit faster than we feel prepared to adapt our parenting. A year ago we woke up to the reality that we’d never left them home alone for even 5 minutes… or allowed them out of our sight on their own. So we started taking short trips to the grocery store without them or allowing them to go on walks in our neighborhood alone.

“It happens so fast.” People have told us this since the moment we found out we were pregnant with Megan. We’ve taken lots of pictures, we’ve enjoyed every step and stage. And yet it feels like it is still going so fast that we just want to hold on to each stage!

At the same time, it’s that little tendency… the desire to hold on… that we know is the difference between our kids roaring and our kids delaying maturation.

O! That we would be parents who don’t take video while our kids learn to roar, but stand behind them and encourage: Louder, you can do it!

Categories
parenting

We need non-digital adventure

Photo by Christine K via Flickr (Creative Commons)

A couple weekends ago I told Megan and Paul to get in the car, we were going on a secret adventure.

Anticipation in the car was high. Were we going for ice cream? Was dad taking us to a movie? Were we going to buy new video games?

All were possibilities. But none were realities.

Dad’s plan– Spend an hour at Barnes & Noble picking out books.

I thought you were taking us on an adventure, dad. This sucks.” Those were the words of my 8 year old son as we entered the store.

I explained, “You need to take your brain on a non-digital adventure. And books can take you there.” Every time they picked up a book it was tied to a video game or cartoon. “Non-digital adventure. Longer, older, think about the classics.” They complained, “I don’t want to read an old book. I want to read something new. New stuff is good, old stuff is boring.” 

In the end we made a compromise. They could each pick out whatever book they wanted. And dad picked out two books for them. (The first two books in the Narnia series.)

Megan took the compromise. Paul didn’t pick out a book and went home empty handed on principle.

I went home and planned our camping trip– A non-digital adventure of the mind, body, and soul.

Besides restricting use, what are ways you help your kids take their brain on non-digital adventures? 

Categories
Marketing

Kid’s Attention Valued at $1.12 Trillion Annually

My kids can tell me about all the latest Disney movies. And they can rattle off the specs of just about every toy that they want. Worse yet? They are armed with lines that tell me all about why buying that toy is good for them and the deal they will get if they buy it online by a specific date.

The culprit? Savvy marketers are hitting them where I’m not looking. Sites that I’ve deemed safe for them to play on are now rewarding them for watching well-placed ads. My own kids are earning Webkinz bucks by watching trailers for movies. It’s not just Webkinz, it’s all of them.

On the table? Getting kids to influence their parents spending habits.

$1.12 trillion. That’s the amount that kids influenced last year in overall family spending, says James McNeal, a kid marketing consultant and author of Kids as Consumers: A Handbook of Marketing to Children. “Up to age 16, kids are determining most expenditures in the household,” he says. “This is very attractive to marketers.” 

Marketing to Kids Gets More Savvy with Technology, USA Today, August 15th 2011. – Read the rest

What does this have to do with youth ministry? Absolutely everything. I’m not saying you need to market your ministry to your students. But I am saying that you need to know that there are others out there marketing to your students in ways that are more savvy and more influential than your flyer and stage announcement.

Your retreat, your camp, your mission trip… things like that are competing for the same $1.12 trillion. Sad. But true.

Tip for Webkinz parents: Go into your kids account and turn off third-party ads.

Question: Should the government regulate advertising to children? 

Categories
parenting

Daddy, if you love me…

I love spending solo time with my kids. And I really want them to enjoy spending time with me. We spend lots of time doing stuff together as a family, but I think there’s something special about the ratio being 1:1 (or 1:2) instead of 5:2.

At least once per month I try to take them out to do something– just the two of us. It’s often something simple. Like a trip to Target or Home Depot or out for a taco. But my goal is always to do something a little bigger. Something that’s really special. (When you live in a tourist destination like San Diego, this is actually pretty easy.)

I also try to mix passions in hopes of passing on some of the things I love. My love for college sports was passed on to me by my dad taking me to Notre Dame football, basketball, and hockey games as a kid. So they go with me to San Diego State football and basketball games. And this year we added the San Diego Padres to the mix because they both seem to enjoy baseball.

In March, Paul and I were walking to the SDSU vs. Utah game. The Aztecs were ranked in the top 10 in the country. The game was sold out. And the country was just discovering that Viejas Arena had become the most exciting venue west of the Mississippi. Paul dragged his feet a little as we walked across campus.

Paul, don’t you want to go to the game? It’s sold out. The Aztecs are awesome this year. And I love sharing this with you.” He got up the courage to tell me the truth. “I really like hanging out with you dad. But we always do things that you love, like sports, and it doesn’t count as a dad date unless it’s something I want to do.

My 7 year old prophet hit me… Right. Between. The. Eyes.

What do you want to do?

In some ways it seems silly to miss this. But I had a default to want to take my kids along to things I wanted to do. And they picked up that I would have gone to this stuff with or without them, so it didn’t feel as special. While they liked the games they wanted me to come spend time on their turf. They felt loved as we went to games. But they would really feel the love if I’d bypass what I wanted to do for what they wanted to do.

Yesterday was case-in-point as we went to the Pokemon World Championships. (Pictures above) Thousands of people geeked out on Pokemon. They spoke a language of characters I couldn’t comprehend. The card games, the collectables, the people dressed like the characters. I couldn’t have been more out of place.

But my kids? It was a giant “I love you” card for them. They couldn’t believe we actually went. (Paul asked me about it months ago but thought I had forgotten.) I didn’t rush them. I just tried to figure it out. I sat and watched as they played in table tournaments. I got excited when they won. I was disappointed when they lost. We took pictures. We wandered around the hotel to make sure they’d seen everything. I learned the names of some characters.

Parenthood is humbling. There’s times you think you’re winning when you are losing and visa versa. For every miss I’ve had– it felt good to get a win yesterday.