Raising The Boredom Threshold

Recently we bought a brand new minivan for our growing family. But while it’s popular these days to buy a minivan with a DVD entertainment system, I’m adamant that we do NOT buy a minivan with one. Knowing this, a friend said, “Why would you not buy that? You’re going to NEED it! When you have two kids, and especially when you go on long trips, you are going to have a hard time with kids getting fussy.” But I don’t agree. I think it comes down to what I believe about “boredom.”

To many people, boredom is a bad thing. It’s especially a negative thing associated with kids: “School is boring!” or “Church is boring!” So they fill every minute of their lives with activities. The nanny is the TV. And they buy a new toy every one or two weeks for their kids to keep them from being bored (I even heard a friend’s friend who buys a new toy for his kid every single day). One time I was with a friend with her two young kids, and she had to take her older one to the bathroom, and so she asked me to look after the younger one while they’re in the bathroom. She gave me a bag full of toys and asked me to keep the kid busy. I thought, “It’s only going to be a few minutes! Why can’t I just have a conversation with this kid?”

But that’s just dealing with boredom with things that won’t satisfy. In the end, these cause the kids to be addicted to things and change their definition of boredom to missing those things. On the other hand, “real” boredom should be celebrated as an opportunity to grow. A friend of mine defines “boredom” as “mental hunger.” When your kid is hungry, you feed your kid good and healthy food, not junk food. In the same way, when your kid is bored, it’s a great opportunity as a parent to understand that “hungriness” and to help your kid to grow in the right way.

At our house, we only let Chase watch a short video on the computer when somehow there’s no adult present (usually only when I’m taking my morning shower and Wendy is still sleeping). We don’t have a TV for kids and Wendy and I don’t watch anything unless Chase is asleep. The principle is, if people are present, we would rather enjoy the company of each other rather than going for non-interactive activities.

Recently, a guest preacher at our church talked about the subject of prayer. He repeatedly reminded us, “Prayer should not be boring. If you find prayer boring, then you have a problem with your spiritual life.” I think if we make a habit of stuffing our lives with things that don’t satisfy, prayer or other real mental and spiritual food would seem boring. I would like to commit to helping my kids raise their “boredom threshold” — so that they won’t feel bored for the wrong reasons, but they’ll feel bored only if it’s legitimate.

So if my kids really do fuss in the minivan, it’s ok. I’d rather have them fuss then watch DVDs. I’d rather have them fuss than miss that opportunity to have family conversations. I’d rather have them fuss than jeopardize the opportunity to raise their boredom thresholds. It’s for their good. Next time they fuss in the minivan, I will remember that it’s for the good of their prayer lives in the future.

You might also be interested in:
Musings of the Dings: “Boredom” = “Mental Hunger”
Julie Fefferman: Embracing Boredom

One thought on “Raising The Boredom Threshold

  1. Hey, YES, I never used the DVD in my minivan!! Well, we bought one with it just because that is the only used minivan with good price available at that time… :P But I never used the DVD function, and Jadon doesn’t know about it… shhh…
    Ah Choi’s theory strongly discourages to use TV as babysitter… well, but he sometimes cannot resist the temptation to watch sports games with Jadon… well, I guess it’s a good connecting time for father and son too… :) For me, sometimes I also cannot resist to let them watch an educational video when I need sometimes to rest or do something urgent.
    Monica :)

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