Swimming, dancing, Chinese language courses, chess lessons, climbing, judo, comic strip course, drums… and don’t we go skiing at the weekend? How many tasks children have to do every week?
In recent years, behaviour scholars identified children live a difficult reality: they don’t have time to have fun freely. After school and homework, kids of our time have to take part in many extracurricular activities chosen by their parents: these activities have them daily engaged until when they can come back home, in late afternoon.
For parents, all these weekly appointments can be forms of affection. They sign their children up in order to not make them miss anything. Sometimes, however, the extracurricular activities are used to fill the absence of the parents, too engaged in their work. The numerous tasks can be motivated by the will to give their children as more means as possible to face the future successfully, to be competitive in their work, which requires more and more abilities.
For children, though, all these activities demand high energy and attention, and that’s why, in the long-term they can create excessive tiredness and stress.
Surely offering stimuli from an early age can be important for the cognitive and emotional development of a child, as often claimed by experienced psychologists, but if it goes too far, negative aspects can arise. In fact, overloading children with stimuli can be counterproductive.
Scholars are noticing that children too engaged could become insecure and confused growing up, showing to have low self-esteem as they feel inadequate to their parents’ expectations, who would want to see them successful in every activity they do. Moreover, they risk to become not very autonomous and imaginative, since they are constantly used to live moments organized for them by other people, missing the moment when, independently, they choose how to have fun inventing creative games.
Therefore, free moments that parents see as boring for children, in reality are powerful means of growth and self-training, especially for the development of creativity and personality, which can thus be formed in a balanced and serene way. It’s in the children’s right to live a light and fun childhood, marked by slow times, where they have the possibility to discover themselves and the world around them, with no hurry or anxiety, learning which are their interests. Boredom, thus, can educate.
A good parent should leave their children free to experiment and find antidotes to boredom on their own. This will allow children to learn how to manage themselves independently and fill their free time with activities they really like, rather than those who their mom and dad like.
The time to become a Chinese native speaker, break the world record for freestyle or join an NBA team in children's lives will not be lacking, but childhood is one and lasts only a few years, soon they will be teenagers in the grip of hormones and will no longer want to imagine a world of princes and princesses.
Children don’t have to be little copies of stressed and frustrated adults, they have the right to be bored!
Translated by Francesca Cioffi
Original version by Sofia Perinetti