We have all heard this and rolled our eyes. But is it our fault? If I could share one valuable gift you could give your children, it would be just that. The gift of Boredom. Nothing.
“What? Why?” I hear you cry confused. “That’s neglect and so damaging!” Now these are just my thoughts based on my years of experience of looking after children, especially children in their own homes.
I have worked for many years as a Nanny in London, where the pace of life for children is so much faster, pressurised and competitive than anywhere else in the country. But this does apply to the majority of children/families today.
As a nanny we are paid a decent salary and are given great responsibility in the upbringing of our ‘charges’. For the Career Nannies amongst us, we take our roles very seriously and our professional reputation is paramount to us.
Taking this into account we plan our days so the children’s lives are full of so many fun and stimulating activities. Social groups, trips to museums, arts and crafts, baking, lots of fun times in the park. On top of this we manage their social diaries, their health appointments, haircuts, dentists. We create and provide a varied menu of food, we keep their play areas and bedrooms tidy, we wash, iron and sort their clothes. We organise parties. If you are a parent you get the picture. We have a limited time to do these things so we fit them in around the children, when they nap, when they are at nursery etc. (Yes, I hate to disappoint but it is just a common myth that we sit around watching TV and drinking coffee *rolls eyes*).
This means that every waking moment that they are in our care we are with them. If they need us, we are there instantly. They don’t need to wait for much. This is the expectation of a Nanny, as that IS what we are paid for.
Now we all know that this is actually not helping them, as they are never left to figure things out for themselves. When they are old enough to be left to play with friends, we saw that if we were not in the room, they would try and resolve differences without us. We could hear them, but they didn’t need us to jump in straight away. The times we have all sat in the same room, the fights and arguments would real out over toys, because they knew we could resolve it for them.
Now lets think about phones, tablets (digital obviously) and snacks (yes I am going to go there)! How many people sit in a restaurant waiting for their food and pass their phone to their children, or take an iPad to entertain them? Or give them snacks as they go around the supermarket? Yes it is a tedious job, but it has to be done and not everything has to be enjoyable and offer rewards. What happened to chatting, playing ‘I Spy’ and learning that waiting is part of the experience?
Now, lets look at the situation we are in now (you know that C word that we are all sick of) and why this is relevant. So many parents are having to work from home, but they can’t because they are having to entertain their children and help them with every second of their school work. I will let you into a secret, at school most children spend time working independently – yes EVEN Reception. Now I am not talking about toddlers, yes of course they need more attention BUT if from an early age they are encouraged to play alone with their toys, they will develop the problem solving skills from an earlier age.
Look back 30/40 years ago. What were you doing when you were 8?
I was calling for friends, riding my bike to the park and playing there. I wore a watch and knew when to go home. At home, I would be in my room listening to music, or in the garden swinging and doing cartwheels. I didn’t need my parents to keep me entertained every minute. I also didn’t need 101 extra curricular activities to keep me going. I went to Brownies. I tried swimming and hated lessons so went with my family and developed those skills. I am not a professional dancer, singer, footballer, netball or hockey player. I don’t play any instruments. But I was a healthy child, I don’t recall being exhausted from running around here there and everywhere. I am fiercely independent, I like my own company, but am sociable. I also have so many happy memories of simple times with my family. Thunderstorms and power cuts in a caravan in Wales. Sausage sandwiches for breakfast. Going on long ‘boring’ walks and getting caught in the rain. We didn’t go on exotic holidays or learn to ski.
My point is this. Creating simple memories is more than enough. Something you may have forgotten may stay in your child’s heart forever. You don’t have to be next to them every single minute of the day providing entertainment for them. If they know you are there and that you love them, they will thrive in everything they put their heart and soul into.
Now, stop feeling guilty that they are being left to ‘be on their own and with nothing to do’ and let them learn and develop from it. I bet they have so many toys and games and never get time to play with them. Sometimes the good old fashioned pens and paper, can create hours of self led entertainment. Or having nothing at all promotes the use of their imagination.
This is of course nobodies fault but our own. Society has made us think that children need to do all these things. We have all fallen into that trap of believing it. Let’s take a step back, rewind and remember the ‘good old days’. I don’t think it did us any harm.
About Lisa Davies
Lisa is the Ambassador for South West London. She has over 22 years experience of working with children aged 0-14 years in a variety of settings including Nurseries, Schools and with private families in their homes. She was inspired to help children develop their mental well-being tools after seeing first hand not only the pressure that schools and exams place on children from a young age, but the devastating effects on children involved in family break ups and bereavement.
You can find Lisa at www.facebook.com/miniemyogasouthwestlondon