The Perfect Cure for Summer Boredom

It’s summertime, and a few days after you put away the schoolbooks, you may hear the dreaded complaint, “I’m bored.” It’s a complaint I always welcomed, because I had found the perfect answer. However, let’s look first at the history of boredom.

Next time one of your children complains about being bored, or you wonder why you have to do the same task over and over again, consider this: You may be bored, but did you know that the very word itself wasn’t even invented until after 1750? Now that’s an interesting fact to keep your boredom at bay!

The perfect cure for summer boredom — if you're sure you want to cure it.

A history of boredom

Think about it: If people were bored back in the 1700s, they had no clue. They might have felt it, but they hadn’t come up with the word to describe it yet, according to Patricia M. Spacks, the author of Boredom: The Literary History of a State of Mind. But once the concept had a name, it became universal. Children soon adopted the idea. Researchers blame it for a number of society’s ills, including drug addiction. Even entertainment can be seen as boring, because there’s so much of it to go around. The bottom line, according to Spacks, is that there’s no cure for boredom. You just have to accept it, and know there will be a change soon enough.

The late poet Joseph Brodksy offered this advice in a 1989 college commencement talk: “When hit by boredom, let yourself be crushed by it; submerge, hit bottom,” he said. “The sooner you hit bottom, the faster you surface.” According to some experts, the real trick is to simply get used to monotony. It’s a part of life, even among seemingly exciting people. They suggest that you try to experience things in new ways, and not mistakenly assume that only new things are interesting.

The cure for summer boredom

That’s all very well, but my perfect cure for the complaint of boredom was to cheerfully say, “Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that! Here’s a little project you can do” while handing them the tools for accomplishing a chore from the day’s to-do list. My boys learned very early that it was much more fun to choose an activity from the Summer Fun List (a list of outdoor fun, good books to read, art projects to try, things to build, games to play, etc.). The key was that once the word “bored” was uttered, there was no taking it back, and the suggested chore had to be completed. Trust me, this works like a charm!

If you feel a little guilty for requiring your children to entertain themselves (I always thought of it as a facet of Charlotte Mason’s idea of “masterly inactivity”), or worse, you suffer a bit from the inability to keep yourself happily occupied, I assure you that befriending boredom is a good thing. Consider these quotes:

“Many hours of solitary occupation and enjoyment, will lead to the development of the highest intellectual and moral traits of character; in fact, his mental resources may be considered entirely unknown and unexplored, who cannot spend his best and happiest hours alone.” (Jacob Abbott, c. 1850)

“Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, and Abraham Lincoln never saw a movie, heard a radio, or looked at television. They had loneliness and knew what to do with it. They were not afraid of being lonely because they knew that was when the creative mood in them would work.” (Carl Sandburg)

All creative people know that there’s really no such thing as boredom — it’s just a feeling of dissatisfaction that, if properly channeled, can lead to great work. Don’t be tempted to respond to complaints of boredom by rushing about, providing distractions. Let your children learn how to constructively use time, and they’ll never have to be bored again.


10 Responses

  1. HSB Suzanne says:

    Well-stated and very timely. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. amanda says:

    LOVE this post.


    Love your blog too but this one hit the spot.
    My kids aren’t old enough to tell me they’re board yet but I will remember this when they do.

  3. Kimmie says:

    …boredom: a banned word in our house. Oh, that and the word: MINE.

    😉 There is always something to do. Always. My kids have learned to tap their creativity and the word(s) thankfully are never spoken.

    Praise to God.

    mama to 7
    one homemade and 6 adopted

  4. Linda says:

    This is a banned word at our house. I always reminded my children that the assumption behind the word “bored” was that the world existed for their benefit. The Christian view, however, is that we are “not our own” and we serve Another who is greater than ourselves. Creativity did grow when time was sometimes feeling “too plentiful”!

  5. Bobbie says:

    I’ve tried to have my kids have an on-going list of things they want to do but don’t have time for, either when they think of things throughout the year, or, at least, at the beginning of the summer. Then, through the summer, and other ‘down’ times, they can each look at it and see what strikes their fancy (assuming the chores are under control… ), and do it. Otherwise they feel as though they’ve accomplished nothing some days (which I also tell them is okay now and then).

  6. This reminds me of my oldest son’s favorite Saturday joke, “Mom, I’m bored…and my room IS clean!”

  7. I’ll agree that boredom is a rather selfish concept. But I have to note that ennui was coined at least by 1660, tedium around the same time. Dull has been an Engish word since the 1200s, although I can’t tell when it came to be used to describe something as uninteresting or monotonous.
    Perhaps the word boredom is somewhat recent, but the selfish state of mind that leads to its usage is probably not new. It is a great thing to help your kids to learn that the world does not owe them constant entertainment and that they might even find a total lack of boredom more oppressive and dissatisfying.

  8. Annie Kate says:

    Our kids also are given chores if they are bored and therefore they have developed many interests over the years.

    I love the post you put together on the topic. Very inspiring.

    Annie Kate

  9. Yvonne says:

    What a great summer topic! I always told my children they were not living up to their God-given potential if they said they were “bored.” Our children were always given jobs at the mention of the word. They soon learned to control their speech and be creative with their time.

  1. June 30, 2009

    […] was honored to have last week’s post on The Perfect Cure for Boredom featured in the first section of this week’s huge and wonderful Carnival of Homeschooling. Be […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.