Our instinct is to make sure every second of their time is filled. They’ve got school. And swim practice. And guitar lessons. And scheduled play dates. We tell them to go play outside. To read or do their homework or practice their instrument. We ask them what they want to do next. We are always forcing or encouraging them to do something, anything.
This is usually all very well-intentioned. But it is depriving them of a very important skill in life: The ability to be alone. To sit with their own thoughts. To entertain themselves. To get comfortable with boredom.
Some kids are extroverts. Some are introverts. But every kid needs to know how to be alone.
There are lots of opportunities for you to help them develop this ability, depending on their age and personality of course. When they start stirring in the morning, don’t rush in. When they’re quietly playing in their room, let them. Let them be bored. Let them lay around for a little while after school or on the weekend. Let them cultivate some independence. Let them cultivate some time with themselves.
It’s a critical part of life (as every adult knows). Those who lack the ability are miserable and prone to addiction and overstimulation. So teach them now.
And of course, the best way to help your kids cultivate this critical ability is to model it yourself. If you need help with that, check out Ryan Holiday’s Stillness is the Key. It was an Instant #1 New York Times Bestseller & Wall Street Journal Bestseller and though not exactly a parenting book, Ryan’s experiences as a parent did shape the book. You can pick up copies in store or online from The Painted Porch, where you can also get them signed and personalized!