Maybe We Should Stop Entertaining Our Kids So Much

15 hours. One way.

That’s how long it took us to drive to New Mexico on Spring Break. Getting there, my children were delightful. On the long drive, they occupied themselves with reading, drawing, watching a couple of movies and asking questions about the change of scenery, and they got along well.

Clearly, we were amazing parents.

And then we piled in the car a few days later to come home. We arrived in the Land of Enchantment with one set of children and discovered they had morphed into entirely different ones for the long road home. Because all their books had been read, movies watched, pictures drawn.

There was squabbling and bickering and mostly, a lot of boredom.

While I wasn’t looking forward to the drive home either, the getting home part is sort of unavoidable, you know?

The complaining heightened to an all time high and at some point a kid from the backseat actually demanded, “Give me something to do.”

In other words, entertain me.

And this is the price we pay when we constantly entertain our kids: They cannot entertain themselves.

maybeweshouldstopentertainingourkidssomuch

Remember when we used to play outside for hours?

Now we have half a dozen screens to choose from between ipads, ipods, iphones, iii-yii-yii

Remember when kids used to use their imaginations?

Now we over schedule them with extracurriculars. .

Remember when going to the park, zoo, circus, playplace, you-name-it-in-kid-entertainment used to be reserved for a special occasion?

Now we do something every other day because our kids aren’t the only ones who are bored. Parents are too.

Maybe we should stop entertaining our kids so much.

Maybe they will start creating fun instead of depending on us to manufacture it.

Because it’s really way more about entitlement than entertainment.

Now, I have done it all. I’m a guilty parent entertainer. But I’ve realized the more I do, the more they want and the less they do for themselves. 

We live in a culture that thrives on entertainment. We crave the thrill of it. And that’s great for special days, but maintaining it constantly is doing more harm than good.

If we stop doing it, they will stop expecting it.

Because sometimes we have to wait.

Sometimes we don’t get our way.

Sometimes we are bored.

My kids ended up surviving the road trip. There was sleeping and made-up-game-playing and just old fashioned car-riding imagination.

Life isn’t always entertaining.

And the sooner our kids realize that, the sooner they realize they have the power to change that.


Comments

  1. 1

    says

    I fully agree! This is a HUGE issue for me, and it’s why we don’t let our kids (7 & 5) play on our phones or tablets. I want them to learn how to entertain themselves. I don’t want to pacify them at a restaurant, doctor’s office, or any other place we have to wait with a gizmo.

    Even though I stay at home I’m not their ” activity director” and never have been.. most of the time they’re on their own to find something to play with or something to do. (Well, the 7 year old is in 1st grade, but you get the idea

  2. 2

    says

    Yes, right there with you! Thanks for your thoughtful and funny post. We from Atlanta to NY for Thanksgiving week to see family and then, a month later, we drove to Alabama then south Florida for Christmas through New Years Day. My daughters are 9 and 7. It was a little nuts but we survived and are closer for it! We played road games, some of which I had forgotten all about. My husband got some strange roadside attraction app and we stopped a couple of extra times to see some of the ‘world’s largest furniture’ and a couple really amazing tunnels through mountains that we wouldn’t have seen. My daughters were really great overall, though we hit a rough patch here and there. We are pretty serious about them entertaining themselves at home. It really paid off. One of our ‘experiments’ that lots of our friends have tried is called ‘Independence Day’. Our kids love it and so do we!

    http://disquisitivemama.blogspot.com/2014/03/independence-day.html

  3. 3

    says

    So true! Have you ever heard of Lenore Skenazy and Free Range Parenting? I seriously think you should write a column for her. She would love you.

  4. 4

    says

    Completely agree. Remember when we used to sit down at a restaurant and actually TALK to our parents? Now everyone has their face glued to a screen of some sort (iPhone, gaming system) instead of one another. Makes me sad for these families. Stop with all the entertaining and get back to the living!

  5. 5

    says

    I have just recently started reading you and I can’t believe that it took me so long. I have been fighting this battle as well and it is refreshing to find someone that has the same mindset about how we are raising our children. Thank you for this and kudos!

  6. 6

    says

    LOVE this article!
    We review lots of family friendly destinations, so we kind of have the opposite going on! :) We put on over 20k miles a year, and my kids love traveling in the car and down time with nothing scheduled at the RV park. When we are ‘entertaining’ them (out on a day to a park/museum/historical location) is the time when mine start getting unruly! ;) Mine love down time, just us, unscheduled (which we do get lots of!).
    We have to make a conscience effort to not overschedule stops in order for our kids to have enough down time and to like to continue to visit what are typically ‘fun stops’! LOL!

  7. 7

    says

    Yes and amen! We’re a road tripping family, and for a lot of years when our kids were younger, we refused to allow movies on long car trips. We finally caved and bought a video player for the car, which, I’ll admit, does make the time go faster, but sometimes we just have to say “no movies” for a while so we can all just sit and talk.

  8. 9

    says

    So happy to have seen this blog post! I have never quite been able to put my finger on it. With Pinterest these days you can somewhat feel like you’re not doing ENOUGH even if a parent does entertain!

    Every once in awhile I will pull together an activity and we will go on an outting, but I let my son do exactly what you said (with the exception of road trips he’s 18 months I’d go CRAZY if I didn’t plan for our 17 one-way road trips!!)

    THANK YOU! I now feel a sense of validation I’ve been looking for!

  9. 10

    Jennie says

    It drives me nuts when they come home from a play date, and they have been bowling, to a bounce house, to a movie, etc. When they have friends over, we might bake cookies or something together, but otherwise, I tell them to go PLAY! It feels like I am the only mom who doesn’t provide the dog and pony show. We also recently took away all of our kids toys because they don’t keep their rooms clean. The idea was that they would earn stuff back by proving that they can keep their (empty) rooms clean. It backfired with the cleaning, but i have seen a big increase in imagination. Lots of art projects, lots of plays, and when they really get desperate, I will overhear them making things like pencils interact with each other. We recently had a road trip where we didn’t let them watch any dvd’s (16 hours) and they were fine. You are right on with this post. Do you have any advice on how to get them to clean their rooms? (I am not talking white glove test…. My goal is off the floor and in a drawer, but even with no toys and the bare minimum of clothing, they are slobs!) keep it coming!

    • 10.1

      says

      In the same boat. What do my girls DO in that room?! I’d love advice too. I cannot motivate them to keep it clean or pitch in around the house without weeping and gnashing of teeth.

      • 10.1.1

        Jerilyn says

        Idea that worked for me with kids older than preschool came from “Creative Correction” book by Lisa Welchel. I ask my kids to clean up their room or do a chore. Don’t nag about it. Then when they ask me for something or to do something – I ask if they have completed cleaning up their room. I tell them their answer to ME is the same answer to them about whatever they want. They catch on real fast :)

    • 10.2

      Kerry says

      I sit in my 4 year old’s room, wine in hand*, and coach him through. “What will you pick up first?”, “why don’t you do all the books next.”, “where do your dirtyclothes go?”. If it isn’t done to standard he has to go back and do it again. If he whines, he gets to clean the bathroom next. My 7 year old went through this too and keeps her room pretty tidy now :)

      *The wibe reminds him (&me) that I am not the one working, he is.

  10. 11

    says

    I have a trip to Pensacola this summer. That would be 23 hours in a car! I don’t know how I will pay for the airline tickets but I know I cannot drive. We will kill each other, ya know? Because I know that drive will turn us all into monsters.

    • 11.1

      says

      We do age-appropriate books on tape for long car trips (but our kids are used to no movies in the car so take it with a grain of salt!)…. It is a type of entertainment but auditory stories makes the brain active as opposed to visual stories…. We have “read” some great books together as a family. The Chronicals of Narnia, Tom Sawyer, The Secret Garden, Wonder, and on and on. We listen to it a little, then have the kids read, draw, play games, count trees!, etc. then we’ll listen some more. Have fun!

  11. 12

    says

    THANK YOU! I sometimes struggled when I was raising my kids that I didn’t have them in every and all things. I was teaching and leading in youth ministry and drama ministry work as a writer and performer through those years – and just took them along for the ride. They were involved with the other kids of the parents I worked with and AS FAMILIES we ministered. Never bored – always a project to create. I provided raw materials. They grew up as strong, independent thinking, idea people who made their own projects – just like mom. As adults, married and settled, they are walking with confidence in their gifts and ministry because they had plenty of time to PLAY. Like I did . . . when I was a kid . . .
    Joy!
    Kathy @ The Writer’s Reverie
    Link-up with All Things Bright and Beautiful this month at http://www.thewritersreverie.com/2014/03/all-things-bright-beautiful-link-up-1.html

  12. 13

    Julie says

    I couldn’t agree with you more. As with anything, moderation seems to be key. I wouldn’t want to deprive my kids of the fun activities around town but my husband and I are definitely not in the entertainment business. Nor can our bank account support it. And newsflash; we actually have stuff of our own to accomplish when there is free time! We are definitely in the minority of our group of friends and neighborhood/community but our kids still seem to be fairly well adjusted and we only do something out of the ordinary MAYBE every month or so. To each his own, of course, but I do wonder what the long-term consequences are to the constantly entertained kids.

  13. 14

    Jamie says

    I seriously LOVE you! God has given you alot of wisdom and I feel Him speaking to me so often through your posts. And it doesnt hurt that you are so funny too!! Thank you for taking the time to keep up with your blog. I check it often!!

  14. 15

    Maya says

    I completely agree with you. We used to take long trips through the desert so not much to see there :p, so my sisters and I had to find ways to entertain ourselves for 8 hours. It was tough but we all survived. We try and do the same with our kids now. Thankfully they have more to look at than sand :p. We drove down from Windsor to Chicago over the Christmas holiday with a then 3 yr, 2 yr, and 4 month old. Believe it our not we only had to stop once :D.

  15. 17

    says

    I totally agree with this. We had six kids and for the most part, no t.v., and not a lot of money when they were growing up. We gave them bikes, a back and front yard, scissors and paper, Tinker-Toys and dolls…..I wouldn’t trade their imaginations for the world. Seeing kids today with all of their gadgets makes me so thankful that our kids spent long trips looking out the windows instead of watching a movie. I think we should supply the basics and be sure to not let them be snowed under with things that make them miniature couch potatoes.

  16. 18

    says

    I think there is room for both in our lives. I can tell you from experience that when I was a child (with my 3 siblings) that we went on a TON of car trips. Having a tablet to read a book on or watch a movie would have been so welcomed……of course those options weren’t around then.
    My dd (13yo) has always been able to entertain herself…she’s an only child. I never spent hours entertaining her but let her go off on her own and find her own entertainment. It has served her well.
    I think I’ve only heard her say “I’m bored” once or twice in her entire life.
    Starting early is the key, in my opinion.

  17. 20

    says

    Hello Kirsten ,

    Where did you come from ? You cannot be of this earth. How can you say such things as let the children find some thing to do by themselves. You are Awesome, and a Woman after my own heart ! When I was a child I was never bored and didn’t even have toys to play with. There were always enough frogs, snakes and fish around to keep me busy. And once in a while there was a little game, with the other kids, of cowboys and Indians. I always wanted to be the Indian. Kids now days have to many screens in front of their faces to see anything around them and think fun is all there is from these screens. “Fun” is the only word in their vocabulary. They don’t listen very much unless they hear the word “Fun” ! This is an amazing article and you are absolutely right ! Thanks for making my day ! Fred. God will overcome ! His Blessings to You ! ! !

  18. 21

    teresa says

    I tell my kids that I didn’t have a tv to watch in a vehicle when I was a kid and you won’t either. I am also the mean mom who won’t let them have a tv in their room.

  19. 22

    Tyler says

    I’m brand new to this blog, so I don’t know if your kids would be into this sort of thing, but I’d like to suggest it anyway.

    Maybe you could encourage your kids to take up some sort of RPG. I don’t mean a video game, I mean a tabletop game where they sit down and tell a story together. Unless your kids have jobs, they won’t be able to pay for it themselves, and the materials can be a bit expensive, but just let them have at it. They can have hours of fun without a computer or a TV in sight, using their imaginations (and the rules in the books).

  20. 24

    Linda says

    Teachers today often feel like they have to be entertainers because kids today can’t seem to sit still for more than a few minutes. I wish there were more parents like the ones who are posting here.

  21. 25

    says

    I love your blog and find myself shaking my head in agreement all the time! I limit playdates, tv time, extra curriculars, and video games because I want my kids to be bored. Because when they are they do the most incredible things! They create artwork, make inventions, or just play. My 9 year old dressed up with her siblings today and they had their own make believe world happening. The less busy we are as families, the more our kids grow. And it seems counter cultural, but I think its the right thing for the kids.

  22. 27

    Amy says

    It really depends on the child’s personality. We have a 2 and a 5 yr old. My oldest refuses to go off and play alone no matter what we say or do. I have a couple friends who have a delt with this same problem. As a parent, this can be extremely frustrating, esp when you try to compare your child to another who is very independent. If you are doing this, stop! Every child is different. My child would rather sit right next to us and be involved in every discussion. In order to catch a break, we end up giving her tasks, which she’s loves. I guess one might call it ‘entertaining’ her, but we’ve tried to go the ‘go play in your room for 30 mins’ route and all lead to was frustration and a feeling of rejection. We are just doing the best we can at this point.
    We are also the “sad family” (as stated in a previous comment) who let our kids play games on our phones in restaurants. First of all, we need to stop judging one another as parents. We do limit tv and games at home, but going out to eat with a 2 and 5 yr old can be incredibly hard! If letting our kids play a learning game or two, before our food comes, so my husband and I can indulge in a conversation without interruption, so be it… Unless yelling at them to stay in their seat as they scream throughout your meal would be a better option?

  23. 28

    Adrianne Kincade says

    THANK YOU! Gaming devices don’t leave our house unless we too make a long drive (like NM!) Live in TX as well, and done that drive! But it is funny my kids like playing the old fashioned car games like ABC license plate and lets find all the states. And they for sure can’t take anything to entertain themselves into an eating establishment! NO WAY!! Actually just this weekend I saw the best thing. A couple of kids being kids. It was great!! Their parents were letting them build a straw tower! It was TALL and they were using their imagination and laughing and having fun and I was loving every minute of it and so were they! Their parents were having a conversation but the kids were having fun too without being entertained by an electronic device! It was beautiful!!

  24. 29

    Angela Mason says

    Ah…This reminds me of summer as a child. My sister and I would get so bored sometimes. I remember whining to my mom, “we’re bored mom”. Her response would be something to the effect of, I recommend that you find something to do because if I do I promise it won’t be fun. Needless to say, we figured it out because we had no desire to polish the silverware, clean the mini blinds or murphy oil the cabinets.

  25. 30

    Natasha Budd says

    Great post!!! So true.
    We have made Sundays ‘no technology’ day meaning ‘no screens’ otherwise the kids thought, no vacume cleaner, no fridge even!
    The first couple of Sundays were great, we had painting, baking, reading and all things creative going on. My 13 year old always seems to have a nana nap every Sunday now too. But the Sunday just been, I had bored kids.
    I insisted I was not going to think of what they could do, as they know what’s available and everything I suggest just gets a “nah” So they ended up sorting drawers and wardrobes in their rooms. A great result I say :)
    I would love to add more ‘no technology’ days to our week.

  26. 31

    says

    Totally agree & have been struggling with this & my 2 young kiddos. We have been cutting back on screen time & recently got rid of all things cable & netflix. They definitely have their moments when they are jonesing for some easy entertainment, but I have been encouraged by their attempts to play or enjoy each others company rather than expect us to entertain them. Although to be truthful sometimes no screen time seems more of a consequence for me than it does for them :)

  27. 32

    says

    This is great! What do you do if you think you have already gone too far down the road of stifling their creativity? How do you undo the damage in, say a 9 year old? Any books you can recommend? This has been a struggle of mine for years. I limit screen time, but still feel like my son can’t entertain himself.

  28. 34

    says

    Amen.

    We just returned from a road trip yesterday and our odometer read 2,224 miles. Five kids. All under ten. Not a movie or a screen the entire time.

    That is NOT to say we are awesome parents – it is to say – anyone can do this. We live in the same trenches, the same filthy suburban, as any other family.

    It’s been a choice early on – through a tad of trial and error with our oldest daughter (now 20) and a commitment to recognize that “bored” time leads to creative kids eventually.

  29. 35

    Devon Decker says

    I’m sorry but this is the most myopic and stupid thing I have ever read. Just because people are entertained does not mean that they do not develop the ability to entertain themselves. I was raised to believe that if you are bored then you must be boring. As a child that regularly was taken on road trips going up that averaged at around ten hours straight in a car one way , I laugh that you were unable to keep your children entertained for half of that round trip.

    Your children bringing books and movies was their way of entertaining themselves, once all of that ran out then I fell on you to entertain them. My parents always had a game or story ready to keep me occupied if I grew tired of my books or video games.

    You yourself mentioned dreading the long ride home. That’s the example you have set for your children and that is the behavior they will emulate. If you ask me this is not a case of you entertaining your kids too much, but not enough.

Leave a Reply

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

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>