Let your children get bored this summer

We have done quite a bit already this summer. This is from the viking festival. As you may have boticed the vikings had credit cards.
We have done quite a bit already this summer. This is from the viking festival where my two girls couldn’t stay away from the jewellery. As you may have noticed the vikings had credit cards.

I like books and Charles Dickens is one of many favourites. I’m not sure I would rank Great Expectations as my absolute favourite of his books, but it is one I like to read regularly.

Pip grew up in the poverty Dickens described so well, but everything changed when he met a desperate man that had escaped from a prison ship. Pip’s family was later contacted by a lawyer who represented an anonymous client. This client wanted to pay for Pip to be brought up as a gentleman. It turned out to be the prisoner, and after having done very well as a sheep farmer and stock breeder in Australia, he wanted to return the favour Pip gave him the first time they met. Pip’s new life changed everything. He had unrealistic expectations and turned his back on the people he loved because he assumed that the upper class was so much better. He was suddenly ashamed of the social class he was leaving because rich people were so much better morally, but he discovered that he was much more likely to find the best among the people he grew up with. His expectations were completely wrong.

The expectations or belief we have about the future influence our choices. It may be favourable expectations like hope and positivity or negative like hopelessness and pessimism. This is often conveyed to us as information. If we are told that a particular medicine will make us feel better, there’s a good chance the placebo effect alone wil do the trick. It’s also possible to be affected by your own expectations, which I believe is what happened to Pip. The American psychologist Robert Rosenthal discovered the risk of errors in research in 1968. He did a study where he told teachers that some randomly selected students were particularly promising. This created expectations and these students received more attention and they were given more time to respond, which of course is more likely to produce results.

We quickly get used to benefits. I am usually not quick to try the latest and I didn’t have internet access at home until 2004. It took a while before colleges invested in this as well, and I used a type writer for my first 5 semesters in college (1994-1997). When I started on what may have been the smallest college in the country in 1997 there were 700 students and 10 computers. That would have resulted in rebellion today, but it actually worked because many students had their own computer.

TV has gone through a similar development. We have fantastic visual and audio quality, but if we lose the service for even a few minutes, people get angry. Have you thought about how amazing air travel is? I haven’t travelled much and my last visit abroad was in 2002. I was travelling from Little Rock to Detroit to Amsterdam to Oslo to my hometown Haugesund. There was a problem in Detroit and they had to replace the plane just as we were about to board, which of course meant a delay. I was tired and very hungry, but this was still just a minor delay. Think of the 900 000 Norwegians that left Norway for the new world between 1820 and 1920. A slow boat was their only option, but no matter how calm the sea is, I get very sick. I was glad to be flying above the clouds and I was just as comfortable as in my living room, and even with a long detour the trip took just a few hours.

I believe there are even some airlines that offer Wi-Fi nowadays, but it wouldn’t surprise me if some passengers complained because the net wasn’t as stable and fast as in their home. We are moving very fast from being amazed at new advances in technology to believing that the airline owes us something.

July is the peak season for expectations. Norwegian media debated summer holiday a couple of years ago and some seemed to suggest that it was child abuse not to let children go away, preferably abroad, for a holiday. This has a lot to do with expectations, which we can influence just as much as the pressure to buy the latest products. There was a lot of things I wanted when I was growing up in the 1970’s and 80’s, and there are a lot more things kids want today. There are a few headlines every year before Constitution Day and Christmas where a father wants sympathy because he can’t afford a proper celebration for his children. The problem isn’t that they can’t afford anything, but they can’t afford iphone ipad, playstation etc. I know it’s hard to fight the enormous expectations and I’m sure it feels unfair to some children when they see what their classmates have, but a life without the latest electronics doesn’t mean a bad life.

Vacation is always a problem because there are so many expectations. There has to be something happening all the time. I sometimes wonder what the consequences would be if we never allowed the brain to relax and thus not give the brain the opportunity to digest what we have experienced. Maybe the answer is to be found in the classrooms in an average school. I wonder what would happen if we told the kids to draw/paint, solve jigsaw puzzles, play with lego, reflect on something, or just be bored for a while. It would probably lead to a conciderable amount of resistance from the child, but I don’t see that as a negative thing.

I think it’s good for children to be bored. Children may scream for a while because they don’t get candy, chocolate, biscuits or something else with a high sugar content, but most of them will eat what their parents offer. It’s hard to be consistant enough, but we try to let fruit be the only sugar on weekdays. It’s a similar thing with entertainment. Children don’t need curling parents all the time. They may be bored for a while, but then decide to entertain themselves.

We had plans to go away this summer. Our daughter is 11 years old now and we wanted to go to Legoland in Denmark while she was young enough to enjoy it, as well as the only big zoo in Norway, but we have to do that later as we are moving this summer. We do have plans to experience some of the things our own community has to offer, which I will come back to in my next post.



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