Question: My ten-year-old son is bored. He does well in school, without trying, so he isn’t very engaged academically. We keep trying different sports, but he doesn’t like any of them. He likes to draw, but that doesn’t seem like enough. He needs focus. What do you suggest?
We believe that all people, children and adults alike, should spend as much as possible using their strengths and honoring their values. Spending time doing something you love builds confidence. It gives people a sense of purpose. It shows children how it feels to be passionate about something.
And, inevitably, developing a mastery of one strength leads to interest in related fields.
Beyond that, we all present ourselves much, much better when we are using our strengths. Our social skills improve when we feel confident. We are happier and more pleasant to be around, and people turn to us for advice.
Unfortunately, school is boring for a lot of people—in fact, it is boring for most people. The life children are being offered inside most classrooms is arguably not great, even at private and independent schools. Some children enjoy school, but most of them are hard-pressed to find a true “favorite” subject, other than art, lunch, or music class.
The fact that your son is bored at school doesn’t necessarily mean he lacks focus. It means that he is spending seven hours a day doing something that bores most people. The risk of this is that “boring” becomes “normal,” and that he loses touch with his drive to pursue his passions.
We could write an entire book about the damage that schooling can do to a young mind who isn’t yet aware that life should be lived passionately and vigorously. What we are doing to children in this culture is a disgrace.
To be clear, we both send our children to traditional schools, so we are not suggesting that parents should pull their children from school. Homeschooling works for a lot of families, but it’s unrealistic to assume that all families can take this on.
What we are suggesting is this: Your job as a parent is to help your son see beyond the little box of life that he sees at school. Your job is to show him that life should include passion, engagement, and joy.
It sounds like you are already on the right path. Our suggestion is to let him draw. Then let him draw some more. Then ask his art teacher if she can find extra projects at school so that he can draw. If you have financial or time resources, enroll him in an art class. See if he is interested in animation. Are you friends with any graphic designers or animators? If so, could that professional mentor your son here and there, for an hour a week or so?
If you do not have time or financial resources, then get creative. Can he draw on the way to school? Can you encourage him to draw pictures that go along with his homework essays? Can you talk to his teacher and see if he can draw something for the classroom? Can you allow him to write funny little cartoons on his math assignment?
Brainstorm and find ways to show him how to be engaged with life.
We know of a kid whose uncle was an architect. As a middle-schooler, this kid started helping his uncle with cardboard models. Now, the child is in high school, and he makes thousands of dollars a month building cardboard models for architects.
The point is: A child can pursue a seemingly unlimited number of random things related to drawing. Looking at your ten-year-old today, you have no idea how or whether these random things might end up stacking into a career—and one he loves, at that.
But one thing is certain: Your child already spends seven hours a day doing something he does not like doing. If he has something he loves to do, let him spend as much time as he can doing that.
Assuming the child is getting enough exercise to stay healthy, forcing competitive sports on him would only increase the percentage of the day that he spends doing activities he doesn't love. (And if he isn’t getting enough exercise, it’s perfectly acceptable and well within your responsibility as a parent to make sure that he increases his activity level. However, help him find things that he likes to do. Swimming at the local pool, riding bikes, and going for hikes are just as acceptable ways of exercising as playing baseball, basketball, or soccer.)
The conversation is the relationship.When you have good conversations with your kids, you have good relationships with your kids.
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