Tim Burke: So you say there is nothing for kids to do?

A lament you often hear from kids of all ages is there is nothing to do here in our small town. Really?

Thinking back to my childhood, we had two TV channels, one AM top 40 radio station, no FM radio stations, a party-line rotary phone, no little league, no Boy or Girl Scouts, no soccer, and definitely no Internet or computers.

Yet we were constantly busy and seldom felt bored with nothing to do. Our parents were always taking us to 4-H Club meetings, driving us 45 minutes each way in the summertime to swim lessons, taking us to the movie theater, taking us to ski lessons in the winter, dropping us off at a friend’s house for playtime, or some other activity.

We also had chores, and no, we didn’t get bribed with an allowance. It was expected we would help around the house and the ranch. Chores were divided according to ages, not gender. You didn’t want to do chores, no problem. You sat in your room until you decided to do them and then you got some extra chores just for good measure.

On those days when nothing was scheduled our parents let us figure out stuff to do. We hiked in the mountains, we swam in the river, we caught lizards, we shot our pellet guns, and we did some stuff we probably shouldn’t have done and managed to survive just fine.

The only rules on those days was to be home by dinner and to get our chores done. We were encouraged to come up with things to do. If we complained that we were “bored” our parents always found extra chores for us to do. We learned to not complain about being bored and to find our own solution.

Our parents were involved in what we did. They did not sit back and wait for someone to take care of us. If we wanted to raise livestock, they built pens, bought feed, and started a 4-H Club. During the summer they helped us plant a garden, showed us how to lay it out according to what was going to be planted, taught us how to water, made sure we weeded and fertilized, and showed us how to harvest. My parents joined the PTA, met all our teachers, helped put on school events, and volunteered to do whatever was needed.

One of the lessons I took from that upbringing was that you need to be actively involved in your children’s life. Dad did not come home from work, pop open a beer, plop down in front of the TV, and zone out. Mom didn’t spend her time texting her friends and following Facebook.

By staying involved in your children’s activities, you keep tabs on what they are doing and who they are doing it with. Leave kids alone with nothing to do and they will fill the void, often with things that they shouldn’t do. Kids figure out really quick if their parents are making sure they are making good choices or if they are being ignored and left to their own devices.

Several friends who are teachers or who have retired from teaching tell me that the No. 1 issue with kids today in school is that many parents are no longer involved in what their children are doing. They don’t know who their children’s friends are, they don’t know the other parents, they don’t come to school meetings, they don’t attend school events, and they don’t encourage their children to participate in sports or other school activities. They tell me that the hardest part of their job is not teaching, it’s the emotional strain of seeing children being raised by parents who don’t participate in their children’s lives.

Next week: What are kids doing in today’s world to not be bored?

Tim Burke is a businessman, philanthropist, educator and Pahrump resident. Contact him at timstakenv@gmail.com

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