In the summer of 1997, it was my time to leave the parental home. I was about to begin my adult life. My older brother preceded me. He scripted the student life I was going to live.

My first concern, as I was embarking on this new adventure:

“I want to hold on to my own identity”

And it was challenging. With a lot of peer pressure and social distractions next to the burden of studying.

Parenting with the end in mind — I ask myself: “how to develop a deep sense of self in my kids?”. After all, I yearn for them to hold on to their own identity when they are in a group. Swim against the tide if that is required, knowing how hard that may be at times.

Three years ago, me and my wife had a stressful, dual career, family live in Amsterdam. Some of the concerns I had for my three years old son: did he had enough friends, or sufficient after-school play dates and shouldn’t he begin a team-sport already.

My worst-case scenario: no after-school play date, no extracurricular activity and no daycare. Just me and my son, housebound, on a rainy afternoon; feeling bored. A recipe for a long and tiring afternoon.

In hindsight, I think it is short-sighted to focus so much on peer interaction and worry about boredom. Today I embrace the experience of boredom and even facilitate it for my kids. Because it contributes to a sense of self-esteem.

On a rainy afternoon, when I notice a potential boring moment in my six year old son. I do nothing. He is testing the options: “Television, Tablet, Smart Phone…?”. Negative. I don’t provide an alternative. Let him handle his own moment of boredom.

His emergent self decides to play with Lego in his room.

This little experience helps him to develop a sense of self. It makes a rainy day more fun and it puts me in the drivers seat. I decide to keep on working or to go down on the ground and play together.

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