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Why we are taking the FUN out of life

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My children have a problem. They think the purpose of life is to have fun. It was especially evident when their prayers included “Help us to have a fun day tomorrow and a fun day the day after that.” That little phrase hit me hard. Is our family so out of touch with others’ needs and so removed from thanking the Lord that the only place we need God to intervene is to guarantee our fun? Where had we gone wrong?

After some serious self-reflection, I realized that we’ve been creating these fun-fed children. As they leave our car, we smile, wave and shout, “Have fun!” After they return home from somewhere (school, practice, play date, church), the question is usually “Did you have fun?” and if they didn’t, there is often a decent amount of concern about what might be wrong and how we can remedy this un-fun problem.

Not only that, but we live in a culture full of cheap thrills and expensive entertainment that everyone feels like he or she must be a part of. You don’t take an annual trip to Disneyland? Your poor kids! You aren’t going to spend the day at a trampoline park? Bummer! Your kids don’t have iPhones or iTouches yet? So sad! You aren’t going away for the three-day weekend? What will you do at home?

Fun is a drug. Take a little and you want more. Take enough and it no longer satisfies. You need bigger, better, more expensive activities to fill you up. The simple moments are no longer satisfactory, and the big events don’t seem all that big anymore. Fun is a junk food diet that leaves you giddy for a moment, then hollow and wanting more.

Kids learn it from somewhere: media, friends and, yes, parents too. Our culture worships leisure, entertainment and fun. As parents, we have forgotten how to have a good time with our kids without paying someone to fabricate it for us. We have forgotten that the most fulfilling and closest relationships are not the ones based on constant fun together but ones where we have worked, laughed, loved and struggled together. I don’t want a cotton candy relationship with my kids. I want something substantial and real.

As I read biographies and listen to interviews about successful people who have changed the world, there seems to be a common thread in what they learned as a children and adolescents: hard work. It doesn’t matter which country they come from, their socioeconomic status, their gender, their beauty or lack of it. They succeed by working hard at something, for something or to merely survive, and these lessons almost always started at home.

So this year we are turning over a new leaf in our home. We are still huge advocates of enjoying life, seeing the positive and taking it all in. We want to travel with our kids and show them the wonders of nature and different cultures. We love to play sports, take walks, visit the theater, attend concerts, hike, play games, swim, watch movies and just be together.

But this year we will work hard together too. We will create memories and strengthen relationships as we accomplish difficult things together. We will hold our boys accountable for their efforts in our family, in school, in sports, in music, in hobbies and in their church duties. We will no longer ask our kids if they had fun because, frankly, we don’t care. They can choose to make every experience fun if they want to. It’s up to them and absolutely possible. But we will no longer worry about creating fun for them or shielding them from hardships, unpleasantness or, heaven forbid, boredom. We want them to reap more than fun from this existence. We want them to be fulfilled. We want them to reach their potential. We want them to be excellent.

46comments on this storyWe will change our focus and ask one of these questions:

  • “Did you learn something?”
  • “Did you feel productive?”
  • “Did you work hard?”
  • “Did you try your best?”
  • “Were you a good friend?”
  • “Did you try something new?”
  • “Did you push yourself?”
  • “Did you make someone’s day better?”
  • “Did you add value?”
  • “Did you create something?”
  • “Did you grow?”
  • “Did you discover something?”
  • “Did you change the world today, even in a small way?”

When you can answer yes to any of those questions, that’s when life gets really fun.

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85 thoughts on “Why we are taking the FUN out of life

  1. This is so perfect! My job as a parent shouldn't be about entertainment. Yes, I want my kids to have fun, but I want them to know that hard work and learning something new equals fun. I tell them all the time it's not worth doing if you don't have to work for it. Anyway, so so so so many great points here. Thank you!

  2. Love it. I often find myself bummed if my kids aren't having 'fun' when we go somewhere and feel like it is my responsibility to get them to have fun. It is so true though that there is so much more to life!

  3. This was so well written and something I have been thinking about, since we like to have fun! I am going to have Derek read this. A great article that really makes me want to evaluate what we do in our family. Thanks for sharing your words of wisdom!

  4. So thought provoking, Brooke! You always get my mind reeling and this is definitely something to think about…especially as my boys get older. Thanks for this article! Hope you guys are doing well and having "fun" in your new home 🙂

  5. I read this from my sisters fb page (Brittani Wood Curtis) and love this! I'm a new parent and while watching young kids around me grow up this post couldn't be more true. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us all 🙂

  6. Brooke, love your thoughts and feelings as I can very much relate. Have you heard of a magazine called "Seeing the Everyday"? I subscribe to it and love it, I think you would enjoy it and that it would help you keep your prospective and determination as you "un-fun" your life. Here is a link check it out if you get the chance. http://seeingtheeveryday.com/

  7. Well, you guys are doing a fantastic job! I wish I would have thought about this earlier. We spend so much time keeping our little ones occupied, before we know it they are big kids who should be better than we have allowed them to be. Congrats on moving to Cali! I am sure you won't miss the Michigan winter!

  8. Good point Joey. It was a "fun day," twice, not a good day, with very little else. And, "an all time low" was a bit of a hyperbole as we have passed through some incredibly difficult years together, though nothing like what you have had to go through. That being said, I've never told them what their little hearts can pray for, just hoping that with some re-focusing they might think, on their own, of things for themselves and others that might be more important than fun. That being said, we have had an extremely blessed life…hoping my kids will recognize that too as they reach for more for themselves and those around them.

  9. I very much disagree with your blog post. Fun is an essential part of family life and bonding. We have fun while we work together, drive together, and (gasp) even watch the occasional movie or visit Disneyland together. I want to get out, explore the world, and raise a fun family.

  10. This mom is not saying NOT to have fun. She is saying it's NOT our focus. Our focus is to raise healthy, independent, contributing citizens who know how to work and how to have fun, not always mutually exclusive items. Hard work produces citizens who are grateful, whole, participating, giving, smart, productive people in our communities. When we concentrate only on fun, we end up with citizens who think other people owe them fun and/or a living and others have control over their lives. Our kids need to know how to be creative, how to work hard, and how sometimes they can produce their own fun, or make their work fun. But FUN is not the GOAL, it's a possibility some of the time.

    This mom is not saying NOT to have fun, but for parents to stop FOCUSING on it. Change the questions to:
    "Did you learn something?" "Did you feel productive?" "Did you work hard?" "Did you try your best?" "Were you a good friend?" "Did you try something new?" "Did you push yourself?" "Did you make some one's day better?" "Did you add value?" "Did you create something?" "Did you grow?" "Did you discover something?" "Did you change the world today, even in a small way?"

  11. Thanks for your comment Lindsey. I was hoping the post would not be misconstrued as "I don't want us to have fun." We have SO much fun as a family exploring, doing, and yes, being entertained too. Our plan is to just change the focus of what we do and incorporate more lessons of lasting value as opposed to just focusing on fun. As my kids have grown older, I realized that by focusing on weather they were having fun (and sometimes avoiding things that weren't "fun,") we were doing a disservice to them and not allowing them to grow into the people they are supposed to be and the world needs. That being said, there will still be trips to Disneyland and trampoline parks, and all those other "fun" things, but I want my kids to know that hard work, accomplishing goals, helping others and being really good at something is even more rewarding.

  12. I get your point. There's so much emphasis on entertaining our kids constantly. But being productive and working hard? Let them be kids and have fun. Better yet, have fun with them. Before you know it they'll be out of your life. They have the rest of theif lives to work hard.

  13. I love the idea here of just letting experiences be what they are. Maybe they're fun, maybe they're boring, hard, or insufferable. But no matter what they are, you can learn something from it. Insisting that everything be fun is a recipe for disaster. I love this post because it advocates letting go of the idea that everything must be fun to be worthwhile.

  14. Thanks for your comment Laura. One of my greatest joys is having a good time with my kids. The problem I noticed was we spent so much time having fun together, then all of a sudden my oldest was 10 and I was annoyed all the time by his desire to shirk responsibilities or choose not to try because something wasn't fun. If they don't lean how to work and do hard things here with me, I can't throw them to the world at 18 and hope for them best. While they are little, yes, let them be little, but there is so much to teach them before they are gone!

  15. Brooke, thanks for this. I read this at the perfect time. I've been struggling for the past three weeks with my little 4-year old Primary kids because my lessons aren't "fun" (despite the snacks, games, and lots of coloring.) They don't like my class because I'm not always "fun." We don't normally focus too much on whether something was fun or not as a family but I get now why it's such a big deal to these little 4-year olds. Thanks to you, tomorrow's class is about to get a lot less "fun" when I give them this lecture and explain to them that we're going to be doing a lot of learning and growing this year and it's not always going to be fun for everyone. But of course, deep down inside, I hope they'll have fun. 🙂

  16. Thanks Kim! So true. I teach my son's class and he told me he liked his substitute better because she brought more treats and they played more games. There has to be a happy medium somewhere, right?

  17. Interesting and I like your alternative questions but don't swing too far…wisdom and order/seasons…God's ultimate desire for us is to "be happy" and "have joy therein." Surely that does not mean 100% entertainment and does mean work, learning, creation, relationships, growth, but the process itself should still be enjoyable and a bit of fun/laughter is a key ingredient.

  18. Awesome post! I need to change my questions too! I ask the "did you have fun?" probably way too much. Kids expect too much fun and any day without something fun wasn't a "good day" sometimes..and its partially our fault! I love the list of questions at the end..I'm going to change mine up too 🙂 Like you, I'm all for enjoying life, but we've gotta have a good balance and teach our kids to work hard and to be loving productive individuals. We've been talking a lot lately about service and how that brings joy..and how joy is more important than fun. Fun is fleeting. Joy is eternal. Thanks for sharing your perspective! I completely agree with you.

  19. I can't stop reading your blog…and bookmarking every post. You're a wonderful writer and I can relate to you in so many ways. I loved this post. Thank you! – Your newest follower 🙂

  20. If you only knew how often your third paragraph manifests itself in my life. Case in point: next week is spring break and zero of those things are happening. I'm hoping for a pleasant week at home with chores and activities right here, all of us together. Your message was so refreshing!

  21. As a mom of 3 really rambunctious and varied in personality and likes and dislikes I LOVED this article. My hubby and I are opposed to video games yet through grandma and social pressure we relented and have now found that it has to be rewarded by hard work first. I want to change things up and spring is the perfect time for that. We cleaned a yard yesterday that took about 3 hours. The boys never complained and in fact the only fighting came when they argued over the rake! This is awesome thanks for writing !

  22. Really love your blog- stumbled upon it as someone posted the one about "No Leprechauns…" in a Party Planner's forum where we all loved and agreed with the post (I mean, can you imagine!) I love this post on Fun as well- and I'm going to try out a customized version of your alternative Q's today when I pick my kids up. I'm also so impressed with all of your answers to your comments, it's really humbling (as a blogger myself) to see you take the time to answer each one without a shred of rudeness if they disagree. I could take a lesson from this! 😉

  23. We've been struggling with our boys only wanting to do "fun" things and really complaining if things are not. This is great. So many good things we do in this life are not necessarily fun, but oh so worth it!

  24. How sweet of you Miss Party Mom! Thank you for sharing your kind and honest thoughts with me. I really appreciate it. Good luck with the alternative Qs. It is actually harder than you think!

  25. Awesome article Kori,
    Thank you for your article, I loved it. I hadn't noticed until now how much I ask my children and friends that question "did you have fun?" I am definitely going to ask different questions from here on out.
    I am taking my first semester of Pathways and a couple weeks ago our lesson was on work and my goal this summer is to teach my children to work hard and enjoy the journey along the way. So last we we got the greenhouse cleaned out, the large tree branched cut up into small sections and in the end the kids weren't grumbling or complaining. Sundays have also been a tough one, so last night we set some clear rules of what we will not be doing and then we talked about some things we could do. The kids wanted to get on the family history site and my 11 year old son became the navigator and narrator as we read some stories from journals and other documents. I seriously did not think they would be so interested, but there was definitely a spirit of love there and desire to do more.

  26. This was great to read. I couldn't help but smile a couple days ago, and feel like a "proud-mom-moment" when my 7 year old whined, "But you ALWAYS make me work!!!" That's right son, I'm trying to not raise a bunch of lazy bums 🙂

  27. Thanks Teresa! Congrats to you for making yourself do hard things by going back to school! I love it when other families work together and use Sundays as a day of togetherness and worship. You are totally on the right track!

  28. I just came across your blog on facebook. It was shared by Kathi Martin, who I absolutely love. I found your blog at the perfect time. I'm going through a very difficult time in my life and your blog has served to be a positive distraction from the heartache and pain. Thank you! Ive found during the most difficult times the little, important things for our children, are hard to remember to do. I know your blog is exactly what I need, in order to remember how to keep doing whats most important, even though I dont feel capable of doing anything exraordinary at this time in my life. Thank you for putting your words in the right place, at the right time. With all that said, In response to your article on having fun, I want to share one of my childrens happiest, funnest memories from their childhood. One of our families favorite hobbies is to see the 50 states, or to go country dancing as a family, or to go on long walks together, of course we can't forget the days, weeks and months we've spent boating on the lake. But, if you ask my kids what one of my favorite hobbies are, they will tell you, it's being in the service of my fellow beings. One day I signed us all up to go to the food pantry to help. When we were done helping the needy load groceries into their baskets, and out to the car, and done unloading boxes of food onto shelves in the back of the pantry, my kids said, "Mom, that was so much fun! Can we go again?" We ended up volunteering every month after that. My twelve year old son said, "My favorite part was working inside the big walk-in refrigerator!" Service is fun!!! This last Saturday my husband and I did alot of little repairs around the house and our three year old and five year old sons worked at our side the whole day. They handed us tools and ran errands around the house for us. My five year old said, three or four different times, "Mom, its so fun working with you and Dad, can we do this again? I'm a good helper, huh?" One last example, my husband was taking care of my children when I was out of town. He took them to the zoo, the childrens museum, out to eat, and played "Sorry" (the board game) with them. At the end of the week after running all over the county, and spending lots of money trying to entertain them, he asked them what their favorite part of the week was. Do you know what they said? In unison they all said, "PLAYING SORRY WITH YOU!" Once again, as parents, we learned It's not about quantity, its about quality time together. These children of ours have fun working and playing together, its all the same to them. As long as they are together where they can interact and show love to one another, they are feeling joy and to them, that is having fun! Thank you Brooke for adding an additional, thought provocing bright spot to my life. You are truly gifted!

  29. Hey Cindy. I am so sorry! It sounds like things are really difficult right now. Thanks for taking the time to share you story and your thoughts with me. What great ideas you have and awesome reminders for us all. Thank you for your sweet words and I wish you the best of luck in all life is throwing at you. I love Kathi too, so it sounds like we would get along great!

  30. “You are sent to this earth not merely to have a good time or to satisfy urges or passions or desires… and have what the world calls “fun.” You are sent to this world with a very serious purpose… to begin as a human infant and grow to unbelievable proportions in wisdom, judgment, knowledge, and power. One of the most serious human defects in all ages is procrastination, an unwillingness to accept personal responsibilities, NOW. Men came to earth consciously to obtain their schooling, their training and development, and to perfect themselves, but many have allowed themselves to be diverted and have become addicts to mental and spiritual indolence and to the pursuit of worldly pleasure. Now we are to train our bodies, our minds and our spirits. Pre-eminent, then is our using this life to perfect ourselves, to subjugate the flesh, subject the body to the spirit, to overcome all weaknesses, to govern self so that one may give leadership to others, and to perform all necessary ordinances.”
    -Spencer W. Kimball

  31. Although I agree with your main message that kids need to learn to be independent and work hard. I just struggle with the idea of putting a negative connotation on the word fun. Some people come to earth with the gift of fun. I have a daughter who can turn anything into fun and also helps others to have fun. It is one of her special talents. She uses the word fun a lot, and so do I in response to her because it is what she feels and part of who she is. If I devalued fun and and made it an inferior concept then it would take away from her very essence. She is also one of the most motivated and determined little girls who excels at pretty much everything she does, because she knows how to add a little fun to everything she does. We can and should teach our children all of the very important things you spoke of in your article but without turning fun into a negative. http://thechildwhisperer.com/grateful-type-1-child/

  32. Hi Heather. I actually agree with everything you said above. A little background..I am just like your daughter. In fact, growing up my nickname was "Pollyanna." I have always been optimistic and thought just about everything was "fun." I think it is one of my very greatest spiritual gifts and I am grateful for it every day. However, I have one child who is very different. In fact, he ONLY thinks things are fun if they are the traditional fun, meaning, entertaining, carefree, and require no effort from him. He has always been this way. He is not easily impressed by much. So, after many "fun" events or not "fun" events I would ask for his reaction and it would be something like, "it was okay." or "It wasn't fun at all." or "I don't want to do that anymore." or "I don't really like being on that team or playing for that coach or going to that scouting event." He was opting out of everything because it was a little hard or boring or didn't give him freedom to do everything the way he wanted to. That is why we decided we had to change things. My other children are more like I am and find joy in hard work, museum outings, or just having a free day to lounge around and read a book, so it is not as concerning; they create their own fun in every experience; but we really felt like we did a disservice to one child by trying to make everything fun or trying to talk him into the fact that it was fun. We had to adopt a different attitude and it has made a huge difference. We used to worry if he said things weren't fun; now he knows that lots of things aren't meant to be entertaining. They are meant to be growing or learning experiences and he can choose to make them fun if he wants. Making hard or boring things fun is all in the attitude, but he knows that he can't quit something just because it isn't "fun."

    I honestly wrote the article because our family was TOO focused on fun. Changing our questions and our focus has not cut the fun out at all, despite my title. Each of my children have frown and flourished in really hard and unexpected ways, and I love it. They have also had PLENTY of fun.

    Thanks for your insight and giving me a chance to clarify my meaning.

  33. Hi Heather. I actually agree with everything you said above. A little background..I am just like your daughter. In fact, growing up my nickname was "Pollyanna." I have always been optimistic and thought just about everything was "fun." I think it is one of my very greatest spiritual gifts and I am grateful for it every day. However, I have one child who is very different. In fact, he ONLY thinks things are fun if they are the traditional fun, meaning, entertaining, carefree, and require no effort from him. He has always been this way. He is not easily impressed by much. So, after many "fun" events or not "fun" events I would ask for his reaction and it would be something like, "it was okay." or "It wasn't fun at all." or "I don't want to do that anymore." or "I don't really like being on that team or playing for that coach or going to that scouting event." He was opting out of everything because it was a little hard or boring or didn't give him freedom to do everything the way he wanted to. That is why we decided we had to change things. My other children are more like I am and find joy in hard work, museum outings, or just having a free day to lounge around and read a book, so it is not as concerning; they create their own fun in every experience; but we really felt like we did a disservice to one child by trying to make everything fun or trying to talk him into the fact that it was fun. We had to adopt a different attitude and it has made a huge difference. We used to worry if he said things weren't fun; now he knows that lots of things aren't meant to be entertaining. They are meant to be growing or learning experiences and he can choose to make them fun if he wants. Making hard or boring things fun is all in the attitude, but he knows that he can't quit something just because it isn't "fun."

    I honestly wrote the article because our family was TOO focused on fun. Changing our questions and our focus has not cut the fun out at all, despite my title. Each of my children have frown and flourished in really hard and unexpected ways, and I love it. They have also had PLENTY of fun.

    Thanks for your insight and giving me a chance to clarify my meaning.

  34. Oh I know what you mean. My niece and nephew and step kids get upset if they are not continually fed entertainment. I was thinking about the same thing, how these kids are frustrated when not having "fun". I myself am guilty of feeding that desire, to constantly have fun. I am glad to hear someone else notice the same problem.

    I like your ideas of asking of what they did instead of if they had fun. I would like the kids I am with to learn to enjoy themselves and learning instead of being upset at not having fun.

    Thank you for the post.

  35. Love this! In fact, I created a little meme with your questions and printed on canvas (cited you of course) and I'm giving it to each of my chidlrens teachers at the start of this school year. This totally resonated with me and (begrudgingly) my kids 😉 I wanted our teachers to know of our focus and to call my kids on it when needed. Thanks again and I look forward to more posts. (p.s. just read the article about your mom and immediately sent it on to my mom. So grateful for mom's who are comfortable with who they are…which in turns makes us comfortable with ourselves.) Keep it up!

  36. I often tell my kids that life has to have a balance of work and play to feel satisfying. About a year ago I stopped asking my kids if they had fun when they would return from something. It was eye opening to see how hard it was to break that habit!! And this article brought to my attention I am back to my usual generic question “did you have a fun time?” I didn’t even realize I had slipped back! I don’t think I am obsessed with having fun or whether or not my kids had fun where ever they were. It’s just a go-to question that requires little thinking. The same thing applies to “how was your day?” If I want to have meaningful conversations with my kids about what I value in life, I am going to have to take a moment to compose meaningful questions! I think life should be enjoyable, and that our attitude can make hard things better. But I agree that there is a huge bias towards leisure in our culture and it will not serve my kids well if I fan the flames.
    Thanks for your thoughts!

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Mary Karlee! I was great at asking other questions for about a year, then I slipped right back into the fun question too. It does take thought and presence to think of something better, but I also think it is worth it. I appreciate your comment. Welcome to my blog!

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