Quick Hit: What does “constructive” mean?

Since I have the attention of at least a few people who stumble by or regularly read my blog here; I am going to put a quick shout out to all of y’all on behalf of my assignment for this week in YA lit:

This week you should talk to as many people as possible about what the word constructive means when it comes to constructive use of time and teenagers. Talk to colleagues, friends, kids, family members, etc. and find out how they define that word and whether or not they think that things like reading a horror book or about the history of Barbie or if reading the content of the TV Guide website is constructive. Is playing a video game constructive? Etc. These don’t have to be formal interviews, just as you are talking with people try to weave this question into the conversation. Ask as many people as you can.

So the question goes out to everyone out there:  what does “constructive” mean to you in regards to use of time, especially for teens?  Does your definition change for adults/yourself?  Do you have reasons that you feel that way?  Ask your teen friends or your own kids and let me know what they say too.

Lay it on the line for me peeps and let me know where you’re coming from!


6 thoughts on “Quick Hit: What does “constructive” mean?

  1. I think that you can use your time constructively in many surprising ways. My impression is that constructive has a lot more to do with intent and ability to connect the dots than specific activity. For instance, you ask if reading horror novels can be constructive for a teenager. Well, I’m betting Steven King read a few horror novels before he penned his first.

    On the other end of the scale, you have my brother who also read a lot of horror novels, and who spends most of his time wallowing in the many various ways our mother ruined (HA!) his life and continues to do so twenty one years after her death.

    For Steven King reading horror novels paid off. For my brother, I doubt that a course in neurosurgery would have worked out to be terribly constructive because his attitude is one of victimization and self-pity.

    I also think we over-emphasize constructive use of time in this country. We schedule every moment and panic at the idea that someone might spend two of those moments just chilling out. The fact is, though, that stress kills and over-scheduled people are more prone to stress. Daydreaming is important. If your brain and body never get a chance to relax, you can’t come up with new ideas. At that point, pretty much anything you do is just another go on the hamster wheel.

  2. Constructive, when it comes to time and teenagers, means to me that my kids are doing things that excite them and make them want to do more. Both of my kids are readers, and I have no problem with them spending their time reading whatever has caught their fancy. (Even if that’s the Twilight series.) Because unrestrained reading is, IMO, one of life’s greatest pleasures. But it’s a skill that has to be learned, and the only way to learn it is by actually reading. I’m guilty of trying to jump start a teenage kid who has been laying around for too long and not doing anything at all beyond watching TV or playing video games, but I even try to keep that to a minimum. I make sure they have access to lots of things to do, and usually it all works out in the end.

  3. Personally, I find anything constructive that entertains, educates, or accomplishes something. Reading can do that – it improves your vocabulary, your writing skill, entertains you, relaxes you (and you’d be amazed at the amount of trivia you pick up from books, even in fiction). Playing computer games or games on a console can do that – improves hand/eye coordination, relaxes you, is entertaining. It’s all a matter of perspective, I think, and sometimes too much emphasis is placed on being “constructive” all the time. Sometimes we need to just let go and do things just to be doing them, not to be attaining some goal, or learning something.

  4. For me, constructive use of time means I’m accomplishing or at least doing what I set out to do. Even if that goal is to do nothing or to spend some mindless time playing games on the internet.

    I don’t have teenagers, but in my own teen years time to goof off and dream and piddle around was very important to me. It gave me time to de-stress (I’m an introvert and need my quiet and still time to get my head back on straight even now) and think through future plans and stuff like that, stuff that can’t be done while you’re multi-tasking on something more traditionally constructive.

  5. I guess that for me constructive use of time is doing something that needs to be done or that gives me a sense of accomplishment. So it could be housework or finishing a book I wanted to read or a knitting project. I would apply the same definition to teenagers and their use of time. IIRC that was my thought on it as a teenager as well. I think my mom’s definition of “constructive use of time” was either me doing my chores or anything that kept me from complaining about being bored.

    Reading mass market fiction or about pop culture can be constructive if it is something that one is genuinely interested in or enjoys thinking about. I don’t think any reading can actually be constructive without critical thinking skills though. If you read the most well-respected classic in the world and it went in one eyeball and out the other did you really use your time well?

    I also think non-constructive uses of time are perfectly valid, but that is a different discussion.

    • Everyone has some fantastic thoughts brewing here! Thank you! It is really getting some twitter discussions going 😀 Quite a tricky concept: “Constructive”. Is a Beach read (mind-fluff) not constructive if it only accomplishes relaxation? Is Jane Eyre constructive if you zip through it as part of a hated assignment? Very cool thoughts!!

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