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MARIST BROTHERS LINMEYER

The Modern Child – Do they lack certain valuable life skills?

Many teachers, therapists and even parents have mentioned to me over the years that they have noticed a change in the modern child compared to the resilient, socially and emotionally strong youth of old. Is this just perception or has the ‘modern world’ changed the way our offspring act?

As we know, the brain is malleable. Through environment, we can make the brain “stronger” or make it “weaker”. We, as parents, organise the environment for our children – have we been moulding their brains in the wrong direction? I offer you food for thought.

Children get ‘Everything’ the moment they want it

“I am Hungry!!” – response, “In a sec I will stop at the drive through”.
“I am Bored!” – response, “Use my phone!”.

Does this sound familiar? The ability to delay gratification is one of the key factors for future success. We have the best intentions – to make our children happy – but unfortunately, we make them happy at the moment, but miserable in the long term. To be able to delay gratification means to be able to function under stress. Our children are gradually becoming less equipped to deal with even minor stressors, which eventually become huge obstacles to their success in life. The inability to delay gratification is often seen in classrooms, malls, restaurants, and toy stores the moment the child hears, “No” through tantrums and sulks because parents have taught their child’s brain to get what it wants right away.

Children rule our world

“My son doesn’t like vegetables.” “She doesn’t like going to bed early.” “He doesn’t like to eat breakfast.” “She doesn’t want toys; she only wants an iPad” “He doesn’t want to get dressed on his own.”

These words are all too frequently heard from parents all the time. Since when do children dictate to us how to parent them? If we leave it all up to them, all they are going to do is eat mac and cheese, watch TV, play on their tablets, and never go to bed. What good are we doing them by giving them what they WANT when we know that it is not GOOD for them?

Without proper nutrition and a good night’s sleep, children come to school irritable, anxious, and inattentive. In addition, we send them the wrong message. They learn they can do what they want and not do what they don’t want. The concept of “need to do” is absent. Unfortunately, in order to achieve our goals in our lives, we have to do what’s necessary, which may not always be what we want to do. For example, if a child wants to be an A student, he needs to study hard. If he wants to be a successful soccer player, he needs to practise every day.

Limited Social Interaction

We are all busy, so we give our kids digital gadgets and make them “busy” too. Kids used to play outside, where, in unstructured natural environments, they learned and practised their social skills. Unfortunately, technology is rapidly replacing outdoor time.

Also, technology mas made parents less available to socially interact with their kids. Obviously, our kids fall behind… the babysitting gadget is not equipped to help kids develop social skills. Most successful people have great social skills. This is a priority for the developing child.

The brain is just like a muscle that is trainable and re-trainable. If you want your child to be able to bike, you teach him biking skills. If you want your child to be able to wait, you need to teach him patience. If you want your child to be able to socialise effectively, you need to teach her social skills and give her opportunities to socialise. The same applies to all the other skills. There is no difference.

This editorial is adapted from the writings of Victoria Prooday, an Occupational Therapist, Health Scientist and Kinesiologist from Toronto, Canada. She offers the following information and advice for parents wanting to help “train” their child’s brain.

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