In the good old days, people would sit around the table for meals, have block parties with neighbors, and kids were able to find out about the world through adventure and exploring.
By Nicole Nowitzki
Today’s children are covered in hand sanitizer, smart phone in hand, eating quietly in front of the TV, and talking to friends via technology. It is now important to have conversations at home that normally would have been learned as a social norm from natural interaction with others.
When we think about conversations that typically happen at home, we think of the ‘birds and the bees’, peer pressure for sex, drugs, and alcohol, and how to be a productive member of society. Yes, we still need to have these conversations, but now, we have to add an entirely new category to the list.
Child development research is saying that certain parts of the brain are being over-stimulated and under-stimulated at predetermined ages due to our technology/social media driven lives. Technology can teach ABC’s, numbers, colors…, but it can’t teach common sense, feelings, how to deal with feelings, bullying/cyberbullying, and moral values. A child can watch a tiger teach them about feelings, and a cucumber talk about values, but putting them into practice is a whole separate ballgame.
Sometimes, TV is a relaxing outlet for adults after a hard day, but some of us were raised before internet, TV, and cellphones were popular (or invented). Adults might binge watch a show now and again, but they still know that things must be done: cooking, cleaning, working, paying bills… However, if our children are being put in front of the TV/games while we do all of these things, they have no idea how to do them or that they are important.
Harping on a child to pick up toys and clean their room doesn’t really compute if they’ve never been shown how. Telling a kid to get over being upset is fine if they know what the coping mechanisms are. Asking a little one to be nice to the new kid or ignore someone for being a butthead is great if they were taught self-confidence and self-worth at home. Keep in mind, whatever is not taught at home will be taught by peers, and I pray that I can instill enough common sense for them to understand that Little Billy doesn’t have a clue about the real world.
Quotes from my childhood such as, “The world doesn’t revolve around you” , “Society doesn’t owe you anything” , and “You are not better than anyone else” don’t really have the same result when children are getting a toy every time they go to the store and getting a trophy or participation award just for showing up.
Fifteen years ago, I worked at a daycare in Illinois, and my boss was telling us a story about her son that wanted to get his hair cut into a Mohawk. She told him, “Listen, you can cut or color your hair however you want, but you have to be prepared to take some heat because kids are going to find any reason they can to pick on someone or be hateful. How are you going to handle it if someone makes fun of you? Are you prepared to deal with that?” These are the conversations that need to happen so our children know what to do before it happens. He already had a game plan before he needed one.
We don’t put our kids on a football field without coaching and practice. The game of life is much more important than sports, so we need to invest time into teaching our children how to be functioning people so they will know how to handle the life that is thrown at them.