Some strategies for keeping you child grounded and rooted in what matters.
Last week I wrote about an article written by a pediatric occupational therapist that outlined five reasons why today’s kids are increasingly having learning difficulties: over use of technology; kids getting what they want immediately; parents allowing kids to call the shots on issues parents know better about; adults feeling the need to make everything fun for kids; and decreased opportunities for meaningful, unscheduled, open-ended socialization. This week I want to outline what the author, Victoria Prooday, recommends to counter these trends.
First, Prooday suggests that parents limit their children’s use of technology and replace it with personal contact with the family. She recommends things like family dinners, board game nights, going out for walks, and finding simple means of letting children know you care about them. In order for this to be effective, parents also have to develop the discipline to put their devices aside and not respond immediately to various notifications.
Second, she recommends giving children daily experience with delayed gratification. Consistently saying things like, “We don’t have to stop on the way home for a snack just because you say you are hungry. We will be home in 10 minutes, and you can have a snack then” or “I will come look at your homework once I have finished getting dinner in the oven. That will be in about 15 minutes” gets kids used to waiting.
Third, she urges parents to set limits and determine and stick to a daily schedule and structure. Most kids do best when there is a predictable daily routine at home. You might even want to have your child make a chart and then add to it basics for which they are always responsible (putting clothes out the night before; packing the book bag and putting it, along with the next day’s needed equipment, near the door, etc.).
Fourth, she urges parents require that children assume responsibility for some of the mundane but necessary tasks that make up a good portion of life — washing the dishes, feeding the dog, setting the table, vacuuming the family room, folding the laundry, etc. In addition to developing a sense of contributing to the good of the whole family, children develop from these kinds of tasks the ability to attend even when things aren’t optimally stimulating.
She also recommends focusing on tasks such as sharing, compromising, and learning manners. Emphasize taking turns, giving others meaningful compliments, and expressing gratitude. Finally she suggests regular “doses” of unstructured time, particularly outdoors with other kids, so that children get used to the idea that they are capable of keeping themselves entertained and negotiating relationships with others even when not involved in adult-organized and structured activities.
In summary, Prooday believes that “children change the moment parents change their perspective on parenting.” All of these steps, she maintains, help children be more ready to learn and transfer discipline to other areas of their lives.