It’s total sacrilege to say it, but have we got the process of bringing up children all wrong? Parents have an unenviable job in these busy times, particularly mums who are often, through necessity, juggling jobs and giving their children every possible opportunity. How dare I say that maybe it is all going wrong?! Auch!
Well the truth is that the average child is exposed to more and more in their early years, but seems to be less focused, less goal-orientated and less likely to stick to activities. Why is this? – certainly children are no less intelligent. The children I come in contact with as a teacher are often doing 2 or 3 after-school activities per week, some have an activity every afternoon. Do they seem happy – no! Many children find the constant activity tiring and stressful. Like you and me children like to relax after a day’s work, and although one or two activities are looked froward to, more become a chore and a stress as children realise they are not going to be able to live up to parents’ expectations.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some children who take it all in their stride, and crave more, but more often than not, our overloaded children are showing signs of stress and may be on the road to greater problems later. One of the sad side-effects is that we become used to our children not succeeding, which sends a message to the child that they are not very good. We begin to have low expectations often just because of this overloading.
As a studio piano teacher I find my job coming harder and harder. More and more children seem to lack the skills to succeed. Often television is blamed for causing shorter attention spans, but the answer is more complex. Everyone knows that interested children concentrate very hard for long periods of time. There are probably many reasons for lack of focus, but tiredness and our own lack of expectations, coupled with their lack of day-to-day problem-solving skills and sense of responsibility must weigh heavily. Many children from an young age do not expect to succeed. Parents would do well to cut down the activities their children are involved with, and allow them to have time to think and order their own lives.
I know every parent wants the best for their child, but these days we take a lot of responsibility off our children. We chauffeur them from door to door because of stranger danger, so they acquire little road sense; we don’t let them go to the park or shops alone so they perceive it is something they are incapable of doing; we book them into many extracurricular activities so they are given the impression that they can’t organize their own time without you. Not surprisingly children are losing the ability to think for themselves and to set their own goals. Of course we do not want to expose them to danger, but building up their coping skills and talking about day-to-day dangers and how to avoid them will greatly increase their self-esteem and stop them being a helpless prisoner. Likewise, talking about what they would like to achieve and then supporting them to achieve that goal is helping them grow into a self-sufficient person.
Too many extracurricular activities mean things are poorly done, so again children feel everything is too hard for them. They feel defeated and don’t expect to succeed. We should be gradually giving them more responsibility as their age and experience warrants.
How can we help our children be more independent?:
1. Start giving children more responsibility in certain areas.
2. Discuss things with them and encourage them to come up with solutions.
3. Assume children will succeed in their endeavours and support them only as much as they need.
4. Give that support with enthusiasm, joy and the confidence that they will succeed.
5. Help them set their own goals – and set them a little higher that you would expect – they might surprise you!
6. Enjoy your children. Only allow them to take on activities that they really want to do, and give them time just to be a kid and do some free thinking.