By: Victoria Prooday
I am an occupational therapist with 10 years of experience working with children, parents, and teachers. I completely agree with this teacher’s message that our children are getting worse and worse in many aspects. I hear the same consistent message from every teacher I meet. Clearly, throughout my ten years as an Occupational Therapist, I have seen and continue to see a decline in kids’ social, emotional, and academic functioning, as well as a sharp increase in learning disabilities and other diagnoses.
Today’s children come to school emotionally unavailable for learning, and there are many factors in our modern lifestyle that contribute to this. As we know, the brain is malleable. Through environment, we can make the brain “stronger” or make it “weaker”. I truly believe that, despite all our greatest intentions, we unfortunately remold our children’s brains in the wrong direction. Here is why:
1. Limit technology, and re-connect with your kids emotionally
Surprise them with flowers, share a smile, tickle them, put a love note in their backpack or under their pillow, surprise them by taking them out for lunch on a school day, dance together, crawl together, have pillow fights
Have family dinners, board game nights (see the list of my favorite board games in my previous blog post), go biking, go to outdoor walks with a flashlight in the evening
2. Train delayed gratification
Make them wait!!! It is ok to have “I am bored“ time – this is the first step to creativity
Gradually increase the waiting time between “I want” and “I get”
Avoid technology use in cars and restaurants, and instead teach them waiting while talking and playing games
Limit constant snacking
3. Don’t be afraid to set the limits. Kids need limits to grow happy and healthy!!
Make a schedule for meal times, sleep times, technology time
Think of what is GOOD for them- not what they WANT/DON’T WANT. They are going to thank you for that later on in life. Parenting is a hard job. You need to be creative to make them do what is good for them because, most of the time, that is the exact opposite of what they want.
Kids need breakfast and nutritious food. They need to spend time outdoor and go to bed at a consistent time in order to come to school available for learning the next day!
Convert things that they don’t like doing/trying into fun, emotionally stimulating games
4. Teach your child to do monotonous work from early years as it is the foundation for future “workability”
Folding laundry, tidying up toys, hanging clothes, unpacking groceries, setting the table, making lunch, unpacking their lunch box, making their bed
Be creative. Initially make it stimulating and fun so that their brain associates it with something positive.
5. Teach social skills
Teach them turn taking, sharing, losing/winning, compromising, complimenting others , using “please and thank you”
From my experience as an occupational therapist, children change the moment parents change their perspective on parenting. Help your kids succeed in life by training and strengthening their brain sooner rather than later!