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The most important skills that children everywhere must learn in order to live happy, productive, moral lives are skills that cannot be taught in school. Such skills cannot be taught at all. They are learned and practised by children in play. These include the abilities to think creatively, to get along with other people and cooperate effectively, and to control their own impulses and emotions.
My bet is that Gove would agree that now, even more than in the past, creativity is a key to economic success. We no longer need people to follow directions in robot-like ways (we have robots for that), or to perform routine calculations (we have computers for that), or to answer already-answered questions (we have search engines for that). But we do need people who can ask and seek answers to new questions, solve new problems and anticipate obstacles before they arise. These all require the ability to think creatively. The creative mind is a playful mind.
All young children are creative. In their play and self-directed exploration they create their own mental models of the world around them and also models of imaginary worlds. Adults whom we call geniuses are those who somehow retain and build upon that childlike capacity throughout their lives. Albert Einstein said his schooling almost destroyed his interest in mathematics and physics, but he recovered it when he left school. He referred to his innovative work as “combinatorial play”. He claimed that he developed his concept of relativity by imagining himself chasing a sunbeam and catching up with it, and then thinking about the consequences. We can’t teach creativity, but we can drive it out of people through schooling that centres not on children’s own questions but on questions dictated by an imposed curriculum that operates as if all questions have one right answer and everyone must learn the same things.
Dealing with Childhood Fears: Quick Tips from Ron Huxley, LMFT
This weeks tip for parents deals with childhood fears. Fears of dogs, doctors, and the dark are normal experiences in a childs early development. Here are some tips for helping children cope with their fears:
Buy your child stuffed animals or spend time with small animals such as rabbits.
Role-play going to the doctor before your visit. try to visit when your child doesn’t have to get a shot or feels sick.
Put a nightlight in your child’s room and listen to soft music to help soothe nighttime fears.
Discourage scary stories or television shows to avoid fears of monsters.
Never force your child to go someplace frightening or trivialize their fears as silly or stupid.
Draw pictures and talk about the things that frighten your child.
Well, as they say, better late than never. Two columns ago, I promised to share my “fail-safe, money-back guaranteed formula for getting kids to eat everything on their plates.” Then, as if I was in my 60s or something, I forgot and wrote a column about kids who argue constantly with their parents. Consider this my mea culpa or, as the young say, “My bad.”
Yes, it is possible to get kids to eat everything on their plates — spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, you name it. Why, in the American Southeast, it is common for toddlers to eat livermush. Compared to livermush, broccoli is like ice cream (to me, anyway). Nonetheless, a kid who scarfs down livermush will refuse broccoli.
Why do so many of today’s kids have picky palates? Some people with capital letters after their names say it’s because their taste buds send weird signals to their brains when they eat certain foods. That explanation cannot be verified; therefore, it is a theory, and a bad one at that. So what if something initially tastes weird? When I was a kid, I thought spinach tasted weird. I ate it anyway and learned to love it. My parents didn’t give me a choice. That’s the real reason kids have picky palates — parents give choices.
Since the parenting revolution of the 1960s, experts have been encouraging parents to give children choices. And so today’s parents complain about children who argue with them about “everything.” They also complain that their kids won’t eat what’s put on their plates. “My child won’t eat anything but (some form of junk food).” Here’s the simple, tested, certified, three-step plan:
1. Fix the picky eater what you want him to eat for breakfast and lunch. If he does not eat it, wrap it or toss it. Do not allow him to snack between meals, even if he’s eaten nothing all day. You have to stop wanting him to eat. He will live, I assure you. My lawyer said I could tell you that.
2. Prepare the evening meal with no consideration of said picky eater’s food preferences. On his plate, put one level teaspoon of each food, as in one teaspoon of roast beef, one teaspoon of mashed potatoes with a few drops of gravy (“He loves mashed potatoes and gravy!”) and one teaspoon of broccoli. The rule then becomes: When the child has eaten everything on his plate, he may have seconds of anything, and the second helping of whatever — in this case, mashed potatoes and gravy — can be as large as his eyes are big.
3. It will take a week or so and much complaining and maybe even pitiful wailing in the interim, but he will eventually begin eating the green, weird-tasting thing. At that point, begin slowly increasing the portion size of the green thing, but do not increase the portion of the thing(s) he loves. Keep them at one teaspoon. Within a month, he will be eating a regular-size portion of foods his palate would not accept previously, upon which you can begin increasing the portion size of things he loves but not past the point where he can eat his favorite things and not be hungry.
Voila! The key to the success of this fail-safe formula — the variable that makes it fail-safe — is that the child’s parents do not sit at the table encouraging him to “just try” the food he hates. They must act completely nonchalant. If need be, they can feed him and then sit down to a pleasant meal. What a concept!
In today’s commercial society kids are bombarded with “buy me” messages. Parents, trying to live frugally, are faced with their child’s demands for expensive toys and clothes. In addition, many parents feel the pressure to keep up with other parents who buy their children everything and may even feel shame for not being able to do the same for their children. The reality is that you can give your child “wishes” even though you can’t or choose not to give them all their “wants”:
Wants List is a parenting tool that keeps a lid on children’s endless list of wants. A child’s want of a new bike, toy, or clothes item is, in itself, not wrong. Everyone has things they would like to have. But when these wants get out of control, parents need to limit their children’s excessive cravings. The demand for things often increases between the ages of 7 to 10. This is due developmentally to the cognitive changes in a child that allows them to be more aware of other circumstances that are different from their own. The result is often alot of comparisons between what one does and does not have compared to other children.
One way of dealing with these demands is to ignore them. Viewing a child’s wants as a cognitive exercise of comparisons and not feeling the need to respond to these cravings is one way that parents can cope with a child’s wants. Another way of dealing with a child’s wants is to make a family “want list.” This tool allows wants to be expressed openly without any feeling by the parent to fulfill them all. Whenever a child states that they simply “must have the hot, new computer game” or the “colorful, new doll” have the child write the thing on the want list and place it where everyone can see it, like on the refrigerator. Instead of reacting to a child’s demands, the parent can redirect the child to “Go, write it down on the want list.” Parents can put things down on the want list too. This demonstrates that parents often make do without things they want as well. Use the want list as next years birthday or Christmas list but don’t be surprised if the child no longer wants those items anymore.
Wishes are a parenting talk tool that acknowledges children’s wants without giving into their demands. Everyone has needs, wants, and desires. For example, hunger is a need, a turkey sandwich is a want, and a full turkey dinner with all the trimmings is a desire. Let’s face it, most parents cannot give their child all of their wants all of the time. Even if they could, it would probably be a bad idea. Unfortunately, children may have to settle for getting a need filled instead of a want or a desire. Using the food example, the child may have to settle for the turkey sandwich or whatever leftovers are left in the refrigerator instead of the full turkey dinner.
Wishes are unique in that they acknowledge a child’s desires as healthy and valid even when they can not have them. For example, a child who desires to have a pair of two hundred-dollar tennis shoes may have to settle for a less expensive pair. When children realize they cannot have the expensive shoes they often sulk, tantrum, or become verbally abusive to their parent who “never does anything nice for them.” To avoid this power struggle, parents can state, “Wow! Those are great looking shoes. And wouldn’t it really impress your friends when you show up at school with those shoes. I bet you could jump at least 8 feet straight up in the air with those shoes. But unfortunately I only can afford those shoes over there. Which one of those shoes would you like?” Another example would be in the situation where a parent and a child are on a trip and the child begins whining for something to drink and nothing is available for miles. The parents might use this tool to fantasize what it would be like to drink a tall, cold, thirst-quenching, sparkling, glass of soda. The parent can use humor as a parenting tool here. The actual desire can be met now in fantasy and later when they get near a store.
Let me ask, can you relate to any of these situations?
When enjoying movie night with the family you have your smart phone nearby to check for that “important email” every 5 minutes.
Soccer practice on Tuesday nights is great because it gives you a chance to finish work stuff on your laptop while “watching” from the stands.
As much as you and the kids love making dinner together, most nights there’s only time to whip up something basic without little hands slowing you down.
I bet the answer is yes. I for one certainly can. Life has a way of getting in between us and those little cuties we hold so dear. We tell ourselves -and them- that we would do ANYTHING for them. And we mean that? However, the reality is they don’t necessarily need us to do “anything” for them- they need us to engage with them. Kids want our presence, not just presents.
It just dawned on me…the ParentingToolbox.com blog has been online for 15 YEARS! It has had many faces and transformations but it has always been a labor of love. Tell a friend about it and help me celebrate.
Most of the rules you have for your child are to protect them from accidental injury and from other people. The National Crime Prevention Council advises that one of the most important ways to protect your child is to teach them to be wary of dangerous circumstances. This can include recognizing suspicious behavior from other children and adults and learning to say no if they are asked to keep a secret or disobey their parents. A common rule that most children are taught is not to talk to strangers and to run away for help from a trusted adult if they are approached.
Rules at home are typically made to help siblings and family members get along and to respect each other’s belongings. Family rules could include speaking politely, eating at the dinner table and not wearing shoes inside. They could also include your child’s responsibilities, such as making his bed, cleaning his room, helping with the dishes and finishing his homework before playing on the computer. The Raising Children Network recommends that parents should keep rules consistent among all children so that each child will know what is expected of them. Additionally, adults in the household should also follow family rules. That will help your child be respectful at home and take responsibility for his behavior.
Children learn social rules both directly and indirectly while playing with their siblings and other children. The website Childhoods Today notes that many of the social rules that guide children during play are unwritten as children learn how to have fun with their playmates. They might learn that if they do not share their toys, for instance, other children will not play with them. You might also have rules that help your child develop social skills. For example, rules such as including a younger sibling during playtime, helps your child develop patience, cooperation and compromise with others. These rules for social interactions during childhood are important for lifelong relationships.
Playing a team sport allows your child to learn and develop skills that help boost his self-esteem, leadership and time-management abilities. Sports involve rules to play the game and rules of interaction between teammates and competing teams. This includes treating coaches and players with respect, giving everyone a fair chance to play and working together as a team. The Raising Children Network notes that watching sporting events also has rules. The way you speak, cheer and show disappointment during a game teaches your child sportsmanship. These rules are important to teach respect, encouragement, discipline and cooperation in all life situations.
Time Out? Spanking? Yelling? The more popular parenting tools but usually ineffective.
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