Sunday, January 23, 2011

Parenting for Life - Teaching Kids to Survive and Thrive

In today's age of automation, machines do everything for us, from sending our messages to ensuring our continued entertainment twenty-four hours a day. While we aren't on the verge of having our gadgets leap up and attack us at any given second, we have come to rely on them to an extent that they can actually become disadvantages.
Nowadays, it isn't rare to see a teenager glued to his iPod or typing away on a laptop. In lieu of actual sports, many kids play the Wii, substituting a simulated game of tennis or golf for the rigors of the real thing. Our thirst for automation has spread to succeeding generations and the devastating consequences are beginning to make themselves known.
Completely tearing kids away from technology is a hard battle and one that we ourselves have difficulty promoting. After all, the benefits of technology are many and manifest when compared to the subtle negative changes they can affect on a person. However, there are scientific studies that suggest disadvantages and negative effects of continued technological use. Suffice it to say, there are huge benefits to weaning your children from the gadgets they have become so attached to in their daily lives.
With each of these suggestions, it is important to remember that you have to lead by example. Kids won't recognize the benefits if they don't see them in others first, so make yourself the most convincing argument for the advantages of getting back to the basics.
Here are a couple of ways:
Instead of having your children perpetually glued to their music machines or pretending to play an instrument on a video game, encourage them to take up an actual musical instrument. Aside from the sense of accomplishment they get by learning how to emulate their favorite musicians, they also gain the intellectual benefits of musical knowledge. Studies have shown that children that play musical instruments have stronger analytical and arithmetic skills. They also gain tactical skills and improved physical dexterity, which are great advantages when playing sports.
As convenient as using a GPS tracking device is, one disadvantage of using one is that you always know where to go. That might sound strange, but getting lost can actually help build life skills. It develops humility through asking for directions and spatial and environmental understanding through the long forgotten art of map-reading. And by venturing off the beaten-path, your children have the potential to gain experiences that will last them a lifetime.
Have your children turn off the TV and re-enact their favorite shows instead. This develops creativity by making them create something from scratch. Ask them to write their very own screenplay and help them craft their own props and costumes. Try to set aside one night every week for a backyard play and make it a special production with programs and seating. Invite your neighbors over and throw a backyard party. Not only will you build relationships, but your kids will have fostered the growth of something even more important, their imaginations.
Store that Wii in the closet and get your kids out in the yard for some good old-fashioned backyard sports. Encourage them to indulge in daily physical activity, which helps foster muscle growth and increases circulation, which promotes mental development as well. The social interaction and camaraderie brought about by playing sports results in relationships that last a lifetime and helps improve social and conversational skills.
E-readers are quickly replacing books in modern society, but like all things automated, nothing beats the real thing. These technological advancements, though convenient, can damage eyesight through prolonged exposure to bright lights. They also remove the tactile advantages gained from being able to turn a page, which diminishes the power of concentration in a young brain. Children also fail to enjoy the original artwork present in collector's editions of books that are too old to be included in these e-readers.
Technology isn't completely negative, but just like anything taken in excess, it can be. Teach your children independence and in time they can become inventors of gadgets instead of simply users.
Renee Bedford is a mom and wife who believes in teaching her children to be self-reliant and prepared. She knows that not only will these skills keep them safer, but they will also make them smarter! Besides being a committed mother, she also works for Christmas Tree Market, where they sell an array of classic and unique artificial Christmas trees.
Thanks to Renee for an excellent guest post.
Staying above the water line!


hippie_mama said...

I think the most important thing is to just let your kids GO sometimes. Let them try things out. Make mistakes. Give them responsibilities and enough room to preform tasks through trial and error. Even young children are more intelligent and resourceful than society wants to give them credit for.

Anonymous said...

My daughter plays with a DS video game, but also plays acoustical guitar. She enjoys it alot, though I noticed over the long Christmas / New Years day holiday, her lessons being canceled, she lost a bit of her enthusiasm for playing. She seems to be getting back to speed though.

hippie_mama said...

Not all video games are bad; lots of them involve strategy, and nearly all of them that my kids have played have provoked important conversations. As they say, all things in moderation.

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