by Jill Cooper
When my daughter took my grandson to register him for pre-school, the lady at one pre-school very excitedly told her about all of the programs that they would be doing with the kids. They planned to take the kids to musical concerts, botanical gardens and many, many other field trips and activities.
My daughter thanked her and left to find someplace else. At 3 years of age my grandson, like most 3 year olds, could hardly sit through 2 verses of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” let alone be interested in sitting through an entire musical concert. Botanical gardens are beautiful, but every 3 year old knows that the most beautiful flowers in the world are the dandelions in his own back yard, so who needs to go to a botanical garden, especially when they have very few dandelions there?
I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with going to a concert or a botanical garden. Most of my grandkids have been to all of these things at one time or another and I realize that it is a way to “broaden their horizons” but, as often happens, we often think that if a little of something is good, a lot is even better. Then we spend much of our time and money going to extremes overwhelming the kids with more than they can handle. A field trip every once in a while is fine but 2-3 a week?
Sometimes, we forget that children need to crawl and walk before they can run. Each stage in a learning process is important for them to develop properly but sometimes, no matter what we’re trying to teach them, we try to make them go from sitting up to running overnight.
Why didn’t my daughter want him at that pre-school? She could tell right away that this school was in the business of simply entertaining the kids. More emphasis was put on the entertainment than what the children would be learning in the class and this thinking fails to see the value of just doing plain “kids things”.
The same grandson started first grade this year. Do you know what his one delight is? No, it’s not what field trips they are going on but the fact he gets two recesses. He thinks he has died and gone to heaven. It really doesn’t take much to make a child happy or to entertain him.
Here are a few myths I would like to dispel:
Myth #1 – We have to entertain our children all the time.
The above pre-school story is a good example of how our society views our kids. Everything seems to be geared towards entertaining our children with attention-grabbing activities. Gone are the days when kids spent most of their time coloring, playing with clay, singing songs and listening to stories.
We spend so much money that doesn’t need to be spent. A 3 year old would enjoy singing some songs or having his teacher tell a story using a hand puppet as much as he would enjoy going to a musical concert. In his mind, rolling play dough into a gigantic snake is much, much more fun than walking around at an art museum.
This kind of thinking is everywhere. We don’t just have simple birthday parties for our kids where they play a few games and have cake and ice cream. We have to take them to expensive sports centers or amusement parks or bring in ponies and three ring circuses. We make sure our kids have every new electronic toy and game known to man to help keep them entertained. We are so worried that they will be bored.
Another part of this myth is that we must put them in every activity we can in order to help them further their educations. We exhaust ourselves and our children running from one activity to another every day. We are cramming as much down their throats as we can so they can become some kind of mini “super adults”.
We have got to let our kids be kids and do fun “kid things”. It’s good for kids to just run outside and play tag with their friends. We often underestimate the value of the things they learn simply by playing with their dolls or cars or coloring in coloring books. We seem to think that we are doing them a favor by skipping the kid stuff and pushing them on to the hard core stuff, thinking that will make them more successful in the future.
Some parents insist that they do these things to broaden their children’s horizons and prepare them for college. After all, everyone knows that children who are involved in more activities are more successful right?
For every 10 people who are successes because they did all of this extra stuff, there are 100 who are even more successful who did no extracurricular things. We are placing too much value on the wrong things. Instead of pawning our children off on strangers to instruct them, we need to spend time with them teaching them what is really important: to be people who have integrity and are loving and responsible. We need to teach them good values.
If they don’t have these things, all the education and success in the world is worth nothing. What good is all the money in the world if you have no one to share it with because you never learned to be loving and you alienate everyone?
What good is the best education in the world if you aren’t responsible? How does that education benefit you if you never show up for work on time or if you don’t show up at all? What good is that education if you don’t even bother to even try to find a job to support yourself or your family? I know a lot of deadbeat dads and moms who have great educations, but never learned the discipline to use them.
What good is the best education in the world if you have no integrity or character? No one wants to hire someone who can’t be trusted.
Myth #2 We must always find “exciting” things to do with our kids to bond.
I am amazed how many people “schedule” bonding time with their children. Bonding can’t be forced through “special” activities. True bonding comes naturally when our children realize that we love them unconditionally, more than anything else– when we put their needs above our own needs and wants.
Unfortunately, “They” have come up with a certain list of things that we “must” do or we won’t bond with our kids. Many of us have tried to follow the list without asking, “Who Are ‘They’ and why should I do what ‘They’ say?”
Here are a few of the things “they” say you must do: When they are babies, you must breastfeed them. When they are toddlers, you must spend hours on the floor rolling a ball to them. When they are pre-schoolers you must do crafts of every kind. When they are in elementary school, you need to bake with them every Saturday…
Of course, it’s great to do these things with your kids if you love doing them, but when you find yourself doing these things because you have to and not because you want to, you may need to rethink them.
To be honest, I didn’t have the time or the patience to sit for hours reading to my toddlers or rolling a ball. That didn’t mean I never played with them. I did these things at times, but I didn’t brow beat myself if I didn’t spend so many hours a day doing it.
I did, however, sit my toddlers in the laundry basket and carry them, clothes and all, outside to hang the clothes on the line. They would jibber jabber to me while I hung out my clothes and I would talk to them and we would sing or just look at the birds or listen to the doggie barking.
When they were older, I tried the crafts thing. The first time I did it, I looked at the finger paints all over the table, on the chairs, on the floor, all over them and me, on the walls on the way to the bathroom and in the bathroom. (Without letting me know, they jumped up and ran to go potty by themselves. “Aren’t you proud of us, Mom?”)
As I surveyed the wondrous mess, I decided anyone who did this on a regular basis was either a better mom than me or insane. I vowed from then on to let the professionals (kindergarten teachers, bless your hearts) teach my kids to finger paint and make paper mache bowls and other crafts of that sort.
Instead, I would take them out to the yard to plant flowers or make mud pies with me. That way I could just hose them down when we were finished.
One day I realized my daughter was old enough to learn how to bake. How exciting! I should have heeded the warning signs that first time… (I love you daughter of mine : ). What a mess– flour, sugar and egg everywhere! I knew it would be bad, but not this bad. This is another thing I thought was best left to the professionals in the home economics classes in school. OK, not really.
I did eventually try again to teach her to cook. It has been a slow process – I went to her home again just last week, she is in her late 30′s, and we just had another lesson HA! HA! She still hasn’t gotten the flour, sugar and eggs under control but I am hopeful because each year it seems to be more contained. : ) : ) (Note fromTawra: I’m NOT laughing, Mother… the smoke is my signal that dinner is ready. :-))
Anyway, here’s my point: Bonding is fine, but it doesn’t have to be expensive, scheduled or what “they” say you need to do. Each child, each parent and each situation is different.
Myth #3 – Each of my children needs to have a TV, computer, and phone in his or her room or else they will die or, worse still, be rejected by their peers.
I constantly hear parents complain about the horrible effects of the media on their children. These parents go on and on about the awful things their children find on TV or the Internet without actually taking action to stop it at home. Stop being a wimp of a parent, step up to the plate and be responsible for your child. Stop blaming everyone and everything else for the things that affect your child’s life. You are the one in control (or you should be).
Don’t let kids have TVs and computers in their rooms. Put these things in the family room or living room where you can control what they are watching. It is so foolish to carry on about the media controlling our kids’ lives and then agree to put a TV in a child’s room.
Why do we put TVs in their rooms? Usually it is for purely selfish reasons. It entertains them and gets them out of our hair. Sometimes we don’t want to say no to our kids and have them mad at us. When a child pleads for a TV we don’t want to seem mean, so we give in and let him have one. For many of us, having our kids like us makes us feel good, which can be more important to us than our children’s well being. This may sound harsh but, unless you recognize the problem and stop making excuses, nothing will get fixed.
We wouldn’t dream of giving our kids illicit drugs if they asked us but there are many things that can be equally emotionally and spiritually harmful to our kids that we give them just because we are afraid to say no. Allowing the kids to watch the news, adult-targeted shows and even many cartoons where the characters are mean, hateful and smart mouthed are some of those things.
Photo by: alliance_images