Why our children are less patient, more lonely and more entitled than generations before?

** The following article was copied from yourmodernfamily.com

Study after study proves what we have guessed…

It’s the scary truth that our children face.   It’s more real than ever, this downhill slope that our kids are facing.  As a teacher and play therapist, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many children over the years, as well as many parents. . In that time, I’ve watched children’s social and emotional skills get worse, along with their academic behavior.  Children today aren’t prepared for life the way that they used to be. Now they are expecting more but doing less. They are coming to school but struggling to learn and stay focused. They are wanting to do more, but have less focus.

 Lonelier, Entitled, Less Patient … why?

There is a reason:  Our current lifestyle choices have impacted our children. All of the latest technologies, the modern trends, the most recent advancements. While we all want what’s best for our children, it has sadly led them down a path that has left them less-prepared for their own lives.

1. The SCREEN TIME dilemma:

Too much screen time. Giving our children electronic devices can easily backfire. Technology & screen time take time away from reading and playing. It decreases attention span, sets up the need for immediate gratification, and leaves children open to challenges in school and at home.

They lose the ability to focus on things and listen attentively because they have become accustomed to watching things in a fast-paced, fun, always-exciting way.  Children have a hard time coming back to reality, after being in virtual reality.

Take this story from PsychologyToday.com about a little boy on his video game, during a family gathering:

After being on his handheld electronic game for an hour, “A perfect storm is brewing. His brain and psyche become overstimulated and excited — on fire! His nervous system shifts into high gear and settles there while he attempts to master different situations, strategizing, surviving, and defending his turf. His heart rate increases and his blood pressure rises — he’s ready to do battle.  The screen virtually locks his eyes into position and sends signal after signal: “It’s bright daylight out, nowhere near time for bed!” – he’s ready to fight or escape!”  

The story goes on to say that his little sister came over and put her hand on the game. He hadn’t noticed her walking towards him because he was so involved in the game. Due to his elevated feelings, he screams at her and runs to his room. His mother follows him and tells him to get off of the electronics and get ready for bed, which makes him feel frustrated, as well as physically and emotionally angry.   He was ripped out of his “fun” virtual world and put into a “boring” real world.   Kids just can’t adjust so quickly.

2. The “Don’t be bored” dilemma

We are all so busy these days and to help our children stay busy and not be bored, we end up giving them a tablet, a phone, an iPod.  The problem?   We are doing our kids a disservice.  We are taking away their ability to entertain themselves, to come up with a solution, to be creative.

In turn,  we end up spending less quality time with our kids (sitting on the sofa while you are both focused on individual sources of technology is not quality time).   We are not connecting with our children.  Our children are relying on electronics to keep them from being bored and they are forgetting how to keep themselves entertained, or to just let their minds be still to daydream.

3. The “LET ME MAKE YOU HAPPY” dilemma

“Families [overly] centered on children create anxious, exhausted parents and demanding, entitled children. We parents today are too quick to sacrifice our lives for our kids. Most of us have created child-centered families, where our children hold priority over our time, energy and attention.” ~Code, Wall Street Journal

We, as parents, have the best intentions when we make these decisions, to do whatever we can for our children: giving in to what they want so often. We want our children to be happy, we want them to feel loved, we want to see them smile. Unfortunately, by doing everything for our children and giving them everything that they want… we are creating people who will not be happy in the long run.

As a therapist, I often hear parents say things like “She doesn’t like vegetables, so I don’t even try to give them to her anymore” or “If he went to bed when I wanted him to, he would be up too early” or “She doesn’t like to hold my hand in the parking lot.”

The problem?   Kids are kids- they aren’t old enough, mature enough, or knowledgeable enough to make these kinds of decisions for themselves. We need to make them and enforce them because we know the consequences. Without vegetables, our children will not be healthy. Without enough sleep, they will be grumpy, tired and unable to focus in school. Without holding your hand in the parking lot, our young children could run off and be hit by a car.  These are real consequences of our “Let the children decide” dilemma.

4. The “Let me rescue you” dilemma

“Children and young adults are pretty resilient and resourceful when we let them be. Unfortunately, most of the time, parents are afraid to loosen the reins and let them be. It’s time for that to change.” – Jennifer Harstein.

  • Our children need to learn that they can save their allowance to replace the cell phone they lost.
  • Our children need to figure out how to talk to the teacher about the forgotten homework.
  • Our children need to learn that if they aren’t helping with the laundry (or putting it where it needs to go), they will not have their favorite outfit on the day they want to wear it.

It’s not easy to watch our kids fail. It’s not easy to watch them be sad, frustrated or upset. We want what’s best for our children, and we do everything with the best intentions, but it teaches them the wrong lessons.    Yes, show them that you are kind and helpful, but also let them experience things and let them fail.

It is easier to let them fail with these little things now (like forgetting homework and losing recess time at school) instead of failing when they are adults (like forgetting a mortgage payment and losing their house.)

5. The lack of real face-to-face INTERACTION dilemma.

“We know from lots and lots of research that spending time with other people in person is one of the best predictors of psychological well-being and one of the best protections against having mental health issues.” – Audie Cornish

Time on social media “may elicit feelings of envy and the distorted belief that others lead happier and more successful lives,” a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine says.    Today’s teens and children are just not spending as much time with their friends in person.  They aren’t going for a walk outside or meeting up at a friends house. They aren’t playing games together.  In turn, they aren’t learning to read each others’ emotions or give support.

These social skills are so valuable, in fact, that study after study proves they are the key to a prosperous future. Excellent social skills, combined with intelligence, are now considered to be the key to having a high-paying job. “Leadership requires you to be socially adept. In fact, your social skills may be just as important as your intelligence when it comes to achieving success, according to new research published in in the Review of Economics and Statistics.

6. The “REWARD” dilemma

My brother, sister-in-law and I were talking about this one day. My brother, Tim, has his Ph.D. in education and my sister in law, Jill, has been a middle school teacher for many years. I am a play therapist & elementary school teacher, so our conversations often turn to children and education.

In trying to understand the “why” behind children’s behaviors, children’s lack of attention and children’s increasing behavior problems in school, we figured out one thing: Children want rewards, all of the time. I am ALL FOR REWARDING children, but not constantly. Not only does it lose it’s ‘shine,’ but it sets our children up to look for external rewards instead of internal rewards.

“What will you give me if I get all A’s?”
“What do we get to do if we sit quietly in the assembly?”
“What do I get for cleaning the garage?”

The only problem is that while it’s better (for us) to have our children do these things without complaining, their boss/landlord/spouse isn’t going to be so accommodating.  They won’t get a bonus or time-off because they did their work on time. They won’t get a month off of their mortgage payment because they paid it on time. Yes, it’s hard to teach them these lessons, but I’d prefer that they learn from me that life isn’t ALWAYS fun, but it is what you make it.   

Yes, children are lonelier, more entitled and less patient than generations before them… but we can help them.  There is a solution.

When our son was an infant, and his muscles were extremely tight (they had been trained to be tight due to lack of space & fluid in utero), our neurologist gave me the best piece of advice I’d ever heard: “You can retrain his muscles.” He told me that I could train his brain to help his muscles. It was going to be a long road, but in the end, it worked. This situation is not much different.

We train our kids to use the bathroom; we train our kids to brush their teeth in the mornings, we train our kids to sit patiently through a church service. These are learned skills, not skills that they are born with, but skills that we have taught them through repetition and consistency.

1. Ten Minutes a Day.
Reconnect with your kids.  Have one-on-one time with each child for ten minutes a day.  NO electronics, NO iPads or tables, NO television.  Let your child be your guide (They pick the activity).   This time alone is going to eliminate any guilt that you feel (because we all feel guilt) and it is going to allow you to connect you with your child.
Get back to what we did before phones (back to what our parents did when we were young), spending time playing games with our kids.

2. Let Them Be Bored.
What if instead of trying to keep our kids busy and keep them from feeling bored, we just LET them be bored. What if we said, “Oh- you’re so lucky to be bored.”
Don’t offer an electronic device to keep them busy, don’t offer to take them somewhere. Just let them be bored.
-Watch your child’s mind becomes quiet and watch his interests take over.
-Watch as it leads him to create his own fun.
-Watch as his need or instant gratification fades away.
Boredom is the path to learning about one’s self.  

3. Swap out external rewards for intrinsic rewards.
I used to race the clock when cleaning my room:  creating my own fun.
I used to pretend to be the teacher when doing my homework: creating my own fun.
Teach your kids to do this.  Let them think of ways to turn dull tasks into fun tasks and let them reap the reward of knowing that they did a great job because this is the kind of “reward” that will motivate them throughout life.

4. Talk.
Spend dinnertime talking, spend car time talking, drop everything that you are doing when your kids get home from school to TALK to them for a few minutes (learn what is going on in their lives… academic, social, emotional).  Make dinner without having the TV on, the phone close by, or the tablet tuned into something.

5. Give Responsibilities. 
Chores are about so much more than just cleaning.  Responsibilities increase their self-worth.  It teaches them how to work.  It teaches them to take care of things.  It teaches them how to be part of something bigger than themselves.
“To develop a high self-esteem a person needs a purpose. A key component to high self-esteem relies on how you view yourself regarding contribution. In other words, in the child development process, chores are a big role in a kid’s self-esteem.” ~Impact Parenting.com

6. Set Boundaries. 
Have a set bedtime.
Have set snacking rules (no snacks before dinner, or only one piece of junk food a day.)
Have a set reading time (You could have ‘D.E.A.R. time’ before bed –> Drop Everything And Read.)

7. Set Electronic Boundaries. 
We have a simple rule: No electronics throughout the school week UNLESS it is a show that we are all watching together on the TV.   This means No laptop usage (unless it’s school-related), no tables, no iPods, no phones, no videos.   If we finish getting ready for school quickly in the morning, we might watch a show together. If My husband and I are watching Jeopardy or Planet Earth, they are welcome to join in.     (Most kids have a LOT of tech time at school – they don’t need it at home.) 

        They are permitted to use them: on Saturday morning, on Sunday morning (if they are ready for church and have time before we leave), on long car-trips (vacation, etc…).

       Exceptions: Doctor’s offices,  all day sporting events, Car-line (school pickup can sometimes be 45 minutes.  Our youngest child sits with me while we wait to pick up her siblings.  She is allowed to have her Leap Pad in the car line to watch learning videos or play an educational game.)

8. Have Open Communication: 
Let them know that you are there for them.  “If you are ever feeling sad or left out about something and it becomes too big for you to handle easily, come to me.”    I remind our kids that I am always here for them, to talk through problems, just listen, pray for them, give them advice… or not.  “I’m here… for you… all the time.“  Remind them often.

9. Put down YOUR phone. 
Make a rule with yourself that you will limit YOUR online distractions when your kids are home. Set a time that you can put electronics away (for our family – it’s 3:30, when they get home from school until 8:00, when they go to bed).
Kids need to feel that connection with their parents.   My friend once told me that she overheard a child saying that her “mom’s phone was more important” than her. She was six years old at the time.   When asked why she felt this way, the little girl said it was because her mom liked to look at the phone more than her – even when the little girl was talking.  Kids notice everything. 

10. Teach by Example. 
If you want your child to change, you must first make a change.   Show your children where your priorities lie.  Family, your spouse, etc… act the way that you want your child to act and they will quickly follow your lead.  Let your child see you reading a book, washing dishes, making dinner, having conversations where you sit and look the person in the eye. Demonstrate kindness, consistency, hard-work.

Being a parent is the hardest, most important job we could ever have.   We only have 18 years to instill the qualities to last them a lifetime.    I’ve seen so many families turn their lives around and reboot their families.  I’ve seen so many children reengaged with the things that matter just by incorporating these things.  It matters and you are the key.

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