(yes, another post from the slightly geekier side of the coin. This author is a computer tech by trade while writing in free time)
If that wasn’t a day of validation, confirmation, and further boosting to a godly parental geek’s outlook on life, I don’t know what is! Once again I found myself pleasantly surprised by what I was hearing from what has traditionally been a source of contention for most of my educational life. The first time this would occur was back when my son’s educational issues were positively as opposed to negatively dealt with at KLO Middle School, setting him on the path to graduating RSS with a solid B average.
Generally, when people meet my children and later meet me, they are full of compliments about how respectful they are, how appreciative they are, their work ethic, how responsible they are, etc. Whenever the ghosts of poor parenting rise up, I like to remember those compliments and I thank God for being there as my unseen “other half” to assist in raising them. Where people don’t connect the dots however, is in the “how” I raised them! Whenever I begin to encourage parents of toddlers to crack down on behaviour they won’t want years down the road, I am regularly slammed for being harsh, unkind, uncaring, heartless, unappreciative, and the list goes on. They don’t seem to realize that my apparently awesome children got to be that way precisely because I didn’t think that wrong behaviour was cute when they were toddlers. I didn’t laugh at bad language coming out of their mouth as they learned how to talk, but instead corrected it quite soundly. I didn’t let them control their bedtime or allow them to misbehave in public. At the risk of someone ratting to Social Services, I regularly disciplined my young children in public places whether it was the park, the mall or the grocery store. But while my parenting style prevented future unwanted behaviour from taking root as toddlers, this particular dot at the other end of the line was never connected, and as I said, regularly shot down, at times with vehemence.
But I have always had a philosophy about raising children that very few others have had. Working our way backwards, it goes like this:
If you want strong leaders, you need to train them wisely. If you want critically thinking university students, you want excellent teachers in High School and positive thinking examples in the home, namely, the parents. If you want smart, wise, responsible teenagers, you want loving parents providing discipline when they are young children. If you want young children who learn well in school and are well-adjusted, you have caring parents working to prevent unwanted and actively instilling wanted behaviour the moment the baby begins interacting with those around them and discovering his/her wants, needs and desires.
In Church, if you want healthy leaders, they begin as teenagers. If you want young adults strong in the faith and staying in church, they begin as children. If you want committed youth, they begin as toddlers, and if you want a bustling Sunday School, start with the nursery!
Family and youth counsellors that I’ve heard over the years say that much of how a person perceives and understands the world around them occurs before they are 5 years old. Behaviours that are allowed to become habitual before the age of 5 will manifest themselves to a much greater degree as teenagers and experiences during that time will affect their overall world view as adults. Unfortunately, this message generally falls on deliberately deaf ears because “Johnny” is just so cute when he repeats a cuss word and “Jenny” gets everyone laughing when she throws up her dress revealing her tiny pink bottom. Such parents fail to connect the dots between behaviour they are allowing now and how that will translate into life with their teenagers later. They don’t like anyone trying to get them to see that far ahead either. I have the stripes to prove it.
So you can imagine, with that kind of thought pattern and how others have responded to it over the years, why I’d be so amazed at the validation, confirmation, and the boost I received today as I did soundtech for an SD23 “Summer Early Intervention Seminar”.
Today’s guest speaker was there to talk about the dangers of today’s technology on young minds and bodies. She validated what I’ve always believed about ADHD, that the condition is better treated by letting the kids burn off energy than by medicating, and that the condition wouldn’t even exist if today’s educational culture were closer to what it was 100 years ago or more. ADHD, ADD, and other disorders were unknown until the more formal “sit in your chair” style education began vilifying active students. This speaker shared a piece of research showing how regular interaction with “green space” outdoors reduced symptoms of ADHD 10% or more with every exposure to the outdoors and more specifically, nature itself. But even allowing jungle gyms, climbing bars, and playing of tug-of-war greatly contributed to burning off nervous pent-up energy, and allowed these children to focus better and generally function better as a result.
This speaker says the recent spike in such behavioural diagnoses as ADHD is directly related to how much screen-time parents are giving their kids these days. As both a computer tech and a mother, it was validating to hear that by carefully controlling daily and weekly access to the family computer out in the living room, I was preventing my own children from developing the behavioural problems that would plague others being given these labels. Ashley still remembers how I only let them use the PC for one hour a day, and when they got to be school age, they had to earn that time by getting their homework done first. As they got into older grades, I let them earn more time by practicing subjects that were a real trial for them, such as spelling or math. But this speaker is firm believer that today’s children should not be given handheld devices until they are 12 years old, and cited many researchers’ findings about how time spent in from the computer or TV actually hindered physical brain development. MRI scans were shown among other things as she went along.
Even worse than simply screen-time, was the what, the content on those screens that further contributed to ongoing behavioural problems and further developmental issues in the brain itself. She and these researchers, which included a police force representative, all concurred that violent video games play a huge role in the problem of anti-social, emotionally deficient, violent children and teenagers. The officer was saying that without fail, child and youth murderers were gamers to some level. He said that “all shooters were gamers, though not all gamers are shooters”. These researchers also stated what I’ve been trying to tell people for years myself! Young children do not comprehend the difference between reality and make-believe on the screen. To them, it’s all real. I myself go one step further to state that the subconscious mind can’t tell the difference either. The conscious mind grows to learn the difference between reality and fiction, but the subconscious mind doesn’t make that distinction. This is why nightmares can get so bad in people. If they were to stop and consider what they’ve been filling their minds with during the day, they’d be better able to understand the dreams they are having at night.
Unmonitored Internet usage by children has resulted in other unsavoury statistics as well, such as children as young as six, trying to hump each other on the Kindergarten playground and when asked what they are doing, saying, “we’re just playing”. The speaker used to be a school counsellor, school therapist, and was always sent the kids needing remediation to some degree. One time on the playground she witnessed three boys pretending to gang rape a girl, and she was obviously not enjoying it. She was already experiencing trauma at the hands of boys less than 10 years of age, because of what they were allowed to engage in via various forms of media by their parents’ refusal to monitor their media intake, online or otherwise. Again, what you don’t want being acted out in older years, should be nipped when they are young, but parental lack of monitoring, teaching, and limiting media intake at young ages has resulted in child murderers, child sexual predators, etc.
This speaker’s answer to these issues reflected my own so much that I found myself nodding along quite a bit. Her first answer to all this was to get the kids up out of their desks at school and out into the playground. She too feels that society’s obsession with putting kids in bubbles for fear they’ll get hurt needs to drastically loosen up to let these kids discover their limits, learn various abilities, and burn off energy. She said that when the energy is burned off, they will sit in class much more ready to learn. This, as my own Mother taught me, is because the body’s activity level gets the blood pumping to the brain not only bringing oxygen, but bringing much-needed nutrients to the brain as well, allowing to function better with less stress. Exercise is not merely a stress-reliever, but a brain-booster as well. Mom used to “get the wiggles out” during Sunday School Open Session so that when the kids got to their classrooms, they were ready to learn.
Secondly, this lady strongly advocated parents taking away their kids’ devices and actually choosing to spend time with them instead of plunking them in front of the latest iteration of the digital babysitter. She’s actually walked into Kindergarten classes where most of the kids couldn’t even talk properly, only to discover when she visited their homes that the parents rarely spoke to their children. One of the big hindrances to parental exchange turned out to be the passive TV set droning on in the background. As long as it was doing the talking, very little between adults or between adults and children was verbalized. When she suggested parents turn off the TV and start talking to their kids instead, the atmosphere of the home not only picked up, but so did the kids’ performance at school. Because of the increased healthier socialization going on at home, the kids were better able to socialize at school!
It all starts in the home! God’s been saying this Himself ever since He had Solomon write,
Proverbs 20:11 Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.
Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
How do we ensure our children have the best chance at the life we desire for them? How do we ensure they will be shot as arrows from our bowstring and fly straight and true into adulthood? We do this by obeying this verse. God has more to say on the subject as well.
Deuteronomy 11:18-21 Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. 19 And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. 20 And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates: 21 That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth.
Psalms 127:3-5 Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. 4 As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. 5 Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.
As a computer tech myself, even before handheld devices took off en mass, I was concerned about the effects that too much screen-time would have on my kids. I was concerned how uncaught behaviour would affect them later in life. I wanted to take God at His Word and raise my children to become God-fearing law-abiding Canadian citizens. It wasn’t easy and I’ve taken flack for my child-rearing style from various parents who have more liberal worldviews than I do. So it was with some amazement that my choices and efforts were validated today in a secular setting not even mentioning God or His ways of raising children.
This may have been an event that I was paid to manage tech for, but wow. . . I needed that shot in the arm!