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Victoria Prooday is an occupational therapist with 10 years of experience working with children, parents, and teachers.

Victoria says she is completely in agreeance with the teacher who recently  begged parents to “Please stop spoiling and servicing your children. It’s not dangerous for them to be bored sometimes.”

I hear the same consistent message from every teacher I meet, said Victoria. Clearly, throughout my ten years as an Occupational Therapist, I have seen and continue to see a decline in kids’ social, emotional, academic functioning, as well as a sharp increase in learning disabilities and other diagnoses.

In her post “Why our children are so bored at school, cannot wait, get easily frustrated and have no real friends?” Victoria writes…

Today’s children come to school emotionally unavailable for learning and there are many factors in our modern lifestyle that contribute to this. As we know, the brain is malleable. Through environment we can make the brain “stronger” or make it “weaker”. I truly believe that with all our greatest intentions, we unfortunately remould our children’s brains in the wrong direction. Here is why…

1. Technology

“Free babysitting service… the payment is waiting for you just around the corner”.  We pay with our kids’ nervous system, with their attention, and ability for delayed gratification. Compared to virtual reality, everyday life is boring. When kids come to the classroom, they are exposed to human voices and adequate visual stimulation as opposed to being bombarded with graphic explosions and special effects that they are used to seeing on the screens. After hours of virtual reality, processing information in a classroom becomes increasingly challenging for our kids because their brains are getting used to the high levels of stimulation that video games provide. The inability to process lower levels of stimulation leaves kids vulnerable to academic challenges. Technology also disconnects us emotionally from our children and our families. Parental emotional availability is the main nutrient for child’s brain. Unfortunately, we are gradually depriving our children from that nutrient.

2. Kids get everything they want the moment they want

“I am Hungry!!” “In a sec I will stop at drive thru” “I am Thirsty!” “Here is a vending machine”. “I am bored!” “Use my phone!”   The ability to delay gratification is one of the key factors for future success. We have all the greatest intention in mind to make our children happy, but unfortunately, we make them happy at the moment but miserable in a long term.  To be able to delay gratification means to be able to function under stress. Our children are gradually becoming less equipped to deal with even minor stressors which eventually become huge obstacles to their success in life.

The inability to delay gratification is often seen in classrooms, malls, restaurants, and toy stores the moment the child hears “No” because parents have taught their “child’s brain” to get what it wants right away

3. Kids rule the world

“My son doesn’t like vegetables” “She doesn’t like going to bed early” “He doesn’t like to eat breakfast” “She doesn’t like toys, but she is very good at her IPAD” “He doesn’t want to get dressed on his own” “She is too lazy to eat on her own”. This is what I hear from parents all the time. Since when do children dictate to us how to parent them? If we leave it all up to them , all they are going to do is eat macaroni and cheese, bagel with cream cheese, watch TV, play on their tablets, and never go to bed. What good are we doing them by giving them what they WANT when we know that it is not GOOD for them? Without proper nutrition and a good night’s sleep, our kids come to school irritable, anxious, and inattentive.  In addition, we send them the wrong message.

They learn they can do what they want and not do what they don’t want. The concept of “need to do’ is absent. Unfortunately, in order to achieve our goals in our lives, we have to do what’s necessary which may not always be what we want to do.  For example, if a child wants to be an A student, he needs to study hard. If he wants to be a successful soccer player, he needs to practice every day. Our children know very well what they want but have very hard time to do what is necessary to achieve that goal. This results in unattainable goals and leaves the kids disappointed.

4. Endless Fun

We created an artificial fun world for our children. There are no dull moments. The moment it becomes quiet, we run to entertain them again because otherwise we feel that we are not doing our parenting duty. We live in two separate worlds. They have their “fun “world and we have our “work” world. Why aren’t children helping us in the kitchen or with laundry? Why don’t they tidy up their toys?

This is basic monotonous work that trains the brain to be workable and function under “boredom” which is the same “muscle” that is required to be eventually teachable at school.  When they come to school and it is time for printing, their answer is “I can’t. It is too hard. Too boring” Why? Because the workable “muscle” is not getting trained through endless fun. It gets trained through work.

5. Limited social interaction

We are all busy, so we give our kids digital gadgets and make them “busy” too. Kids used to play outside, where in unstructured natural environments, they learned and practiced their social skills.  Unfortunately, technology replaced the outdoor time.  Also, technology made the parents less available to socially interact with their kids. Obviously, our kids fall behind…the babysitting gadget is not equipped for social skill development. Most successful people are the ones who have great social skills. This is the priority!

The brain is just like a muscle that is trainable and re-trainable. If you want your child to be able to bike, you teach him biking skills. If you want your child to be able to wait, you need to teach him patience.  If you want your child to be able to socialize, you need to teach him social skills. The same applies to all the other skills. There is no difference!!

You can make a difference though in your child’s life by training your child’s brain so that your child will successfully function on social, emotional, and academic levels.

Here is how:

1. Limit technology, and instead re-connect with your kids emotionally
•Surprise them with flowers, share a smile, tickle them, put a love note in backpack or under their pillow, surprise them by taking them out for lunch on a school day, dance together, crawl together, have pillow fights
•Have family dinners,  board game nights, go biking, go to outdoor walks with flashlight in the evening

2. Train delay gratification
•Make them wait!!! It is ok to have “I am bored “ time – this is the first step to creativity
•Gradually increase the waiting time between “I want” and “I get”
•Avoid technology use in cars and restaurants, and instead teach them waiting while talking and playing games
•Limit constant snacking

3. Don’t be afraid to set the limits. Kids need limits to grow happy and healthy!!
•Make a schedule for meal times, sleep times, technology time
•Think of what is GOOD for them- not what they WANT/DON’T WANT. They are going to thank you for that later on in life. Parenting is a hard job. You need to be creative to make them do what is good for them because most of the time that is the exact opposite of what they want
•Kids need breakfast and nutritious food. They need to spend time outdoor and go to bed at consistent time in order to come to school available for learning the next day!
•Convert things that they don’t like doing/trying into fun, emotionally stimulating games

4. Teach your child to do monotonous work from early years as it is the foundation for future “workability”
•Folding laundry, tidying up toys, hanging clothes, unpacking groceries, setting the table, making lunch, unpacking their lunch box, making their bed
•Be creative. Initially make it stimulating and fun so that their brain associates it with something positive.

5. Teach social skills
• Teach them turn taking, sharing, losing/winning, compromising, complimenting others, using “please and thank you”

From my experience as an occupational therapist, children change the moment parents change their perspective on parenting.  Help your kids succeed in life by training and strengthening their brain sooner than later!!!

Share your comments below.

Shared with full permission from Victoria Prooday.

Image via Shutterstock

  • While I don’t condone giving kids as soon as they ask for them, I always think before refusing a drink of water. By the time anybody ask for a drink they have already started to dehydrate. We often forget to offer them drinks or put them where they can reach them.

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  • What an amazing article. Every point was packed full of great information. Thank you so much.

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  • lovely article and great tips, thanks! good reminder

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  • my biggest issue is technology. my son has always has a problem using his imagination or try and entertain himself. I was there all the time when he was a toddler, I ended up getting my son a puppy and from there they were like glue. (he wasn’t 2 yet). when he was in prep, he was behind in reading so we got him an ipad just for learning education, it wasn’t until things started to change when he took his ipad to his aunty’s house, there were games downloaded. I was disappointed. he was given a wii game from his aunty for his birthday when we didn’t have a wii.
    by the time he was in grade 1 when minecraft came out, it was a nitemare. mon to fri morning no ipad unless its for school research or education games such as maths or reading.
    I’m still struggling, saw a post yesterday by doing house work chorus on each icypole sticks and how much minutes is worth each to get ipad time. my son thought it was a bad idea, I thought it was a good idea, but how many minutes can be used for ipad time for sat and sun? I’m just lost with that bit.
    ive stopped last year with giving, I only get them clothes if they have grown, I don’t get them toys unless its for their birthdays or xmas. I openly talk to them how much money I have in the bank so they can understand I cant always give them unless they put some input towards the cost or just wait until their birthday. I tell them, I only have $5, what can we squeeze in at the shops for $5. its getting there, but patience and reminding them money doesn’t grow on trees unless they help me save.
    I enjoyed learning some ideas from this post.

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  • So true !

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  • Good article all children need to be set limits,we were growing up!

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  • Very well written and I totally agree

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  • Far too many bratty kids with entitlement issues. They are spoilt and handed everything and have no consequences. We need to be teaching more respect and boundaries

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  • Number 4 can be the hardest to persist with.

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  • Too many parents give their young kids access technology far too young. Yes, a lot use them as a babysitter rather than cope with misbehaviour especially when not home. From a medical angle there has been warnings published by medical professionals that having their heads in the position they do while playing with these can cause neck and shoulder pain which may not be apparent or understood so even further damage sometimes occurs. I have seen toddlers as young as 15 months old with them. One obviously had no idea what to do. The Mum had strapped it to the shopping trolley for the little girl to watch as soon as they walked into the supermarket. (The people were neighbours of mine so I know how old the toddler was). Children need to learn to amuse themselves; also to sit still while they are being talked to, a book is being read to them etc. They will get into heaps of trouble when they start school otherwise.

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  • It has been known for generations that children need boundaries. Being too permissive does not work.

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  • This is quite scarey to read. It’s weird how we progress in leaps and bounds in some ways and yet digress in others. Thankfully my kids did get bored and they had boundaries, they knew how to push those boundaries, but they didn’t budge

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  • Great tips. The pints raised are so true.

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  • So true! Kids need limits boundaries and rules to help them feel safe

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