“Children today can’t seem to control themselves.” If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times.
Maybe you’ve said it yourself…or, at least thought it.
Since I work with young children and families, I’m on the front lines of the behavior and parenting styles of today. And yes, it is mostly true that children today can’t seem to control their impulses to speak or move, as much as in years past.
There are many possible reasons for this and little hard evidence backs up any of it. But, here’s what I think and it is only what I think.
- Children today are encouraged to go from one thing to another because they play on video games from toddler ages. Yes, those “learning apps” are not teaching persistence, they are promoting short attention spans.
- Children today are too cooped up. From infancy, they are almost constantly restrained in a carrier, a bumbo seat, or an exersaucer. Later, they move up to car seats and strollers. They rarely have the freedom to move around and explore without a hovering parent.
- Play is too structured and academically oriented. A toddler does not need to know letters and colors as much as they need to know how to deal with anger, not getting their way, and other social skills.
- Children need a variety of physical play: swings, slides, climbing, running, spinning, jumping, riding bicycles, etc. They need a lot of this each and every day. I am not talking about organized PE, I’m referring to free play with other children.
- Children need one on one time with children to learn how to apologize, forgive, what it feels like to get hit, bumped, shoved, etc. They need to learn how to handle themselves with confidence on a playground without depending on an adult to save them from every little incident.
- They need fewer toys to play with. Yes, you read that right. Too many toys! Too many electronic toys! They need things that don’t entertain them constantly because then they’ll expect everything to entertain them–even adults.
As a pediatric physical therapist, I’m totally focused on getting children active and participating in physical activity. But, I also want them to follow the Scripture, “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”
What I think is missing today are adequate opportunities for children to “blow off steam.” When we see children fidgeting or getting anxious, their bodies may be telling us they need some time to move. If we don’t give children these times and if we don’t stop keeping them too cooped up, they will get frustrated and angry. (Pssst. Adults have the same needs.)
Let’s do the hard work of parenting, friends. Our children deserve better. Life can be hard and frustrating, but God did not give us a safe-space, He gave us a way to live in an unsafe space and learning self-control is essential to surviving in an unsafe world.
Join the conversation and share your thoughts in the comments below.