Friday, October 19, 2007

Stunting Our Youth

If you are looking for your children to become successful individuals who will become positive adult citizens, then make sure that they understand one simple rule; ignore almost everything that adults tell them. Why you might ask? Because adults spend more time telling children what not to do and what they can’t do more often then telling them what they are capable of.

Let’s look at how we parent children. One of the first words every child will learn is “no” because we as adults look to protect our child by letting them know what they can’t do. As children get older we adults then move on to the word “don’t” and use all of our parenting energy telling children all the things they shouldn’t do. Finally when our children near adulthood and are getting ready to make their own adult decisions, we remind them of what we wouldn’t do if we were in their situation.

Education is no different. Children spend 7 hours a day with adults who are looking to catch them doing something wrong. This way the educator knows that they are doing their job; child makes mistake + adult corrects mistake = teaching. Behavioral management in the classroom is focused on what the children can’t do, “no talking in class”, “do not use X Y & Z without permission”, etc., and not on ways that they can use the whole classroom to enhance their learning. By using this approach we are trying to program our children into what we think is in their best interest.

Now don’t get me wrong, I know that children need structure and to some extent a controlled environment, but to what extent is the question? If we control the environment of a child through “no”, “don’t”, and “can’t”, what are they really learning on their own? When we have our children focus on all the things they can’t do, then when do they get to figure out what they are capable of? When children aren’t given the chance to make mistakes, or their mistakes are constantly corrected by adults, when do they learn how to problem solve on their own?

We stunt the growth of our children through simply not giving them the tools to focus on what is possible because we are constantly telling them what is not possible. If we put an equal amount of effort catching children doing something right as we do wrong, think of the growth possibilities through learned experience as opposed to taught experience.

When we constantly focus on what our children can’t do, or shouldn’t do, we put their focus away from what they think that they can do. When children focus on things they supposedly can’t do then we stunt their greatest ability which is to use their imagination. As we look to create responsible and successful adults out of our children look no further than your own workplace and ask yourself; where are the people who follow directions the best and where are the people who use their vision the best? Tell yourself who you would like your child to best represent and go forward from there.

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