There are a lot of things kids learn at school. How to do math, science, spell correctly, write legibly, and if you are lucky, play sports. But once they leave school, many life lessons await them. As Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff, the authors of The Coddling Of The American Mind: How Good Intentions And Bad Ideas Are Setting Up A Generation For Failure remind us, kids are arriving at college less and less prepared.
Depression and anxiety rates have risen sharply among college students, more kids are on some sort of mood enhancer, and student counseling centers are seeing more visits than they ever have. While there are numerous reasons for this effect, the point is that kids need more than simply school preparation to not be overwhelmed by college (and life). So, with that in mind, here are three useful things you can teach your kids while they are at home during the pandemic:
So much of school is scheduled for kids. This class starts at this time, practice starts after school, parents pick you up at a given time, teachers prepare the lesson for you. But what do you do when you want to accomplish something on your own? How exactly do you manage your time to reach your own goals?
For example, let’s say your kid wants to run a 5K race. How does he design his schedule to allow time to train? How does he make sure that he also accomplishes everything else he has to do like chores, homework, sleeping, etc.?
Having your kid at home is the perfect opportunity to help him learn how to set a goal, then manage his time to reach it. Start by having your kid choose a goal. It could be anything from finding a recipe and making dinner for the family to selling 400 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies, or, of course, a 5K race.
Then put your kid in the driver’s seat and have him create his own schedule to reach his goal. Your job is not to help him. Sure, you can let him know that you are there to answer questions, but you are not there to tell him what to do or when to do it. That, in fact, is the lesson for him to learn. But there is an even more important lesson here – that you believe he can accomplish his goals on his own.
How To Cope With Failure
Failure is a part of life. Try anything, from getting a job to learning to skateboard, and you will face failure. But what is more important than if we fail, is how we fail. Do we quit? Do we blame others? Do we make excuses? Or do we pick ourselves up and try harder?
Now that you are at home with your child, you have the perfect opportunity to teach him how to cope with failure, and even have fun in the process. Start by choosing an activity or skill to learn with your child. You could learn how to sing, play the guitar, dance, knit a blanket, ride a skateboard, or do gymnastics. Really anything is fine as long as it is a reasonable challenge and something that you and your child can enjoy.
Then learn alongside them and when you fail (which you will) use the opportunity to model self-control, personal responsibility, and the link between effort and outcome. In short, just shake it off and try harder. When you do this, you teach your kid an invaluable lesson: it is okay to fail; it is what you do about it that matters.
Drug addiction, smoking, procrastinating, interrupting, arguing, overeating, and over-consuming media, at the core, are all problems of self-control.
Essentially, we would like to be doing one thing (or envision ourselves doing this) yet we are actually doing something else. We would like to exercise every day, but we can’t seem to find the motivation. We would like to stop at one piece of pie, but that second one seems to call our name. And we know we should’ve gotten that last piece of work done but we were just so tired. You get the point.
The problem with poor self-control is that it keeps us from getting what we really want. Moreover, it keeps us stuck in a cycle of conflict with ourselves. The energy we spend justifying our actions could be spent working toward our goals. It all starts with better self-control.
So, take the opportunity now that your child is home with you to teach self-control – and maybe even give yourself a refresher. Start by sitting down with your child and telling him you are both going to choose a goal and help each other stay motivated to reach it. He can choose something like building a model airplane, brushing his teeth every day, walking the dog every morning, or eating only one bag of candy every day. You can also choose any goal you like so long as it is something that you would like to accomplish and is within your reach.
Then choose a strategy with your child to help you and he reach your goals. You can choose a motivational mantra, a commitment strategy that utilizes a penalty for not reaching your goal, or anything else that you want. The point is to learn how to work with yourself to change your behavior, and essentially overcome the impulses that keep you from reaching your goals. I can think of no better life lesson.
Having your kid at home for an indefinite amount of time is something that no parent could’ve anticipated. Yet, if we are creative, and a little open-minded, we can use the time as an opportunity to teach our kids all the things they might not otherwise learn in school.
Related Online Continuing Education (CE) Courses:
Motivating Children to Learn is a 4-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that provides strategies and activities to help children overcome their academic and social challenges. Click here to learn more.
Executive Functioning: Teaching Children Organizational Skills is a 4-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that will enumerate and illustrate multiple strategies and tools for helping children overcome executive functioning deficits and improve their self-esteem and organizational abilities. Click here to learn more.
Supportive Communication for the Child with Special Needs is a 1-hour audio continuing education (CE/CEU) course that provides practical tips for helping parents to communicate with their child who has special needs. Click here to learn more.
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