It seems like the longer I teach, the fewer skills students come into kindergarten with. Most students used to have numerous self-help and problem-solving skills, but now those skills are in the minority. Why is that happening? Why do more and more children come to school unable to do or unwilling to persevere with needed skills? It seems that we are raising a generation of children who are unable to function without adult intervention. How can we turn this trend around?
Our country used to be a powerhouse of academics and ideas. Our place on that list has consistently gone down while other countries continue to move up the list and leave us in the dust. We must go back to a tried and true developmental curriculum so we are teaching students at a level where they can learn and not become overly frustrated. We need to present skills that they can have success with quickly so that they want to continue to learn and grow. If they become frustrated and feel that they “aren’t good at anything”, they will feel defeated.
Adults also need to stop doing everything for their children and let them struggle a little. Yes, parents, you need to let your children struggle. It may take more time to get things done and there may be some tears, but consistently letting children figure things out will be so beneficial in the long run.
When your child begins preschool, teach them how to put on their socks, shoes, coats and hats. It will definitely take more time, but practice makes perfect. Your child’s teacher will LOVE you for helping your child with these skills. We’re always in such a hurry to get out the door or are constantly on the go. We need to slow down, not schedule every minute of the day and take the quality time with our children to teach them important childhood skills.
Limit your child’s screen time: tablets, computers, phones, television. Have them go OUTSIDE and play. Let them explore and problem solve outside. Let them use their imaginations. Let them be BORED! If adults are always planning activities or jumping in when children get “bored”, they will never learn to self-soothe and problem solve. Give them paper, scissors, markers and glue and just let them create. Don’t give them a project with a finished product. Just let them make a mess and create. It may be uncomfortable at first, but it is so good for your child.
If they do make a mess, teach them how to clean up too. That is another important skill for them to learn. You make the mess, you clean the mess. Again, it may take more time to clean up, but it is time well spent. Adults should not be cleaning up messes for children, literally and figuratively. Of course, you want to be there to support your child and step in when it is needed, but sometimes you just need to let them soar free.
Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts may sound old school, but they are great groups for meeting new friends, learning new skills and being exposed to experiences that they don’t have at home. Drop your child off for these groups and go get a cup of coffee or read a book. Let them have time to themselves to figure things out and problem solve. Your child needs time in their young life to try new things on their own. Meetings are usually an hour or so and they will do just fine with the leaders who are in charge.
Supervise homework, but don’t do it for them. Let them give it a try and make sure they are doing what they need to be doing, but never do it for them. They will never get the time they need to practice newly acquired skills if you do the work for them. This is especially relevant for any type of long-term project. Believe me, teachers appreciate the projects that are obviously made by a child as opposed to projects that parents have done with little to no child involvement. Does it have to be perfect? Of course not! We just want to see that your child learned something and is willing to put effort into their work.
If your child doesn’t make a sports team, don’t intervene. Let them practice and work harder in order to make the team the next time. If you step in, they are always going to expect you to fix all problems. It is their responsibility to work hard and try their best in all aspects of life. If they know that someone will always step in, they will not put in the effort to get what they want, whether it be a place on a sports team or a job after college.
Many public libraries offer classes that expose children to new experiences and topics. They often have a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) theme or may have discussions of great books. Sometimes they have visits by animals, first responders, scientists, authors, magicians…it depends upon the library. It is another great place for children to meet friends and to use their brains in different ways. Often these classes are free so if your child is super interested in one of the topics, you can look for more involved classes for that same topic. It’s a great way to find out for free what other interests your child has.
In all areas of life, adults should be facilitators, but not crutches. We have to let children struggle and (egad!) fail sometimes in order to appreciate success when it occurs. They will be so much more prepared for life knowing that everything doesn’t always work out perfectly and that is okay. Every day is a clean slate and you can always try again. Perseverance and grit are important characteristics to instill and support in all our children.