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7 Mistakes That Damage Childhood

7 Mistakes That Damage Childhood

Your children only gets their childhood once. There are no repeats or do-overs. It is amazing how those years of growing up can affect the rest of their lives. As adults we ponder, analyze, and reflect on all that our childhood had to offer us, both good and bad. It’s a parent’s responsibility to protect their child so that the preventable bad stuff doesn’t happen during childhood. Not all bad can be prevented, such as the death of a parent or a debilitating illness, but there are some things that can be prevented or avoided. It is up to the parent or caregiver to help avoid these damaging factors that afflict so many during childhood.

1. Treating Children As Though They Are Adults

I have heard parents refer to their kids as mini-adults. They are not mini-adults. They are children. They don’t have the same ability as adults to process information or even think abstractly. Children don’t have fully developed brains, so they are not emotionally or mentally mature. The expectation of parents or adults for children to be anything like an adult is absurd. Taking your toddler to a fancy restaurant and then getting upset with them because they are acting their age is silly. Don’t expect your toddler to act older than they are because you will be disappointed every time.

Don’t take them places where you know toddler’s behavior isn’t accepted or tolerated. If you have to, for example be on a plane ride, prepare to keep the child entertained with age appropriate toys and videos. Anticipate that they will act their age, because when they are two years old they will act like a two year old. They only get to be a child once in life, so embrace it and let them be a child.

2. Over Scheduling

Far too many kids are getting burned out before they even head off to college. There are many kids who are over scheduled, over schooled, and over worked on a weekly basis. How did we get to this point where kids go to school all day long, have after school activities/sports for several hours every night, and then hours of homework once they get home?

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At the end of the day they have zero free time to just be a kid. They end up being stressed out just trying to get it all done and keep up with a crazy schedule. It’s time to rethink the amount of activities that we have enrolled our kids in.

Many kids these days start activities from the time they are babies. From music classes to toddler sports activities, to play dates to learning sign language. Many kids are doing too much and being pushed too hard, too fast. They have their entire lives to run the rat race of life. Childhood is the time when they need extra rest as their bodies and minds grow. It’s great to stimulate minds and bodies for growth, but over scheduling happens far too easily these days.

Kids need time for plenty of free play and to allow their imaginations to thrive. Part of development is allowing kids the time to be creative, time to pretend, and imagine. Those activities fall by the wayside when kids are overschuled and don’t have free time to play. Limiting a child’s play time because of overscheduled activities can negatively affect the child’s development. The American Academy of Pediatrics clearly explains the important of playtime: “Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth.”

3. Physical Or Emotional Abuse

It is a no-brainer that physical abuse is damaging to a child. Emotional abuse is just as damaging and some parents don’t even realize they are doing it. Words stick like glue. They can’t be erased once they are said. When you call your child dumb, bad, ugly, or anything derogatory those words can’t be unsaid. It hits to the core of the child, especially when they are said by a parent. There isn’t anyone’s words who can harm a child more than the words of a parent. Be careful with words and if you need to correct your child speak to their behavior, not who they are as a person.

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4. Expecting A Child To Handle Adult Problems

Don’t expect your child to carry the burden of your problems. It is the job of the parent to shield and protect their child from adult problems. Alcoholism, drug abuse, and addictions are just some of problems of which a child shouldn’t be exposed to.

A very common way that parents are damaging their children today is in divorced situations. When a parent tries to pit their child against the other parent this causes major emotional strain to a child that can damage a child emotionally. If you are divorced don’t speak ill against your ex in front of your child. The child will internalize those words, as they are made up of half of you and half of their other parent.

5. Pressure To Succeed

The pressure to succeed is way too high these days. Parents wanting the best for their kids is one thing, but wanting their kids to be the best is another. There will always be someone who is better at whatever it is your kid is doing. Let them do their best on their own will. There is a big difference between encouragement and pressuring. Know that difference so that you can be your child’s encourager.

Psychological Researchers say that pressuring your child to succeed can actually backfire: “When parents are overly invested in performance, kids are less likely to develop their own, more sustainable, motivation”. Encourage, don’t pressure, as the pressure on your child to succeed can end up actually thwarting their sucess.

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6. Social Isolation

Kids need to be around other kids. Being around adults and only interacting with adults can damage a child’s future ability to interact with their own peers. They need to be around other children their own age on a regular basis in order to develop good social behaviors. Those first few years of life are an important time when children need to be around other children, as it will affect their ability to be socially accepted later.

Research from Child Encylopedia states that  “Peers play important roles in children’s lives at much earlier points in development than we might have thought. Experiences in the first two or three years of life have implications for children’s acceptance by their classmates in nursery school and the later school years. Children who are competent with peers at an early age, and those who show prosocial behaviour, are particularly likely to be accepted by their peers.”

Help your children early in life by planning play time with other children their own age. Their proper development depends on this interaction with their peers.

7. Poor Role Models

Having positive role models is very important. If a child looks up to someone who abuses drugs and alcohol, they will think that behavior is permissible or even encouraged. Parents are the most important role models for a child. Are your behaviors worthy of your child’s admiration? Would you want your child to repeat your behaviors? Parents are role models for their children whether they want to be or not. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry states the following:  “A role model is a person whose serves as an example by influencing others. For many children, the most important role models are their parents and caregivers. Children look up to a variety of role models to help shape how they behave in school, relationships or when making difficult decisions.”

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Are your behaviors ones that you would want your child to emulate? Be a positive example for your child, as they are watching all that you do in life.

Featured photo credit: Magdalena Battles via livingjoydaily.com

More by this author

Dr. Magdalena Battles

A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

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Last Updated on June 6, 2019

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.

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     A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice.[1] The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

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    The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

    “We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

    In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

    The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence

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      A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.

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      Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.

      “When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

      When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

      The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

      As Herman Melville once wrote,[2]

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      “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”

      Silence relieves stress and tension.

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        It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

        A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

        “This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.[3]

        Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.[4]

        Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.

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          The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

          Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

          But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.[5]

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          Summation

          Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

          Featured photo credit: Angelina Litvin via unsplash.com

          Reference

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