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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

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Dr. Magdalena Battles

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

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Published on November 23, 2020

How to Develop Big Picture Thinking And Think More Clearly

How to Develop Big Picture Thinking And Think More Clearly

Your neighbors downstairs are playing loud music. Again. How do they not get tired of partying? And why do they choose songs with such a heavy downbeat that the glass in your cupboard is vibrating every two seconds? What can you do to get some peace that you deserve? What should you?

Human mind tends to go in circles whenever faced with a problem without a clear solution. It becomes easy to forget the big picture and get lost in anger and self-pity, wasting our precious time, energy and enthusiasm.

Would it not be nice if we always remembered to put things in perspective?

Would it not be more efficient to face all kinds of problems, from tiny annoyances to life-changing emergencies, with a calm demeanor, sharp focus and fearless determination to promptly take the most efficient action possible?

Alas, humans are not like that. All too often we let anxiety or greed get the best of us and make a rushed or shortsighted decision that we quickly come to regret. Other times, we spend weeks or months at an impasse, rehashing the exact same arguments, unable to accept the compromise required to move forward with any of the available options.

Buddhists talk about getting lost in the “small self.” In this state of mind, we literally forget the big picture and focus on the small one. We start taking our daily problems too personally and, paradoxically, becomes less capable of solving them in an efficient manner. And this is the opposite of big picture thinking.

Let me share with you a story related to big picture thinking…

In 1812, the French army of Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Russia.[1] After a decisive Battle of Borodino, the capture of Moscow and therefore Napoleon’s victory in the war seemed inevitable.

Unexpectedly, the Russian Commander-in-Chief Mikhail Kutuzov made a highly controversial decision of retreating and allowing the French to capture Moscow. Much of the population had been evacuated taking supplies with them. The city itself was set on fire and large parts of it burned into the ground.

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After waiting in vain for Russia to capitulate, Napoleon had to retreat in the middle of a bitterly cold winter. He won the battle but lost the war. The campaign ended in a disaster and the near destruction of the French army.

What can we learn from this historical lesson?

1. Focus on the Consequences

Napoleon focused on the important part: capturing Moscow. Nobody could accuse him of thinking small. Yet he overlooked that the Russian army could still fight even after giving up the country’s most important city.

So was Moscow not an important target after all?

Success expert Brian Tracy has a litmus test: things are important to the extent that they have important consequences. Things are unimportant to the extent that they have no important consequences.[2]

When faced with a choice, ask yourself, what would be the consequences of each option?

  • Want to spend an hour studying or watching the new series on Netflix? What would be the consequences of each option? Netflix can sometimes be a better choice, but it helps to put things in perspective.
  • Want to maintain your apartment by yourself or to pay a cleaning service? Would would be the consequences of each option?
  • Want to meet up for coffee with this acquaintance of yours or catch up on your work instead? What would be the consequences of each option?

The choice can be different for different people. An aspiring filmmaker may have a legitimate reason for choosing Netflix. Personally, cleaning your own apartment can be relaxing and nourishing even if the economics of hiring a cleaner looks compelling because you are earning a high hourly rate.

This is where you will need a basic idea of who you are — what are your goals, values and aspirations.

2. Flip Defeat Into Victory

Kutuzov managed to turn Russia’s defeat into a historic victory by recasting the problem in a wider context: losing Moscow need not mean losing the war.

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Despite the symbolic meaning attached to the Kremlin, the churches, the priceless treasures that had been stored in the city for centuries, the outcome of the campaign was ultimately determined by the strength of the remaining armies.

If you can adopt this result-oriented perspective, many of your personal defeats may be flipped into victories as well. Few events in a human life are absolutely good or absolutely bad, and it usually takes many years to recognize in retrospect, what role a particular encounter did play in your story.

Therefore we have every reason to look for the good in the things that happen to us.

This is a very practical attitude, far from baseless “positive thinking.” After all, if something unfortunate has happened to you and you find good sides in this circumstance, you will then be better positioned to take advantage of those good sides.

Say your noisy neighbors are affecting your productivity. What if it is a blessing in disguise? How can you turn this defeat into a victory?

  • Perhaps you are too serious about life and could learn how to have more fun. Join your neighbors or go out for a walk instead of working;
  • Perhaps you only wanted to be productive while instead procrastinated on social media. Now that your procrastination has been interrupted, stop and acknowledge this much greater obstacle to your productivity;
  • Perhaps you are too sensitive to interference. Take this opportunity to practice ignoring the noise and doing your best anyway;
  • Perhaps you have a victim mentality and the feeling of unfairness drains you more than any actual nuisance your neighbors might have caused. Try accepting this lapse in your productivity the way you would accept bad weather.

Get used to finding opportunities in your problems. This is the quintessential big picture thinking.

3. Ask for Advice

Both Napoleon and Kutuzov had trusted advisers to discuss their affairs with. In general, getting a different perspective — or several — can only help inform your understanding and lead to better decisions. Just ensure that the people giving you advice are competent in the particular area where experience is needed.

Paying money for advice can also be a wise investment. Lawyers, tax accountants, medical doctors spend years learning how to assist people like yourself in living more successful, more fulfilling lives.

A quick legal consultation can save you a fortune down the line or even keep you out of big trouble. A medical check-up can uncover potential issues and help keep you healthy and active for years to come.

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Even big, complex dilemmas at your job or in your romantic relationship can be tackled more effectively by partnering up with a coach or a therapist or, of course, with the help of a wise friend.

4. Beware of Biased Advice

Many imperfect decisions occur in response to an imperfect piece of advice that you choose to act on. This advice often comes from a biased party.

For example, we are often encouraged to buy something that we supposedly need:

  • Protect your skin from harmful UV rays by using a special lotion.
  • Fortify your health by taking multivitamins.
  • Connect with your friends by sending them elaborate gifts.
  • Brighten your weekend by consuming a delicious pastry.
  • Become more productive by getting a faster computer.

However, most purchases are unnecessary.

Some, such as the sunscreen, do have legitimate benefits when used properly.[3] Others, such as multivitamins, only make a difference for a small group of people.[4]

Advertisers of those benefits inevitably want to narrow your focus in order to overstate the importance of their product. They frequently present it as the only solution to your problem, whether real or imaginary.

After all,

  • Skin can also be protected from the sun by wearing appropriate clothing.
  • Health can be better fortified by consuming a balanced diet and getting regular exercise.
  • Spending time or talking on the phone with your friends is the foremost way of connecting with them, and it is virtually free.
  • Your weekend can be brightened by doing something that you love.
  • You can become more productive by focusing on the tasks that have the most important consequences. A faster computer can, in fact, decrease productivity by making it easier to multitask and by enabling your favorite distractions.

There are other sources of imperfect advice. Politicians also frequently want us to focus on a particular “big picture,” to the exclusion of the alternatives.

Even loving parents can be guilty of the same. They can advise their children to pick a career path that is safe and respectable, based on their “big picture” that in life one has to make a living. A child may disagree, however, based on another “big picture” that one’s life has to have meaning and fulfillment.

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Bottom Line

It is human nature to make rushed, emotional decisions based on incomplete information, then regret those decisions later on.

You can protect yourself from poor judgment by striving to attain the big picture when careful consideration is called for.

Focus on the consequences of your decision before considering how you feel about it.

Play with the cards you’ve been dealt, but look for opportunities in each situation and you will find them.

Ask knowledgeable mentors for advice, but beware of biased people who have an opinion, but do not necessarily have your best interest in mind.

Yet remember, true big picture thinking comes from hard-won experience. Legendary military commanders Napoleon Bonaparte and Mikhail Kutuzov were both injured on the battlefield.

Clear thinking comes from putting your big picture to the test of reality.

More Tips on Thinking Clearly

Featured photo credit: Haneen Krimly via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Wikipedia: French invasion of Russia
[2] Brian Tracy: No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline
[3] American Academy of Dermatology: Say Yes to Sun Protection
[4] Harvard Medical School: Do multivitamins make you healthier?

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