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The Endless Battle Between School Work and Play for Children

The Endless Battle Between School Work and Play for Children

Children are being overworked in school and over-scheduled after school at a young age, and in turn their creativity is slowly being killed. This is not only affecting their joy in childhood, but it is also affecting their ability to succeed in the workforce when they mature. The World Economic Forum cited that by the year 2020, creativity will be the second most sought after skill in the workforce. They further cited research that shows kids have become dramatically less creative since 1990.[1]

Keeping Children Busy Makes No Room for Creativity

Parents who are pushing their kids toward success are unfortunately harming their kid’s creativity. It happens when there isn’t enough time in the day to allow kids to simply play. Many adults are continually over scheduling children and keeping the lives of these kids so structured that free play is an afterthought. But the need for play to ignite creativity in children is real. Children need time to play freely and this allows their creativity to flourish.

Imaginative play becomes scarce when children aren’t given the opportunity and are instead in the classroom all day long beginning at toddler ages. The consequence of this loss of creativity is a society of educated people who lack creativity.

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A study by Live Science discussed research on this subject and stated,[2]

Since 1990, children have become less able to produce unique and unusual ideas. They are also less humorous, less imaginative and less able to elaborate on ideas.

Losing creativity in childhood is attuned to losing part of childhood imagination and the fun that goes along with pretend and creative play. Children lose their ability to be unique individuals when they lose their ability to be creative. When children lose their ability to become creative, they are losing part of their childhood.

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Standardized Answers Are Tombs for Imagination

Also contributing to a decrease in childhood creativity is, the way mainstream education forces kids to suppress their creativity because what is rewarded is standardized test scores. This is not all schools, but this is the current trend in our mainstream education systems. The World Economic Forum discusses the problem of creativity being suppressed in the classroom and stated the following,

Worryingly, these skills are often not featured prominently in children’s school day where the norm still is the chalk-and-talk teaching approach that has prevailed for centuries.

Are we merely teaching our kids to be good test takers or are we encouraging their own individual creative thought and ingenuity? Unfortunately, standardized tests are utilized in mainstream educational settings and they do not foster creative thought. These kinds of tests teach our kids that they need be reservoirs of information that has been taught to them in the classroom. They learn early in life that they need to be good test takers in order to be successful in school.

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Survival in education and being promoted to the next grade is based on their ability to perform on a test. This may not sound that harmful, but when you think about how we are shaping our children’s expectations for the real world it is not realistic or beneficial. True genius is found in the creative individual. These are the people who continue to use their creativity into adulthood to invent products and solutions for the world.

Let Kids Be Bored and a Little Rebellious

Children need down time. When they say “I’m bored”, it is time for the parent to say “great, find something to do”.

Allow for children to think creatively and find ways to entertain themselves. It is a shame that some children are growing up without the ability to learn to entertain themselves. Is a TV, computer, or structured activity always necessary to keep your child entertained? Of course not, they can be by themselves and learn to overcome boredom. Psychology Today states the following about children and boredom,[3]

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Children who experience a lack of programmed activity are given an opportunity to demonstrate creativity, problem solving, and to develop motivational skills that may help them later in life.

Children will also learn what they like it in life when they are provided the opportunity for boredom and to be free to do the things (anything) they can think of. When electronics are taken out of the equation and your child is left to decide what they would like to do on their own, they discover themselves. It gives them the opportunity to reflect on what they like and dislike. They will reflect on what they want to do with their spare time and how they would like to spend that time. Most kids are not going to decide to clean their room or complete a list of chores. They are going to seek something that gives them enjoyment, pleasure, or a sense of accomplishment. Most of these activities will involve creative play, as the child has to be the initiator of the activity and how it is conducted.

In my other article The Most Difficult Lesson for Parents: Let Children Play, I will talk more about what parents can do to just let their kids play and let them get more creative.

Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

Reference

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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Published on November 12, 2020

How to Identify And Play to Your Child’s Strengths

How to Identify And Play to Your Child’s Strengths

As you sit there, perhaps on a sofa, maybe a lounge chair, or while you’re sharing a meal at the table, you glance over to the pride and joy you are happy each day to call your child. They smile back, running around the table they learned to stand up using or kiss you on the cheek as they snatch your car keys for their first (or second, but what feels like hopefully the last) errand using your car. You watch as they take their plate from the table, ask if anyone needs anything on their way to the sink, and then finally meander towards the living room saying to you, “Bed fort after dinner?”

How respectful! How creative! Such initiative!

What you may not realize is that because we don’t often think about this in the day-to-day of parenting, your child’s strengths—the initiative, creativity, drive, passion, and introspective nature that turns other people off—are cultivated daily!

If you’ve never given thoughts to your child’s inherent strengths, that’s okay. As is all too common, you’re conditioned to only look at what they need to fix.[1]

Turns out, identifying, cultivating, and managing your child’s strengths isn’t very difficult. In fact, much of those three steps can occur during a visit to the park. Let’s discover simple and effective ways to highlight your child’s strengths.

Identifying Strengths

Now, I know what you may be thinking: between office meetings, Zoom sessions, laundry, and grocery shopping, when exactly do I have time to become a psychologist?

I get it. But really, identifying your child’s strengths is not difficult. In fact, a simple exercise usually suffices—participate in their play!

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Participate in Their Play

Play can take many forms and is usually defined as an activity that does not bring extrinsic value to be enjoyed—us adults typically refer to these activities as “hobbies.” Whether your child is two or thirteen, children are children, after all, and play is essential.

According to a report from the University of Utah, play is a way for children to practice “problem-solving, self-control, and learning how to share.”[2] Aren’t those powerful strengths that we should identify and cultivate in our supportive role of helping children thrive as adults?

When children engage in play, they naturally show how they lead, how they empathize with others, and how they work with others (or not) to solve problems. If you spend time being present with your children during play, you will be able to see how your child’s strengths manifest in the simplest of activities. Seeing your children play allows you to see how they make mistakes, too, which is a powerful indicator of their sense of self.

Allow (Supported) Mistakes—and Often!

Identifying your child’s strengths has nothing to do with demanding them to be perfect. Far from it, actually. Remember—you are guiding them to becoming a self-sufficient and nurturing adult, and there aren’t many of us out there that are perfect!

Highlighting moments when your child has made some mistakes and working through how to bounce back or fix that mistake can be wondrous when they are working towards understanding their effect on others, themselves, and the world.

Just like parents that tend to focus too much on the negative, children too often learn more from their mistakes than their successes. Catch your child softly during a mistake, and work through a plan to get themselves out of it. Your goal is not to fix their issue, of course, but to build within them the capacity to make a better choice next time.

When you take on this mindset of an engaging and present parent that is looking for ways to build your child’s strengths, you’ll be surprised at what you see them able to do.

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Some solid examples of inherent child strengths to look for include:

These are the soft skills that are being developed as young as preschool and even before. In today’s global workplace environment, ensuring that your child is developing in these (and other) areas will set them up for success.

Okay, great. You’ve watched your children at the park or tag along with your teenager to a volunteer event and notice how gracious they are. How do we keep that going?

As is normally the case, you’ll see that cultivating strengths is no more difficult than identifying them.

Cultivating Your Child’s Identified Strengths

Imagine this scenario: Thursday evening, and you’ve worked your fourth ten-hour day. Your partner is late getting home from work, and your three kids are all wanting different things for dinner that should have been made yesterday.

At the exact moment you’re about to snap from the pressure, your middle child says, “Hey, maybe we can all act like chefs tonight and make our own dinners? Might be fun!”

Um, yes, please?

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As you settle in bed later that evening and reflect on that exchange in the kitchen, you start to highlight other times that child—and, as you doze, your other children in their own ways—stepping up and leading. You know this cannot be by accident, so what’s going on here?

Provide Many At-Bats

Just because a child can take their plate to the sink doesn’t mean they are responsible enough with Grandma’s China set. But when you provide the “at-bats” for children to build capacity using their strengths, you see the road to them handling more difficult scenarios becoming less and less cluttered with obstacles.

There will come a day, and perhaps soon, that your child will be able to navigate that China with extreme grace. Today just ain’t that day, but with some work, it’ll come!

Providing opportunities for your child to build on their strengths is a great idea. Everyone likes to feel competent, and your child is no different! Setting up scaffolded opportunities for them to showcase their budding personalities decreases the stress and increases the chance that, next time, they will perform even better.

Teach Them to Trust but Verify

Good leaders don’t have all the answers. Neither should you and of course, we don’t expect our children to know everything. But we should build within them the capacity for understanding what they don’t know and figuring out ways to get the information they need to work through their situations.

You cannot always have the answers, either. So, what should you do?

Exposing them to the world of information that exists is a good start. Great, you’ve identified your child is empathetic, but must they assist and provide supportive care to everyone they encounter? Or should there be some healthy boundaries established?

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Working with your children to mold and curate these more nuanced approaches to their strengths will provide them with a good road map to use when they ultimately leave you and lead their own lives.

Turning Weaknesses Into Opportunities

While not exactly the elephant in the room, I can’t possibly write an article about child strengths without also addressing the fact that our children aren’t possibly capable of being good at everything.

Perhaps one of your most important roles as a parent is to decide what strengths your child has and to inspire them to cultivate those strengths using the tips and suggestions in this article. However, there will be a wide variety of opportunities for you to work through the challenges your child experiences.

I don’t want this to sound too harsh but the fact is, everyone has competencies on a spectrum: you can work, hustle, and grind to develop parts of your personality or skill set to whatever gain you set for yourself. Allowing children to operate with a mindset of progress, not perfection, will help their journey. You cannot be weak, after all, if you are constantly striving for improvement.

So, the next time you take your kiddo out to the park, attend a professional sporting event, or perhaps when you’re playing cards in the living room on a cold winter night, pay attention to how they maneuver around.

How are they asking for what they need? How are they offering support? How are they handling conflict? How are they bouncing back from missed opportunities or mess-ups?

In each of those moments—and many more—the opportunity to cultivate strength in your child is just around the corner!

More Tips on Developing Your Child’s Strengths

Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

Reference

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