Instant Gratification

As I continue on my journey towards physical and emotional health after my health scare over the fall and winter along with the three major deaths that occurred in a row, I have good and bad days.  While the bad days are slowly getting less and less, they still really upset me. I had no idea how hard I am on myself until I started meditating.

It makes sense though due to experiencing so much verbal and emotional abuse throughout my childhood from various people. As I’ve written many times, how we speak to our children affects them so much. They are vulnerable and they can’t just rationalize a mean remark, especially from the adults in their lives. Negative self-talk becomes ingrained in us for life.

Processed with MOLDIV

I’m working so hard on trying to retrain my brain that it doesn’t need to be in a heightened state of fight or fight.  I will be honest with you and say that this is something I must deal with daily…The anxiety and PTSD can be very overwhelming.

I honestly don’t feel like anyone, except those that deal with emotional issues, truly understand that it’s a constant struggle to keep it under control. I’m getting better but I meditate and distract myself beyond the official meditation time I take just to keep myself under control as much as possible so I can enjoy life to the best of my ability. After all, Jesus died so I could have life. I’m beyond grateful that He understands everything  I’m going through (Hebrews 4:15).

As I was doing my daily meditation the other morning with the Calm app, the daily calm was about how meditation can help people achieve major success in their health, but that should not be the goal of meditation.  As with everything, there’s no quick fix. Meditation is a tool to help us build mindfulness and awareness of the present moment.

This got me to thinking about instant gratification. We all want it when we are suffering.  We want that quick fix. That’s why parents spank/hit, yell, and shame their children. It’s much easier and faster to punish children than it is to actually work with them. Gentle parenting is a ton of work because it’s not aiming for short term goals but rather long term.

But instant gratification feels so good. We want everything now. This begins at an early age because infants do usually need things right away. They don’t mean to be this way.  They just have to have a lot of attention.  As they get older, we can let them wait a few minutes to get a need met, if appropriate.

As children continue growing up, we think it’s our job to teach them that instant gratification is a bad thing. Some parents are especially hard on their children starting in infancy to try to stop their children from being “demanding.”  They ignore, isolate, spank/hit, arbitrarily take things away from them and/or arbitrarily say “no.”  In other words, harsh and abusive techniques are used on these children.

The problem is that the parents are actually teaching their children instant gratification!  If you want something then you use force to get it.  This is the essence of instant gratification!

Gentle parenting is the exact opposite!  By taking the time to meet children’s needs and really take the time to teach them, we are modeling selflessness.  Taking the time to sit with your toddler for the umpteenth time today with a meltdown is teaching delayed gratification. It would be so much easier to just lock children in their rooms for a little while and not deal with them, but by not doing this, you’re teaching them that their needs are very important.

Please understand that I encourage parents to regularly take time for themselves and do self-care!

Another way we all teach children instant gratification is by cutting in front of people, getting really upset when things don’t go as planned, and running out to buy the newest and greatest technologies.  Most of the time we don’t even know we’re doing it. It is so ingrained in us and our society. We want everything NOW!

As the late and great Tom Petty sang, “The waiting is the hardest part!”  It really is. Waiting for results or anything else that we really want is very hard for all ages.

But by doing our best to remain in the present moment, trying to be patient, and learning to be grateful for what we do have, we practice delayed gratification and teach it to our children.

Taking turns, putting others first, helping people when we really don’t want to help at that moment, using limits and boundaries with children, being in the present moment, and enjoying the simple things are other ways to delay instant gratification.

Children can actually teach us about delayed gratification because they are usually in the present moment and enjoy the simple things.  Therefore, the next time you’re tempted to hurry along your dawdling toddler, try stopping and enjoying the moment.  This is how we practice and teach delayed gratification.

Processed with MOLDIV

Training Children To Love Jesus?

I was surprised to discover that some Christians believe that they can “train” their children to love Jesus. Frankly, I find this a bit disturbing because how can one “train” children?  They’re not animals. And when Christians say train, it usually means a great deal of corporal punishment is being used as in the Michael Pearl style.

I don’t want to get to involved in what the Hebrew meaning of “train” is for this post as I believe the Christians claiming that they must “train” their children are using “train” wrongly anyway.

Can you truly train anyone, let alone children, to love?  Does God train us to love Him?

According to the Bible, we are not trained by God to love Him.

“We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19, KJV).

And how did He show us love?

”But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, NASB).

No, God never “trains” us to love Him because that would pretty much be forcing us to love Him. God prefers true love that can only come from deep within our hearts because we have seen and felt God’s love for us. He is gentle and patient while He waits for us to accept His great love for us and reciprocate it back to Him!

Another thing, young children have a special knowledge of Who God is. They already love Him.

“At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants'” (Matthew 11:25, NASB).

“From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength Because of Your adversaries, To make the enemy and the revengeful cease” (Psalm 8:2, NASB).

image

We just need to cultivate that knowledge and love for Him through reading His Word to them, including them in prayer and worship without forcing it on them, and, most importantly, showing them God’s amazing love by modeling it to them through treating them and others with compassion, mercy, forgiveness, and grace.

We don’t need to worry about “training” our children to love Jesus nor fighting for their souls. Rather, we need to worry about accurately portraying God’s loving character to them so that true love for God and others will last a lifetime!

image

What Is REALLY Wrong With Today’s Youth?

Believe it or not, every generation complains about “today’s youth” being “out of control.”  But, what drives me nuts about this is that many people claim that the reason children are “out of control” is due to a lack of spanking/hitting children.

The reality is that between 70-90% of parents still admit to spanking/hitting their children. Obviously, corporal punishment isn’t helping at all. And since there are a huge array of harmful effects of corporal punishment, it will never help children to be more respectful.

I believe that in addition to children being treated harshly there is another huge reason why today’s society and youth seem so disconnected. Technology!

Yes, I said it, technology is one of the reasons why our society is so disconnected.  The very thing that is supposed to keep us more connected is actually tearing apart human interaction.  Go to any public place and observe the people.  I can guarantee that the majority of the people are looking down at a screen instead of interacting with each other.  Couples at a restruarant text or update their Facebook statuses instead of talking to each other.

What is even sadder is that I recently heard on the radio that children are getting hurt more often at playgrounds because their parents are too busy staring at their phones to even hear their children calling for help.

Here is an interesting study from an Exchange Everyday email:

“‘A new Chinese ad campaign illustrates the way smartphones can affect family life and relationship,’ reports The Huffington Post “Titled Phone Wall,” the campaign by Ogilvy & Mather China is a literal representation of the barriers to human relationships that screen addiction creates.’

Juggi Ramakrishnan, Executive Creative Director of Ogilvy & Mather Shanghai, told The Huffington Post, ‘We want people to see [these ads] and rethink their relationships with others and their phone in a different light. This is a definite pressure point that Chinese society is facing on its path of rapid development.’

‘This pervasiveness has the potential to be especially detrimental to families with kids,’ says Ramakrishnan. ‘There is an alarming trend of parents ignoring their children of all ages, paying more attention to their phones and tablets than their immediate surroundings. Consequently, children may feel they aren’t getting the attention they need…. Addiction to mobile devices can put a strain on romantic relationships as well, as partners may become less responsive to each other’s feelings and have fewer meaningful interactions.'”

This addiction to technology starts way too young in this society.  There are now bouncy seats for infants that hold iPads for the infant.  I’m sorry but as an early childhood professional, this really disturbs me.  Infants and young children need lots of human interaction as well as using real toys such as balls, blocks, plastic dishes, dolls, trucks, cars, musical toys, push toys.  Manipulating concrete items and having real experiences are absolutely crucial to healthy development.  By giving an infant an iPad, the infant is going to be more interested in the iPad as a whole because their brains don’t truly understand what’s actually happening on the screen.  Too much screen time can actually hinder development.  A toddler should be able to do a range of fine motor activities, not just swipe on an iPad or phone!

Also, infants absorb and are affected by everything in their environments. It’s much better for a baby’s brain development to have music playing in the background rather than a TV.  Another thing is that we are almost constantly exposed to violence thanks to the media. This is desensitizing us to violence and so many other disturbing things.  Besides sex, violence is a common theme in our movies, television shows, music, and videogames. Plus, the news is constantly reporting acts of violence. We are so much more aware of violence whereas prior to when media was so prevalent people were not as exposed to or aware of the violence that was occurring and they could shelter themselves and their children from it because there was no television or Internet.

Children didn’t watch cartoons or play videogames filled with violent images like they do today. Because so many parents have to work full-time in order to survive today, children are being left alone with all this access to violent media with little guidance from busy, stressed out parents. Research shows that all of this exposure to violence is desensitizing children and adults to violence. Greven (1992), page 129, states:

“Research has demonstrated that television must be considered one of the major socializers of children’s aggressive behavior. Two major behavioral effects of heavy viewing of televised violence are: (1) an increase in children’s level of aggression; and (2) an increase in children’s passive acceptance of the use of aggression by others. Both aggression and apathy thus are intensified by an immersion in television violence although the roots of both undoubtedly are to be found in the life histories of punishment and abuse of those who view such violence with either indifference or enthusiasm.”

image

All this being said, I do understand that there is a time and a place for technology. If a parent or relative is far away, using Skype or FaceTime to help them see the child is perfectly fine. And once children become preschoolers, it’s ok to slowly introduce them to technology.

It’s just important to naturally limit technology by having plenty of other activities for children to do. This way, too, by not putting much focus on technology, we can avoid power struggles when it’s time for them to put it away.  Always allow children to finish the game they’re playing or show/movie they’re watching before having them move on. I love this article by Janet Lansbury regarding introducing and limiting technology with toddlers.  We need to be present while our children are using technology to protect them from all the evil things and people lurking on the Internet.

And, of course, technology is a must for children with special needs/disabilities. With my severe cerebral palsy, technology allows me to write and communicate with others whereas I otherwise would be unable to do so.  Amateur radio is another great use of technology. It allows people to talk to each other over the airways.

In sum, technology definitely has valid uses. However, we need to stop allowing it to consume our lives.  We need to be totally present with our children and intentionally interact with them throughout the day. Children should not have to compete with technology for our attention. Technology cannot substitute actual parenting. Nor is it fair to only interact with our children to spank/hit or otherwise punish them.

Do you want children to be kind, empathetic, and not self-entitled?  Put down your phones, tablets, laptops, and other consumer electronics and model how to interact with people. Talk with your children. Let them see you actually watching them play.  Stop spanking/hitting them and discipline (teach and guide) them.  If you are a Christian, make Jesus the focus of your home rather than technology.

Reference:

Greven, P. (1992). Spare the Child. New York, NY: Vintage Books.

image

Do Toddlers Misbehave?

A parent asked if toddlers are capable of misbehaving. Here’s my answer:

As an early childhood professional, I believe everything toddlers do is explorational, and due to a complete lack of impulse control. They are also testing limits to make sure we will hold firm.

They may understand a limit and still go against it to test not only if we’ll remain firm, but also to exercise their newfound autonomy. Sure, they get into mischief and I suppose you can call it “misbehaving,” but toddlers do not do anything out of malice. They don’t plan stuff out even if sometimes it may feel like they do.

Toddlers lack vocabulary so they act out to express their needs. I wouldn’t call this misbehaving. Either way though, this is developmentally appropriate for toddlers. They need to be taught and guided through this developmental stage rather than punished.

Some ways of disciplining toddlers would be to validate their feelings and provide appropriate ways of expressing their feelings through punching a pillow, biting a teething ring, or doing an angry dance.  Anything to redirect aggression to appropriate outlets while giving them the language to express their anger.

It’s also important to model appropriate behavior to children.  They are constantly watching and imitating us.

We also need to provide realistic limits.  When it comes to setting limits and boundaries for young children, there are three basic rules on which all boundaries and limits should be based. The first rule is respect for others. The second rule is respect for ourselves. The third rule is respect for property. And if we think about it, these three rules encompass much of what Christ said in His Sermon on the Mount. If you wish to add a fourth basic rule, we could say reverence of God. The reason why we should only have three or four basic rules on which to base limits and boundaries is that giving children too many rules to follow, especially at a young age, will only frustrate and overwhelm them.

And always use natural and logical consequences with them. Even time-out is a punishment and should not be used.  I will write a post about time-in in the future.

Toddlers need plenty of room to play and explore. By respecting them, “misbehavior” can be kept to a minimum because we are meeting their needs, and are recognizing that there is usually an unmet need behind most unwanted behaviors.

image