Friday, September 27, 2013

It's all just time and money...


Take the following post how you want, I don’t have a degree in child psychology or child welfare.  I am however working towards a degree in dad, it is a long hard study and failure is not an option, although I am sure I have made a few Bs and Cs along the way. I will not get my diploma until the kid has become a happy well-adjusted adult and that is still several years away.   So this post may be complete nonsense or the greatest  ever, you decide.    

So let’s get started

Kids are selfish little humans, little devils in angels clothing, if left untended they can display the worst in humanity.   It’s not their fault this is just the natural course of human nature.   Think of the last time your kids hung out with a group of other kids, I bet someone cried or at the least had their feelings hurt.   Now imagine if you or no other adult were present to keep the kids in check. Let your imagination run wild.

Now to get to the point.

Parenting is about turning these little demons into functional, productive and caring adults.  That’s harder than it sounds and there are many ways to screw your kids up.  I'm pretty sure I've made a few mistakes, probably several, but that is up to the kid to decide later.   I don’t know about you but I did not get an owner’s manual when they let me bring the boy home from the hospital so I have been winging it for 12 years finding information and asking friends advice along the way.    This is my chance to pass along a few of my own mistakes and hope you can do better.

Below are 3 of the ways I have screwed up over the years and how my bride and I have “tried” to fix things.
  • Law of diminishing returnsIf you have ever taken an economics class you will recognize this concept.  Basically if you give your kid one toy they love it and it brings joy.   If you give your kid two toys they still love both but receiving the second one does not bring as much joy.   Go to an extreme and fill your kids room with toys and none of them bring joy to the kid or satisfaction to the parent as giver.     This is where a lot of new parents go wrong, they want to bring joy to their kid’s lives and think the way to do that is to give them possessions.   Unfortunately possessions are like drugs, you wind up chasing the “joy dragon” and don’t understand why it gets harder and harder to find the joy high.  This became clear to me a few years ago we had given the boy a Wii for Christmas and he loved it,  so chasing the “joy dragon” the next year we got him an Xbox and Kinect.   He enjoyed the Xbox but plays it only occasionally; I forgot the law of diminishing returns.  
  • Let them be bored
    In the days of easy entertainment kids can’t handle boredom, they feel the need to be constantly entertained.  I personally have this problem with the boy, if we go to the store he wants to listen to a book on tape, while at the grocery store he wants to play on the iPhone or iPad.   Its constant and has snuck up on me without realizing it was going to be a problem.    If I send him outside to play he can’t handle being in the backyard because there is nothing to entertain him.   Being bored spawns imagination and creativity.   The human mind wants to be entertained and if a kid is not consuming entertainment they will invent their own entertainment.  Any entertainment invented by the child will be much better than any version of Angry Birds or Candy Crush saga.   
  • Spend as much time with your kids as possible
    This might seem to go against the first point but time with Mom or Dad is not the same thing as having too much stuff.  Kids, even teenagers, crave time with their parents.   Watching TV together is not enough because even though you are physically together it’s not really a shared experience.  I remember reading a few years ago that the average working parent really only spends seven minutes a day really engaged with their kids.  Here is a link to a more in-depth post by the dad vibe.   The gist of the study is that dads only really engage with their kids for seven minutes a day and moms only engage for eleven minutes.   I don’t think seven  or eleven minutes is enough to pass on any values or wisdom to your children.   We are all busy but if think of this in terms of a percentage of their entire day it changes your perspective.   We need to evaluate all those extra activities and decide if they are worth giving up actual one on one time with your child?  Rushing around from one event to another pushing your kids into and out of the car isn't character building parent bonding time.   On the surface it looks like you are spending time with your kids but you are not engaging with them at soccer practice you are watching them from the sidelines.

A side note...

There's an underlying truth parents don’t like to admit.  Most people don't actually like spending time with their children.  It begins when they are infants.  They cry.  We cringe.  We must stop the crying.  Food?  Poop?  Hot? Cold? Bored?  Bingo.  Here's a toy.  We buy them every toy, bouncing contraption, and infant video series we can find to “entertain” them.  Most parents continue this practice of giving their children money instead of time and never even realize that's what's going on.  It's all about time.  Kids need our time.  Time for story-telling, role modeling, correction, laughter. 
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