What kids really need…

21 02 2011

Just a couple of nuggets my wife brought back from a session at our youngest’s secondary school, but which resonated for both of us. A psychologist and a school counsellor co-presented, so I am not sure who said what.

First thought: yes, it is right to be careful about the amount and type of your child’s internet access; but just be careful of entirely cutting them off from the one place they may have developed some success and positive reputation. If knowing the best apps to download or how to get to the next level of a game or taking and uploading great “street photographs” is the one area in which your child ranks highly in the esteem of her or his peers, then you may want to think twice before you pull the plug. Everyone needs to find something they can “be best” at, and best at Maths homework may already be taken. Of course, you might want to ask whether you can help your child find some non-virtual spaces in which they can learn, make friends and shine, but that is probably “in addition” rather than “instead of” their online success. Negotiate the shape and size of their online access by all means, but don’t just cut them off.

Second thought: sit down at a table to eat dinner as a family at least 3 times a week. When we lived in the UK, the majority of families my children knew didn’t own a dining table. A meal together meant fast food on the sofa watching TV. You score zero points for that. TV off, all the family around the table, preferably something to eat that isn’t reducing everyone’s life expectancy. And then? No sorting out discipline issues, no shouting down opinions you don’t like. Instead, get everyone to talk about their day or what is going on or something funny they saw or read or did. Everyone’s voice has equal value, so equal air time as much as possible. If some are less verbal than others, give them more opportunity. The results? Apparently this one issue is the most powerful factor distinguishing between high achievers in secondary and tertiary education and the rest – the high achievers ate dinner as a family regularly.

Amazing but not surprising…

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