Live & Learn. My mother saved me from myself. I did what many smart kids do who already know a subject…in my case German language…I coasted w/out making any effort. Fortunately, when that quit working, she was on top of things & taught me good study habits. She taught me how to exercise my brain, which is like a muscle. Yet, I have noticed many kids labeled “smart”/”gifted”/ “genius” underperform cuz they think their supposedly natural smarts will do the job, & if not, then they conclude they aren’t any good at the subject & rather risk embarrassment they dodge things. They never learn to exercise their brains. First, our culture has greatly neglected teaching our kids how to exercise their brains, plus showing them that ability levels are not fixed but can get greatly improved by mental development. The brain can be taken to the gym—even a wimpy guy with the right training & nutrition can develop muscles…the same holds true for mental growth. The child’s environment (food, entertainment, sleep, stress) influences the development of concentration, and concentration is a global mental force multiplier—it enhances all mental abilities.
Our children are the world of the future(!!), Lord willing. The impetus for this post was several parents asking me about their children. If misery loves company, enjoy the Biblical example of Esau. He had godly parents w/ faith, Isaac & Rebekah, but he imitated the weaknesses of each (Isaac’s weaknesses & Rebekah’s sly nature) rather than their faith. To add insult to his parents, he married a Hittite, who came from godless people who hated his parents. Children may choose to copy our faults & not our virtues. Even more reason to watch what we do, & to model good decision making for our children. It is important that we have: respect (for them, others & self); we love Heavenly Father, our brothers, truth & reality; we remain reasonable people who can be talked with; & we model being responsible for our actions. I suppose this is common sense, but it seems common sense is uncommon…as I see parents set themselves up for trouble repeatedly.
So let’s look at a couple of examples of things from the above paragraph that get mangled in their execution. Parents dislike being challenged, if nothing else as it is more stressful than a child pretending to go along. However, a teenager who is arguing with his parent that the rules are not fair is actually a back handed way of respect, if they are silently in agreement that the parent has the authority to set the rules. This is far better than the smiling child pretending to agree & then sneaking around doing what he wants, which is what most American kids do. Communication & respect go a long way. Many children have had their spirits wounded by parents not keeping their word to the child, which creates a sequence of events that create rebels. Another problem is our mistaken belief that all praise is good. If we consistently tell a child he is intelligent, we encourage the scenario in the first paragraph; many kids have been ruined this way. A much better way to praise is to praise their efforts in specific ways. Rather than “you played great” shift to a specific, like, “you did a good job watching the ball”. This encourages the beneficial behavior. Praising effort gives praise to something the child has control over. Telling him that he is “smart” is not something the child can control, so it usually backfires as the child begins to coast & underachieve. Studies show that intelligent children UNDERESTIMATE their abilities, & often have little concept that brain work could help them.
While this new generation is considered a right-off, w/out much merit, I’d venture to say, they are simply the product of all the mistakes made by adults in control of things. Plus the schools continue to get scarier banning: competition, homework, criticism of student work, & anything remotely related to Christ. We can moan about the problem, or we can set out to help the situation. Even today some parents have wonderful children, I hope you are one of them!
Child raising is a vast topic; perhaps my words meant to motivate good, may open some cans of worms.