Young Children and Technology

Thoughts on Technology

I have just gotten through the summer helping to keep my two-year old grandson active and busy in 100-plus degree weather. That has meant he has been indoors for too many hours wanting to watch Paw Patrol or pining to use his mother’s cell phone to play downloaded video games. Watching his pointer finger delicately click on the appropriate area of the screen in total concentration and oblivion to the rest of us, while he plays, is a little disconcerting. There is a part of me that just cringes to see this fascination for technology, and I will share my reasons why.

By way of illustrating my discomfort, let me first describe for you the Pink Tower activity in the Montessori curriculum of a preschool classroom. One of the first pieces of material I was trained to use as a Montessori classroom aide was the Pink Tower. This is a lesson given to the 2 and ½ year olds and often one of the first ones they will receive. The pink tower consists of 10 wooden blocks painted pink. The largest block is 10cm x 10cm and the one above that 9cm x 9 cm and the next 8cm x 8cm all the way to 1cm x 1cm. When stacked vertically, largest to smallest, the blocks rise to 47 cm high. The largest block is a heavy weight in the hands of a small child. The smallest block, (” so cute”), fits nicely in a pocket and is a great temptation for the child not to take home.

The Pink Tower has a particular place on the floor and is visually predominant. If you don’t see a pink tower, you may not be in a legitimate Montessori classroom. It is iconic, really. The teacher shows the child how to take one block off the tower at a time and walk it to a mat on the floor where it is laid down until all the 10 blocks have been carried to the rug and then it is reassembled, one block at a time.

After it’s built, it is taken apart one block at a time starting from the smallest cube and placed back on the floor. Then it is returned from the floor to its place in the classroom, one block at a time starting with the largest block.

If you consider the physical activity involved, the child has walked some distance carrying the 10 blocks to the rug and 10 times back from the rug to the storage destination, a total of twenty trips back and forth. In addition, she has handled each block at least three times or 30 times total at a minimum, assuming the tower was only built once. The hands were strengthened by holding the weight of the blocks and the arms and legs were strengthened by all the walking and carrying. There was a visual goal to achieve of getting the blocks in proper order and tactile running of the fingers along the sides of the block from top to bottom or bottom to top giving the child a sense of diminishing or increasing surfaces. Indirectly, the child is being taught about the dimension of cubes 1 cm apart.

After the teacher’s demonstration, the child is free to use this material at will. The teacher will then be nowhere near her and she will not be interacting with others or receive help. At the successful end of building this tower what does she feel?

Now contrast this to a similar activity on a phone app held in the hand of that same 2 ½ year old. The child slides the screen open with a finger, and finds a replica of the pink tower blocks spread out on the screen. She builds the block from the largest to the smallest, sliding her finger back and forth, with music playing in the background and when she finishes lights flash and a voice says “well done”. If she makes a mistake, the voice says,” try again”. She never moved from her position on the couch; no adult is near and she is not interacting with others. At the end of this activity what does the child feel?

The Montessori child has used every fiber of her being to accomplish an activity that is teaching the same curriculum concept as the child who moved one finger. They both built a tower. But the Montessori child has absorbed many times more information through many more of her senses about weight, mathematics, order, movement from doing that pink tower than the child who flicked a finger 10 times on the phone screen. The Montessori child told herself “well done” and there was no music to distract her.

This is one example of one activity. Comparisons like this repeated many times throughout the day magnify the differences with computer generated learning. Small and big children are fascinated by computer opportunities and computers are here to stay. So, what are we going to do to be certain that the tactile, kinesthetic aspects to learning do not become so compromised that children don’t develop physically or mentally as they have in the past? This is what concerns me.

Next time you are tempted to hand over a hand-held technological toy (and I have my temptations too), please think about what is involved with the “fun” and “games” on that apparatus and you might want to minimize its use, so as to allow for the full development of the child in more robust play and activity. Montessori, herself, would be aghast at the rise of technology in children’s toys that take the creativity away from the child and replace it with an external reward system.

Dr. Celeste Miller

Arizona Sunset

Arizona Sunset

Five Ways to Keep Communication Channels Open with Teens

Five Ways to Keep Communication Channels Open with Teens

Let me share with you some things I tried to do, and things I wish I had done, as I parented my teenagers.

  1. A well-fed teenager is more apt to listen to you than a hungry one. So, when you have a major topic to discuss, plan to have a pizza delivery at the exact time your teen arrives home and sit down to share the pizza and bring up your topic of conversation, even if it is an inconvenient time for you.
  2. Pick your battles very carefully and don’t nag. Institute consequences and stick to them.
  3. Learn to use intentional dialogue to solve problems. This approach is calm, considerate and understanding of each person’s position. This technique is explained in the Notes section of each of my books.
  4. Keep up family traditions you started when children were younger. You may think they have outgrown some of them, but even “dorky” things bind you together. We used to have an annual Scarlet Pimpernel night when we dressed up in period costumes and watched the movie together. Fun!
  5. Try not to say “When I was young we did such and such as a judgment upon what kids are doing now. They can’t go back; society has moved on. Instead, try to keep up with teenage trends that are fairly harmless. Listen to the words of their favorite music to understand the messages they are internalizing. And do push back against social messages that tear down your family value system by explaining why these messages are not healthy, etc. Stay tuned in. This too shall pass.

Dr. Celeste Miller

Tree and leaf

Tree and leaf

 

Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Emotional intelligence is a modern concept that defines a person who has good self-control and is able to navigate through intensely emotional situations without having a meltdown.  As emotional intelligence (EQ) has been identified as a characteristic of successful people, it is something we want to encourage and develop at home and in schools.    If more adults had EQ they wouldn’t need to resort to emotional breakdowns and ego manipulations of others.  And our teen agers would have better role models to emulate.

EQ Research

Dr. Gottman has some good advice for how to raise a child with EQ (emotional intelligence quota) based on his research. The following are his suggestions for the parent. Become an emotion coach. Having parents that are emotion coaches helps children develop emotional control.

“Children whose parents practice emotion coaching have better physical health and score higher academically than children whose parents don’t offer such guidance. These kids get along better with friends, have fewer behavior problems, and are less prone to acts of violence. Over all, children who are emotion-coached experience fewer negative feelings and more positive feelings” [1]

 Parents as Emotion Coaches

He suggests:

  1. Become aware of the child’s emotion
  2. Recognize the emotion as an opportunity for intimacy and teaching
  3. Listen empathetically and validate the child’s feelings
  4. Help the child verbally label emotions
  5. Set limits while helping the child problem-solve
  6. Coaching strategies that are open to mutual problem solving with the parent are recommended.

And he gives sage advice about how to treat children with respect by avoiding excessive criticism, humiliating comments or mocking of the child. He recommend the following:

  1. Do use scaffolding and praise to coach
  2. Ignore your parental agenda
  3. Create a mental map of your child’s daily life
  4. Avoid siding with the enemy
  5. Think about your child’s experiences in terms of similar adult situations
  6. Don’t try to impose your solutions on your child’s problems
  7. Empower your child by giving choices, respecting wishes
  8. Share in your child’s dreams and fantasies
  9. Be honest with your child. Be patient with the process.
  10. Understand your base of power as a parent

He also says don’t use the emotion coaching when you have an audience, when you are upset, when you are tired, when you need to address serious misbehavior or when your child is faking an emotion to manipulate you.[2]

Conscious Parenting

I didn’t have all this knowledge when my oldest children were young and I was, like a lot of other parents, spanking and punishing in ways I thought were appropriate. I like this approach because it is the closest to the way I think we as adults are mentored by God.  I know now there is a “higher (more spiritual) way” to share power and be a more effective parent.  The end goal for parents is not to make themselves more important than the child, but to see in their child the potential to develop. We want to work together with children to continually build standards of right and wrong, identify harmony and inharmony, what vibrates right and what vibrates wrongly.

The difference between being obedient and being responsible is that obedient children do as they are told, but responsible children will do the same thing even before they are asked. These are the beginnings of a self-starter – someone with EQ who was raised by conscious parents using the emotion coach approach.

Dr. Celeste Miller

[1] Gottman, J. (1997). The heart of parenting,  NY, New York:  Simon and Schuster. p. 25

[2] Ibid.

Ocean Front, Melbourne, AU

Ocean Front, Melbourne, AU photographed by Tom Miller

Healthy Families Impact Child Development

Healthy Families Impact Child Development

Because parents are often the most significant people in anyone’s life and the core of every family, they impact on the development of the reincarnated child, a satellite in their orbit. A single parent can also be the core of the family and in this case the children need to be treated as satellites as well, not equal partners.  Research says the development of the child, and the trajectory of the child’s life, as well as the future relationships of the child will all be influenced by his family of origin. That is true to a point, but not the whole story if you believe in reincarnation. There are the bleed- through factors to consider as well.

Characteristics of Healthy Families

Healthy families are powerful families in the spiritual sense. They exude camaraderie, harmony and a unity that is palpable. The members seem to really enjoy each other.   We don’t always have health in our families, but we do get the opportunities to transcend seeming limitations with more love and compassion as we strive to improve conditions.

Most organizations that support families provide lists of requirements for healthy families.   These requirements include: interaction; touch; stable relationships; safe, healthy environments; self-esteem; quality care; play; communication; music; reading.[1] These attributes undergird power in families.  I would add one more quality to this list and that is the ability to seek outside help when needed.  We are told it takes a village to raise a child, right?  That village also can extend into the “heavenly spheres” and help can come from those who are wiser and more compassionate.

Healthy Families have Conscious Parents

Becoming a conscious parent is not easy. It takes a lot of work – sweat, blood and tears. According to the book, Giving the Love that Heals, (1997) by Harville Hendrix and his wife, Helen Hunt, the conscious parent is the parent who is aware of his own internal wounds from childhood, as well as the wounds of the partner, and intentionally parents in order not to pass these same wounds down to the children.  The book suggests that we will parent as we were parented, unless we consciously choose to do something differently.[2]

Becoming conscious about what triggers us to become negative is important psychological work. Our family will be healthier if we can heal these wounds. We certainly don’t want to inflict these issues onto our children that we carry forward from our own relationships with our own parents or from past lives.

So, an important aspect to parenting the reincarnated child is to also parent our own inner child to wholeness and thereby model what wholeness looks like to our own children. Our own strong relationship with our maker will be needed to overcome bad habits we don’t want to pass along.  This inner growth will in turn strengthen our partner relationships as well.

Parenting is a Lifelong and Challenging Occupation

Parenting is never really done.  Just when your last child has left the nest and you think you can breathe a small sigh of relief, the grandchildren start to arrive! Sometimes our grown children ask for our parenting advice.  If we can remember that we are balancing karma with one another and that we, too, need to parent ourselves as well as we are trying to parent our children, we may have an easier time of it.  No one will question me when I join the throngs of people who say that parenting children (and ourselves) is the most challenging job on the planet!

 

(Excerpted from The Family: Seasons and Reasons by Celeste A. Miller, Ph.D)

[1] Curran, D. (1983). Traits of a healthy family. MN, Minneapolis: Winston Press

[2] Hendrix, H., & Hunt, H. (1977). Giving the love that heals.  NY, New York:  Simon and Schuster

Azaleas in Melbourne, AU

Azaleas in Melbourne, AU Photographed by Tom Miller