Friday, August 18, 2017

Working hard for the money

My son was in the loft playing office.

Even if he hadn't told me this several times, I would have been able to figure it out based on the number of "important meetings" and "back-to-back" phone calls he said he had. At some point he told me his calendar is booked but he scheduled himself a break so he could eat breakfast with me.

And since this all sounds awfully familiar, I started to feel bad. But, because I emphatically wanted to know this was all my doing, I asked him, "Who's office are you working at?"

"Your office, Mommy," he said. "We have a lot of meetings today, don't we?"

I love my job, but I never really thought about the effect my working would have on my son at this age. But, I guess it makes sense: We absorb our parents' work ethic, even if we want to rebel against it. Although the study on that link may be small, the idea behind it is big: Our children will figure out how hard they want to work in life based on watching us.

My Dad's job when I was little was always a bit of a mystery to me. I knew where he worked, but didn't really understand his job until I was much older. When my Mom went back to work, I had a clearer understanding of her job, and how hard she worked, and how much she cared about her team. It's clear that some of that has made its way into how I view my job today.

And even clearer to me is how much my Mom must have struggled with her own work/life balance issues when she was raising me. I guess she is the one I should go to when I need a few tips on how to keep the scales of work and play evenly distributed.

Who's work ethic has your child inherited? Tell me what you think in the comments.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The case against gifted children

I believe that my son is smart. I believe this because he gets good marks for reading and math and he seems to know a lot more things than I did when I was his age. I love that he has so many interests and that he likes to learn new information, but I wouldn't try to label him as "gifted."

There are several reasons for that. I would argue that it is hard to have a truly "gifted" child these days, if there is even such a thing. Most of our talents come through a lot of practice and some good genes. So, while I believe we may have children who are athletically inclined and do well in sports, there are very few children who can do advanced math problems in their elementary school years. And both those skill sets still take practice.

And I actually like that idea - that gifted is rare. Because this gives us all the more reason to focus on the idea that practicing new skills is the way to really expand our brains. I want my son to know that the things in life that are worth it won't always come easily to him, but that should actually make them worth doing.

Which of your child's many talents are you trying to get them to practice more often? Tell me in the comments.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Playground versus Screentime

Here's the problem:

When I was young, I was sent outside to play with my friends. We lived in a very safe neighborhood with two parks nearby and there were always other children playing outside.

I want the same scenario for my son, but although we live in a very safe community, there are no parks nearby. Also, he can't go outside alone. Also, most of the children in this neighborhood aren't outside playing either, so I would have to make arrangements ahead of time with their moms. Also, on weekends when we have the free time to arrange those things, we generally end up doing errands and want to spend time together as a family.

This problem is pretty much universal right now, and it is one of the main reasons why so many children spend their free time on their screens.

I talked about resilience last week, which is something that can definitely be learned on the playground, so I need to carve out time to head over there. But, I can't guarantee that other children will be at the park. And once, when we went to a park, we left early  because all the children were sitting next to one boy who had a device. There they were, sitting around his phone screen, surrounded by swings and slides and a spider cargo net thingie...

This is probably my fault for not cultivating more relationships with other mothers in my son's classroom, but I feel that this should be easier. So, if you see me at multiple parks one weekend, don't worry. I'm just trying to figure out the peak park playtime schedule.

How far away is your neighborhood park? Tell me the distance in the comments.

Friday, August 11, 2017

A closer look at social screentime

"Mom, when can I get my own phone?"

This is a question that my son has asked me several times. I usually ask him why he wants his own phone, and he tells me he wants it to play a game or to use it to check traffic for me while we are in the car (he likes the Waze app). Very rarely does he mention that he wants it so he can call someone.

And, no matter what answer he gives me, my answer is usually the same: Most children his age don't need a phone and we can have the conversation again when he is older.

Like a lot of parents, I am waiting. I know that experts (whoever they are) say that you shouldn't give your child a phone until they are 13. And that makes sense, because that is technically the legal age for a lot of social media sites. But, I know a lot of parents have given their child a phone much earlier than that. So, I am waiting: I don't want my son to be the first child in his class with his own phone, but I don't want him to be the only kid in his class without one.

The smartphone - and all the social media apps it tends to bring - is a tricky subject. There is this great piece in The Atlantic outlining the correlations between the generation that has grown up with smartphone technology and its affect on their lives. The gist of the piece being that with smartphones, children no longer seek physical independence from their parents, suffer from loneliness more often and talk about their phones like they are an addiction.

That is not an easy article for any parent to read, even if it all turns out to be correlation and not causation. It does make me want to delay giving my son his first device for as long as possible.

What are the negative effects you've noticed from giving your child their own smartphone? Tell me in the comments.