We all want our kids to succeed. That's pretty much on page one of The Purely-In-Your-Head Parenting Bible. But we might be doing a serious disservice to our children by starving them of critical experiences and support they need to become creative leaders and inventors. These are the most glaring issues that could stifle their genius and make tomorrow's businesses subpar.
1. Not providing enough sensory input
Sensory experiences are any experiences that give you information about taste, sight, touch, smell or sound. Examples might be listening to music or running your hands through sand. These types of experiences affect brain development, strengthening neural pathways necessary for learning and general everyday functioning, including basics like physical balance.
Today, many kids aren't getting enough sensory input to develop properly. Parents have difficulty finding enough time to engage their kids in active sensory play due to hectic schedules, and many schools are shying away from sensory experiences in the curriculum because of equipment cost, testing pressures and logistical difficulties with cleanup. But because of how sensory information connects to brain development, a lack of sensory experiences can
- make it harder for kids to understand and navigate through their world
- affect how kids take in and process information later in life
- eliminate many of the opportunities children have for creative problem solving
All of these issues decrease the odds that children will grow up prepared to think outside the box and tackle real-life issues well. Adding insult to injury, poor sensory development can translate to poor emotional regulation and relationships, too. A person with great ideas won't necessarily be able to bring them to fruition, simply because they lack appropriate social skills and, because of their lack of understanding, feel increased stress.
2. Failing to teach basic life skills
Life skills are abilities you use to take care of yourself or others from day to day. Previously, schools taught many of these skills in classes such as home economics and shop. But similar to sensory play, as academic institutions have felt increasing pressure to focus on testing and other curriculum areas, these types of courses have fallen by the wayside. Parents can't necessarily pick up the slack, as modern families often require more than one adult in the household to work. The result?
- Many millennials and young adults cannot bring basic knowledge areas to the brainstorming table. Millennials are less likely than other generations, for example, to know how to repair their own homes, cook or sew. And during a time when Tesla is perfecting self-driving cars, more than half of millennials admit they aren't very confident (23.1 percent) or are clueless (36 percent) about how to change the oil in their vehicles.
- Young adults are paying more for help, such as with frequent dining out due to the inability to cook. That leaves less money to invest in their ideas.
- Young adults are experiencing strong feelings of anxiety that can distract from creativity. As millennial Lindsay Rowe Scala put it, "In job interviews, they're always asking, 'Where do you want to see yourself in 5 years?' And I never know how to answer that, because I'm always thinking on how to survive today and next week and what's coming up."
3. Not providing individual attention in school
Next to parents, teachers are often the people who spend the most time with kids. In this context, teachers have specialized training that enables them to spot talents and abilities that parents might not readily recognize. The trouble is, the modern classroom makes it hard for teachers to put this training to good use. For the 2011-2012 school year (the last year for which the National Center for Education Statistics has data), the average number of students per public elementary school classroom was 21.2. The average per public secondary school classroom was 26.6. With such large classrooms, teachers have little time to give individual students attention and hone in on kids' "hidden" capabilities. They thus can't easily direct students (and alert parents) to potential careers that would be both enjoyable and a good cognitive fit.
Kids need significant amounts of support if they are going to meet the high expectations we have for them. We can do better in this regard in specific areas like offering sensory experiences, teaching life skills and providing a classroom environment that lets teachers identify strengths. Change won't happen overnight, but if we work together, it can happen. For our kids, it has to happen.