- Posted by ROWI
- On May 16, 2018
By Dr. Candice Feinberg & Greg Feinberg
Depending on your age, you did not have nearly the schedule or technological advances that our kids have. We did not have powerful, hand-held computers. We were not on club soccer or baseball teams playing year-round. Our schools were not nearly as sophisticated as they are now. Many of us had after school jobs, taking us away from study time or extra-curricular activities. Far less was invested into us than our kids today. Why did we end up doing ok? When do we confuse investing in our child’s development with actually getting in the way? One of the answers is that we were not distracted from learning critical social skills. We have to make sure we are not ignoring the importance of these skills as well.
Jennifer Senior, the author of All Joy and No Fun, explains that “Today parents pour more capital – both emotional and literal – into their children than ever before, and their spending longer, more concentrated hours with their children than they did when the workday ended at five o’clock and the vast majority of women still stayed home,” writes Senior.
On the other hand, children today are not expected to contribute economically.
In her recently published book, Be the Parent Please: Strategies for Solving the REAL Parenting Problems, author Naomi Schaefer Riley points out that “The twentieth century marked the first time in human history that having children didn’t increase your economic standing,” Children today have become the receptacles of parents hopes and dreams.
“Perhaps without noticing, our parenting strategies evolved to be more geared toward ensuring that our children are never bored, uncomfortable, or at the slightest disadvantage when compared with their peers. By other measures, though, we are failing to prepare them for life as independent adults,” writes Riley.
What has occurred is a dramatic increase in attentional disorders, or what Dimitri A. Christakis of Seattle Children’s Hospital calls an “epidemic” of ADHD. He notes that an increase of one standard deviation in the number of hours of television watched at age one “is associated with a 28 percent increase in the probability of having attentional problems at age 7.”
Even in the case of educational software designed to increase readiness for school or enhance learning, there are unintended negative consequences. “While it may seem as though our children can gain more academic skills through educational software, it is also possible that these touchscreen and button-pushing activities are inhibiting them socially and intellectually,” writes Riley. Cell phones can also be misinterpreted by parents as necessary safety nets for their children.
What all of this investment in and concern for our kids is really doing is allowing them to become deficient in key social skills. People are not talking anymore. Today when you arrive at a meeting early, people are on their smart phones communicating with others or otherwise entertaining themselves. As parents, we are providing a grave disservice as the majority of healthy life in the adult world revolves around solid social skills.
As a lawyer and entrepreneur for over 30 years, I have succeeded more on my social skills than my substantive knowledge. Our world is still fundamentally the same. People want to work with, spend time and/or love others they trust. We interact with other people every day. We have taken great strides to ensure our kids are academically smart but are we spending any time making sure they have the social skills to even interact with others at a higher level?
You can go to the best law, medical, or B-School in the country. But if you do not have the skills to communicate and work with other people, you will not be the best lawyer, doctor or businessperson. It is critical that we remember the social skills our kids need to learn are as or more important than the bookwork. We certainly had time to learn both.
At ROWI Teen and Parent Wellness, we have instituted “Wireless Wednesdays.” We ask our parents to lead by example and turn their cell phones off. The whole family follows, and they share an evening without smart phones. They can actually talk to each other.
Let’s minimize the technological distractions and community service hours to make sure our kids literally stop and smell the roses. Find the time to cultivate face-to-face communication and more social interactions. We ended up ok. So will our kids.
Candice Till-Feinberg, Ph.D. is the CEO & Chief Clinical Director for ROWI Teen and Parent Wellness center in Thousand Oaks, California. Greg Feinberg is the President of ROWI. ROWI focuses on helping teens and parents live happy and healthy lives together and offers outpatient services and counselling through its world-class team.