Kids are from Mars, Parents are from Venus

Kids_are_from_VenusWhy kids struggle to survive on Planet Earth and how parents are following in their path

It’s no wonder kids can’t cope in today’s world. They’re not living in it! If you were to hop in a spacecraft and land on Mars, do you think you’d be able to cope on that harsh planet? Of course not. Well, I’ve got news for you: countless kids are experiencing the same thing—from Planet Earth.

Total panic or total emptiness

Every week the problems are getting worse with kids. I know, because I see it firsthand. I’m on the front lines in the battle. As a school counselor by day and private practice therapist by night, I’m like the undercover cop that sees everything going on in a school of 1,200 students. I get to peer into their family life too, and it’s pretty scary from my view. If you were to shadow me for a few days, you’d see what I mean. I’m talking about one kid after another coming to my office in a state of total panic or total emptiness. The ones with the panic issues all have two things in common: they are good students that are pushed to excel academically, and they are addicted to their smartphones or laptops. The result—school-work procrastination and a malleable brain that is living most of its life on another planet called cyberspace, a place far from Earth.

The other types of kids, the empty ones, seem a lot like apocalyptic zombies. They stroll into my offices with very flat, monotone dispositions. They seem utterly clueless about everything that has to do with what it means to be human. And they have an excuse for every pearl of wisdom I provide them. Most of them are actually more intelligent than the over-anxious kids, but their report cards say otherwise. They find it impossible to connect the dots between working hard in school and future success. Like the over-anxious kids, their brains have also been programmed to live on planet cyberspace, far away from Earth. Their outcome? Failure and more depression.

What is really going on?

I hate to sound all doomy and gloomy, but I need to tell you the truth about what is really going on. As parents, we see only what we see – our own child’s life. We don’t see the other 1200 kids in their school and what their lives are like. Every day my colleagues ask me, “What is going on?” And I tell them the same thing I’m telling you. It’s the machines, the screens. They have become your children’s world, and the result is an inability to function on this foreign planet called Earth, much the same as you would experience if you tried to inhabit Mars. It just doesn’t work.

Parents want answers

When the school related problems surface for these kids, when their grades go down or they become school avoidant, the parents want answers and they come to the school administrators or counselors for the answers. They want to know what the school is doing wrong, and what the school is going to do to motivate their child or fix their anxiety. When I tell them that the key is in their hand – all they have to do is pull the cyber plug – they just don’t want to hear it. So instead, they bring their children to psychiatrists, pump them with drugs and come back to the school with accommodation demands, such as extra time for tests and assignments, or extensions for handing in late work. Of course it is the school’s duty to help the children, because their problems are not their fault, but why aren’t parents getting it? How are they not seeing what I’m explaining to them? What will it take for parents to finally, well, get it?

Do you have question about your technology-addicted child? Contact me anytime.

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Parenting Children to be Leaders Instead of Followers

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Do you feel pressured to sign your children up for lots of sports and activities so that they keep pace with the other kids, even though your gut tells you it’s too much? Do you fear they won’t measure up and succeed in this competitive world? Do you allow your children to spend too much time on smartphones and video game devices because that is how kids  communicate these days, and that depriving them of this will lead to social isolation? The reality is that all of these activities and devices that we provide our children have little to do with them and everything to do with us.  Here’s why.

We want our children tofit inbecause we fear that they won’t be happy and successful. Take a deep breath for moment and really think about this. Do you really want your children to “FIT IN”, to follow the crowd? Or, do you want them to be leaders? As parents we get sucked into the fitting-in trap and we may be setting-up our children to be future followers instead of future leaders.

Here are a few tips to help you raise children that are future leaders instead of followers.

Unplug the phone: Getting smart-phones for your children is the furthest thing from “smart.” You know how addictive these things are and how dangerous that world-wide-web is. So does it make sense to place these dangerous devices in your children’s hands? I understand that all of the other parents in the community are ok with it, but does that really make it ok? Wouldn’t you rather your child do things the safe way instead of societies way? If your children are among the few that don’t have smart phones then you’re already teaching them how to march to the beat of their own drum; to lead rather than follow. Their time to have a smart phone will come, there’s no need to rush it. And remember, this fear you have of your children being left behind is your fear, not theirs.

Limit the sports: Are your kid’s schedules jam-packed? Again, do you fear that they will fall behind and not be any good, and not have a social life? Again, these are fears, not facts. Here are the facts: If your child is on the football field practicing every night until 8:00, what he’s really missing out on is what he needs the most—time with you. You are your children’s teacher and mentor, and the only way you can teach them and guide them is if you are with them.

Rated M video games/Rated R Movies: Leaders play by the rules. Why? Because the rules are the rules. If you allow your children to play games and watch movies that aren’t age appropriate, what do you think that teaches them? It teaches them that it’s ok to break the rules, which is something leaders just don’t do. If you start playing by the rules your children will too.

In a nutshell, human beings tend do move with the crowd, to go with the flow. This is similar to the flock of birds in the sky or the school of fish in the sea. We unconsciously conform to the things that others around us are doing and we don’t even realize it. This is known as the collective consciousness or social conformity. Unless you start becoming more aware of this fact and pass it on to your children, your children will start to, well, follow the crowd. Here is a great clip from an old candid camera episode that will help you understand this more. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgRoiTWkBHU

 

 

 

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Should you get your preschooler an ipad?

Every parent on this planet should go to www.commonsensemedia.com and sign up.  Common Sense Media helps families make smart media choices. They offer the largest, most trusted library of independent age-based and educational ratings and reviews for movies, games, apps, TV shows, websites, books, and music.  Their Parent Concerns and Parent Blog help families understand and navigate the problems and possibilities of raising children in the digital age.

I read a post earlier today from Common Sense Media regarding ipad’s or other tablets for kids – Click here to read.  The question in the article is whether or not you should get one of these devices for your child.  I didn’t have to think too long about this one.  My answer is a resounding NO…  The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees with me.  They recommend  ZERO hours per day of any screen time for kids ages 0-2 and ONE hour per day of screen time for kids ages 3-5.  And you want to decide whether or not to buy your toddler an ipad?

As many of you know, I lecture extensively on the topic of technology and its affects on kids emotional intelligence, coping skills, focus and attention; how it’s delaying development, creating an epidemic of obesity and leading to a substantial increase in mental health problems.  Oh, and I can’t forget the sleep deprivation part.   I think most parents are aware of this stuff but they kind of fluff it off as being benign.  In fact, at a recent lecture I presented I asked the audience of 200 fifth and sixth grade parents to raise their hands if they thought it was a good idea to allow their child to play the video game, Call of Duty.  Not a single parent raised their hand.  Then I asked them to raise their hand if their kid owned Call of Duty.  Again, not a single hand rose.  And here’s the kicker–roughly 70 percent of the parents in the audience have bought Call of Duty for their child and allow him/her to play it.  Am I missing something here?

The fact is, the majority of people in this world go with the tide, including parents.  They see what it is that everyone around them is doing and they make it ok in their mind.   Yet somewhere inside they know it is not ok.  It’s an adult peer pressure of sorts. This “going with the flow” mentality is known as the selective or social consciousness.  We simply make most of our decisions not from sound morals and values but from what we see others around us doing.  So in other words, the majority of parents out there are followers and guess what their children are becoming will be by the time they get to high school.  Guess what all followers have in common that leaders don’t? That’s right, they do what everyone else is doing. And that is just downright dangerous when you’re a teenager.

So no, your pre-school child should not have an ipad.  And no, none of your children, no matter what their age should ever be allowed to sit at a table in a restaurant and spend the entire time buried in a smartphone, ipad or similar device.  And no, your child should never have any type of screen in his/her bedroom and should never have one of these devices in his/her hand when sitting in the back seat of your car. I see this everywhere I go and it is driving me nuts.  Aside from the mental health issues and other issues I addressed earlier, all of this “virtual reality” is destroying “real world” families.  The question I have for you is this – WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?

Come to my next lecture in Hohokus, NJ on 2/5/15 to learn more or visit my website at http://tomkersting.com/speaking/.

 

 

 

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Is technology leading to animal attacks

I know this sounds crazy but it sounds like things have gotten so out of whack with technology and social networking that we’re putting ourselves at risk for animal attacks.   That’s what I said; technology is actually causing more animal attacks?  Let me explain.

I started reading this article (Alaska bear victim pleads for help in 911 call) because I’ve been to Alaska and I love it, and I happen to like bears.  The article is about a guy who climbed 30 feet up a tree after being mauled by a grizzly (good thing it wasn’t a black bear; they can climb trees).  As I was reading the article it hit me; it was another story of technology-gone-bad.  And you know how I feel about technology and how I believe it’s hurting us more than helping us.   Here’s a quote from the article:

“People are getting too close to the animals with their cell-phone cameras without the zoom power of regular cameras, said Dave Battle, a biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.”

Battle believes the rationale behind this behavior goes like this: “I want to get a picture, a close-up picture, so I can post it on Facebook and all my friends from all around the country can see what a neat place I live in.”

This supports what I’ve been saying all along.  Many of us have become so desperate for attention, so needy, that we actually risk our lives to get a close-up picture of a wild animal (a large and dangerous one at that) just to get a few “wow’s” from our facebook friends.  Unbelievable!!

Do yourself a favor and leave the camera/video phone behind when you go for a walk in nature.  The “oneness” with nature that you’ll discover just might help you turn inward a little bit more where you’ll find your real self-esteem.  This way you won’t need to post pictures on facebook to feel good about yourself.

 

 

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