Capable. What a powerful word! Defined by Miriam Webster’s dictionary as: “Able to do something; having the qualities or abilities that are needed to do something; skilled at doing something; able to do something well.”
As a Communication Skills Expert who specializes in parenting, I am often asked if I feel that we are presently raising a generation of capable children. In order to answer that wisely, we must be more specific and view the word “capable” in certain contexts. For example, the first time I saw a 2-year-old toddler play subway surf on her tablet, I was blown away by her ability to successfully navigate such a fast-paced game. It is no surprise that with the increased use of technology – whether it is a smart phone, tablet, laptop or desktop – children are much more capable of gathering information quickly and effortlessly. The access to learning is at their fingertips, literally, and in some ways is helping our children become more cognitively skilled, focusing on details and special-visual capability. There are also a lot of areas in which children are becoming less capable. I find that many children are having more challenges in creating relationships, focusing on one task without distractions, and making decisions.
It is certain is that we will continue to experience huge advancements in technology every year and our children must not only be exposed to it but be able to thrive at using it, however there are certain things parents can do to elicit independence and general capability in many different areas of their lives.
Limit the amount of time using electronics – There is no doubt that it is easier for us to have our children (regardless of their age) entertained with electronic devices when we are juggling 20 balls with two hands. Even though it may save you some time now, it can create more challenges in the future for both you and your child. Take the extra time needed to encourage your child to engage in sports and play with other children. Whether it is playing Chutes and Ladders on the living room floor, or playing basketball at the local recreation center, keep your child physically active and mentally stimulated through playful interactions with others. This does mean more work for you regarding the planning or possibly even playing games with them, but it will also mean greater development for them both cognitively and behaviorally.
Let them make mistakes! Have you every learned from being perfect at something the first time you tried it? The answer is no! To be quite honest, I don’t think it is even possible to be perfect at something the first time. Yes, I know, beginners luck, but whenever I have experienced that, I never succeeded the second time I tried! When learning something new, or having little experience at it, failure is inevitable, however, that is not a bad thing! We must have our children experience failure for various reasons, and if you keep interfering and doing things for them, you are depriving them of developing valuable qualities such as persistence, determination, passion, and appreciation, to name a few.
Ask them for advice! I always say that we as adults take for granted how much we can learn from our children. Rather than continuously enforcing our power, knowledge, wisdom and of course, years of experience (because we know it all), ask your child for his/her suggestions on certain things. This also works very well when your child has failed. Rather than immediately sweeping in with the quick fix, ask your child to first come up with his/her own solution. Even when it comes to punishments, I always give me son a chance to put in his two cents. Let me make something clear, I am not telling you to ask your 3-year-old for relationship advice, I am simply encouraging you to help your child express his/her creativity, self-confidence and most of all capability!
Regardless of all the distractions we compete with everyday to communicate with our children, there are plenty of ways you can raise them to be highly emotionally intelligent and extremely productive and capable adults. Remember, you must practice what you preach, so start with yourself first. Take some time to teach by example and put away your phone, focus on one thing at a time and make sure you do things with them, not only for them. As Einstein said, “Learning is experience, everything else is just information.”