We once had a life… now we have computers…

Although one could leave many things to chance, successful parenting has never succeeded on that list, and it never will. No matter what you do as a parent, the needle in the compass of successful parenting will always point at you. Knowing this, would you do things any differently? Perhaps, or perhaps not.

Professor George Land in his TED talk shares his research of creativity in children and adults, with some shocking findings of how creativity levels change throughout a child’s life.  You guessed it, creativity drops as we get older, and I’m not talking about a small drop here, the decline is significant.

As a specialist in essentialism, I liken the creativity that children are born with to essentialism, children are born as essentialists, and over-time, as their attention gets pulled away into so many different directions, they lose their inborn nature to keep things simple, they lose that sense of wonder and awe, which are key drivers to their imagination. As their life becomes less simple and noisier, it has a direct impact on their creativity.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge”

Albert Einstein

As parents, we feel the urge to keep our children “busy”, making sure every block on their calendar is scheduled, rushing like a 100-meter sprinter from several activities and classes, etc., we do this in the fear that they may get left behind. We forget to recognize that very few things matter, and most things are noise. In the process of saying “yes” to things that provide little to no value, we are chipping away at their inner essentialist.

The Challenge in today’s reality

Kids will do anything and everything if you let them. Of course, you don’t have to be a Sherlock Holmes to discover that letting them do everything they want and when they wish will make them grossly unproductive.

All kids have some degree of innate resilience, without which they would never have learned to walk or feed themselves. Depending on their upbringing, this innate capacity is either developed or crushed. Now here’s the catch: many kids growing up in this age are being programmed by the entertainment and social media that surrounds them, rewiring their brains so that they can no longer focus on what is essential. The result? An alarmingly large number of kids that have lost every ounce of resilience that was ever in them, no longer living with the grit and perseverance, which is essential for human survival.

The Effects of Non-essentialism on Kids

The cancerous tentacles of device addiction have gripped many families, suffocating what little communication and family time they have left. Come to think of it, TV shows, mobile phones, and other handheld devices are so persuasive that even adults find it difficult to control how much time they spend on these gadgets. Now, imagine the impact when you allow kids to have unlimited access to these devices in their formative years.

One harmful consequence that readily comes to mind is how technology breaks the very fabric of meaningful family time. Many kids have forgotten how to focus. Due to the influence of fast-paced scenes or chats, their young minds cannot help but dart about. And the cascade of events continues – less focus in school, less attention to homework, higher levels of stress, poor peer relationships, lower productivity, less physical activity, poor eating habits…the list is endless!

Kids that are exposed to social media too early may find it difficult to follow complex thought processes that are necessary for problem-solving. Without the ability to hold a train of thought for a protracted period, your kids may be wasting thoughts and mental energy that could lead them to the next big idea! So although technology is fantastic, kids can benefit from less time with it.

With the far-reaching effect of social media and technology that spreads like an infection, parents may want to rethink their method of parenting. Do parents have a role to play in helping their kids harness their mental energies and mindfully channelling it towards the fulfilment of a purpose? 

Teaching Kids to Practice Essentialism

“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”

–    James Baldwin

Kids are great imitators, so parents have to give them something great to imitate. For example, as parents, something we have implemented is to keep our phones away while we’re in front of our children unless it is an emergency. The relevance of this is greatly underestimated.  Most of our habits are unconscious, and 95% of the time, we are not aware of how much time we are spending on our devices while we’re around them.  Parents can only teach their kids to practice essentialism if they practice essentialism themselves. You’ll be amazed at how your kids mirror your approach to life and problem-solving! 

I picked up the habit of journaling daily over ten years ago. I started seeing the benefits of how journaling was making me more self-reflective and self-aware, I was getting to know myself by being the journalist of my life.

Five years ago, we introduced our kids to the habit of journaling, I have to admit, initially, it was a painful process, as parents, it tested our conviction to the importance of this habit, we were constantly reminding them to write in their journal on a daily basis. two years ago, we started noticing that this habit was now automatic, they didn’t need to be reminded, as a matter of fact, they’re convinced that this habit has helped them develop other cognitive skills.  In short, they now own the habit, it’s made them more self-reflective and self-aware, which are the key ingredients to essentialism.

Now, there are several other essential things kids must learn – the importance of being healthy, quality family time, resilience, mental toughness, values, etc. Practising essentialism simplifies habit formation as parents no longer have to juggle many balls in front of their kids. As a parent, your job is not to be there at all times for your kids. Instead, it is to teach them how best they can live, handle uncertainty, solve problems, and weather the storm in the process.

Final thoughts

Successful parenting doesn’t come by accident. Only kids who can control themselves and do the essential things can become resilient and have the confidence to reach their full potential. Are you raising your kids to become essentialists?