Pressure Cooker Kids

Pressure cooker kids

Fundamentals essential to well-being

By Sandy Spurgeon McDaniel

It is difficult to read columns with bad news about our children today, and I want to share highlights of Fountain Valley, Calif. high school English teacher Steve Shultz’s column in the March 2018 edition of Fountain Valley Magazine. We are facing a mental health crisis with our children, and parents must change what they are doing.

As occupational therapist Victoria Prooday writes, “Today’s children are being deprived of the fundamentals of a healthy childhood.” These include:

1. Emotionally available parents. My solution: Spend time with your children! When you drive them in a car, talk to them, and make sure no one is on gadgets or cell phones. Have dinner together and share highs and lows from the day. Take each child on a one-to-one date and just be with them.

My granddaughter remarked recently that I ask a lot of questions, and I responded, “That’s because I want to know you, I want to be your count-on-me friend.” Questions need to be about how they live and how they feel, such as, “If you had a magic wand, what one thing would you change about today?” It’s a question that often brings a child’s concern to the surface. Play board games, and while doing so, teach about kindness, losing, winning and having fun.

2. Clearly defined limits and moral guidelines. My solution: Boundaries teach children to live responsible, respectful lives. Consequences are reminders as to what is and is not acceptable. Children with consistent boundaries and reasonable consequences learn to navigate the seas of life with less resentment and anger., my YouTube videos and my book, “Don’t Feed the Dragon” can help you.

3. Balancing nutrition and adequate sleep. My solution: As a 76-year-old, I want to shout at the people younger than me, “Pay attention or you will pay for it!” The body needs to be treated with respect and fed in a way that it grows strong and healthy. Kids are eating too much garbage food and therefore their health is at stake.

The addiction to media is robbing our children of their sleep. Have a basket by the door and all cell phones/media go into it after school. When chores are done and homework is complete, media can be retrieved — then returned to the basket at a specific time (10 p.m.) each night. If it is not there on time, the child loses the use of it the next day. What is recommended by far more knowledgable people and groups than me is that ONE HOUR OF MEDIA TIME IS ALLOWED EACH DAY. On weekends, the time allowed is two hours.

4. Unstructured creative play outdoors and social interaction without phones. My solution: Play baseball, dodgeball, volleyball, or other outdoor sports together as a family. Be sure small children “just play” with their toys, blocks or sand. When I was parenting, we hid all the instructions for Legos so they could make whatever they wanted. Turn your phones off when the kids are home! Constant beeping, reminding an adult (or child) that a message just came in is a distraction and keeps family members disengaged from each other.

Schultz says today’s children are worried about their GPA (grade point averages). Kids today can never relax because they might be captured by someone’s cell phone and put on social media. Popularity is measured by whether or not you are featured on social media. Because of the constant pressure on them to succeed, today’s children feel as if they can never be good enough. Children’s accomplishments are shown off like merit badges, which are constantly judged and compared. Instead of cheering on their peers, they are in continual competition with them. Teachers and administrators, fed up with parents telling them how to do their job, are leaving the teaching field in droves.

If you blow up a balloon and keep blowing, it will eventually pop. The balloon is our children. An epidemic stops when people stop serving it. Unless we stop trying to get them to fill our unfulfilled dreams and let them be children, those blessed children who have mental health challenges won’t be the only ones who explode and do something self- or outer-destructive. Unless we help our children disconnect from their media addiction, our society will become insanely dysfunctional, even more so than it is now.

How much connection do you have with your child? Do your children feel they are loved? Do you love them no matter what they do or don’t do? Are they constantly afraid of your anger or disappointment? Have they heard so much criticism that they don’t feel your pride or love? Today is the day you set boundaries and consequences for media use; today is the day you can let your children be children.

For more than 54 years, Sandy has been an international speaker and recognized authority on families and children. Author of five books, columnist, founder of, she is a resident of Meridian and loves spending time with her three Idaho grandchicks. Semi-retired, she speaks to schools, churches, and MOPS groups and provides parent coaching sessions in person and on the phone. She is available for parenting talks/trainings in the Treasure Valley and may be reached at Also, go to YouTube: Sandy Spurgeon McDaniel to see videos on specific parenting issues.

Idaho Family Magazine