By Sandy Spurgeon McDaniel

Teachers in California and some other states have been told that schools will re-open online, using the media as their means of teacher communication. Those students will not be returning to the classroom. Idaho Gov. Brad Little has stated he wants K-12 students to return to schools. He did, however, also state that remote learning plans should be in place in some areas. As I’m writing this in mid-July, uncertainties remain. But there are two possible scenarios for Idaho parents to consider: (1) Their children go back to the classroom or (2) their children continue to be home with online school.

Distance teaching and distance learning are not optimal ways of educating our children. Every credible teacher I know longs for personal connection with each year’s students. That being said, the risk of children, teachers, families, grandparents becoming ill – even dying – are a high price to pay. Should children return or not return to school in August? That is the question of the day, and with the potential starting date three weeks away, how are we going to train our teachers to function within all the rules that will be set? Who is preparing parents for the changes at hand? Who is going to pay for extra sanitation and necessary teaching equipment?

If Idaho children are required to stay home from schools, parents need to put their children on a schedule:

(1) Schoolwork first.

(2) A reading period. The best way for a child to develop English skills outside of school is to read. A ticket to success in the future is that the child is able to read. A 30-minute (minimum) reading time should be in their schedule six days a week. A young child can read aloud while a parent is cooking dinner. Young children can read to older siblings. My daughter-in-law and son read with their children (sometimes read to, sometimes reading to the child) every night of the week. There is a magical time found in books that this generation is skipping because of the media. There is NO substitute for the connection, the bonding that happens between parent and child while curled up together, reading.

(3) My primary concern, because I have done research on learning and the brain, is HOW excessive use of cell phones, iPads, computers and other media objects affects the development of a brain. Research is showing that continual use of the media trains the brain to re-pattern itself, cutting off the branches that access creativity and intuition. We are raising a non-creative, non-intuitive generation. Even more frightening are the results in terms of what kind of people we are creating: narcissistic, angry, arrogant, apathetic and morally deficient human beings who are constantly stressed and overwhelmed.

When this pandemic finally ends, are the generation of today’s children going to be able to create a livable world? The answer to that depends upon how many boundaries and life skills each parent is willing to teach. Boundaries for behavior (boundaries and consequences) teach children how to use power well, to respect authority, and to self-direct their behavior. (See “Don’t Feed the Dragon” on Amazon.)

Whether their child goes to school or participates in remote learning, parents who care about their children will regulate use of the media. Children are obsessed with it, so this will not be easy. Having been an instant “child-sitter” in the beginning, use of the media has increased nearly 100 percent. If a parent chooses to limit media time, there will be battles, and popularity contests will not be won. If the schools provide work to do at home, the rule is simple: schoolwork first, no media; chores second, no media. If a child attends school, media time is restricted to one hour a day (explosion noted!).

As for life skills, one of the most important skills to learn (no matter what happens) is how to adjust, no matter what happens. Complaining, whining, temper tantrums, and pouting change nothing. The Serenity Prayer says, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; And wisdom to know the difference.” Be careful what you say around your kids – CHILDREN ARE ALWAYS LISTENING! If you complain and moan, how can you expect them to make the most of a situation they cannot change? “How can we make lemonade out of this lemon?” becomes a mindset, a lesson in going with the flow of life.This instant-gratification generation isn’t being taught to realize that you need to re-direct your energy when faced with something you can’t change. They won’t learn it unless their parents model and teach that skill.

For more than 55 years, Sandy McDaniel has been an international speaker and recognized authority on families and children. Author of five books, columnist, founder of parentingsos.com, she is a resident of Meridian and loves spending time with her three Idaho grandchicks. She may be reached at sandy@parentingsos.com. Or, go to YouTube: Sandy Spurgeon McDaniel to see videos on specific parenting issues.

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