Are we creating more “disabled” children?

Parents are expected to guide their children and facilitate learning and growth. In this day and age of exposure to varied media and we hear stories about children hurting themselves because of an online game, as a parent myself, I am worried about the welfare of my son.

On hindsight, people with bad intentions have been around even during our time. Technology just made it easier for evil-doers to reach out to our trusting kids. It is now up to us, as parents, to adjust our ways and parenting skills to address our children’s needs. My take on this is, BE WHERE THE CHILDREN ARE.

I sometimes hear myself saying the same words I heard from my parents, “noong panahon namin…” (“during our time…). These words are usually uttered when we try to discipline our kids. But the truth is, OUR time is totally different from THEIR time. The kids of today have never known a world without the internet. They have never known a world when one has to go to the library to research on something or get a book to know the meaning of a word. Our kids are now overwhelmed with information with just a few clicks. They are equipped to converse online to either finish school projects or engage in games. They build robots and not just put together Lego blocks. They design clothes through Apps aside from manually making paper dolls. The children of today live and breathe creativity and innovation, so why put square pegs in round holes?

Because THEIR environment is changing, parents have to adapt as well. What was effective for us in terms of instilling discipline may not work for them. And because we are forever students, parents must also learn new parenting skills. Our teaching style must match our children’s learning style.

I work mostly with parents whose children were diagnosed to have developmental disabilities. There are some parents who became overly protective such that they opted for their kids to stay at home.  They believe that their children will always be dependent on them and that they will not be able to take care of themselves. As a therapist, I think the parents’ mindset is more disabling than the child’s physical disability. To say that a child can only reach a certain level of functioning and not provide a nurturing environment where the child can learn and face challenges limits the child. An invisible cage has been placed, who are we to put boundaries on the capabilities of our children? Who are we to put a lid on a cup that is meant to be filled with varied experiences and learning opportunities?

I have also met parents of typically developing children who have made a decision regarding their child’s future. It is not about finding their children’s core gift, it’s about what they have decided on what their children’s path should be. Some parents have paved the way, making sure that only one path is visible, and that path is the parents’ path and so, the children would have no choice. Other parents have modified the child’s environment to make sure that their child will always succeed.

We also have to reflect, are we preparing our kids to live OUR lives? Isn’t it also disabling when we do not allow our children to make decisions and solve problems on their own? Isn’t it disabling when we make them feel incompetent in finding their own path? Isn’t it disabling when we just teach WHAT to do and not teach HOW and WHY we do things?

When our kids make the right decisions, we celebrate with them. When they fail and fall, we make sure that we are with them in getting back up again. Either way, we are trying to create INDEPENDENT and COMPETENT adults who will be resilient in this fast-changing world. We teach values that will define our children. We equip and not disable, we highlight lessons from failures, we encourage and not judge them because of their errors. In the end, we, as parents, will be our children’s safe haven because we love them, unconditionally.

 

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