The brain has the magical ability to rewire itself. We live in the world that offers our brains instant gratification, which works just like a drug. The more instant gratification we offer our brains, the more our brains crave it.
With the best of intentions, we have rewired the brains of this entire generation of children to expect instant gratification, by offering them IPads, videogames, and depriving their brains of opportunities for boredom, responsibilities, and limits. Children come to school emotionally unavailable to learn. Their brains are unable to function under lower levels of stimulation, and expect special effects at all times. Unfortunately, real life can’t offer their brains what we promised; compared to the stimulation offered by the screens, real life is boring. Life requires the brain to work through boredom, which these children can’t tolerate so they become fidgety the moment their brains perceive even minor “boredom”.
With the invention of the spinner fidgets, we take their brains to the next level of instant gratification. Moreover, again and again, we buy our children what they want, the moment they want it, without thinking if it is truly what they need. Now, they bring the spinners into the classroom; continuing to stimulate their brains all day long with high levels of spinning stimulation. The more they stimulate their brains, the more they will crave for it, the less delayed gratification they will have, the less emotionally available for learning they will be (Read more about it here).
There are a few kids that do require fidgets. However, even for these kids, the fidgets are just a quick fix. These children require a much deeper approach to help them concentrate. In many cases, if a child needs fidgets, it means that his brain is overly stimulated and he actually needs help calming his brain down rather than further stimulating it. Here are some suggestions that will minimize your child’s need for fidgeting:
- Teach children that “boredom” is a normal state of human emotions. Help children to recognize the signs of boredom and help them develop functional strategies to deal with it. Don’t take the responsibility of constantly entertaining your kids, as they need to learn to self-regulate through boredom.
- Put a conscious effort to train your child’s delayed gratification skills. Avoid using technological babysitters in cars and restaurants and train his ability to just sit and wait. Teach your child to sit at a table until everyone finishes eating. Limit snacking between meals.
- Limit your child’s access to technology. In addition, unplug from your phone and share quality time with your child.
- Offer your child opportunities to spend time outdoors, especially in green space.
- Provide regular opportunities for high intensity, high duration exercises such as biking, hiking.
- Bring calmness into their lives by listening to calm music, sitting around a fireplace, having a calming bath, reading a book, drawing, or playing board games.
- Offer plenty of sleep in technology free bedrooms.
- Train your child’s ability to complete monotonous work, such as helping with cooking, setting a table, making his/her bed, or folding clothes.
- If your child truly needs a fidget, provide him/her with a low stimulation fidget, such as a stress ball.
Parents, we are failing our children! Their future is in our hands. Provide children with what is truly and deeply good for them, instead of highly stimulating quick fixes.
Victoria Prooday is a Registered Occupational Therapist, MSc OT (UofT), with extensive experience working with children, parents and teachers. While working with thousands of children and hundreds of teachers, Victoria is alarmed by the drastic decline in children’s social, emotional, and academic functioning and voices serious concerns regarding the future of the entire generation. Her mission is to educate parents about the negative impact of overuse of technology, decline in physical and creative play, emotionally disconnected and limitless parenting style on dysregulating children’s brain and making them less able to deal with real life challenges. She offers practical everyday solutions that have been proven to facilitate tremendous growth and change in children. Victoria is a founder and a clinical director of a multidisciplinary clinic for children with behavioral, attentional, social, emotional and academic challenges. Victoria holds a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy from the Medical School at University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and Health Science from York University.