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From the Homefront: 6 ways we dumb down our children — and how to stop

Published: Wednesday, March 13 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

From a young age we can teach them to use media to create video, learn a processing program or even create their own games. These are the tools they can carry with them into the job market.

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I’m convinced that children are born brilliant.

Spend time with toddlers, and you see all the trappings of genius at work: problem solving, connections, creativity, manipulation and enthusiasm for learning.

Yet it seems the modern-day parent is becoming more adept at stripping these traits away from his or her children. We are actually dumbing down our children in their most formative years. Our kids grow up, and suddenly we wonder why they can’t make decisions, follow through on commitments or move past the video-game console.

Here are six ways we dumb down our children, and how we can fix it before it’s too late:

1. Immediate gratification

We live in a society of immediate gratification. There is so much of life right at our fingertips. Yet we do our children a disservice by giving in to their every whim for new toys, an ice cream cone or the latest iPhone app. Just because we can afford it doesn’t mean our children need it.

Learning delayed gratification is an important skill for children. Even saying things like, “After dinner, you can have a cookie,” teaches children to wait. Extensive studies have shown that kids who know how to delay gratification make better financial choices, score higher on the SAT and have better social competence.

2. Solve their problems

As a parent, it’s hard to see our kids struggle. Whether they’re dealing with a friend issue or falling behind in math, the trigger reaction is to step in and fix the problem. We want our kids to live in a perpetual state of happiness, believing that every conflict gets resolved with a Disney ending.

Of course, life isn’t a perpetual state of happiness. There are bumps and roadblocks, times of sorrow and frustration. Learning how to navigate these as a child and teenager prepares kids for the time when they don’t have a parent around to tie up the messy ends. We need to teach our children emotional independence by getting out of their way and letting them work through the difficult times.

3. Schedule their every minute

We hear so much about the over-scheduled kid, yet we’re still uncomfortable really letting go and allowing our kids downtime. After all, the neighbor kids are all involved in soccer, hockey, chess club and the school play. We worry about our kids falling behind. Or maybe we just like to tick off the accomplishments of our children to our friends.

But kids need unstructured time. They need to get righteously bored watching the grass grow. This time helps them process the challenges of life, and like I mentioned above, gives them a chance to solve their own problems. They need to make discoveries, get dirty and flex their creative muscles without the direct supervision of an instructor.

4. Turn to the electronic baby sitter

Media drives a good deal of our lives. Some of it is fantastic. A lot is simply filler garbage. The problem with introducing our kids to media isn’t the medium, but the fact that we use that medium at the basest level. It becomes something to pass the time, keep kids out of our hair or simply entertain. And we use it way too often. We’re teaching our kids to be passive consumers instead of conscious creators.

The thing is, there are fantastic education tools at our disposal, but they take more energy to find. It’s like sifting for gold. We have to rustle through a lot of shale to discover quality media tools, the kind that will actually teach and enhance our children’s learning. From a young age we can teach them to use media to create video, learn a processing program or even create their own games. These are the tools they can carry with them into the job market.

5. Teach them that learning stops the minute they exit the red-brick building

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