Happy childhood is a myth

Which is the happiest age for human being? I did some googling and the most significant results shows that happiness curve seems to be u-shaped. In these graphs human life is at its worst around 40 years of age. But, these charts start from around age 15-16 so they really say nothing about childhood.

Still, most of us have probably heard talks about happy childhood. Idealized pictures of happy kids, maybe. Life with children may not seem so perfect in today’s talks, but problems related to running a family are seen as adults’ problems, and kids don’t have to worry about them. That’s how it’s supposed to be, children don’t have to worry about every problem. But does that necessarily mean that kids are happy and even the more important question, should they be happy?

Let me paint a mental picture of certain kid. He is doing ok in the sense that nothing is particularly wrong. School mornings are tiresome, homework is usually doable but feels boring. Maybe he has some hobby, which requires going to training couple times a week. Does he feel happy? Probably not that much. After all, he is doing on daily basis things that someone else has designed for him. He may have chose the hobby himself (not necessarily even that), but training schedules are off his hands.

What about school then? A reasonable kid understands that school is useful for his future, but the payoff is years away. If we compare that to adult who goes to work: An adult can tell himself that he is waking up early to get money, and that payday is less than month away! So we expect kids to motivate themselves with things that are years away, time period that is more than their age. Would you be motivated every day, if you had 100 years for the next payday? I’d say that it’s harder for kids to motivate themselves through daily necessities.

Adults may have stress to keep things together and make a living and yes, that can be really stressful sometimes. But they have couple things to make life easier for them: First, adults can usually make adjustments and chooses of where to live and other chooses of money usage. They can even affect to people living in same household, at least you don’t have to keep a spouse if he/she is causing much trouble. If you are a child and for example brother or sister is harmful to you, you still have to live with your siblings.

I don’t mean that childhood is miserable. In somewhat normal cases it’s not.

My point is that children should be informed that there is no pressure to have a happy childhood. And that it’s perfectly normal to be happier as an adult than as a child.

Even if parent remembers mostly happy things from his/her own childhood, that is no reason to leave this information untold. Humans’ memory is not that good and can distort things. Even if the parent has the clearest memory imaginable and remembers his/her childhood was happy, there is notable possibility that child has got different kind of personality and sees this differently. This is no matter of parent(s) being good or bad, just that sole information can make child feeling better.

Why feeding kids’ creativity is ever more important

Think of the World 30 years from now. Focus especially to work. What would it be like?

It’s given that some jobs which are still done by humans in 2018 will be done by robots/computers by then. This trend has been going on for long, in a way from the start of industrial revolution. For these centuries new jobs have appeared to the stage while old ones have disappeared, so that eventually people have had something to do for living. Will this still be the case in 2048?

Foreseeing the future is always hard, but there is a change that jobs keep disappearing faster than new ones appearing. Before, machines have been able to take only simple, physical jobs but they are taking more advanced jobs all the time.

Let’s think highly educated and well known type of employees: doctors. Accuracy of diagnostic algorithms is getting better all the time often outperforming humans. They are still mainly supportive and may not replace human doctors in 30 years, but that will definetely mean that number of doctors needed will eventually decrease. (For more about doctors and algorithms see for example https://dataconomy.com/2017/10/18532/)

If that is the case with highly educated workforce, what will happen to simpler jobs? I see no reason for them do disappear entirely but the problem is that there will be less jobs and less salary. That is due to global competition, more people who are willing to do the same simple job will affect the paycheck.

So, you don’t want to count on your children or grandchildren getting some easy, nine to five well paid job. Those simply won’t exist any more. What kind of jobs and earning possibilities there will be instead? Over the years, people have made some more or less enlightened guesses about that. Maybe it will be the case that jobs that collaborate physical and mental aspects are less likely to vanish, but no one knows for sure.

Here’s where creative thinking comes in to play: You can’t assume that teaching kids certain facts about biology, maths and English literature will do the trick. In addition to that they will need several thinking outside of the box skills. When they are adults, they should be able to figure out themselves what is the most efficient way to earn a living in 2048.

Here’s the key thought: When rising children, try to emphasis creativity and throw in new angels to look at things on daily basis.

Implementing that may not be so easy in hectic lifestyle. Practical solutions come in handy. I’d suggest starting to do every week something different with the kids, maybe at some certain time of the week. It don’t have to be expensive. Going outdoors and painting things that you see? Library? Some new boardgame? Creating your own boardgame? Presenting to your kids online environments where they can learn to code? Theater? Writing your own poets? It’s likely you’ve already tried some of those, the idea is that try to experience new things and go to places (real or mental) where you and your kids haven’t been before. If you have the energy, try to incorporate these to everyday life, but weekly time dedicated to exploring new things is a good place to start.

Teaching your kids how to see things from many perspectives will be beneficial to them when they’ll try to figure their place in the World years from now.

Games are good for kids (except brain dead ones)

Computer and mobile games can be devided into three main categories: Strategic, reactive and braindead.

Strategic games

Success is based on planning your actions. Sometimes you have unlimited time to think, sometimes game goes on at some speed. In simple cases, the ultimate strategy is to gather and build everything (as fast as possible.) As simple as that is, it teaches planning ahead for children and older players.

If the basic concept of planning is clear, it’s time to move to more complex games that have plurar strategies but not one above all solution. For example Civilization series aims to that but there are plenty of others.

From educational point of view it would be best if the “right” solution would be different every time you play certain game, that leads to really think what is worth doing and what is not. If, anyway, the variations are only distractions like random disasters, that often results player just starting over.

Reactive

Reactive games are somehow based on player’s quick reactions. Most first person games are like this. These are good for reaction time but too much playing can lead player being on the alert all the time even when not playing. Violence can be involved, too. Age rating system gives some clue, but is not equivalent to violence only. In UK, ratings are legally enforceable (12, 16 and 18 years.) In addition to that, it is always advisable for parent to stay in touch what game really contains and talk about it with their kids.

Brain dead

Last and very least, the brain dead. I’m referring to those games that require no strategy or right time movement what so ever. The simpliest for of this is when you tap mobile screen to get points. And that tapping goes on and on and on … It’s hard to belive how much time can be consumed to this kind of game. There is others, bit less obvious forms of the same idea (or lack of idea.)

If your kid plays brain dead games, it’s advisable to lead him/her to some other activities.

To sum up, nothing is good in too heavy dose, but strategic or reactive games in proper age and proper amount do more good than harm teaching to plan, solve problems, react and be part of a social group. For braind dead tapping games, there is no excuse.

Balancing simple and difficult tasks

You need the right kind of challenges to encourage child’s abilities. But not every challenge need to be as hard as the other. You obviously need some difficult ones but the beauty in simpler ones is that they build up kid’s self-confidence. So they will feel that they can solve problems and that’s a valuable lesson going forward in life and studies.

So, you shouldn’t be worried that some task (for example puzzle or maze) is too simple, as long as you keep an eye on the balance! Remember to take into account things they are doing in school: If school is difficult at the moment, maybe something simpler at home for balance and vice versa. That way your kid will build up both self-confidence and new skills.