Monday, December 5, 2011

Remember common sense?

Nurturing clear thinking needs to come from parents who set an example

I read a story this week in that left me wondering if parents today lack one basic skill: common sense.
The story was about how feuding parents are turning to the court system over petty disputes.
It described a number of bizarre cases arising in custody battles in the Family Court and Federal Magistrates Court.
Examples of cases in recent months included a father ordered to put sunscreen on his children when they were outside; parents who were ordered not to allow their children to watch R-rated movies; parents who were ordered to toilet trained their children aged four and five; and a father told not to swear around his children.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t these orders common sense?
My next thought is what kind of parents let their children watch R-rated movies anyway?
But rather than go into a rant about bad parents, I thought I’d write about why teaching common sense to our children is so important.
Common sense is defined as sound judgement based on a simple perception of the situation or facts.
We learn common sense through nature and nurture, but the best way children can learn is by parents leading by example.
However, if parents lack common sense, what hope have the children got?
Gertrude Stein once said “Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense”.
She may well be right. Parents today receive such an overwhelming amount of advice from books, television, websites, magazines, doctors, educators, friends, family and so on, that they lose confidence in their ability to raise their offspring.
They no longer trust their own minds to make good decisions for the benefit of their children and turn to these endless sources for wisdom and encouragement.
Parents today need to feel that they are doing a good job, otherwise we would all start rocking in the corner in the foetal position.
Some people believe common sense is either something you’re born with or not and can’t be taught. I disagree.
Common sense tells us that we should foster our children’s common sense as they grow up, and cultivate their capacity to think clearly and act wisely.
But this isn’t something that they can learn overnight.
Studies have shown that children’s brains function differently to adults.
The frontal lobe is late to develop and it is this part of the brain that regulates aggression, long-term planning, mental flexibility, abstract thinking, the capacity to hold in mind related pieces of information and even moral judgement.
So it’s no wonder some kids appear to not think before they act, and why teenagers can make bad choices.
There are endless common sense lessons that we can teach our kids right from their first steps.
Some examples include teaching them about rules and boundaries such as why we don’t play soccer on the road and why we wear seatbelts, good manners such as why we should be quiet when someone else is talking, stranger danger, why we must brush our teeth everyday and why we don’t spend all our money on lollies.
Help your children learn from their mistakes, rather than avoid them, and talk to them about the choices they make.
Allow them to work out solutions to problems and eventually they will seek out problems to solve before the obstacles are in their path.


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