After delivering a Busy? keynote recently, a lady approached me to let me know the point I had made about how busy is impacting our children really resonated with her. Her daughter had said the comment above and it her hit and her husband between the eyes. She didn’t quite realise how much her busyness has affected her daughter until then and now she is in the process of trying to break some very ingrained bad habits. This is a true story and a heartbreaking one.
Busy is what we are and its heavy impact is felt well beyond you and your workplace. It extends into your home and those closest to you. We are constantly telling people how busy we are. That we haven’t met a commitment because we’ve been too busy. And that you can’t play the game with your child because you’re busy doing… (insert your favourite busy excuse here). The question on my mind is what generation of adults are we bringing up when a lot of what they are hearing is just busy?
As an adult, you play one of the biggest leadership roles in your life. Shaping the beliefs, values and behaviours of our little future leaders. This is an enormous responsibility for all of us.
In the world of psychology, the years between 0 – 7 years are the most important forming years for a child. These are called the imprinting years. Throughout this time children learn from adult behaviors and lessons taught to them. Children tend to adopt values, beliefs and ideals of their primary caregivers without question. Later, as the child matures they will begin to question adopted beliefs and ideals they learnt during these years.
Children are amazing observers and incredibly curious. They watch and absorb everything you do and hear everything you say. And take it quite literally. So what are we role modeling to our future generations of leaders through our language and behaviour of busy? When we are so fervently building this culture of busy that our kids are absorbing do they have a chance of knowing any other way to be?
There is no question that children are already busy. They have jam-packed schedules of school, after care, sporting activities, play dates, music lessons, guides, scouts and birthday parties. Very busy parents trying to juggle their child’s schedule with their own ferry them around. Of course, add to this how busy their little brains are by being glued to ‘screens’. When is there down time for kids?
There is conflicting research on whether this will negatively impact a child and whether this is ‘over-scheduling’ or ‘busyness’. We do know how busy can negatively impact on adults from increased stress and anxiety levels, the impacts on health and the ability to ‘switch off’. However in an article published in the Sydney morning herald, it was highlighted that child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg believes children can suffer, too, when their lives are run to a strict routine that leaves no room for free play or simply vegging out on the couch.
“Free play is one of the most fundamental activities for children’s healthy development,” he says. “If we load children up with a million different structured activities, they don’t get time for that normal developmental behaviour.”
So given you are the most influential role model for your children, how are you being as an example? How often do you use the word busy? If you are simply busy all the time, and let’s face it life is busy but there are ways to deal with it and be in control of this, what beliefs are forming in your child’s mind of how they need to be when they grow up? For example, if you are working long hours and then glued to your emails when you are home and not switching off, you are role modelling this way of being as normal for your child.
How can we slow this down? Because we absolutely need to.
In a world that is getting busier, more complex and more competitive, our future generations need to have the ability for slow and considered thinking to enable them to adapt to the world that will be. We have the responsibility to make some meaningful changes and show them how to do this and that slower paced is actually a positive way to be. This downtime is necessary for mental and physical well-being and also to reflect on what is happening around us. And of course to have the space to have fun, to create and explore to imagine and to just simply mindlessly play. That’s what being a kid is all about.
And the last thing you want to hear from your child is they feel like they are a technology orphan because that’s what you give your attention to instead of them.