It’s important to teach kids to say ‘no’ — to themselves

Categories: Around the Diocese

Child development expert will explain the process of passing along self-discipline

August 30, 2013, edition
By Sue Schulzetenberg-Gully

In today’s culture, the values of patience and self-discipline can get lost.

This can be problematic, because the ability to say no to one’s self is twice as strong as a predictor of school success as intelligence, says David Walsh, founder of Mind Positive Parenting and the National Institute on Media and the Family.

Walsh will explain how to foster values in children in his workshop titled, “Challenge: Forming Kids in a Culture of ‘More, Fast, Easy and Fun,’ ” Sept. 30 at St. Cloud River’s Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud. His workshop will be offered over a two-hour span for Diocesan Ministry Day and again at 7 p.m. Sept. 30 at the convention center for the public.

He shared a few key points of his message in an interview with The Visitor.

Q. What will you be speaking about at Diocesan Ministry Day this fall?

A. I will be translating brain science to give parents and professionals practical advice on helping kids become successful in the 21st century. Parenting and teaching are arts. But science can inform the art.

There’s a lot of new information coming from the field of brain science to help us better understand how children develop and that information can help us do our job more effectively. It is a job that is increasingly challenging because we have a culture that doesn’t necessarily help us do our job.

So I will be focusing on, for example, how important it is for children to develop self-discipline, the ability to say no to themselves. That is important for their school success. It is twice as strong as a predictor of success in school as intelligence.

It is important for their happiness and their moral development. That is more challenging today than perhaps our parents and grandparents’ generation because we live in a culture that puts great value on more, easy, fast and fun.

There’s nothing wrong with having nice things; there’s nothing wrong with convenience; there’s nothing wrong with fun. But when all of those things get way out of balance, it makes our job as parents and as professionals who work with children a bit more challenging. That culture is spawning a virus. I call that virus discipline deficit disorder, DDD.

Our job is to counteract the discipline deficit disorder virus. We will be digging deeper as to how and why that is so important and what we can do about it. What are the strategies that we can use right away to help us do our job a little better to prepare our kids for success, happiness and moral development in the 21st century.

My afternoon session will be a little bit more geared to the professional audience. My evening session will be geared a little more to the parent audience. There will be enough differences between the two that it would make sense for someone who is interested to attend both.

Q. Can you further explain how our culture makes guiding children more difficult?

A. Our culture talks about more, fast, easy and fun. We need to get more of everything we have. Everything should be instant, fast and easy. And everything should be fun.

The danger for parents is we start to develop an allergic reaction to our kids unhappiness.

We’re afraid if they’re unhappy, their self-esteem will be injured. I will talk about the real definition of self-esteem, not the popular definition, because the popular definition is “feeling good.” There’s nothing wrong with feeling good,

but that’s not what self-esteem is all about.

Self-esteem is built with competence and achievement, and we can’t do that unless we can manage ourselves. That’s where that whole area of executive function comes into play. It becomes critically important for us to counteract those cultural messages of instant gratification. Because how are we going to teach our kids the importance of persistence and perseverance if we are constantly giving into a culture of instant gratification?

We need to do a bit of a course correction.

We’re not talking about throwing the baby out with the bath water. We’re not talking about parents doing everything wrong. We’re talking about the challenges that parents face and how we can counteract some of those challenges.

Q. Who would benefit from your talks?

A. Parents and other professionals, including youth ministers and anyone who works with young people, teachers, coaches, scout leaders, religious education teachers, all those folks who have a role in working with kids. Or anyone who is interested in kids.

Q. Will you be talking about a particular age group of kids?

A. We will be talking about and using examples of all age groups from pre-schoolers all the way to the teenagers.

Q. What is one insight you hope people gain from your talks?

A. It is important for us to help our children learn how to say no to themselves. That’s one of the keys to success in their school life, in their personal life and in their moral development.