Children are impulsive and impressionable...and prone to addictive behaviors. Little activities can affect the way they think and act in a major way. Small, overlooked behaviors at a young age could develop into addiction - whether to media or more serious substances - as your child grows and develops. Follow these five steps to prevent your child from developing addictive behaviors.
Cut down screen time
How three-year-olds pick up a tablet or phone and know exactly how to navigate it to access hours of entertainment is astounding. More astounding is how severe the temper tantrum is that follows when the device is taken away.
Children today spend an obscene average of seven hours a day on digital media. Because screen time is already such a huge part of their lives, children may struggle to live without it and develop highly addictive behaviors towards television, playing video games and other forms of media.
In a personal interview with FamilyShare, Edward Huntington, a teaching specialist for preschool-aged children, said he has seen addictive behavior to media in children because it acts as a substitution for parental involvement.
"A lot of kids grow to enjoy iPads because of the immediate information feed from the flashing and high-speed entertainment they control at the push of a button," Huntington said. "They start to lose an appreciation for deeper forms of learning, become addicted to the fast, digital forms of learning and begin to lose the ability to communicate with a person."
Media could be a segway addiction to something else. Closely monitoring and limiting your child's screen time will help keep the child from becoming addicted to media.
Encourage human interaction
In today's digital age, people lack face to face communication skills. It is much easier to send a text or email. Children learn best and their brain develops when interacting with people...which doesn't happen when they are sitting in front of a television. To avoid encouraging addictive personalities, swap out screen time for playdates, one on one time with mom or dad, conversations with friends and family and playing with siblings.
Don't always give in
Every time you give in to a temper tantrum, you are teaching your children they can have what they want despite their poor behavior. Receiving a reward for bad behavior increases their sense that it is alright to do something wrong.
If this is a regular occurrence, your children learn the art of manipulation. By giving in, you are showing it is okay to say one thing and do another. This may unintentionally teach your kids to lie. Lying, manipulation and giving into things they want but know they shouldn't have (like candy) are all common traits of an addict.
This may sound extreme and no, the occasional treat is not bad. But don't underestimate what tendencies you are encouraging in your children.
Watch for patterns
Keep a close eye on how frequent your child revisits certain behaviors, whether good or bad. Being stuck in a pattern (only eating the same meal for dinner or playing the same video game for hours) could be an early sign of addictive behavior. While ritual and patterns help establish normalcy for your kids in an ever-changing world, your children should also have a healthy relationship with change and variety.
Teach them self-control and responsibility
Children are impulsive by nature, and left unattended, can lead to addictive behaviors later in life. Counter that impulse with self-control, discipline and responsibility. Try keeping a consistent bedtime and morning routine (complete with chores) to teach this. This self-discipline can help your children learn that sometimes they have to give up what they would like to do for something else that is more important.
Parenting and teaching discipline is difficult. It is something your children will hate you for now but praise you for later. Using these steps could help your child avoid addictive behaviors that could negatively influence them in the future.