Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dulling our Children's Senses

My friend, Greg, sent me a link to this video.  I needed the reminder.  I easily start slipping into a "conveyor belt" form of education by default because it's what I grew up with.  It was nice to be reminded that each of my children has the same potential, but different talents, interests and specific missions with those gifts.

I actually went to the RSA sight and watched the entire talk.  It was good and funny, but he does go into several tangents so if you don't have an hour to watch the talk (I watched it on my Iphone as I made eggplant lasagna last night), the above video has the most important highlights anyway.

I had several thoughts as I watched it, but one thing that struck me is when he mentioned that in education (especially in the arts) we need to use our senses - to be completely aware and awake to experience the moment.  He mentions ADHD drugs and how sad it is that their overperscription is putting the senses to sleep when we ought to be waking them up in education.

I thought about the fact that there are many other things that we are doing to our children to put their senses to sleep.  They are surrounded by things that overstimulate and dull their senses. We are surrounding them with loud toys with lights and buttons, coarse music, constantly changing images on the television, movies that stimulate their feelings, busy schedules, endless information on the internet, etc.  Children need time to think, to ponder, to feel real things!

Something that has been such a concern to me lately is video games.  We had one little boy over the other day that seemed really at a loss when I told him Bud couldn't play the Wii or computer games.  He didn't know what else to do with himself and he wondered aimlessly through the house.  I remember reading Elder Bednar's talk about Things are They Really Are, and understanding how incredibly damaging this vicarious world of video gaming is.   Children spend their time in a pretend world that overstimulates and drowns out their real senses.  How are they supposed to feel the beauty of a symphony, for instance, if their ears are still ringing (figuratively) from the noise of their environment?  More importantly, how can they hear the subtle whispering of the Spirit when the instrument of their spirit is being bombarded with the exciting and sensational?

Teachers at school are trying to compete with this stimulating home environment.  This is a hard task!  They are trying to make their lessons more entertaining, their books more exciting.  Gone are the days when children could sit at their desk and memorize a passage.  One of my son's friends is required to read Diary of a Wimpy Kid for his class at school.  My daughter's friends came over the other day and started singing the Christmas songs they had learned at school.  They weren't even real Christmas songs.  They were silly songs sung to Christmas tunes to make them more funny and exciting.  It worries me, frankly, and I wonder what will come of it all.

Let's give our children a simple, real environment where they can use their imaginations, where they can sit and think, where they can dream and wonder.  Let's make our home a restful place where the Spirit can whisper to their soul.  They might think they are bored at first, but they will fill the void with real thoughts, real creativity and real sensibility.

To quote Keri Tibbets,
"I am trying to make their lives so real that they can actually recognize and appreciate things of real value when they find them.  I want refine their tastes so that they can tell just how lovely reading great books can be, instead of providing them with activities that dull the senses so that they need perpetually more sensation all the time in order to feel any thrill in their minds and hearts.  I want them to know and enjoy great art when they see it...One of the saddest things that I can imagine is to waste these enlightening opportunities ---to grow up with them all around us and not really taste them because of numbness.  The most beautiful reward that I have reaped along this journey is discovering that my own children have ears that hear and eyes that see and hearts that feel."


  1. I just wanted to say that I really enjoy your blog. I have been thinking about this a lot lately, too. I just read a study that said that kids spend an average of 7.5 hours a day being stimulated by media. That does not include using the computer during school or for homework, it also doesn't include texting or talking on the cell phone which would add another 2hours of media time. When kids are being stimulated by media almost 100% of the time they are not in school or sleeping, when does that leave time for reading, thinking, playing, or discovering?

    I have noticed a huge difference in my children since I read the Head gates article and started implementing the principles that she outlines. My children are much calmer now and so am I.
    Thanks again for taking the time to post. I appreciate your thoughts. You always give me something great to think about.

  2. Thank you for writing this. I needed to read that talk again and I want to see the rest of that video (when I have time, ha!!)

  3. Great post and I like that video. It has taken me years to get rid of the distractions in our lives and to get husband and children on board with it but I think we're just about there.

    In Elder Christofferson's talk from last conference he quoted the film Man's Search For Meaning. "Every day, every hour, every minute of your span of mortal years must sometime be accounted for. And it is in this life that you walk by faith and prove yourself able to choose good over evil, right over wrong, enduring happiness over mere amusement. And your eternal reward will be according to your choosing."

    I explained to my children that we will get exactly what we ask for in the next life. If they want to live in the Celestial Kingdom in the next life then they need to act like they are living there now. There won't be video games and cheap plastic toys there.

  4. That study on longitudinal thinking is very interesting- and frightening. One major contributor to ADHD that he leaves out is poor diet. Food choices are so important for the proper function of our minds and reception of the spirit in education.

    It's been heartbreaking over the years in all the places we've lived to find that my son had to beg every single one of his friends to get off the computer and play outside with him. Beginning in kindergarten! He finally has a couple of friends whose parents are like-minded in that area. Thankfully.

  5. This is so true, and you express it beautifully. I too worry about the line between what is real and what is counterfeit/virtual/fake being blurred in children's lives. One of the best things we've ever done was eliminate TV and video games. I won't lie and say our house is peaceful (we're still working on eliminating contention!) but at least it isn't buzzing with meaningless noise. I'm making a conscious effort to surround the children, and myself, with what is REAL: the Spirit, the gospel, the relationships we share with other people, the emotions and lessons experienced by reading classic books, etc.

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I feel encouraged to be more aware about how I spend my time and what activities I choose to engage in.

  6. I agree completely. We didn't have TV when I was little, and when I got older we had very strict limits on it.

    My husband on the hand had a very stimulated childhood-video games when they first came out and plenty of TV. Without either of these he is often at a loss on how to entertain himself. I try to get him to try other things and set limits, but he just doesn't 'get it'.

    Needless to say we had a long term disagreement about entertainment at home, especially when it comes to our soon to be born child. I'm going to share this video with him and see if helps at all.