Friday, April 2, 2010

Why Do Children Have to Sit Still, Anyway?

Why Do Children Have to Sit Still, Anyway?
Have you ever wondered why on earth your child can't sit still?

Let me ask you this: Why should children have to sit still? Why are we preventing them from moving instead of encouraging it?

I find it highly sad and ironic that children, who need to move in order to activate their nervous systems, to develop their coordination and visual skills, and to just plain be healthy, are forced to sit for increasingly long periods with less and less outdoor time or recess, to take the bus home from school, and then sit cooped up in homes and apartments, and then have to sit still even more for hours of {often unnecessary} homework and dinner.

A few weeks ago, I observed two different children being admonished by their nannies to sit still when they were being quizzed for their school assignments. There actually was no earthly reason that they needed to sit, as they weren't being required to write. They were just annoying the grown ups! One little girl even said, "But it helps me to think!" Her babysitter automatically replied, "No it doesn't!" I intervened and suggested that they be allowed to move at will if they were working on assignments that called for memorization.

We should be encouraging children to move, not discouraging them. If your child habitually seeks out movement, for example jumping or spinning, the best thing to do is to provide safe outlets for the child to provide what his nervous system requires. For instance, someone I know has a little boy who was so driven to jump and crash that he would smash into his classmates at school, and climb up and jump off of an eight foot wall near his home at every opportunity. His mother was at her wits' end. I suggested that instead of trying to get him to stop jumping, he be given a trampoline. His parents, bless them, went right out and bought him a 15 footer.

The first night, instead of his usual drawn out night time routine, he went right to sleep, didn't wake up once, and slept for an hour longer than usual.

I suggested that his mother send him out for 15 minutes of jumping before homework, and she was astonished at how much better he could focus. The trampoline had the added benefit of being a draw for the neighborhood children, and much socialization, which was lacking in this boy's life due to his school issues, was now taking place.

It's important to remember that children are not miniature adults and just don't have the same skill sets as we do. They're not as patient, they don't tolerate frustration as well, and they can't sit still for nearly as long. Building more movement into their day will help them accomplish everything that we require of them.


Amy Waldhauer said...

My brother, Neil, and a friend, Blaise, were Honor Students in high school. They were selected to help out with kids in the elementary school next door. They were given a group of very active boys who were behind the class in reading skills.

Neil and Blaise took the kids and had them push all the desks in the classroom to the middle of the room and run in a circle around them. They drilled the kids in phonics and were successful in helping them to catch up in reading.

Maybe reading and recess could be combined in some classes.

liza said...

Excellent point you make. We got a mini trampoline for our child with Sensory Integration disorder, and learned how to have her jump jump jump instead of sit sit sit. Very helpful. And I remember doing exsessive, obsessive, cartwheels as a preteen, and thankfully, nobody tried to stop me. And I did my homework, the non writing, on a bongo board .I even watched TV on the bongo board. Good article.

Mimi Pond said...

Everyone wants kids to not fidget, but how many meetings have you sat in where people had compulsive fidgeting going on? Gum-chewing, pen-chewing, pencil fidgeting, finger drumming- we all do it. It does help to calm and ground you. My son did 4 years of sensory integration therapy and we learned that as long as he could chew gum or have a bottle of water at hand, he could concentrate a lot longer on homework. We even got permission from his teachers to allow him to have those things when taking tests at school! I also agree that playing outside every day is KEY.

Anonymous said...

I think it's unfair to ask a children to constantly sit for long periods at a time. As an adult I sometimes find this hard to do. I feel that some people have more raw energy that needs expressing than others and this should be allowed. We need to remember what it was like to be a child...full of life..full of enerhy. Let kids be kids.

Minna said...

You are a great writer and have so much valuable information to share. You should be writing for parenting magazines, seriously!
Kol Hakavod!
What a great resource for anyone involved with education.
Thank You!