When I was getting my masters degree in applied psychology I took in the information through two primary lenses. First, as an individual greatly impacted by the mental health system in the United States and captivated by the field, and second as a public school teacher. Both of these lenses led me repeatedly back to the subject of family, and in particular, how the behavior of children at home and school impacts them, their families, and their communities.

It is widely believed that negative behaviors in children are escalating, and that this rise in harmful behavior is causing long term harm for the children themselves as well as their families and communities. Because of my personal investment in this research, I made it the topic of my capstone, and walked away with three primary lessons.

First, negative behavior in children is completely entangled with issues of poverty, and one cannot be addressed without addressing the other. There are hundreds of thousands of non-profits and individuals working globally to reduce world poverty, and they’re making a tremendously positive impact. On our Be a World Changer page you can find information and links to a selection of these organizations and may choose to invest in their work or become a part of it. Leave a comment on the page to let us know how you are changing the world for the better! In my journey to take better care of myself, I often remind myself of the saying, you cannot heal the world by becoming sick. Rather, I have found it to be abundantly clear that by caring for ourselves, we care for the world as well. In an effort to honor this truth in a tangible way, any time you invest in a Playground service, a percentage of your investment is donated to one of these organizations working to improve lives around the world.

The second thing my capstone research confirmed for me is that negative behavior in children is often correlated with high degrees of disorder and unpredictability in a home. Small things make a big difference, and often families are so consumed with large things that the small ones fall through the cracks. Consistent bed time routines, meal times, family times, homework schedules, an orderly environment where it is easy to find things…these are the vitamins and nutrients of social and emotional well being for humans. Spontaneity is important to our vitality, but only in the context of predictable schedules and calm environments. While this is true for humans of any age, it is especially true for children. Children thrive on routine, and generally cannot thrive without it. It is integral to wellbeing. Some parents panic when they learn this because they feel ill equipped. I encourage you to have more faith in yourself and embrace where you’re at with grace and compassion. Many of us grew up without routines ourselves and they feel unnatural or constricting. Check out the Creating Order page to find resources to help you get started. If you find you need additional help, reach out to Alex. Playground offers a variety of consultation and coaching services to help you create the order you’re looking for.

Finally, my research highlighted the importance of parenting practices. But here’s the thing-there is a WIDE MARGIN FOR ERROR. Despite all the advice from books, articles, instagram posts, teachers, doctors, nannies, neighbors, Netflix-parenting is not an exact science in which every word you say and every move you make needs to be measured and carefully considered lest you destroy the fabric of your child’s wellbeing and doom them to an adulthood of counseling sessions in which they talk about what an awful parent you are. Instead research really only cautions against extremes. Overly harsh and punitive parenting is correlated with negative behavior in children, and so is overly lenient and permissive parenting. The best behavior in children is correlated with parenting that sets clear, firm, and consistent limits as well as being warm and nurturing. If this raises more questions than answers, check out our Parenting Practices page or reach out to Alex for a family consultation.

Playground was born out of the desire to add goodness to the world by supporting families. And here is my final note. Much of the conversation around families pertains to children, and while this is understandable, it has been taken to an extreme in American society. At one time in U.S. history, children had no voice, and in an effort to remedy that error we have swung to another extreme in which children have all the voice. Doesn’t every member of a family need and deserve to have their needs met and their preferences acknowledged?

When children are placed on pedestals, or worse, on thrones, it is to their own detriment, as well as their familys’ and the communities in which they reside. As a classroom teacher I have seen many a family dominated by a tiny demigod. It is a grotesque site to behold. Defeated adults, exhausted and unhappy children. That being said, while strong, this is only my perspective. Ultimately, your family decides what it wants to be. I encourage you to honor all voices, not just the smallest.