In today's modern world, children's senses are over-stimulated daily with movies, video games, animated TV shows, and the onslaught of social media, smartphones, and more recently, virtual reality. A global society with a 24-7 internet provides instant answers to our children and teens independent of their parents or family values.
These cultural trends and social conditioning train our children to look outside themselves for answers, validation, excitement, entertainment, and happiness. Do you see the rub?!
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
What Is Social Conditioning?
It may be helpful first to define what social conditioning means.
The Mind Fool describes it this way: "Social conditioning is the process by which people of a certain society are trained to think, believe, feel, want, and react in a way that is approved by the society or the groups within it." These influences include both negative and positive impacts. And the core need for belonging drives much of our compliance with societal norms since there is safety in numbers.
Social Conditioning: How Google Impacts Our Experiences
As a baby boomer, I've had the opportunity to experience life with very little technology. Growing up, I spent most of my time outside playing; entire summers were spent at the public swimming pool or on a lake. We walked everywhere. There was no internet, no desktop computers or laptops; no Playstations. Our phones were connected to the wall and didn't travel outside. And later, as a young mother, we carried a 5-pound video camera to our kids' events—imagine that now!? What an enormous gift smartphone cameras are!
My point is that our kids are growing up WITH technology; they're like fish in water, unaware of life without it. Our younger generations only know technology's holographic universe. Therefore, they derive extrinsic pleasures from tech and make many of their decisions from external forces as well.
If they feel like listening to music: there's an unlimited selection on Pandora or Spotify directly from their phone. Need to write a paper for school? Search the internet. Need to create a science project? Pinterest has an abundance of ideas! Need to know what to wear to the prom? There's Seventeen magazine and H&M.
Examples of Social Conditioning
Let me give you a personal example of the unintended effects of this conditioning.
Recently, I was conversing with a good friend who had just visited her grown daughter. Their family dog was lethargic and losing an unhealthy amount of weight. Her daughter was frantically googling causes and online veterinarians when her mom suggested that perhaps the food was the problem. (She just had a hunch.) The suggestion was quickly and adamantly rejected. Her daughter's reason? The dog food had five stars reviews on both Yelp and Google!
The next day, the dog tested for an allergic reaction to the 5-star dog food.
Another example: When traveling recently with my grown children to Hawaii, I was struck by how much depended on the use of technology and smartphones: Google maps for navigation, checking local activities and restaurant reviews and ratings, texting to communicate with each other while in different locations, Facetime, and children gaming and watching movies on phones while traveling.
One evening we were looking for a restaurant in Waikiki that everyone would enjoy. After what seemed like an eternity of scrolling and walking only to find long lines at all 5-star restaurants, we stumbled upon a hidden Polynesian restaurant. After climbing steep stairs to its entrance in a dark alleyway, we agreed the menu gave plenty of options. It turned out that the food was terrific, and the cheerful, helpful owner quickly served our large group. On top of fabulous service, the quantities and selection were plentiful, and the prices reasonable. Yet, this hidden jewel had no online presence whatsoever.
How can children learn to listen and follow their inner voice when passively entertained and educated from a very young age? They don't even need to know how to spell—there's autocorrect!
And what determines too much screen time? Where is their lifeline to self-awareness and listening to intuition's still small voice?
Let’s look at some ways to help our children listen to their inner guidance system amidst the noise and stresses of today’s face-paced, complex lifestyle and culture.
How to Be a Conscious Parent and Safeguard Your Child's Well-Being
Here are some simple tips for developing a true connection to their hearts and intuition.
Cultivate a loving and connected relationship with your children
with quality time together.
Being a parent is the most sacred relationship there is. However, with our hectic lives and varying demands on our time, it's easy to move to efficiency and check something off our long to-do lists. In this mindset, we often deal with our children transactionally: "Do you have your homework done?" Did you brush your teeth?" "Please pick up your toys." Avoid only dealing with logistics and directives. Shift as a parent and be fully present with your children. Dedicate regular time when it's possible to truly enjoy them.
The Why: When we spend quality time with our children: we listen more, we're interested in what's important to them, we enjoy their uniqueness, we kid around and laugh together, and we have meaningful conversations. The more we relate, the more we build the relationship.
The closer our children feel to us, the more likely they are to come to us for needed help and advice. And we have the honor to know them as remarkable humans, not just our children.
Set reasonable and clear limits.
One of the most important things is to set healthy boundaries with technology. Smartphones are a direct line to dopamine, the feel-good drug, so this is harder than it sounds. Put phones away at dinnertime; have kids put their phones away an hour before bedtime. Play family board games instead of hooking into the television.
The Why: By setting appropriate limits, children learn delayed gratification, calm frustration, understand others' viewpoints, and develop self-soothing when they can't plug into their phones. Perhaps, they even take a few minutes to listen to themselves!
Encourage your children to listen to their whole selves: their bodies, minds, energy, emotions, and intuition.
We live in a culture where physical adeptness and strength are extolled, and intellectual prowess is rewarded. Children's academic success is highly visible through grades and awards. However, what's not often talked about are energetic vitality and intuition.
Teach your children to pay attention to the fluctuations of their energy. If they feel drained, what's draining them? (It could be a needy friend, a choice that went against a cherished value, or just a food they're allergic to.) And when their energy is uplifted, it's an excellent signpost to what they love and brings them joy—a path to their true self.
Encourage them to listen to their heart and intuition by saying things like, "What's your gut telling you?" Or "It sounds like you have a thorn in your heart. What is it?"
Another way to reinforce intuition is to press rewind and have them retrace the pathway to their outcome. Ask lovingly and nonjudgmentally, "Did you have a feeling it was a wrong decision?" "Did you hear a voice within guiding you, but you ignored it?" "When do they most feel inner peace?" or "Can you name three times this week you felt happy and the reason?"
The Why: These observations increase your child's self-awareness, greater emotional intelligence, and deeper connection to themselves, which is invaluable, especially in today's technological age. They get to practice looking within and listening to their own inner compass. And the more you encourage it, the better they'll get at listening to their truth, not the world's.
In conclusion, remember to take care of yourself. Parenting is a 24/7 job and self-care is imperative. Reserve time alone for introspection and to truly appreciate the amazing miracle and gift of being a parent.
And if you'd like an experienced mentor and a parent coach, contact us today at email@example.com!