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To Fidget or Not to Fidget, That Is the Question

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Written by Diane Bennett

Categories: ADHD Anxiety School Education Teachers

Comments: 0

As a public school educator with almost thirty years of experience, I’ve seen it all. The American culture and approaches to child rearing have changed dramatically, and frankly, not for the better. Societal norms and standards loosen up more and more with every generation. As a result, educators have had to adapt accordingly. Conformity to expectations on the part of the child is no longer expected, and teachers are now required to accommodate their ever-increasing needs and demands.

Please don’t get me wrong. There are some cases when accommodations for legitimate conditions (such as autism, for example) are appropriate and necessary. The operative words here are some and legitimate. The problem is what began as reasonable interventions designed for a tiny percentage of the population have blown up into a disasterous free pass game. It seems that so many students nowadays have “issues” requiring special treatment. We accommodate their lack of motivation. We accommodate their tantrums. We accommodate their blatant disrespect. We accommodate students refusing to do their schoolwork simply because they don’t want to. Accommodate. Accommodate. Accommodate. We have lost control.

The latest trend we are seeing now in schools are the use of fidgets, small hand-held implements that some claim to relieve anxiety. They take the form of spinners, rubber “pop-its”, and small squishy balls just to name a few. Fidgets are just a fancy name for toys. They are nothing more than a distraction to learning and a convenient vehicle for work avoidance. Children are bringing their fidgets to school in droves and feeling entitled to use them because of “anxiety”. The reality is that most of them just want to play. Sadly, many well-meaning parents support the use of fidgets because they are terrified of having a stressed-out child. But since when does enabling equate to coping? Since when does a classroom of distracted, popping, spinning children result in learning?

It’s not even about the fidgets, it’s about a much larger issue. Consider the precedent this sets on so many levels. Fast forward twenty years. Imagine these anxiety-ridden, non-coping crutch-hugging future adults trying to navigate the responsibilities of life. A stressful job, relationships, or simply having to do things that they don’t want to do will all require diligence and effort. Happy and successful adults know that life is work, and lots of it. Our job is to raise children to be functional, happy adults. An ill-prepared adult will be much more stressed-out than a child denied a fidget (or something) and expected to cooperate.

Yes, society has changed. Classrooms have changed. Values have changed. But one thing remains the same - children still need what they have always needed.

Diane Bennett
Certified Leadership Parenting Coach

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