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An Essay on Parenting by Judith Wright, Author of the acclaimed book:

There Must Be More Than This 
Finding More Life, Love, and Meaning By Overcoming Your Soft Addictions
By Judith Wright
Published by Broadway March 2003;

We are raising a generation of little addicts, and most parents don’t realize the scope of the problem or how they’re contributing to it. I’m not suggesting that most of our children are becoming drug addicts or alcoholics. Instead, they’re falling into "soft addiction" routines that rob them of the time and energy to pursue more meaningful activities.

Soft addictions involve any habitual, mindless behavior or mood. The most obvious ones are television watching, overeating, Internet surfing and video game playing, but numerous other possibilities exist—gossiping, fantasizing, exercising, feeling sorry for oneself, shopping and so on. Most parents aren’t alarmed by these behaviors, assuming correctly that they’re "normal". They become abnormal and detract from a child’s development, however, when they settle into routines, robbing children of the time, energy and initiative to pursue more meaningful activities.

Children need alone time to reflect and explore. They require the space to contemplate what’s important in their lives and to master knowledge and skills that will allow them to achieve their goals. Soft addictions are enemies of reflection, exploration and skill development.

The epidemic spread of soft addictions has been documented by the media. Report after report indicates that children are spending more time than ever before in front of computers, televisions and game screens. Other studies reveal an alarming percentage of children who are overweight, softly addicted to junk food and fast food restaurants, obsessed with celebrity worship and dedicated to shopping for just the right clothes is also increasing.

Parents can have perspective and need to take responsibility for helping their children manage these soft addictions. Too often, they often model behaviors that encourage kids to fall into soft addiction routines instead. For instance, many parents come home from work and spend the majority of post-dinner hours slumped in front of the television. overeat or even work out compulsively, unwilling to take a day off from their exercise routine no matter what else is happening in their lives. Other parents model gossiping behaviors, spending hours each week e-mailing and phoning friends about who is fooling around with whom.

I’m not suggesting that parents or their children go "cold turkey" an quit all soft addictions. As human beings, most of us have some soft addictions. We can still live a full, meaningful existence if these activities are part of our lives. But they need to be a minor rather than a major part. We work with many adults—professionally successful people who are also parents—who say the same thing about their lives: "There must be more than this."

There is, but they won’t find it unless they redirect their time and energy to more conscious, fulfilling endeavors. This doesn’t mean they have to try and save the earth and work in soup kitchens to feed the hungry (though these aren’t bad ideas). Rediscovering the fine art of conversation, visiting friends, going for walks in the woods, expressing their feelings to people they care about, listening to inspirational music—all this can add meaning.

Just as important, it can provide a healthy behavioral model for their children. Consciously or not, kids are great imitators, and softly-addicted parents tend to produce softly-addicted kids. It’s very difficult for parents to tell kids to stop watching so much television when they’re guilty of the same type of mindless, habitual behaviors. Parents will find, however, that if they learn to spend their time more meaningfully, not only will their lives be more satisfying but they’ll help create more satisfying lives for their children.

Judith Wright is an internationally recognized author, speaker, educator, life coach, and seminar leader. She founded the Wright Institute for Lifelong Learning, Inc., with her husband, Bob, after twenty years of developing innovative, inspirational education and personal growth programs at the university and private levels. The Chicago-based Wright Institute helps people fulfill their potential in the areas of Work, Relationship, Self, and Spirit through seminars, coaching, and in-depth training programs. Judith has taught workshops on overcoming soft addictions and creating More for twelve years. You may contact her through her Web site at www.theremustbemore.com.

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