The gift of sleep

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You don’t have to be an academic genius to succeed.  You don’t have to be a degreed person to have a satisfying, well paid job.  In fact, with the rapid pace of technology and globalization expansion, the most successful people are not necessarily those with the most knowledge or the most smarts but those who have great people skills and are flexible, motivated, self-disciplined and honest.

In the old days, parents and religious leaders were the primary builders of character and ethics in children, and schools were the supporting act—reinforcing a pretty universal standard of work ethics, obedience, respect, good manners and the 3R’s.

Unfortunately today, educators are often on first base to instill character attributes in children.

That’s the whole idea behind the new program that will be phased in at the Stettler Elementary and Middle Schools starting this year.

In Stephen Covey’s book, “The Leader in Me”, he speaks to the educational system about how to build character and leadership skills in a world where many parents cannot be counted on to model responsibility and religion plays a much smaller role in many homes.

The cornerstone of the program is based on Covey’s book, “The 7 Habits of a Highly Effective Person.”

The habits include being proactive; planning ahead and setting goals; putting first things first; thinking win-win; seeking first to understand, then to be understood; valuing other people’s strengths and learning from them; and taking care of one’s physical body by eating right, exercising and getting sleep.

And therein is a big problem that can’t be solved by teachers or any program, it’s solely a parental/guardian responsibility. Teenagers need nine hours of sleep a night, yet on average they are getting seven hours. Younger children require ten to eleven hours of sleep a night, the average is far lower.

Where is the sleeping hours going?

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that children between the ages of 12 and 18 in the United States average seven hours a day watching television or using some form of electronic device. And since more Canadians than Americans use the internet, 83 per cent versus 78 per cent, it’s not an over-reach to suggest Canadian children are at 49 hours per week or more.

So is there any wonder what’s wrong with our school system today?

The “Leader in Me” program is excellent, but its full potential can only be achieved when there is a solid commitment from parents in the areas of sleep and technology use.

Parents need to turn the page and start modeling good technology behavior.  They need to have the courage to remove TVs from their children’s bedrooms and not allow cell phones to rob children of quality sleep time.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that excessive electronic media use leads to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders and obesity.

Teachers will have some success in shaping character, leadership and life skills in their students, but they are not magicians.

Our children are facing a very complicated world and they need a full tool kit to survive and flourish.   Parents/Guardians can do much through the simple act of giving their kids the gift of sleep.

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