Friday, April 4, 2014

Provoking Articles, Part 2: Are We Creating Risk Adversed Children, Pampering Them Too Much, Taking Away Their Creativity?

The Overprotected Kid, by Hannah Rosin

Interesting Quote(s)

"Actions that would have been considered paranoid in the ’70s—walking third-graders to school, forbidding your kid to play ball in the street, going down the slide with your child in your lap—are now routine. In fact, they are the markers of good, responsible parenting."

"When you ask parents why they are more protective than their parents were, they might answer that the world is more dangerous than it was when they were growing up. But this isn’t true, or at least not in the way that we think. For example, parents now routinely tell their children never to talk to strangers, even though all available evidence suggests that children have about the same (very slim) chance of being abducted by a stranger as they did a generation ago. Maybe the real question is, how did these fears come to have such a hold over us? And what have our children lost—and gained—as we’ve succumbed to them? "

"In recent years, Joe Frost, Sweeney’s old partner in the safety crusade, has become concerned that maybe we have gone too far [in creating safety policies for playgrounds, etc]. In a 2006 paper, he gives the example of two parents who sued when their child fell over a stump in a small redwood forest that was part of a playground. They had a basis for the lawsuit. After all, the latest safety handbook advises designers to “look out for tripping hazards, like exposed concrete footings, tree stumps, and rocks.” But adults have come to the mistaken view “that children must somehow be sheltered from all risks of injury,” Frost writes. “In the real world, life is filled with risks—financial, physical, emotional, social—and reasonable risks are essential for children’s healthy development.”"

"At the core of the safety obsession is a view of children that is..., “an idea that children are too fragile or unintelligent to assess the risk of any given situation,” argues Tim Gill, the author of No Fear, a critique of our risk-averse society. “Now our working assumption is that children cannot be trusted to find their way around tricky physical or social and emotional situations.”"

My Opinion

I recall hanging out with my bestie and her children. I have always admired her parenting style, and hope I can live up to it one day. She is very relaxed in her parenting style, in that she lets her kids be kids. For example, if her kids are playing outside and one stands on a wall, she will warn that they could fall, but ultimately leaves it up to them whether or not they want to pursue this behavior. Of course if the fall was extremely dangerous, she would - of course - rescue them. The point is, she will warn them and then let them experience what it could be like to 'conquer the wall' or 'fall off.' Sure, the repercussions of falling means tears, potential scrapes, etc., but she doesn't rush over and stop her kids from being adventurous.

As I write this, I can't help but do a quick check on the "political correctness" of my statements. I am not saying that parents shouldn't rescue kids who are doing super dangerous things. All I am saying is by nature we want to protect our children from harm...any harm. Allowing them to fall gives them the experience they need to learn from their mistakes, pick themselves up, enhance creativity, overcome fear, defend themselves, and learn how to be independent.

Another favorite quote from the article: "Children are born with the instinct to take risks in play, because historically, learning to negotiate risk has been crucial to survival; in another era, they would have had to learn to run from some danger, defend themselves from others, be independent. Even today, growing up is a process of managing fears and learning to arrive at sound decisions. By engaging in risky play, children are effectively subjecting themselves to a form of exposure therapy, in which they force themselves to do the thing they’re afraid of in order to overcome their fear. But if they never go through that process, the fear can turn into a phobia."

School Ditches Rules on Bullies, by TV NZ One News

Interesting Quote(s)

"Chaos may reign at Swanson Primary School with children climbing trees, riding skateboards and playing bullrush during playtime, but surprisingly the students don't cause bedlam, the principal says."

"The school is actually seeing a drop in bullying, serious injuries and vandalism, while concentration levels in class are increasing."

"Principal Bruce McLachlan rid the school of playtime rules as part of a successful university experiment."

"We want kids to be safe and to look after them, but we end up wrapping them in cotton wool when in fact they should be able to fall over."

"Mudslides, skateboarding, bullrush and tree climbing kept the children so occupied the school no longer needed a timeout area or as many teachers on patrol."

"Instead of a playground, children used their imagination to play in a "loose parts pit" which contained junk such as wood, tyres and an old fire hose."

"The kids were motivated, busy and engaged. In my experience, the time children get into trouble is when they are not busy, motivated and engaged. It's during that time they bully other kids, graffiti or wreck things around the school."

"The great paradox of cotton-woolling children is it's more dangerous in the long-run."

"Society's obsession with protecting children ignores the benefits of risk-taking."
"Children develop the frontal lobe of their brain when taking risks, meaning they work out consequences. "You can't teach them that. They have to learn risk on their own terms. It doesn't develop by watching TV, they have to get out there." "

My Opinion
In my last article post, I discussed letting kids be kids and the risks we take (as parents, teachers, guardians, etc.) when we pamper our kids. By not letting our kids engage in "kid" activities, we are taking away their ability to learn how to work out problems - even social issues.

This experiment demonstrates the psychological benefits of letting kids be kids. Right now, traditional education means sitting for hours inside a classroom with little physical activity. While this may be stimulating for some children, it is not for others. It is not a secret that education experts have been tackling the issue of attention in the classroom. When my parents moved and enrolled my little brother in a new elementary school, I was shocked to hear that they only had 30 minutes of recess and ZERO physical education classes.

It is no wonder I read an article everyday about how students aren't meeting testing scores, and that ADHD is a common diagnoses for hyperactive children expected to sit for hours in non-physically stimulating classrooms. I digress.

I was happy to read in this article that by exposing students to unorthodox playtime, there was evidence of advancement in both physical and mental aspects. This letting kids be kids thing can go a long way, don't you agree?

I'm Done Making My Kid's Childhood Magical, by Bummi Laditan in the Huffington Post 

Interesting Quote(s)

"Today, parents are being fed the idea that it benefits children to constantly be hand in hand, face to face, "What do you need my precious darling? How can I make your childhood amazing?""

"Parents do not make childhood magical. Abuse and gross neglect can mar it, of course, but for the average child, the magic is something inherent to the age. Seeing the world through innocent eyes is magical. Experiencing winter and playing in the snow as a 5-year-old is magical. Getting lost in your toys on the floor of your family room is magical. Collecting rocks and keeping them in your pockets is magical. Walking with a branch is magical."

"It is not our responsibility to manufacture contrived memories on a daily basis."

"None of this negates the importance of time spent as a family, but there is a huge difference between focusing on being together and focusing on the construction of an "activity." One feels forced and is based on a pre-determined goal, while the other is more natural and relaxed. The immense pressure that parents put on themselves to create ethereal experiences is tangible." 

"When we make life a grand production, our children become audience members and their appetite for entertainment grows. Are we creating a generation of people who cannot find the beauty in the mundane?"

"Do we want to teach our children that the magic of life is something that comes beautifully gift-wrapped -- or that magic is something you discover on your own?
Planning elaborate events, daily crafts, and expensive vacations isn't harmful for children. But if the desire to do so comes from a place of pressure or even a belief that the aforementioned are a necessary part of one's youth, it's time to reevaluate."

My Opinion

In DC I had the awesome opportunity to know several peer nanny's. I asked some of them the question: do the kids expect you to entertain them all day? I have also asked several of my mom friends if their children demand their attention, or if they are keen on playing by themselves? I had various responses to this question, but the majority told me that the children expected their undivided attention. 

In Virginia, we had three little girls who lived in our building. They would often stop by to say hello, and ask if we could come play. We loved their parents and told them that one day we would love to have them over to play. So, we set a play date. The goal was to paint nails, do hair and make-up and watch a movie of their choice equaling up to 2 hours of fun. 

Not even 10 minutes through, all the girls' nails were done, they didn't want to do make-up, and the movie was in. No lie, within 20 minutes, they said, "what are we going to do now?" You mean the activity I planned that was supposed to take 2 hours isn't adequate enough? I had run out of ideas. 40 minutes into our play date, they all went home. They were starved for more entertainment - I just couldn't deliver.

In my babysitting experience, I am used to watching several children at once. I find the most satisfaction watching children who use their imaginations to create festive tea parties, create entire populaces full of princesses, build a city that could be destroyed and re-built for hours and hours, and enjoy the children who didn't demand my entire attention - especially when there is more than one child. When there is more than one child demanding my attention, which I truly want to give because I love all the kids I watch, it is tough. 

I agree that families should have fun, productive time together. However, becoming a constant entertainer is overwhelming. What do you do to let your child discover their independence in play?

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