How truthful can we be with kids?
Jim, a single fifty-five-year-old raising a five-year-old son, Luke, posed the following child-rearing question:
“I decided to have Luke when I was 49. Why a single man would suddenly decide to have a child at that age is another story, but I did. I did the whole thing: I used an egg donor, my own sperm, and found a surrogate to carry Luke. Last week, as I was making coffee, Luke asked: ‘Where did I come from?’
Are you an over-involved parent, or are you a “slow parent?” Do you make yourself known to the teacher on the first day of school or do you think it is better to just watch and wait? How involved are you with your child’s homework? Are you pushing your child too hard or not enough? These days parents are criticized for being “helicopters” or “snow plows” on the one hand, and on the other criticized for being “unengaged” in school–sometimes in the very next breath. These questions all reflect that our eye is on the wrong ball.
The question isn’t: “Is your parenting slow or fast,” but “Whose foot is on the accelerator?”
Last week, a proud mother wanted to show me how beautifully her fifteen-month-old daughter was progressing. “Show Mr. Rick how you can walk,” she said. When the child refused, the mother said, “She doesn’t do it when we want her, too.” That’s right, I thought, and that is something for you to be proud of and nurture. She is on a mission, and it comes from within, but pleasing you is not it.
There is a natural tendency for parents to want to have their children meet or exceed the benchmarks of “normal” whether it is walking, talking, reading or learning algebra. This is often taken too far. In many of our schools it is taken for granted that more, faster, sooner is better. Those who are “below average” are examined for some sort of dysfunction.
As a parent, grandparent and long-time school principal I am happy that many parents are feeling the need to stop pushing their children and are attracted to movements like “slow parenting.” But we are still asking: How slow should we go? How hard should we push? Those aren’t the right questions. What’s this “we?” It’s not about us; it’s about them. Carl Honore‘s titles distract us from the real issue. His son has it right: “Why do grownups have to take over everything?”
Children naturally to want learn? Schoolwork is play for them. Ask most kindergartners what they looking forward to in first grade and they will say: “Homework.” We take their love of homework away from them by owning it. It’s their homework.
Our children’s success is going to be a function of their comfort with and self-discipline in pursuing goals, not how fast or slow they move through the curriculum. Overparenting is forgetting who the chief decision maker is
“Children need people in order to become human…. It is primarily through observing, playing, and working with others older and younger than himself that a child discovers both what he can do and who he can become—that he develops both his ability and his identity….” –Urie Bronfenbrenner
CommonSenseMedia tends to go over the top in trying to motivate parents to use common sense when addressing the dangers of new technology to their children. At a recent gathering of over 200 parents and other educators in San Francisco, they opened the evening with a movie which communicates: “Watch out, or OMG will happen to your kids.” Although the video was NR, I would have rated it X for all the sex and violence it portrayed.
Is technology a force for evil or a force for good? What’s a parent to do? Although the scare tactics are unnecessary, the question is good. One parent, for instance, emailed me: “I’m concerned with the intrusion on schoolwork, the exposure to sex and violence, the creation of jaded kids instead of enthusiastic, inspired, and pro-active kids. And I’m equally concernedwith the health risks of not getting enough sleep, not getting enough time outdoors.”