Railroads and helicopters: the vehicles of bad parenting

There’s a quote up on the wall in my therapy room: “Prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child”.  It’s an old folk wisdom saying.  Yes be your child’s advocate, but to what extent will they be able to cope when you’re not around?

Here’s some interesting reading for those of you who enjoy commentary on the world as it stands, and more specifically how that might be affecting the development of our children. One such book is “The Coddling of the American Mind: how good intentions and bad ideas are setting up a generation for failure” by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt.  While I must admit that I have not read the book myself yet, this is why Mark Manson’s comments interested me:

  • The book describes why kids who grew up with smartphones are emotionally stunted, overly fragile and exhibiting mental health issues at alarming rates.  Yes, mental health.  Not just square eyes like our parents told us we’d get from watching too much tv. One of our previous posts commented on this specific issue.
  • The book focuses on cultural shifts that have happened over the past few generations, and doesn’t just jump on the band wagon of why “social media is so terrible and ruining our lives”.

According the  to the review (profanity warning!), Haidt and Lukianoff argue with a lot of convincing data that adolescents today are maturing emotionally and psychologically at lower rates and later than ever before. Their main targets are:

  • The ballooning dysfunction of school bureaucracies, who are now treating kids as customers rather than students.
  • The trend of “helicopter parenting,” where paranoid parents are coddling their children, protecting them from everything that is uncomfortable and/or potentially threatening.
  • Of course our favourite: The heightened expectations for academic achievement — most childhood development happens through playing with other kids. Kids these days play less than ever before, and when they do play, they are often isolated. Instead, they’re busy doing homework and prepping for college applications, sometimes as young as kindergarten.
  • There is also the obligatory “social media is ruining everything” chapter that we all know and love.

Gwilliamsfamilyeye also reviewed the book and had the following to say: “Lukianoff and Haidt are college professors who are watching how students act and the responses of the administrations. The authors are concerned about how “safetyism” is interfering with the ability of colleges to fulfill their mission. Safetyism shields young people from the experiences which will be uncomfortable in the short term but are necessary to develop the character and antifragility necessary to handle the challenges that life will present to them. The authors recognize that life is now more stressful for children than it was in the past and that true trauma can be disabling, but the definition of trauma cannot be allowed to creep until everything that someone doesn’t like is considered trauma.”

Safetyism.  Now that’s a new term for me but one that makes so much sense, especially in terms of all I’ve been reading about how we don’t let our children engage in enough risky play.  I’m a boy mom and guilty as charged.  I hate to see them take risks.  Maybe the trick is to watch over them a little less closely.  Is it even responsible parenting to say that?

Now you might not like doom and gloom predictions, the tech vs traditional upbringing decisions you have to make for your children on a daily basis, but take the time to read the excerpt below:

 “From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice. I hope that you will suffer betrayal because that will teach you the importance of loyalty. Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take friends for granted. I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either. And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then, your opponent will gloat over your failure. It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship. I hope you’ll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others, and I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion. Whether I wish these things or not, they’re going to happen. And whether you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes.”

To what extent does your child’s environment get adapted to cater for their needs on a daily basis?  To what extent are they being protected from risk and “trauma”, perhaps at the expense of becoming a well-functioning adult some day?

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The above article is intended to keep us open-minded as we navigate childcare together.  We all want the best for our children and find ourselves in unchartered waters.  We’d love to hear from you, but please be nice.  Any defamatory or discriminatory comments will be removed.

A bunch of toddlers and a blank slate

So yesterday was a new experience and a big risk. We took some toddlers, a new photographer and an open forest with a bunch of our toys to see whether we could get some great shots of the kids having fun.  The kids knew each other but didn’t see each other often.  None of them were models save for posing for their moms’ IG accounts.  They weren’t familiar with the toys.  And guess what? We got some great shots.  Why?

There was no agenda.  The kids were presented with open-ended toys.  The photographer needed some explanation as to what could be done with them, but the kids didn’t.  Kids have the most fun when they are able to use their imaginations, and when toys have more than one purpose.

I saw a quote recently that said “Ask: Is this toy 90 percent child and 10 percent toy, or 90 percent toy and 10 percent child? If there’s only one thing to do with it, then the toy is controlling everything. This one’s more open-ended, so he gets to make his own world.” – Dr. Roberta Golinkoff, professor of psychology at University of Delaware and co-author of the New York Times best seller speaking about Bilibo from Moluk.

There is a school of thought related to play called the Theory of Loose Parts.  If you know me personally you will have heard me talk about it many times.  When children are left in an open space, with random unfamiliar objects lying around, they will start to imagine, create and play – creating their own toys and play space in a unique way that allows for much more brain development than the fanciest toys we can provide.  You see, play is innate.  Children were designed for play.  We as adults interfere way too much and way too often, stifling the creativity that is waiting to emerge.

Anything can be used as loose parts: old tyres, wooden offcuts, buttons, household items.  When children are given the freedom to explore we will be astounded not only by their creativity but also their ability to handle what we might see as dangerous objects.  Scandinavian playgrounds would shock many helicopter parents with their liberal use of loose parts and their faith in children’s abilities.  Yes accidents do happen, but they happen anywhere.  We need to intervene less and watch more.  And if you want to treat your children to new toys, look for ones with infinite opportunity to be used in creating their own play scenarios.

Happy playing!  And we’ll share some of the pics soon 🙂