08 December 2009

We're not alone...even though our kid was the only toddler going down the big slide.

I'd first like to thank Pastor Larry Doornbos of Evergreen Ministries for finding this link and posting it on his blog, where I could hijack it and bring it here.

It seems there is a backlash against over-protective parenting. The article, by Nancy Gibbs from Time.com, calls these parents "Helicopter Parents". As if I needed another reason to dislike rotor-wing aircraft.

Helicopter parents are constantly hovering, making sure their kid is safe and secure at all times, ensuring a successful and bright future. Football helmets for playgrounds and toddler knee pads, these parents are all about protecting their offspring.

But many are calling out that these parents are going about it the wrong way. By protecting their children from accidents, they fail to learn how to play and be active. Not allowing them to walk home from the bus stop for fear of kidnapping contributes to their sense of entitlement, not to mention their expanding waistlines and sedentary lifestyle.

Overparenting is like an allergic reaction, calling up all of the body's reserves even as the threat is diminished, or non-existent. Consider this statement by Gibbs:

"From peace and prosperity, there arose fear and anxiety; crime went down, yet parents stopped letting kids out of their sight; the percentage of kids walking or biking to school dropped from 41% in 1969 to 13% in 2001. Death by injury has dropped more than 50% since 1980; yet parents lobbied to take the jungle gyms out of playgrounds, and strollers suddenly needed the label "Remove Child Before Folding"."

Shan and I experience this all the time. We were at the park last summer, letting Eli run around and be himself. He had just discovered that the stairs on the play structure went all the way to the top of the big slide. Once up there, he went down the big slide. This is the same big slide that scared Mommy a few months before, and gave Daddy all sorts of floor-burn type injuries on his hands, feet, toes, fingers, knees, and elbows not long after.

It's a really big slide.

Eli was going down the slide all by himself.

There was another boy there, about four, who's grandmother repeatedly told him not to go down the slide, as it was too big and dangerous, and "it scares Grandma. You're too little."

I'm sure that Grandma means well, and wants the best for little Jimmy, or Timmy, or whatever the little dude's name was. But in telling him no, she was severely limiting his ability to learn and discover his limits. He wanted to go down the slide. I would have let him. If it scared him, then he wouldn't do it any more. If not, well, he just discovered something else fun to do.

Just as four-year-old little Jimmy or Timmy was being denied a ride because of his diminutive size, one-and-a-half year old Elijah popped out from the bottom of the slide, huge grin on his face, and made a beeline for the stairs to have another go.

We will never produce daring, adventurous, risk-taking people who move and shake the world if we never let them take any risks as children. If we teach them to be afraid of everything, they will be.

Along with the risk-averse parenting that doesn't let children be children, there also comes a ridiculously high standard set for education. Preschools introducing Mandarin Chinese into their curriculum, in order to prepare children for their place in the coming global business world. Preschools! "What color is this crayon, Johnny?" "Purple." "No, Johnny, in Mandarin, please."

Parents rush out to buy cookbooks featuring recipes that supposedly increase intelligence. Some states have even provided every newborn with a copy of the CD Build Your Baby's Brain Through the Power of Music, based on some research claiming that classical music will temporarily increase IQ.

But it doesn't stop there. Many college campuses have web cams in common areas, specifically for parents who wish to check in on their students. Or consider global powerhouse Ernst & Young, who provides "parent packs" for all new hires, on the assumption that parents will be present for salary and benefit negotiations.

Good luck standing up for yourself, Johnny! Even if you do, Mommy will be right behind you anyway.

Imagine the stress we're placing Johnny under! Think of all the things he'll have to live up to, never knowing if he is truly "good enough" for Mommy. That's not to mention all the stress that Mommy and Daddy are feeling every time little Johnny isn't at the top of his class. It's probably due to their poor parenting skills, they assume, and rush to buy another Dr. Phil book. Or Dr. Dobson, take your pick.

Let them be kids. Let them skin their knees on bicycles and jungle gyms. Let them walk to school, or ride their bike. Let them run around in the woods with the rest of their friends.

We are raising our children to become responsible adults in the world. Before they can become adults, we need to let them be kids.

On the way out, here's a funny comic about overparenting.



CeridianMN said...

Amen to that. We have been tasked with preparing our children to be strong men & women of God. I partially blame the modern instant communication capabilities. 40 years ago kids were more likely to be taken, but people did not hear about it as much, especially if it was not in the immediate vicinity. Now, if a child goes missing in Arizona it is plastered all over the news in Maine scaring yet more parents into preventing their children from being kids. My other big pet peeve is the inability of people to take responsibility for their own actions. (I did not make a parenting mistake, that toy company screwed up and should pay me for my childs broken arm!)
Parents need to stop trying to legislate extreme safety, let their kids be kids, and acknowledge that accidents happen and they might actually make some stupid mistakes as parents. Of course, the whole taking responsibility thing is a different topic...

The Wingnut said...


Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

You're right too, I think that the 24hr news cycles contribute directly to the culture of fear that we're instilling in the next generation.

If I recall correctly, a certain Rabbi once commanded us to "Fear Not".

It's tough to convince everyone to not live in fear when that's all the news channels feed us.