I remember growing up on Cape Briton Island in Nova Scotia, being 5 years old and running around the neighborhood with a pack of other 4, 5, & 6 year olds. We built tree forts (albeit not very good ones), we played Peter Pan & Captain Hook and swung out of old Hangmans tree looking for pirates. We ran through the fields behind our houses and ate wild blueberries and raspberries till we were stuffed. We caught tad poles in jars down at the creek. We ate lunch at whom ever's house we ended up at when we got hungry.
I loved my childhood!!!!
Of course now younger parents are shocked. "Your mother let a 5 year old run around by her self with out an adult there?!" .... Oh yes, she did!!!
Now days we live in a society that seems to think that children are incapable of doing anything for or by themselves. Parents of my childrens friends talk about soccer on Mondays, swimming on Wednesdays, play dates on Fridays, library on Saturdays and Ballet on Sundays. And when their children aren't involved in some organized educational or physical activity, they continue to hover: "Don't touch that, it might be dirty!" "Don't climb that tree! You'll fall down and break your arm", "Don't jump in that puddle! You'll get mud on your (designer) jeans!" These are the same parents that seem to never go anywhere without a bottle of hand sanitizer and a pack of wet wipes. For so long I have stared around me at all these hovering parents, wondering if there was something I was missing. Was I a neglectful parent?
What happened to encouraging a childs imagination? What happened to fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants fun?
I know it's been a long time since I've really written any new articles here on Informed Parenting- I"ve been pretty over whelmed with a thousand and one things this winter and my blog has sort of been gathering dust. Then this evening I read an article that demanded my response and I instantly began typing here to share my enthusiasm with all of you.
The article, entitled "The Over Parenting Crisis" is written by Attachment Parenting author Katie Allison Granju. Katie opens the article by talking about steriotypical mothers of the 50's, the June Cleavers, in their pressed aprons and perfectly coiffed hair and their picture perfect homes with their perfect cassaroles, and questions if we've broken away from the "Homemaker" mold to become free women or if in fact we've taken on another set of shackles to bind us. Todays Helicopter parents take parenting to the limit.
As I read the article I couldn't help cheering and reading excerpts out loud to my husband (who also grew up as a free spirit, climbing mountains behind his house when he was 8 and riding his bike two kilometers to school with his 6 year old brother in tow). Finally!!! Someone who understood!
Last week, I was eating a meal with the parents of a lovely one-year-old child, their first. As the very cute baby played with her food, I noticed she was managing to get quite a bit of her mashed peas into her rosebud mouth with her small spoon."Wow, she's really getting the hang of that spoon," I commented with a smile.
"Yes," her mother replied, "I've been working really hard with her on it all week. It's kept me pretty busy."
Working really hard on teaching her to use a spoon? All week? Kept her pretty busy?
I shouldn't have been surprised. Hearing this intelligent, accomplished woman with a master's degree in biology tell me how consuming she's found teaching her toddler to use a spoon is just one more example of our current culture of hysterical parenting. I mean, really, when did parenting become this difficult? When did the admirable quality of involved parenting become this?While it's one thing to be pleased — even proud — over baby's ability to connect spoon with mouth, it's quite another for her mother to become that invested in it, logistically or emotionally.
Wait, wait, you may be asking. Aren't you that same Katie Allison Granju who wrote a parenting book telling people to give their children more attention? Well, yes, and no. I did write the book Attachment Parenting (for which Dr. William Sears wrote the introduction), and I do believe strongly that infants and very young children thrive best with a high-touch, responsive style of parenting, but I'm also that mom who encouraged her two-year-old to play in the mud — some of which he certainly ate — and her five-year-old to climb trees. Yes, my kids slept with me as infants — because I found we all got the most sleep that way — but the kids were enjoying sleepovers with family and friends by kindergarten.
These days, I let my youngest kid enjoy his growing collection of pocket knives, and I expect my children toIn the past decade and a half, the parenting zeitgeist has shifted . . . into overdrive. ride their scooters out of my eyesight in our urban neighborhood. And I frequently tell my children that since I already completed elementary school, and have no intention of repeating the work, they will need to do their homework without me hovering nearby.
I have often described my parenting philosophy as "benign neglect." Responsive parenting means just that: we respond to children's needs. It's not the same as over-parenting, in which we anticipate, preempt, or take control of our children's needs and developmental tasks.
"Benign Neglect".... not only did she understand, she even had a name for my style of parenting!!!!
Parents have a huge impact on how their children turn out, and that's precisely why we need to take a hard look at the obsessive, controlling, perfectionistic parenting culture we're living in. In fact, facilitating children's ability to function independently, to figure things out, and to grow into themselves without excessive interference is in itself an essential task of parenting.
Parents' increasing obsession with creating a totally germ-free environment for children offers an instructive example of the way over-parenting is counterproductive. Fifteen years ago, when I brought my first baby home from the hospital, his father and I were instructed to keep him away from obviously sick people during the newborn period. After that, our pediatrician told us that exposure during infancy and childhood to household and environmental germs was part of building a healthy immune system.
Fast forward to 2007, as parents now attempt to create an artificially germ-free childhood. Not only do they avoid exposing their kids to sick people, they surround their children with antibacterial soaps and washes. They buy toys and baby gear coated in space-age, microbe-resistant surfaces, and trips to the grocery store require a specially made "shopping cart cover" meant to prevent little Liam or Ava from encountering anyone else's bacteria.
But medical experts are pleading with parents to stop with the anti-germ hysteria because rather than preventing illness in children, it's actually causing it, encouraging the growth of treatment-resistant strains of bacteria, and preventing kids' exposure in the healthy doses required to grow a strong immune system.
Yep, that's right, it turns out that regular, old, everyday germs are good for kids. So is regular,
When parents micromanage children's lives, everyone loses.
HERE to read the entire article
Yes. GERMS. and DIRT.
So please, the next time you feel the urge to tell your child "Don't do that, You'll break your leg!" .... sit back. Let them have fun. Let them eat dirt and jump in puddles. Yea, you'll have extra laundry to do, but does it really matter?
As for me, well, this article kinda reaffirmed for me that I'm on the right path. My 8 year old took her 6 and almost 4 year old siblings to the park today. And yes I worried for a moment or two, but the look of pride on her face was enough for me to realize that I really don't need to be a hover craft. At least not all the time.