Feeling Safer? Some Maryland Schools Say Parents Can Only Push Own Kids on Swings

Readers — I’m not going to make this a long post, because the craziness is pretty obvious and I think there will be an uproar against it. Suffice to say some Maryland schools have outlawed (at least for the moment) hugs, homemade cupcakes and parent volunteers pushing any child other than their own on the swings. All in the name of…well, guess.

Fear addles the mind and it REALLY addles school administrations. They respond with something like superstition, the way you wheedle with God when you’re afraid: “If we outlaw everything decent and fun, will you please keep our kids safe? Will you? We’re happy to give up cupcakes and swing pushes and hugs and frankly, any semblance of joy and trust. Just make evil go away!” If the school had pet bunnies, these would be next on the list. And then probably chocolate milk.

Ah, humans. We believe we are being modern and sane  when really we are being irrational and medieval. But so it goes and, like I said, I’m not going to make this a long post. – L

Did you pre-register and provide proof of progeny? Then go ahead and push!

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92 Responses to Feeling Safer? Some Maryland Schools Say Parents Can Only Push Own Kids on Swings

  1. millse March 20, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    Oh what a bummer! I hate things like this because not only does it tell parents that other parents are a possible threat, but it also tells parents they shouldn’t care about any other child except theirs. I’m sure all of those parents are going to be super happy paying more taxes when levy time comes for all those “other children” at school.

  2. TaraK March 20, 2013 at 8:42 am #

    It also undermines the community. I work in my daughter’s kindergarten classroom once a week. I can’t tell you how many hugs, pats on the back or high fives I give those kids in 45 minutes. Children, especially small children NEED adult contact! Can you imagine, “Mrs. K, can you push me on the swings?” “Nope, I cannot.” How sad those kids would be from the constant rejection!

  3. Kate March 20, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    Um, what’s up with the hyped headline? This is not “Maryland Schools”, this is a single county’s public schools, not the entire state. Isn’t over exaggeration of the risks one of your biggest complaints? If so, then perhaps you should not respond in kind using the same tactic. Please keep it reasonable, Lenore. Over-hyped headlines are tiresome and eventually the reasonable people will stop paying attention.

  4. Kate March 20, 2013 at 9:08 am #

    Thanks for adding the “some” to the headline!

  5. Paul Streby March 20, 2013 at 9:16 am #

    When kids other than my own ask me to push them, I grab the chains, pull them back, and let go. It’s only slightly more difficult than pushing, and reduces the risk, albeit the small one, that some hysterical adult will flip out because an adult touched a child.

  6. A Dad March 20, 2013 at 9:19 am #

    My kids are very huggy. The teachers at our public grade school here in Texas are very responsive and will hug back.
    I’m all for it.
    Kids and teachers seem to be happy with this.

  7. OMG March 20, 2013 at 9:20 am #

    Well, now that MD has to deal with pictures of guns in their schools, I guess they have to take out their fears elsewhere… every parents must be a pervert…sounds good.

  8. Steve Wildstrom March 20, 2013 at 9:23 am #

    I think what these rules are really about is keeping parents out of schools. School administrators (and some teachers) are deeply ambivalent about having parents around. They like the free labor, but they hate what they see as outside interference. In some cases, what we see is just fear-addled craziness, as you say, but I think that sometimes the madness has method to it.

  9. Hi, I'm Natalie. March 20, 2013 at 9:33 am #

    I am SO glad my daughter gets hugs at her preschool. This trend is terrifying.

  10. Missy March 20, 2013 at 9:34 am #

    I live in this particular county, and I must chime in to say how ridiculous this is. ESPECIALLY the homemade cupcakes. In the statement from the school it says that this is to protect kids who have food allergies so that everyone will know the ingredients (since store bought cupcakes will have those listed). The issue is that my son has several food allergies and I have never found a pre-made, store bought cupcake he can have. If you want to include the kid with allergies, you need to include his mom and let her bake something!!!

  11. Mike in Virginia March 20, 2013 at 9:38 am #

    Thanks Kate. My wife and I have long-term plans to move to Maryland at some point and I have been having second thoughts after reading several posts from this site about Maryland schools. And its not just CPS or ridiculous school rules, but other “nanny state” actions as well. I have to remind myself that when people blog about things, or even mainstream media reports on things, they are, often, isolated incidents and not necessarily a larger trend. Lenore is doing great work with promoting Free Range parenting and keeping these issues in the spotlight, lest they become more common, but we also need a “reality check” every now and then, lest we overreact.

  12. Warren March 20, 2013 at 10:01 am #

    One of the problems is that again the paranoid few overprotective, parents are the ones getting involved in the process. The normal parents have not because they don’t see the need to.

    It is the mentallity that we do not see any problems, and therefore do not see a need for change, and therefore do not see the need to be involved. And then before you can say Bob’s your uncle……………this happens.

    More parents need to be involved in an effort to prevent change, to keep the sanity in our schools.

    I agree with a couple of the new rules. No impromtu teacher confrences, and the lunch visits, but the rest are in the whackadoodle category.

    Never have understood why people why parents want to sit in the school lunchroom with their kids. That is their kid time with friends.

  13. Emily March 20, 2013 at 10:03 am #

    What about older siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, babysitters, and family friends? Or, what about parents who are friends with each other (and/or their kids are friends) and they alternate pick-ups and drop-offs? Suppose, for example, Jimmy and Susie are neighbours, and they’ve known each other since they can remember, and their moms (or dads, or whatever) take turns dropping them off and picking them up at school, to accommodate work schedules or something. In this case, the friend’s parent who acts almost like a second parent, wouldn’t be able to push the kid on the swings who isn’t blood-related to them.

    P.S., Missy, here’s a website where you can buy allergy-free treats for your son and his friends, if the schools won’t allow homemade anymore: http://www.divvies.com/

  14. CrazyCatLady March 20, 2013 at 10:03 am #

    What about kids? Can other kids push kids on the swings? There always seemed to be a bunch of bigger kids who wanted to play with the littler kids and pushing swings is a natural.

    For what it is worth, when I push little kids on the swings we make it into an educational activity – I say a letter of the alphabet then they repeat the letter. Kids love it, and they learn the alphabet without having to sing it.

    One more educational opportunity taken away….

  15. Emily March 20, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    P.P.S., Missy, I agree that “giving the allergic child’s parents a chance to do the baking” is more logical than buying from Divvies or similar, but logic in public schools seems to be going the way of the mimeograph machine, the cartwheel, and the high-five.

  16. Becca in Alaska March 20, 2013 at 10:20 am #

    “Siblings of students are not allowed to visit the school with the parent during the school day. IT WAS UNCLEAR THIS WEEK IF EXCEPETIONS WOULD BE MADE FOR STUDENT PERFORMANCES WHERE PARENTS AND OTHER ARE INVITED.”

    Did anyone else catch this? I don’t even know what to say.

  17. lollipoplover March 20, 2013 at 10:39 am #

    When do we teach our kids how to pump their legs on swings and use their own momentum to not need pushing?
    These kids are elementary age…maybe the parent volunteers can be used better elsewhere, instead of policing the swing sets.

    As for the cupcakes and hugs, next on the chopping block are no pictures of rainbows or unicorns. Birthdays and holidays too are banned. These administrators have lost their grip on reality.

  18. Emily March 20, 2013 at 11:19 am #

    @Lollipoplover–My mom started teaching me the “point and bend” motion for pushing myself on the swings when I was maybe three or four, but I didn’t have the co-ordination or strength to master it right away. So, considering that kids are starting school at younger and younger ages (Junior Kindergarten at 4, preschool/daycare before that), kids play outside less now, because of “safety” concerns that make parents hesitant to let them play outside unsupervised, and more demanding work schedules/competition for their time, they have less time to supervise them outside. So, I wouldn’t think it was strange for a child in kindergarten or grade one or so to have trouble pushing him-or-herself on the swings.

    Anyway, funny story: When I was starting grade one, back in 1990, when dinosaurs and fluorescent-attired joggers with cassette Walkmans roamed the Earth, we had a school assembly during the first week or so of school. During this assembly, one of the topics that was covered was playground safety. There were no rules about who could push whom on the swings, or any rules about cartwheels, tag, etc., but the “swing rules” were “no jumping from swings” and “no playing ‘spider’ on the swings.” For the uninitiated, “spider” is when one person sits on the swing normally, and the other person sits on their lap, straddled, facing inward, resembling a giant spider (four arms, and four legs, so eight limbs). However, these rules weren’t that strictly enforced, and I remember thinking, “Hey, great idea–I should try that the next time I’m at the park.” I was a “good” kid, so I wasn’t one to deliberately break rules in school, but outside of school was fair game.

  19. Christy F. March 20, 2013 at 11:23 am #

    The ban on homemade food makes my brain hurt. There must countless recipes for treats out there that are allergen free. And if you have a recipe, then you have an an ingredients list. But I guess parents cannot be trusted to not lie or spike the cookies with PCP or peanut oil.

  20. marklar March 20, 2013 at 11:32 am #

    I can see it now: perverts’ rights. Doesn’t matter whether you even are one, the marginalization of the stereotype has me feeling stigmatized. And as a single male (albeit father with grown and successful kid), I’m in the crosshairs. Don’t worry, all you school administrators and new parents; I’ve already self-censored to the point of barely even looking in any direction where there may be children.

  21. Katie March 20, 2013 at 11:41 am #

    To many rules about volunteering only discourages the potentially best volunteers from volunteering and encourages the worse. When you make volunteer requirements that are basically communistic and insane then good volunteers go away. The only people willing to put up with all those rules are the helicopter parents whose sole interest in volunteering is their own kid -watching what they do, what the teachers do, what the other kids do. And I’ve seen them say it outright that this is why they volunteer.

  22. Sarah in WA March 20, 2013 at 11:50 am #

    At my kids’ co-op preschool, we’re encouraged to parent the other children. (This would include pushing someone else’s kid on the swings.) It’s one of the basic philosophies of the school, and is in part meant to help build a sense of community.

    That said, it is hard for some of the parents. We just decided to not have cupcakes at this year’s Pre-K graduation because some parents (who were the minority, but raised the biggest stink) were concerned about allergies to the point of ridiculousness. I know allergies are a real danger, but no one in the class actually has them. :P

    I just hate to see so much selfishness and self-centeredness to the point where nearly all other parents are seen as bad or a potential threat. How is this good for anyone?

  23. Judy March 20, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

    According to the article, siblings of students are not allowed to visit the school with their parents. If that rule had been in place when my older children were in school, I would rarely have been able to volunteer.

  24. Emily March 20, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

    Oh, I didn’t catch the part about siblings not being allowed to visit during the school day. I hope they’re allowed to come with parents at pick-up time, because otherwise, parents would have to hire sitters for their younger kids who aren’t in school yet, while they do the school pick-up run.

  25. Emily March 20, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    Another thing……..only registered (and background-checked) volunteers are allowed on the playground, but they’re only allowed to play with their own kids? That’s not volunteering, that’s……playing with your own kid. That doesn’t make any sense at all. It’d also prevent playground volunteers from, say, organizing a group game of freeze tag or Octopus or something.

  26. Judy March 20, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

    @Emily, I imagine that any game as “dangerous” as freeze tag would never be allowed on that playground. I’m surprised that the administration still allows the children to swing.

  27. Sky March 20, 2013 at 12:40 pm #

    Why would a parent be pushing any SCHOOL-AGED child on a swing anyway? Shouldn’t they be swinging themselves by the time they are school age? I mean, the photo shows a little kid in a baby swint, but these are elementary schools you’re talking about, right?

  28. Sky March 20, 2013 at 12:46 pm #

    Honestly, I don’t recall parents volunteering much at all when I went to elementary school. These days, there seems to be a huge societal expectation that parents will volunteer regularly, and yet every obstacle thrown up against it. It’s a weird combination. Is the truth that schools really want fewer parental volunteers because they tend to be more meddlesome than helpful, and therefore they are throwing up as many obstacles as possible? Any teachers who can venture a guess? Do you need more volunteers? Fewer?

  29. Warren March 20, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

    Don’t worry about this. Next year, in the name of safety the school will be pulling all the playground equipment out, anyway.

    In the future, your kids will never leave home. They will sit infront of a screen at home, watching their teacher, and doing everything from the secure setting off their own living room. This way the helicopter parents can have complete control.

    They won’t want to hear that they are safer at schools, being attended to by volunteers, than at home. They completely ignore the facts that at home they are what 100X more likely to be abused, molested or abducted. No ignore that and go on believing in stranger danger.

  30. lollipoplover March 20, 2013 at 12:58 pm #

    Aren’t younger siblings considered FUTURE students of this school? What kind of public school can limit children from visiting with their parents?
    Do they provide babysitting?

    I also don’t understand why they need parent volunteers at recess. I am at a loss still understanding why there is anyone there even pushing older children on swings…

  31. mollie March 20, 2013 at 12:58 pm #

    Wow, the whole “bringing treats to school for the whole class” thing has gotten out of hand, from my perspective. Way more treats are reaching kids in a month than I saw in my whole childhood (but then again, I was raised by a health food Nazi).

    My son has an anaphylactic allergy to nuts, so instead of making a rule about what treats can be brought into his classroom, I was just advised to give the teacher a small stock of some sort of yummy thing I had vetted and approved so that every time (and it was likely about twice a week) the kids were given a treat, my kid had his own special treat he enjoyed alongside the others.

    Food allergies SUCK ROCKS. I hated it that my son couldn’t participate easily in one of the most basic human interactions: sharing food. But if your kid’s life is at stake, well, stock some safe treats for him and keep them at school for these occasions. Don’t make other kids stop bringing their own cupcakes, for Chrissakes.

    Sheesh.

    And who says grade-schoolers don’t like a push on the swings? Getting a push is a thrill, no matter what your age. Of course you can get the thing going yourself, but that’s not the point. If it were, masturbation would be the only sex we had, right?

  32. mollie March 20, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

    Oh, and God forbid I, as the mom of the allergic child, be enlisted to bake treats for every kid’s birthday!

    Aaaaaauggghhh!! My brain hurts just thinking about that.

  33. Papilio March 20, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

    Before you know it, they’ll be banning humans. Way too dangerous to have those near your school :-P

  34. Sarah March 20, 2013 at 1:11 pm #

    Maybe Lenore can send these Maryland schools the article about the pairing knife in the Walmart birthday cake. It might make them at least re-think the rule about homemade cupcakes….

  35. Diane S. March 20, 2013 at 1:14 pm #

    This is what happens when the nutjobs run the asylum I guess. I saw it over at Overlawyered, and then found the article here also (where it belongs!).

    “registered volunteers”. (in a German accent) your papers please!

    I’d yank my kids out of school (if they were still in school) right off, and give the reason specifically because of this silliness.

    Schools ask for volunteers, “because we don’t have enough money”, yet the spending per student has more than quadrupled since the 70s, and the scores are flat-lined. Lots more administrators, and more and more silly rules. We had a hall monitor in HS that would come tell us to put out our cigarettes, as it was time to head to class, so we wouldn’t be late. Guess that wouldn’t fly at all in this day. And we needed no “note from parents” saying we could smoke. One HS I attended briefly required a note from parents for that.

  36. Sarah March 20, 2013 at 1:24 pm #

    Thankfully the school district that my kids are in is still safe and sane. If I was in one of these nincompoop districts I would be forced to cough up the money for private school for three kids. Too bad my tax money would still be supporting the nincompoop schools.

  37. Papilio March 20, 2013 at 1:28 pm #

    “(in a German accent)”

    If you’re referring to nazis: they weren’t much into volunteers…
    And, of course, the vast majority of Germans (and Austrians, and Swiss) living today have nothing to do with that bunch of criminals…

  38. Katie March 20, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

    I also do wonder if the parents just say no this is insane if the school could actually enforce there silly rules. Or example if everyone just send their kids with birthday invitations the teachers could take them away if they caught the kid, but then you just send more the next day and I guess you don’t address them individually. If a parent gives another kid a hug or verbally discplines a kid what are they going to be able to do about it.

    My point being if all the parents just said this is stupid we aren’t going to follow it there is really not much the schools could do to stop it. Particularly if all the parents just decided to ignore it.

  39. Donna March 20, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

    My guess is that “safety” is just the catch-phrase of the time and that this is really to discouraging parents from visiting their kids during the day.

    These rules seem aimed more at VISITORS than volunteers. That new phenomenon of parents who can’t be without their children during a school day so find it necessary to go to school to play with them.

    Now these people often term themselves “volunteers” but they are really just going into the school to interact with their own children. If you try to get them to do something actually useful, like help the librarian with books, read with a kid (not their own) who is struggling or work with a group (that doesn’t include their kid) that needs help, they immediately balk.

    We just had an issue at our little island school. One of the teacher’s go-to mothers when she needs volunteers decided to start coming to school whenever her (overly needy) child asked her to come. And would hang out in the classroom all day. This became a weekly thing. The teacher tolerated it for a while because she likes and relies on the parent, but finally had to tell her to get out unless asked. Mom was insulted and said “I thought I was being helpful.” I thought “You really thought spontaneously showing up in a classroom and disrupting the routine all day is helpful to the teacher?” It is a private school largely run by the teacher who teaches this class (her sister founded the school and she has always taught this class). If they really thought they needed three teacher, they would have three teachers.

    As for those complaining about the younger siblings rule … really? I understand special events which seem to be somewhat excluded from this, but not in the classroom. No teacher needs to deal with the antics of a 3 year old as well as 20 5-6 year olds. And if you are spending your time dealing with your toddler, you’re not helping the teacher. Keep the little ones home. If that means that you can’t volunteer, then you can’t volunteer.

  40. lollipoplover March 20, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

    Donna, why are you assuming younger siblings are a nuisance? I taught my children to behave quietly at early ages (mostly with drawing/coloring books) while I volunteered (usually journaling or reading groups). I’ve brought the younger ones since they were infants- our school appreciates volunteers and siblings who are well behaved. Of course, if someone was crying or a distraction, I packed up and left.

  41. E. Simms March 20, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

    I get the sense that these rules are an overreaction to extreme parents causing continual commotion in the school. Why do parents need to visit their children during lunch? When I was in grade school, a student whose mother visited him at lunch would have been teased incessantly. It just didn’t happen.

  42. ifsogirl March 20, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

    When my youngest daughter, a fairly shy and quiet child, was around 4 we were at a local park waiting for some friends. She and her older sister ran over to where three girls were playing on the see-saw and the older sister started playing with the girls. There was my little one feeling left out and looking forlorn, I was just going to walk over and offer to push her when the dad to the other girls did exactly that. I thanked him and he pushed my happy little girl for a few mintues until she got bored.

    A few minutes later I scan the playground for my little one again and there she is being placed into one of those bucket swings by another dad. Again I smiled and said thank you.

    I’m happy that my little girl wasn’t afraid of people who were just trying to be friendly. She knew that she was in a safe place, that I was watching and that sometimes strangers can be helpful.

  43. Warren March 20, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

    @lollipop
    You would pack up and leave? This is what Donna is talking about. You commited to being there, and now have to leave because the younger one is acting up/out or whatever. You either come to help the kids in the class, or you don’t. Volunteering is nice, but once you do it becomes a commitment, not a recreation.

    As for lunching with your child……….don’t do it at the school. If you want a special lunch, or whatever, take the little darling out to lunch. Do not interfere with their time that they should be spending with peers. People that insist on lunching in the school with their kid, should be asked not to. I can just see these moms going to lunch with their adult children, at work later in life.

  44. CrazyCatLady March 20, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

    This visiting at lunch is something that has been going on for a while in MD. It was happening when I was working in an afterschool program on the Eastern Shore. I think the idea was by having parents there, the kids are less likely to misbehave. So, because it costs nothing, the schools encouraged it.

    The snack thing is silly. What they REALLY should be doing is to be aware of who has allergies, and then NOT FORCE KIDS TO EAT IT WHEN THEY DON”T WANT TO! When my daughter was in kinder, there was an autistic boy she was friends with. If he ate stuff with processed flour or sugar, he would have a grand meltdown and get sent home. The mom sent in replacement stuff for him, but the aids and teachers told him to not be rude and eat the cake. (Can you see my hand smacking my head here?) And then write him up for his bad behavior and send him home for a few days. For a kid who wants to please both his mom and his teacher…it was an impossible situation.

  45. Sharon March 20, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

    I went to lunch once with my daughter when she was in kindergarten. She wanted to show me how she ordered pizza. I picked a day when I was already off for a doctor’s appointment. One mother came in sat next to her daughter and never left her side.

    I volunteered for lunch duty opening lunches for K’s and answering questions like will you bring me a fork I just dropped mine. My daughter said thank you for coming and hasn’t invited me back in six years.

  46. Geena March 20, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

    Similar rules have been in place in Montgomery county MD for years – the signing in via computer and disgusting store bought food only. It all started when the school systems create “safety” director positions. These people have to find ways to justify their jobs. Here are a few personal experiences with teaching in this county. A parent freaking out that I gave kindergarteners real bird feathers to pretend to fly like different kinds of birds we were talking about because the feathers (purchased thru a feather company) might be carrying bird flu (why a little knowledge is a dangerous thing), 10 emails with scientific studies attached to convince other teachers that it is safe to play with acorns, and prohibitions against planting flowers because they attract bees.

  47. JJ March 20, 2013 at 6:19 pm #

    Is this really a phenomenon–parents lunching with kids and coming into classrooms routinely to visit? I can not imagine having that kind of time on my hands. I can go months without even seeing the school.

  48. Emily March 20, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

    I agree with the other posters who said that parents didn’t visit their kids at school when they were that age. It didn’t happen when I was a kid either, except for when parents volunteered for yard duty or field trips. A lot of the time, the kids of the parents who came to the school regularly were considered “weird,” although there were a few who could pull it off, because they had their own friends, and they didn’t hang all over their volunteering parent.

  49. Donna March 20, 2013 at 7:16 pm #

    lollipoplover – Why do you assume that only children who are crying or fussing are a distraction? ANYONE unusual in the classroom is a distraction to young children. Even the parent. They are not the most concentrating bunch. Now the value of the help may (and I do mean MAY) exceed the distraction offered in the case of the parent but not in the case of a child who is just tagging along.

    And, as Warren said, you committed to being there. If you are then forced to leave by a disgruntled younger child, your commitment is not being upheld.

    And, all this classroom volunteering puzzles me anyway. A parent never stepped foot in the classroom when I was a child. Well, maybe a handful to bring cupcakes on birthdays (most just sent them with the kids in the morning) and the field trip chaperones usually were there a few minutes before departure but definitely not a routine occurrence. I understand that schools are suffering from budget issues and need volunteers to handle some things outside the classroom. But my 1st grade teacher had about 30 kids and managed to educate us quite well without parental help. What is the difference today? Are teachers less equipped to handle a classroom full of 6-7 year olds today than they were in 1976? If that is true, maybe we should be looking for the reason why and not just begging for volunteers.

  50. valerie reeves March 20, 2013 at 7:29 pm #

    Speaking of the homemade cupcake ban….it occurs to me that it may ALSO have to do with hygiene and sanitation practices. Not knowing how clean someone’s kitchen is, or if they washed their hands before they bake…no code requirements for home kitchens.

  51. Donna March 20, 2013 at 7:57 pm #

    @JJ – YES. There was even a set price for school lunches for parents at the school my daughter attended in the US.

    This coddling of kids is really starting to bug me. Not just the roll-my-eyes at the idiocy of others, but getting me pissed off because it is affecting me. My daughter has two friends who are very coddled, pampered and babied. After spending time at their houses, my child wants me to do all these over-the-top things (like rubbing her back until she falls asleep at night) for her and it’s really starting to bother me to consistently tell her “no” to things that, in my opinion, are ridiculous for anyone to be doing.

  52. Michele March 20, 2013 at 8:52 pm #

    “We think it’s the right balance between safety and parental involvement,” said Kelly Hall, executive director of elementary schools and Title I.

    She said that elementary principals had reported many issues related to school visitors.

    I’d love to know the quantity of “many” as well as know exactly what the “issues” related to school visitors is. I’d guess the “many” is 3 or fewer and the “issues” would be absurdities.

  53. JJ March 20, 2013 at 9:10 pm #

    Donna,
    Regarding friends being coddled at home, I don’t have that same experience exactly but I do have the awkwardness of when my 10-year old’s friends come over to play and they want to go for a walk or to the park and I know their parents will have a fit if they find out that I allowed them to go alone. So I feel obligated to go with them which both my daughter and I both hate.

  54. Katie March 20, 2013 at 9:14 pm #

    @Donna I tend to agree too that some of the new rules are aimed at helicopter parents who aren’t truly interested in volunteering but in helicoptering.

    In fact I’ve seen frequent conversations on a local blog where I live that go somewhat like this.

    Poster 1: I’m unhappy with my kids school. -blah blah, etc

    Poster 2: You should volunteer there that way you can see what is really going on. It is what I do.

  55. Michele March 20, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

    I remembering thinking that I’d volunteer twice a week, which I did for about one month, when my kids started school. Then, I simply got tired of being there–horrors! Sure, helping the teacher is rewarding and needed but I just couldn’t take 2 times a week. I volunteer once a month now. ahhh, much better.

    There are many volunteers that are at school nearly as much as a full time job. I’ve learned that they are control freaks, sadly. Although commonly viewed as the “go getters” or the moms who are “really involved in their child’s education.”

  56. socalledauthor March 20, 2013 at 9:42 pm #

    The volunteer vs rules things strikes me as a disconnect between that teachers need and what administration feels they have to have in place. (Bias alert: I’m an alternative high school teacher). The teachers likely want/ need the help in the classroom, esp. if, like many areas, class sizes are inching upward as are the number of students with special issues (diagnosed or otherwise). I only have 15 students, tops in my room, and while I realize I’m really lucky on one hand, there are many days that 15 of my reprobates is about 10 too many to monitor all at once!

    Administration, however, has to play security theater and “protect the children”, cue hand-wringing. (I just got chastised again for not wearing my name badge– I replied, “If anyone doesn’t know who I am, I’ll get it from my bag.”)

    The allergy thing seems to be part of the “no one can feel like they’re different” mentality. We tell kids that they are all different and unique and special (sometimes to their later detriment) and then demand that in one way shape or form are the students’ differences noted. When I was young, my parents were very strictly anti-sugar. Being a good little girl (no, really, back then I was) I would tell my teachers that I wasn’t allowed to have the provided snack or holiday treat if it had sugar in it. Usually they offered something like a sticker or pencil– not even anything my parents provided. I never minded even though I was normally painfully shy. The sad thing is, kids today KNOW who the ‘different’ ones are, whether it’s health issues or mental issues or living with Grandma instead of mom and dad or so on and so forth. These differences don’t HAVE to be negative things. Beyond that, parents pushing for this bending-over-backwards “just in case” I think really lends itself to a sense of entitlement that the rest of the world won’t abide by.

    Anyone have any reports on a workplace banning all peanut products like some of the schools have? I mean, these sufferers from extreme allergies do usually grow up and get jobs and eat in public where their allergen could be… and it seems that life goes on. (Sometimes I think the issue is the parents, kind of a Manchuasen-by-Proxy thing, where the insecure parent gets to be IMPORTANT because they have to be SUPER PARENT to their child.)

  57. mollie March 20, 2013 at 9:57 pm #

    I passed up every opportunity to be involved in my kids’ school for the first five years they were in elementary because my own life was such a damned mess that I couldn’t pull it together enough to be a volunteer. The pleas from the school kept coming and coming, and man, did I feel guilty about it all. I couldn’t for the life of me remember any parent ever being a volunteer at school when I was a kid. I do remember a couple of kindergarten field trips with parents, but after grade 1 or 2, they weren’t along for those, either. Cupcake delivery, yes— that’s the only time I remember seeing parents (read: moms) in the school.

    When my son was in grade 5, however, I changed my tune. I was a regular in his classroom since his teacher was emphatic that I was welcome to “stop by anytime.” I did find that my son’s behaviour problems ceased, not necessarily because of my presence, but because he saw that the teacher and I were connected in a warm and friendly way, and communicating regularly.

    I’ve noticed that now when I come along on a field trip, even though he’s in middle school now, he makes a big fuss of pretending to be embarrassed, and then sometimes actually *holds my hand* while the group walks down the road! (And this kid is VERY INDEPENDENT, and a champion eye-roller, believe me.) Anyway, I guess I will say that somehow there is a happy medium between complete disconnect between school and parents, as was my case as a child, and over-involvement to the point of distraction and disruption.

    I recommend a book called “Hold on to Your Kids,” even though the title has me gagging, and held me back for years from cracking it. There are a lot of concepts in there that helped me balance my “go off and entertain yourself and don’t bother me” attitude with making sure my free-range kids know that they are a beloved part of the family, and that family isn’t something to disdain in favour of peers.

    Showing up at school occasionally helped me keep that connection with my son. But I didn’t want to hover! It was earth-shattering that I crossed the school’s threshold, believe me.

  58. Warren March 20, 2013 at 10:35 pm #

    This whole lunch thing really bothers me. When I was working shift work and was on the damned afternoon shift, I hardly got to see my girls. So once a week, usually Weds., I would pick them up and we would hit McDonalds for the all important nutritional happy meals. I would never think to sit in my kids class and have lunch with them. Or in the cafeteria with my oldest. That would be just creepy.

    Seperation anxiety, control issues, paranoia, helicoptering………..call it what you want, but an adult that needs to have lunch at the school needs help.

  59. hineata March 21, 2013 at 12:27 am #

    I’ve worked at schools where parents are actively discouraged from bringing younger siblings in if they’re volunteering, and other schools where siblings were fine, provided it wasn’t a school trip – more for ‘numbers’ and also the silly RAM requirements. Younger siblings are mostly fine, and in some cases a real benefit – they provide great ‘read-to’ models for the kids with reading difficulties.Also it’s so much fun for the kids to be able to play with babies when they’ve finished their work. So….these schools in Maryland are potentially missing out on good classroom resources, LOL!

    The above, though, only works if parents genuinely are there to volunteer, rather than just play with their own kid/check out how everyone else is going. Most people like that don’t last long, though, because if you have volunteers, you usually have long lists of stuff for them to do, and they don’t get a chance to play with their own kids – in my experience, anyway.

    And with Warren and Donna on the lunch thing – unless your child has some kind of physical disability where you need to be feeding them, lunchtime is for friends….Even/especially kids who have trouble making friends shouldn’t be having parents hang around – it just makes them stick out more.

    Especially mothers – sorry to sound anti-feminist, but while fathers are sometimes considered cool, particularly if they play rugby/basketball etc with the kids, mums are social deadeners….

    Unless, maybe they looklike Angelina Jolie, and your child is at an all-boys high school :-)

  60. Stephanie March 21, 2013 at 1:29 am #

    I’m glad my kids’ school came up with a way for me to volunteer with my youngest in tow. For whatever reason, I wasn’t supposed to have her in my son’s classroom when I volunteered, but in the “parent resource center” it was just fine, and the teacher had the kids in the class walk over for reading practice with me.

    That was a great experience for my youngest, lots of time with slightly older kids. The teacher bent the rules here and there to let us be in the classroom, and even encouraged me to stay at school through recess so my youngest could play with the other kids. The principal knew we were in the classroom some days – the day the teacher’s back went out, it was a necessity!

    And yes, plenty of hugs for the kids when they needed them.

  61. Rick March 21, 2013 at 2:05 am #

    Sad as it may seem, most public schools in California have done away with swings. Can’t find ‘em anywhere.

    And the cupcake thing… ya, we got that too. Anything that’s made in a home kitchen is taboo on campus… you can almost hear the cries of “UNCLEAN! UNCLEAN!” Then there’s the calorie count… restrictions on that, too. Halloween and holiday parties just haven’t been the same (“Here, Johnny, have another reindeer carrot stick… washed, peeled, and sliced with care at Safeway this morning).

    And hugs… well, they haven’t been outlawed yet, but we’re close. It’s a STRONG SUGGESTION that adults have no physical contact with kids that could be misconstrued. It’s all about CYA (Cover Your Assets). When they finally outlaw the hug, it will be time for me to move on to another district, state, or profession. :(

    Rick

  62. pentamom March 21, 2013 at 9:38 am #

    On one level, an ingredients list would not be good enough in the case of a severe allergy kid — only stuff made in a nut-safe kitchen with safe ingredients and utensils would be good enough.

    BUT, in those cases, only very specific brands of store bought goods are deemed safe, and those kids are pretty much taught not to eat any food not provided or checked out by their parents anyway, as the only safe measure.

    So except for those rare cases, specifying ingredients that are not allowed should be good enough. Insisting on store bought only does not gain you anything at all.

  63. Caleb March 21, 2013 at 11:53 am #

    Any wonder why I home schooled my kids?

    Now I run a childcare on my farm, so kids can learn what our grandparents took for granted.

    Some times a child falls down and scrapes a knee. Some will start wailing like an ambulance and run and run and run, wailing and wailing and wailing, to me, whereupon I resort to a medical procedure I learned from many mothers, over the past half century. I “kiss it and make it all better.”

    Don’t ask me why, but it works like a charm. The wailing stops as if you clicked a switch, and the child observes with detached interest as you put on the band aid. Then they go skipping happily off to scrape the other knee.

    Parents and teachers need to band together and take back the PTA. Otherwise public schools will create far more problems than they solve. They are becoming a laughing stock.

    I understand this story made it on to Rush Limbaugh yesterday, so now millions know about Maryland’s madness. Teachers need to stand up for their own honor and dignity.

  64. Lisa March 21, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

    @mollie, thank you for a rational, balanced post. I don’t equate being an involved parent with being a helicopter parent. I work full time, but have arranged my schedule so I am available to volunteer at school sometimes. I run my daughter’s 5th grade math team, pulling the 11 kids who signed up out of their classrooms for an hour once a month. I’ve gone in to help with special events, and try to make at least half of the things we get invited to during the day (school concert, author’s breakfast, biography day, etc). What’s more, outside of school I am *highly* involved. I don’t do this to “protect” my child, but because the opportunities she and other kids enjoy would not be available without parent volunteers. So I’ve coached her soccer team, I coordinate an age group for the soccer club, I work backstage on the plays she’s in, and lately I’ve been volunteering to sit in rehearsals (keeping kids quiet, being a second adult there wit the director in case of emergency, and making sure everyone signs in and out). Hovering? NO! She sometimes gets annoyed when I’m there, mostly she doesn’t care. I don’t volunteer at lunch and recess at school because I’m not available then, but I appreciate those who do – teachers aren’t with their class at those times, they have their lunch break. Parent volunteers work in the cafeteria, help kids with anything they need, remind them to clean up, open milk and help with outdoor gear for younger kids, and tell them when it’s time to come in from recess to go to lunch. I don’t think our school encourages younger siblings to visit either, except for things like the school concert… which doesn’t seem to be a huge problem. Parents who have younger kids without child care simply find other ways to help out (lots of behind-the-scenes work to be done… coordinating things like the science fair, math night, ice cream social, book fair, etc). Just like working parents without daytime availability do.
    Some schools do allow visitors at lunch/recess (not volunteers, but parents who want to have lunch with their kid). I don’t think I would do so, but I don’t think it’s horrible either, if both parent and child want it and if it’s done occasionally. Parents and teachers are partners, and there is no harm in kids seeing them cooperating and working together to provide the best experience for kids.

  65. Emily March 21, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    About the no-hugging rule, well, I don’t necessarily agree with banning kids from hugging their friends, but adults are another story. At some point, kids are going to have to learn that it’s not okay to hug just anyone and everyone, and that teachers aren’t like parents–it’s more of a “business relationship.” I think most non-mentally-handicapped kids could understand that, if it was explained to them clearly and succinctly, and even developmentally delayed kids should be taught about boundaries, even if they take longer to learn. This can benefit kids too, because the message that even “positive” physical contact isn’t positive if it’s unwanted, is a good one, and it could empower kids to say “no” to physical contact that they don’t want, no matter who initiates it.

    The only problem is, what’s the right age for that lesson? At what age do teachers back off and stop tying shoes, wiping faces, etc.? My mom taught me (at my insistence) how to tie my shoes before I started kindergarten, so I could fully dress myself at that age, but lately I’ve been reading articles about kids starting kindergarten without even being potty-trained (and then the lazy parents who couldn’t be bothered to P/T their kids crying “discrimination” at the schools for “excluding” kids who are “incontinent”), so YMMV.

  66. hineata March 21, 2013 at 3:00 pm #

    @Emily – I think you noted on another post yesterday that you are not that keen on hugs etc., which is absolutely fine – many people are not. If you were teaching I think simply telling the kids that you prefer them not to hug you would do the trick…..they would simply run off and hug someone else.

    I am, myself, against kids being told they can’t hug any adult at a school though, because a lot of chidren do need hugs/’good’ touch to get through their day, particularly the younger ones. What you guys refer to as kindergarten is older than when our kids start regular school, so we have lots of five year olds in the playground, and many of those will run up and hug an available adult at some point during the day. Particularly the Island and Maori kids, but the Pakeha kids at that age too. A good old-fashioned hug helps them to feel grounded, I think, and to feel that school is an okay place to be.

    As they get older, they tend to do that less often, to the point where the only time we really get hugs from the eight and overs is if

    a/they are really in a super good mood,
    b/they are really upset, or
    c/you’ve given them a present.

    So the ‘problem’ if you could call it that, tends to take care of itself, with age and familiarity with school.

    I am very thankful that the school and cluster that I work in hasn’t outlawed normal stuff like that – we have other issues to concern ourselves with, all the silly side stuff like reading and math, LOL! But there are signs that the silliness is reaching Godzone – I was at a PD course a while back and one teacher was talking about a colleague of her’s ‘engaging in inappropriate touching’. And what was the inappropriate touching? Yes, returning hugs in the playground when tackled by five and six year olds.Because ‘what would people think?’

    Oh, I don’t know, maybe that she was hugging kids. God save us from the madness….

  67. Katie March 21, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

    Disagree on the hugging rule. Hugging is friendly and a nice thing to do. Why must be turn the world into a cold sad place? Teachers are human too, they deserve hugs and there is nothing wrong with that. I think it is really sad that kids are told don’t hug anyone, but at the same time told compete with everyone.

    But I do agree with you about kids who are 5 and not mentally handicapped who aren’t potty trained. That is ridiculous.

  68. Lissa March 22, 2013 at 9:37 am #

    In regards to kitchen hygiene: I’m willing to bet that most people’s kitchens are far cleaner than your average grocery store bakery or the plants where pre-packaged food is made. Also, I know some people will balk at this, but I never understood why people go nuts over washing your hands before you cook. I mean, I usually do, but typically you’re baking it in a 350+ degree oven for several minutes. It takes roughly 30 minutes of dry heat at about 350 to achieve the level of sterilization required for invasive surgical instruments. Yes, I understand that a cupcake is not the same as stainless steel, but the point is, I think whatever germs may have found their way into said cupcake are taken care of.

    And did anyone else beat their head against the wall over this little nugget?

    “Birthday invitations should not be handed out at school, Hall said, because students who are not invited could have their feelings hurt.”

    SUCH. IS. LIFE.

  69. Emily March 22, 2013 at 10:01 am #

    Okay, fair enough. Hugging shouldn’t be banned, but I still think it’d be a good idea to talk to kids about “good touch,” and “bad touch,” and how even a “good touch” isn’t good if the recipient doesn’t want it. Respecting boundaries is an important lesson to learn.

  70. Emily March 22, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

    @Lissa–I’m a little on the fence about handing out birthday invitations in school. Yes, kids should learn that not everyone can (or should) be invited to everything, but some kids (especially girls) use birthday invitations to be blatantly MEAN–conspicuously passing out invitations in front of the class, making it obvious who’s invited and who isn’t, talking about the party in front of non-invitees, and using the “if you do X, you can’t come to my birthday party!!!” tactic to manipulate their “friends” into doing everything from giving them their desserts at lunch time, to collectively shunning another student who’s not considered to be “cool.” So, if I was a teacher (and, I almost became one, but turned tail and ran when I saw how corrupt the public school system could be), then I’d write up a class directory and let people handle social invitations and whatnot outside of class, in order to keep the drama to a minimum.

  71. hineata March 22, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

    @Emily – the class directory is an excellent idea, as long as you are careful with privacy laws, and ensure you have parental consent to inclusion in it. Personally, at the beginning of the year I outline what I consider bullying to be, and point out to the girls that I will come down very heavily on that sort of nonsense, as will every other teacher if they’re caught out in the playground too engaging in manipulation.

    That said, I am sure some still goes on. Girl bullying is more difficult to police. Have always prefered boys in that sense. At least they usually just punch the crap out of each other, then get up and carry on with life!

  72. Emily March 22, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

    @Hineata–There are other reasons for having a class directory besides staving off “relational aggression.” Besides the obvious exclusion/hurt feelings around birthday invitations, it’d also mitigate the problems of invitations getting lost in kids backpacks, etc., but beyond just birthday parties, it’d be a good way to keep contact lines open in general, with regard to play dates, homework assignments and projects, parents volunteering for field trips and class parties, etc. We had a directory for my high school band, and it was really useful. Everyone consented, because there was no reason not to–most people in the band were friends with each other, most parents of band students knew each other through their respective musicians, and it just made a lot of things a lot easier.

    So, if I was a teacher, I’d probably e-mail all the parents BEFORE the school year started, in order to get their consent for the directory, because if you wait until school starts, then the directory might not be ready until Halloween or Christmas–we had that problem when I was in university, and the student government tried to make a directory for the whole school. It happened each year for most, if not all, of the four years I was there, but it was always massively late, and spotty as well, from people either not consenting, or being “too busy” to take two minutes to write down their contact information, during the two or three weeks that the student government members were in the student union building collecting information for this purpose.

  73. Emily March 22, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

    P.S., Before anyone asks about how it was possible to have a schoolwide directory in university, the university in question is miniscule. I went to Bishop’s University for my Bachleor’s degree in music, and when I was there, it averaged about 2,000 students per year, so it was only slightly bigger (enrollment wise) than my high school was. So, while such an endeavour would have been completely impossible at a normal-sized university, the student government at least saw it as being within the realm of possible at Bishop’s.

  74. Donna March 22, 2013 at 6:30 pm #

    Emily – But the drama is still there. While it takes out one aspect of the drama – taunting other kids with physical invitations – it is not as though birthday parties are spur of the moment. Everything else you mentioned all still occurs in the weeks (months even) before and the weeks after regardless of whether the invitations are given out at school or not.

    I do like the idea of a directory for many reasons; I just don’t think anything changes as far as bullying goes by giving out invitations via email, telephone or snail mail rather than just handing them out at school.

  75. Emily March 22, 2013 at 9:29 pm #

    @Donna–I know it’s impossible to completely eradicate the drama over who got invited to what, but at least taking the invitations out of the school setting makes it less obvious–that way, the kid who wasn’t invited could just claim not to know about the party, and have something else planned for that day instead.

  76. Donna March 22, 2013 at 11:28 pm #

    @Emily – Except a birthday bully is going to make sure her prey knows when the party is and that they aren’t invited. Heck even in kindergarten my daughter’s bully/best friend (I can’t wait until this friendship is over forever in a couple weeks) took great pleasure in telling my daughter that she was only invited to J’s birthday party because J’s mother made her invite her. No invitations were given out at school.

    I suppose birthday invitations out of school stops average, non-bullying bad feelings about exclusion from parties but that is exactly the kind we don’t want to stop. I want my daughter to understand that she can’t go to every party.

  77. Warren March 22, 2013 at 11:31 pm #

    LOL, not give out invitations at the school……..are we serious?
    Let’s stop Valentines while we are at it.

    This ranks right up there with the UK schools banning best friends.

    Come on people, these are life lessons that we all learned in school. It is alot easier to help your child understand how to deal with disappointment, over a party invitation, than it is to do it over a college rejection or job rejection.

    Kids get over things, and we can guide them thru it. But to put rules into place that with the sole purpose is to prevent disappointment, is one of the worst ways to overprotect. It ranks up their with not keeping score so there is no losing team.

    Remember, as parents we are the ones that need to keep perspective for our young ones. Yes it is the most horrible thing and completely heartbreaking that little Suzie didn’t invite little Mary to her party. Mary’s world is coming to an end. That is when we step in to bring Mary back to reality. It is also all the little, and yes one party on it’s own is little, let downs/disappointments that help us learn how to handle bigger let downs, as we get older.

  78. Caleb March 23, 2013 at 12:17 am #

    I am sixty years old, and in my youth lived among artists who felt they were “bohemians,” so I am not naive when it comes to adult behavior which many would call foul. (I know it is politically incorrect to call foul behavior foul, and I would never, never presume to be so rude. All I am saying is that others, “many,” would call foul behavior foul.)

    In my old age, on my farm, I and my wife care for children under the age of six. They are a tenth my age. They are naive. They know nothing of pedophiles.

    Nor should they. They possess a beautiful thing called trust. It will last until some ugly person breaks the trust.

    They need hugs, and a hug is a beautiful thing, until some ugly person breaks the trust.

    When I hug a little one, it is because I know they need a hug, and also because I know I will not break the trust.

    When you outlaw hugs, you are not only denying the small child what they need, but also are saying you do not trust me. You are in essence saying I am a potential pedophile.

    Well, if you are going to outlaw one of my favorite things, which is to hug a sorrowing child, will you please also outlaw my least favorite things?

    Please outlaw changing a little child’s diapers.

    After all, if I am to be judged guilty of being a pedophile without a trial, nothing could be more dangerous than having me change a diaper. You should outlaw me touching the smelly things.

    Then, by law, a child would have to sit there, stewing in his or her own juices, from the moment the parent drops them off at a childcare to the moment the parent picks them up.

    When I change a stinking diaper, it is because the little one trusts me, and I know I will not break the trust. It is a stinking job, but someone has to do it, and I think I have learned to do it well.

    However you do not know me. For all you know, I might be a bad person. Why take any chances?

    You should demand that no one but a child’s mother change that child’s diapers. I think this might be a good thing, because I think it is sad mothers have to work so hard, away from the children they love.

    But mothers might disagree. They love their children, but they also love to work. In fact they often work because they love their children.

    When you say I cannot be trusted to hug a child, or change diapers, or push a child on a swing, you are in a sense saying the mother cannot delegate. You are saying it does not take a village to raise a child. You are saying the mother must do it alone.

    You are likely saying this because you met a bad person. Like all children, you were born brimming with trust, but your trust was broken. I didn’t do it, but you distrust me, because of that bad person.

    You are allowing that bad person to rule your outlook, and are offending the good people like me, and also the children.

  79. Emily March 23, 2013 at 12:48 am #

    @Warren–The problem with these “life lessons” is that they stop being beneficial when they’re consistently visited upon the same kids over and over again. It’d be one thing if, say, Susie didn’t invite Mary to her birthday party this time, because it was just for her class, and Susie and Mary knew each other from Brownies instead of school, and inviting Mary would have meant inviting the whole Brownie group AND her class, but kids (especially girls) can be cruel. They use “friendship” as a tool of manipulation to get what they want, and to hurt people–I know this, because I was on the receiving end of it many, many times. I’d have classmates be nice to me temporarily, in order to copy my homework and test answers, and even to take things from me that didn’t belong to them.

    For example, when I was in grade six, I was in a split class, and one of the grade seven girls, who I’d thought was my friend, stole school supplies from me. I had nicer pencil crayons than she did, and Crayola Mini Stampers had just come out at that point, and I had a set. So, this “friend” would steal my school supplies, and then bully me into giving her my lunch (or at least my dessert) every day, and she’d give me back something she’d stolen in exchange. When I told my mother about this, she explained that this was extortion. If kids can wreak so much havoc with things that are meant to be in school, i.e. art supplies and bag lunches, then why bring in something like birthday invitations, that don’t need to be there, and can cause even more problems?

    Now, by the time I was in grade six, most kids I knew didn’t have birthday parties in the traditional sense anymore, but I began experiencing “mean girls” behaviour around grade four or so, and the “you can’t come to my birthday” manipulation, well, that probably started in kindergarten–I didn’t participate, and I didn’t begin to be socially shunned by the other kids until probably grade four, as I said before, but when it started happening, it was brutal. My only supposed “crimes” were being academically ahead, bookish, and unathletic–in other words, I wasn’t “cool.” Trust me, the “uncool” kids learn these “life lessons” very clearly, over and over again, with every party they’re conspicuously excluded from, every taunt and beating they endure on the playground, and every time they’re chosen last for a team in gym class, and then teased for their lack of ability, and pelted with balls.

    On the other hand, the popular kids never have to “learn a lesson” about “not always being accepted,” because they’re the arbiters of what’s cool, and who’s accepted, and a lot of the time, kids who go against this end up with no friends, because the “Alphas” will exact their revenge with some vicious rumour or another, which everyone will believe, because hey, if Britney is popular, it has to be true. That’s how my entire school believed that I was a lesbian from grades six through eight.

    So, I don’t believe that keeping party invitations out of schools will solve every social problem, but it’s definitely a start, and if having a class directory will solve the party invitation problem, and boost communication and community among class members and parents, then I think that makes sense too.

  80. Donna March 23, 2013 at 2:24 am #

    Emily – If birthdays are going to wreak havoc, they are going to wreak havoc whether the physical invitations are present or not. Keeping invitations out may change the form of the torture, it doesn’t lessen the torture one bit. Mean girls are extremely adept at social manipulation starting at an amazingly young age so they are more than capable of invoking their torture without any particular prop. It is not as though they will say on birthday invitation day “I guess we can’t taunt Emily about the birthday party today since we can’t bring the invitations to school.” They will simply taunt about the birthday party without the physical invitations. Instead of dramatically handing out invitations that you don’t get. Instead they will walk around and pointing at people saying “you are invited to my party” and “you are not invited to my party.”

  81. Warren March 23, 2013 at 5:04 am #

    Listen I have two daughters, 22 and 14. Been there done that with the partys, the sleepovers, and the movie groups.

    At no time is it my daughters responsibility to invite the WHOLE class, or the ENTIRE group to anything. We do not do it as adults, why on earth do we expect this from kids.

    Yes they came home upset because they didn’t get this invite or a valentine from so and so.They were gently reminded that they in turn did not invite everyone to their events either. That someone is usually left out, and that’s okay, it is part of life and growing up. Most times it is all about the math, that only so many can be invited, and my daughters realized that they to had to exclude others due to numbers.

    If you have a kid or group of kids that use these things as ways to bully, then deal with them. Do not make my kids go without, or have to comply with a blanket rule, just so the school does not have to do their job.

    And you know what, I did not hide my girls from the harsh reality of life. That not everyone is going to like them, and they are not going to like eveyone. That is life and it is perfectly fine to not like someone. And in turn, you do not have to invite someone you do not like, just to be nice. Honest is better than phony niceties.

  82. Caleb March 23, 2013 at 1:24 pm #

    Emily,

    My parents’ marriage crashed and burned when I was around nine, and as a family we went from being pretty snobby to being poor-folk-in-a-rich-town in the blink of an eye. Also I had been put a year ahead in school, which made me the youngest and smallest in my class (until I abruptly became bigger than the bullies, starting around age 14.) Because it was a snobby town I got to feel the sting of a lot of mean and snobby insults, what Warren called “life’s lessons.” I know how old it gets, when you have done nothing wrong, and are simply shorter and less hairy than your peers, (and also had divorced parents back when that was rare,) and yet get mocked and shunned by people who flounce by with tilted noses, or are downright mean, or simply avoid you because your expression is so pained.

    In my case I said “the heck with everyone.” I didn’t bother with my hair or fashion or the football team, but here is where the really odd thing happened. When I went to school in September 1969 being an unkempt slob suddenly WAS the fashion. I was abruptly “hip,” and a real cool dude, a “hippy.”

    I confess I didn’t much mind abruptly being popular, but I also realized how absurd it was. I was acting the same way that got me scorned, the year before.

    I suppose I had learned one of “life’s lessons,” and was not so easy to seduce with praise or crush with disdain, after that. Not that I didn’t have my ups and downs, but I retained a sort of detachment and didn’t take things so much to heart.

    Sneering and ostracism can really crush people, but the people who endure it and survive it seem to me to be deeper and wiser. After 40 years I honestly feel I can spot them a mile away, and their faces stand out in a crowd.

    Anyway, I’m sorry you had to endure the crap you endured, and am very glad you survived it, and now can stand out in the way you do.

  83. Emily March 23, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

    @Warren, Donna, and Caleb–Fair enough, kids can still taunt one another without the party invitations being physically there, and they can find so much more material–appearance, income level, academic ability, athletic ability, speculated sexual orientation, etc. Warren, I thought you might have forgotten about the whole “mean girls” thing, because I thought your girls were older, but since your younger one is only fourteen, she must be either still in the thick of things, or just out of the woods, as far as “girl wars” go. Actually, side point, I’ve recently reconnected with one girl who I used to really not get along with when I was in grade six and seven, and it turns out that that whole social minefield is really no picnic for the popular either–she secretly hated a lot of people who were in the “in-group” with her, but didn’t want to rock the boat.

    Anyway, getting back to the matter of birthday party invitations in school, I’d still favour the directory approach, if parents are willing, because, as I said, it’s more organized–it prevents the problem of invitations getting lost in transit, and it helps with little hiccups like RSVP’ing “yes” and having your child wake up on party day with chicken pox or something, and not being able to find the party parents’ phone number. It also means that people will have each other’s contact information for other things, so it just makes sense.

    What I really don’t think is fair is when teachers/schools go overboard on “protecting kids from disappointment” AND “privacy,” and ban distributing birthday party invitations in school, but also don’t publish directories, or give contact information, and just expect parents and kids to figure it out themselves. I mean, if little Jimmy is six years old, and his friends (and prospective birthday-party invitees) are Johnny, Jack, Jenny, and Jill, then he probably knows that they like soccer and Pokémon like he does, and that they’re all in the same reading group at school, but he won’t necessarily know their phone numbers and addresses–and, the other kids might not know their own contact information perfectly either. So, communicating through young children can be problematic.

  84. Emily March 23, 2013 at 6:30 pm #

    P.S., Warren, I read some of those articles about schools in the U.K. banning best friends, with primary-school teachers saying that everyone should play in a large group instead, but I still don’t see how it’s logistically possible for teachers to prevent kids from making best friends. I mean, even on the off chance that the entire class could collectively decide on one game to play at recess, playing soccer with the whole class might not change the fact that Jamie and Jessie are closer with one another, because they’re neighbours, or because they take gymnastics together outside of school, or whatever.

    Also, just as an aside, did you read this article about schools in the U.K. also banning hand raising? Here it is:

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/the-hot-button/put-your-hand-down-kid-uk-school-bans-hand-raising/article617960/

  85. Earth.W March 23, 2013 at 11:56 pm #

    All these stories makes me want a train a lion for my child to ride to school every day.

  86. Emily March 24, 2013 at 2:07 am #

    What I wondered most about the hand-raising ban was, how is the teacher going to see the kids in the back who have their thumbs up, ready to answer?

  87. Warren March 24, 2013 at 9:15 pm #

    To keep it completely safe from any possible emotional or mental trauma, instead of even the thumbs up…….just have the little ones text the answer to the teacher. That way only the teacher will know who got it right and who got it wrong.

  88. hineata March 25, 2013 at 5:00 am #

    @Emily – this ‘thumbs up’ idea is an interesting one. I don’t get the impression that the idea is much to do with self esteem, but more to do with settling the little pains who are always waving their arms around with the ‘right’ answer. That said, I agree with you about the teacher not necessarily seeing the kids in the back with raised thumbs. Solving that is relatively easy, though, if kids are grouped together with space in the middle for the teacher to roam, rather than just remaining at the front of the classroom.

    I might just try that one with my wee darlings,almost all of whom think they have the right answer all the time ( they are the ‘gifted’ ones, after all) and who need settling on a regular basis.

    @Warren – I believe the artice talked about some schools using tablets for just that purpose, so you’re right on the money! Personally I don’t have a problem with kids feeling ‘safe’ in the classroom, because they learn better. And if kids learn better, long term they are more useful citizens, and contribute more to the economy/cultural life of the country. Leave toughening kids up to the sports fields (which matter not at all for most kids longterm), chores, parties and social nonsense (as several of you have referred to above). And also, of course, give the bright/competitive kids some time together to compete with one another – which is what programmes like mine do. But the bulk of children, for the good of society in general, should be given every opportunity to learn in an environment where they feel safe to ask/answer questions, and to be wrong sometimes. Otherwise a fair proportion of our populace faces not reaching their potential, which is a disaster for all of us.

    Am not, by the way, meaning that we dumb down the curriculum, or tell kids they’ve passed when they haven’t. That isn’t teaching self-esteem – it’s teaching incompetence. Am simply saying that kids need to be able to sit in the classroom without experiencing the sort of stomach-churning fear that inhibits learning. And if raising thumbs or using smart technology helps that, then let’s go for it.

    And I’m speaking as an academic type who thrived in a competitive classroom environment, but had lots of classmates for whom that environment was a disaster, and whose potential was pretty much wasted. Now in their forties some have gone back to second-chance education, but a lot are stuck in dead-end jobs, and some are without jobs at all.

    Being left out in games, parties, experiencing bullying etc is nothing, really,in the scheme of things. Education is huge, however, and missing out on a decent one has lifelong consequences. And yes, of course we can self educate, but that becomes less likely the more kids feel like failures, like they’re thick and can’t learn.

  89. Warren March 25, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

    Just came from a parent/teacher confab. Son going into high school, and with his being just slightly in the autism spectrum, there are some issues.

    His teacher is awesome, and her and I talked about the way things are going with some schools.

    One thing she brought up was that everytime we make compromises or new rules to ease up on some of the less outgoing, less confident children, we run a high risk of stifling those that are outgoing and confident. Almost saying that excelling is wrong.

  90. hineata March 25, 2013 at 10:46 pm #

    @Warren – interesting. I can see her point, and that is why in my particular school we run pull-out programmes.

    It is a difficult thing to manage, because as I said in too longwinded a way above, we do need to find a way of ensuring kids come through school believing in their own ability to learn. Otherwise we waste our human resources….

    Hope your son goes well.

  91. Warren March 26, 2013 at 2:12 am #

    He has done great this year. Major credit to his teacher. She taught him in gr. 7 last year, and noticed that the first two months of the year he struggled, while getting used to her. So she requested him this year, to avoid the getting to know you period, and it worked great.

    Her and I have spoke quite often. We have noticed that school now seem to think it is fine to let shy, insecure, and reclusive kids remain that way, and actually make allowances that almost encourage them to remain that way. When the schools should be helping, encouraging and instructing them how to come out of their shells, to be more confident and outgoing.
    I have actually heard parents tell her, that they didn’t want their little darling to do the public speaking, infront of the class, because it is too stressful. Isn’t dealing with the stress, and gaining some measure of confidence what that exercise is all about. Maybe with a little english thrown in.

  92. hineata March 26, 2013 at 4:26 am #

    Okaay – now I get what she means. Yes, it certainly is the duty of schools to do as much as they can to get kids ‘out of their shells’. Can’t believe parents do things like that – it won’t hurt little Johnny to have to talk in front of the class for a few minutes occasionally, anymore than it hurt me to be picked last for ball games……One gets over these things.

    I am more thinking of the kids who really struggle academically having the chance to do things like have a go at answering questions without too much pressure. It’s one thing to have to do the odd stressful thing, and another to be stressed out in a major way every single day. Though of course some people go from suffering to achieving great things as a result – wish we could wave a wand and work out who they are, LOL!

    Anyway your son is very lucky to have such a fantastic teacher. The few ASD kids I’ve been lucky enough to work with here tend to still be made to change classes every year, unless it’s a small school, which always seemed to put them ‘on the back foot’ each new school year. Seems like a waste of valuable learning time trying to readjust….