this interesting and fact-packed Quartz article, “WhyAre Our Kids So Miserable?“, reporter Jenny Anderson looks at a bunch of factors working against kid happiness. The biggest is the off-base belief that our kids are only learning when they are doing academic work:
According to Daphna Bassok, an assistant professor of education and public policy at the University of Virginia, in 1998, 30% of teachers believed that children should learn to read while in kindergarten. In 2010, that figure was at 80%.
Playingâ€”unstructured time, with rules set by the kids (no adults acting as referee)â€”is how kids learn independence, problem-solving, social cues, and bravery. Now, parents jump in to to solve the playground kerfuffle, spot with eagle eyes the dangers of tall trees and steep hills, and fail to let kids have any independence for fear they will be abducted or hit by a car..â€œWhere do children learn to control their own lives? When adults arenâ€™t around to do it for you,â€ he said.Â â€œIf you donâ€™t have the opportunity to experience life on your own, to deal with the stressors of life, to learn in this context of play where you are free to fail, the world is a scary place,â€ he says.
And then Anderson endorses an idea I’ve started to push for, too:
If we want our kids to play and have some freedom, we have to plan how to do it (yes, it has come to that). Facilitating time and space has to be a pre-meditated act, like signing up for soccer….Â It wonâ€™t be easy. But if we believe that our kidsâ€™ mental health is at stake, we should certainly give it a try.
It may be that more than mental health is at stake. I’m starting to think our culture needs kids who have had to rise to some unexpected, unscripted challenges, or we may end up with a population so scared of encountering problems that it demands more and more limitations and oversight. That’s not a dynamic vision.
Let’s make sure kids have ample opportunity to explore, screw up, make weird things (that’s my youth, right there) and “waste” time on their own.
It won’t be time wasted. – L
if adults don’t need to waste time, why was facebook invented?
“if adults donâ€™t need to waste time, why was facebook invented?”
We have gone to extreme behavior.
There is a place-for adults to PLAY with children-and act as a referee.
One purpose of an adult-is to give a child a foundation-for play-to PREPARE for the time when there is no adult around.
I once played jacks-with my niece and nephew. The mother said nicely, “When Vaughan(me)is preparing my move, silence must be observed.(Just like a golfer remains silent when a fellow golfer is “teeing off.”
-As another example,, for children learning to use skipping ropes, not to SWING them; the force could cause an eye injury.
I think one problem of the feminists is that extreme behavior is the result.one say that ALL competition is bad. The other extreme says you must WIN and be A1.
Competition and com-operation-with the right discipline- can co-exist.
I can remember when I was 9, my mother taught me(and a girl playmate) a skipping rhyme.
-It went (in part)
-Pack it up in tissue paper
send it in the elevator
First floor stop
I am 67(of the hippie generation.
It was(in some ways) a very unhappy time.(In some way children and teens were treated like “dirt.”
Mother made nasty remark-about children hanging out under lamp-posts.
-When I was 12 and 13, I explored a forest-that is now part of Pacific Spirit Park-in Vancouver.
After 3 expeditions, I got to know the trails
These trails are between the campuses of the University of British Columbia- and Vancouver City.
When I was 15, I took a friend my own age-and a boy aged 12-hiking in these trails..
But the mother of the 12 year old did not like this boy “hanging out” with me(I was 3 years older than him.)
But I “sneaked” him out.”
-When we returned, he “told” his mom that.
“Bobby West” also liked going on long bicycle rides-with me-and my age-mtae “Leith.”
This is why I’m a bit skeptical of home schooling. Now I’m not saying it’s a bad thing as I understand that kids have really excelled academically from being home schooled. BUT there are things you learn at school that you don’t learn in the classroom, such as social interactions between other kids. That’s why I’m SKEPTICAL of it and not necessarily against it as I’m sure there are good arguments for it.
Which brings me to a real pet peeve of mine and that is the 0 tolerance schools have nowadays toward “bullying”. Now don’t get me wrong here, there comes a time when schools need to intervene, particularly when physical assaults become extremely vicious and consistent. But that’s not what schools do. Nowadays even kids who were involved in minor playground scraps are expelled from school under the banner of 0 tolerance. As far as I’m concerned, that does not help the bully nor does it help the kid being bullied. Because kids need to learn conflict resolution and if you completely remove the intimidating kid from the other kid’s life, there is no way either of those kids can learn conflict resolution. I’m not saying schools should not address a situation like this but expulsion is overkill in my opinion. Putting this into perspective, the 6th grade kid who was being pushed and shoved around on the playground by his stronger classmate probably will be sitting down with him 16 years later and having a beer together at their 10 high school class reunion! I know because I have witnessed this first-hand at my HS reunions!
Obviously those two kids learned conflict resolution over the years and, of course, were given a chance to mature together as they advanced into the upper grades.
And you’re posting this! Today! What an incredible coincidence!! (Or was it? You’re in the UK after all…)
“we have to plan how to do it (yes, it has come to that). Facilitating time and space has to be a pre-meditated act, like signing up for soccerâ€¦.”
“Playing outside should be a subject in school.” – Johan Cruyff, 1947-2016
(Famous soccer player, died this morning. This quote is on a window in the neighborhood where he grew up, as I just saw on the news…!)
John, I understand your skepticism, but what I’ve observed and experienced, as someone who was homeschooled successfully for 5 years in the 1980’s, knows many families today that homeschool both in rural areas and in a large city, taught public school for quite a few years, and whose children are in public elementary themselves, is that the socialization opportunities are likely to be limited in scope in school. Sure, kids are exposed to many children, and recess is a great time to play, but most of a kid’s social time is spent with many kids all the same age. In the classroom there may be some small group work, but not a lot of one-on-one time with another kid of your choosing. Some schools are healthier than others and provide more opportunities. Others are little better than prisons, with silent lines, almost no recess, and silent lunches in which children sit at long tables facing the same way and not talking to each other.
They can be limited in a homeschool setting as well, of course. Many factors, including strength of the families’ social networks, neighborhood environment, and kids’ and their parents’ personalities and social needs can come into play. Also, the reasoning behind the decision to homeschool or stay in traditional school can be dictated by several things, such as special socio-emotional needs or disabilities that may be addressed better in one place or another. So the blanket statements you might hear some people make about homeschooling, whether positive or negative, are not really productive and don’t move the conversation along, IMO.
I guess what I’m saying is, a healthy dose of skepticism for the public/traditional school’s ability to help children socialize is warranted as well! 🙂
@John and Diane, I donâ€™t think â€œzero toleranceâ€ policies are good because they tend to be abused and result in extreme outcomes like expulsion for something that could be handled better. Like you say, thatâ€™s not good for the bully, who is, after all, a child.
But as for home schooling not having enough social opportunities, there are other ways to get this, such as Scouting, YMCA day camps, martial arts classes, or even â€œclassesâ€ for home schoolers as well as the neighborhood playground. I personally found the supportive (and challenging) environment in Scouting to be a healthy balance to the bullying and administrative indifference I experienced at school.
“Because kids need to learn conflict resolution and if you completely remove the intimidating kid from the other kidâ€™s life, there is no way either of those kids can learn conflict resolution.”
I see no more reason to believe that kids “need” to be bullied any more than adults need to be mugged, burglarized, or carjacked.
I think they should be trained to deal with the situation if it arises, which is being trained to deal great violence to the perpetrator.
“the 6th grade kid who was being pushed and shoved around on the playground by his stronger classmate probably will be sitting down with him 16 years later and having a beer together at their 10 high school class reunion! I know because I have witnessed this first-hand at my HS reunions!”
So? War veterans (from opposite sides) have done the same thing, and they were literally and openly trying to kill each other. Of course, only the survivors ever get to do this.
As for the “socialization” of public schools, I never lived in a rough neighborhood, but even so I agree with this statement by John Taylor Gatto: “every public school I’ve ever been in, and I’ve been in hundreds, is a laboratory of rudeness, cruelty, sloppiness, coarseness”.
Kids need to learn how to waist time. That way they are more qualified for a government job
Bullying only exists where one person has power (or perceived power) over another.
A bureaucrat sitting on a construction permit can bully the homeowner. An underling who thinks she “needs” this job can be bullied by her boss. A student who thinks he can get away with it, and another student who lets him.
An IRS agent can bully a taxpayer.
But when power is distributed, when I don’t need the job because I know there are others out there, or when I know I can go to a trusted HR rep and get the issue fixed, bullying ceases. Bullying, as a tactic during adult interactions, doesn’t work because adults realize the bully is usually powerless. And when it does work (IRS audits), it’s time to get the lawyers involved.
It has nothing to do with being in school or not. It has everything to do with understanding who is perceived to have power over another.
Thanks. Taking a few personal initiatives every now-and-then is how people learn to trust their own thoughts.
Learning conflict resolution is a vast gulf away from being bullied.
Bullies don’t want to resolve conflict. They want to make people do stuff: cringe, writhe, cry, run, fight at exactly the wrong moment so they look like the bad guy in front of the teacher, give up things that they don’t want to give up, or whatever else the cat playing with the mouse finds entertaining at the moment. Bullying is somebody letting their worst instincts out to play because nobody is going to stop them. Bullying is a declaration of power and control. Bullies learn that people are objects to be moved around and discarded at will.
Being bullied doesn’t built character either. I spent years and thousands of dollars in therapy unlearning the reflexes that being bullied for most of my first 18 years of life taught me. Adults don’t get very far in life by pretending to be invisible and looking for the exits whenever somebody bigger and stronger walks into the room. I still have C-PTSD.
I homeschool. We had a neighborhood bully a few years ago. The proudest moment of my parenting life was the day my little girls, at about the age range during which I was learning my place, told the bully to stay away and never come back. Unlike me at their ages, they knew that someone would always have their backs.
And before anybody starts in with that poisonous crap about just not attracting bullies in the first place: Bullies target children who are depressed, isolated, or already anxious about something going on outside school, because they are easy to hurt. If you want to talk about children bully-proofing themselves by magically not being the kind of person creeps and scumbags like to hurt, kindly shut up.
“Putting this into perspective, the 6th grade kid who was being pushed and shoved around on the playground by his stronger classmate probably will be sitting down with him 16 years later and having a beer together at their 10 high school class reunion! ”
The only time I want to sit down with the kid who bullied me the worst in sixth grade is if I’m the judge presiding at her trial.
@Jenny Islander. Thank you for sharing. I’m sorry that things were so difficult for you as a child and I am glad that you are raising confident girls who aren’t afraid to speak up for themselves. They must make you proud!
I think that the current anti-bullying platform is grounded in a good idea — to protect vulnerable kids from exactly what Jenny describes. However, I think our zero tolerance policy for anything that may be hurtful has hurt the dialog. Normal disagreements and spats that kids have in the course of navigating childhood are being lumped in with truly serious and chronic offenses — in many cases, folks have lost the ability to distinguish and make logical and rationale decisions about what is bullying and what is normal behavior for kids learning where they fit and what is appropriate.
@JennyIslander, childhood bullying sure sticks with you. And when you find out that the person who is supposed to be one who has your back actually isn’t on your side, that bites. (My year 10 form master, when I went to see him to tell him I had been physically abused during a PE lesson, told me “I don’t blame them!” Not much I could do about it with that attitude!)
@Jen, unfortunately it is a fine line between learning conflict resolution and having to deal with bullies. As dealing with bullies now involves paperwork, my experience at my children’s school has been that they will put it down to “normal 11yo girl behaviour” (or whatever line happens to sweep it under the carpet). This happened to my daughter a couple of years ago. I am very laid back when it comes to letting children deal with their own issues for the most part, but when my confident, happy 11yo ended up in tears and being frustrated enough to say something inappropriate to the bully, I got involved. Only to be told that it couldn’t be bullying because my daughter was confident and out-going.
So I now take it all with a grain of salt. I don’t have time to fight the bureaucratic bullies.
On the original topic, I totally agree re free play. I’m a teacher of Year 1 (5-7yos) and I actually love watching them during free play time in the classroom. I actually use it as a chance to observe their social skills. And it is beautiful to watch those students who are not academically inclined get the spark back in their eyes when they get to do something they are good at.
On homeschooling….I also was homeschooled from 5th grade on. I successfully stood up to bullies in the 4th, but it wasn’t really value added. It was more akin to dealing with wild animals than human social interaction.
As a couple of people have said above, a relatively homogeneous mix of ages isn’t nearly as beneficial as the diverse interactions I got. In addition to age-peer interactions at parties, picnics, and getting together with friends from church, I had a good friend that was a Vietnam vet, a Dr. of Psych that worked in the prison system, a master woodworker I apprenticed under for a couple years, a neighbor that was an older Lebanese woman, a 90 year old English woman in Britain for The Great War and WW2, and others more numerous to mention.
They gave me tools to deal with my age peers being stupid. I both had it easier and came out stronger than my public school friends. Never mind the added skills. I installed electrical outlets, insulation, hvac, fixed cars, tutored younger kids, got my highly intelligent but cocky butt destroyed in chess, scrabble, trivial pursuit.
I struggled with age peers until my mid 20s, but the ones I’m still in contact with will say it was them, not me. They’ll admit they were playing at adult, but the “mock someone with different music tastes” and stupidity I lost friends by avoiding wasn’t my lack of social skills, but an earlier recognition that behavior was wrong.
And, to tie in with the subject, my interactions with the other people was often with an objective, but unstructured. Conversations and what we were doing was fluid.
My daughter and a friend were discussing whether minecraft was better on a handheld device or playstation. My daughter doesn’t have a playstation. The kid said matter of factly – maybe your parents can’t afford a playstation. I don’t consider that bullying but they both ended up in the principal’s office because someone overheard them. The kid’s parents were called. Instead of being BFF’s again by lunch, they were caught up in this two-day process that made them both anxiety-ridden and miserable. The kid because he didn’t mean anything by it – they’re just little and don’t know that its not polite to talk about money and you often can’t tell how much someone has. And my daughter because her friend (who she was initially mad at) was getting into so much trouble that she was afraid he would never speak to her again. This did not require an intervention at all–and as a matter of fact, they would have resolved it much more quickly on their own.
That stinks. Everything is so overblown with kids. My daughter has a raspy voice and was asked by her classmate if she was *transgender* and they both were questioned by teachers and the guidance counselor. They’re 9 years-old and she found his comment ignorant but wasn’t offended. She was mad it was overblown and he got in trouble (his parents were called too!). Kids say and do stupid things. So do adults.
hear hear. if I had a nickel for every stupid thing I’ve done or said…I probably still wouldn’t buy my kid a playstation. But I wouldn’t be opposed to pulling her out of school and travelling the world for awhile…even with everything going on in the news.
So now “bullying” is a kid overhearing a conversation, and reporting it? Insane.
Jen, that is insane! What would have been a learning experience for the kids became another cog in their suspicion of adults and their motives. So sad.
What is wrong with the world?
Bullying is a social behavior among individuals to gain power, threaten, rule, judge, and punish. Bullies have the notion to put fear in people and they acknowledge the power and threaten others who are weaker then them. Bullies are hurtful, demanding, aggressive, and ready to fight at all costs. Bullies don’t back down as their behavior is power. Let them get away with it only just makes it more of a vicious behavior. These are the people growing up who more than likely turns to crime and even join gangs. They end up very ruthless and if not stopped, they are a danger to society. This is a known fact and you see it on the media, newspapers an internet. It is hate by being biased toward others and will use anything to harm or even kill. Just see what is happening with crime today. It seems unstoppable and these bullies get away sometimes with murder. I am a victim of bullying and have been threatened and even beaten senseless by my own parents. No child should ever have to go through this. It is up to the parents, school officials, and organizations to stop this. There will be no peace until this problem is fixed.
@mt, so you are agreeing that two kids talking constitutes bullying?
â€œWhere do children learn to control their own lives? When adults arenâ€™t around to do it for you,â€
This is why the ‘nanny state’ requires ‘helicopter parents’.
In order to justify its existance the ‘nanny state’ needs adults who need supervision, who aren’t independent, who can’t control their own lives, who need ‘nanny state’ to look after them.
To produce adults like that ‘nanny state’ needs people to raise their children in a particular way; to not give children any independence or freedom or exposure to any kind of danger or difficulty. So they grow up to be whiny babies with the minds of toddlers.
“The only time I want to sit down with the kid who bullied me the worst in sixth grade is if Iâ€™m the judge presiding at her trial.”
I really don’t know the extent of your bullying as you didn’t say. Perhaps it was serious and perhaps it was something that affected you PHYSICALLY well into your adulthood and like I said in my post, if the bullying is vicious and consistent, then I would understand your point. But if it involved name calling or just general pushing around and if the person who bullied you is now friendly and mature as an adult, I’d say you have a major chip on your shoulder.
“So? War veterans (from opposite sides) have done the same thing, and they were literally and openly trying to kill each other. Of course, only the survivors ever get to do this”
Do you really think the fine young men and women currently in our military will be sitting down with the jihadists someday over tea and bagels? I highly doubt it. I think you’re comparing apples to machetes here. Children calling each other names and doing some shoving is wrong and needs correction, but it is certainly not comparable to somebody trying to saw your head off or burn you alive.
Nowadays, EVERY type of conflict between school kids is considered “bullying” and is treated with 0 tolerance. THAT is what I adamantly disagree with!
“so you are agreeing that two kids talking constitutes bullying?”
Two kids talking CAN constitute bullying. Jen did not describe a situation where two kids talking constituted bullying, but it can happen. In fact, “kids talking” describes, in general terms, virtually all girl-on-girl bullying.
@John “But if it involved name calling or just general pushing around and if the person who bullied you is now friendly and mature as an adult, Iâ€™d say you have a major chip on your shoulder.”
Why? If you remember your middle school being persistent hell and that one person had large role to play in it, then there is no duty to be friends. Yeah, it surely counts as being “better person”, but it is perfectly fine and enough to be just “normal person”. Sure, causing drama would be overreacting, but you don;t have to be beer friends.
The worst impact of bullying is psychological, kids that were really bullied (as opposed to be name called once) internalize strategies that negatively impact their lives – they became afraid in future interactions, too shy, trying to blend in instead of trying to get ahead, scared of attention and so on and so forth. Kids that were bullied in the past are even more likely to be bullied again – precisely because they learned that defense leads nowhere in previous bully situation and became helpless.
Of course all adults are responsible for overcoming whatever bad habits they picked while growing up and blaming former 6th grader is unfair – bully was still kid at that time. Still, blaming them for not being friendly over beer would be unfair. It is cool when they do, but acts have consequences and act of bullying has natural consequence that victim wont like you.
I am homeschooling my kids. A big part of why I homeschool is so that they can have unplanned time to follow their interests, play with their friends and do what ever they want. My daughter had homework in kinder. I couldn’t see it getting any better after that with the homework….it didn’t relate well to what she learned, it was busy work, and she took after her dad and “got” stuff easily without needing extra work that just wasted time.
When in the elementary ages, it took my kids about 2 hours to get their work done for the day. When they were done, we could meet friends, go to the park, read, sew, play with the ducks and geese, ride bikes, dig holes, a huge number of things. And…the curriculum they used was considered a “school at home” type of program, in that it had them doing all the things that school kids did. It only took 2 hours because….I only had 3 kids. Only three to wash hands for snack. No need to line up. It was easier to clean up with only 3. No walking to the other side of the school. Lots of things like that. And once they realized that when they were done.they could do what they wanted….they tried hard to get done fast.
And yes, I DO schedule free play time. It is “called” a homeschool play date, where I meet other families at the park, but really…it is not for the kids. It is for the parents. The parents sit inside the Rec Center and talk, and the kids run around outside and play. Whatever they want. Last week I watched through the window while my son and a younger friend grappled and threw each other to the ground a few times until the younger kid (the instigator) got tired and they moved on to something else. They knew what they were doing, and they figured out on their own when to stop. I will step in if I see my older kids behaving in a manner that might hurt other younger toddlers that are not part of our group. But that is about it. Well, and I do say that an adult needs to be with them if they want to swim in the river….but that is my life guard training.
I do fully believe that my kids will be well prepared for the work place, both academically and socially. They do attend a few classes by other teachers, and they do learn to listen and follow directions from others. But…in those situations, they are not interacting with peers much (except in on exceptional class.) And…they did not need the classes to learn to stand in line, or to learn to respect adults. They have siblings…they know how to wait their turn, and they had been taught at home to respect adults (AND other kids.)
“Iâ€™m starting to think our culture needs kids who have had to rise to some unexpected, unscripted challenges, or we may end up with a population so scared of encountering problems that it demands more and more limitations and oversight.”
This already exists. Universities are full of special snowflakes who have had everything arranged and managed for them all their lives, who have been so protected from everything that they are now emotionally triggered by the slightest hint of words and ideas that make them “uncomfortable” and scream for someone to create safe spaces for them. (Worse, is they have professors and administration that encourages this. This is really where it becomes mind control) Ask anyone who looks to employ young adults in any kind of professional field, where they demand to be coddled, and wait to be told what to do and how to do it. I have seen these problems myself. It is hard to find competent and developed young people to fill jobs these days. I had a girl (I use that word rather than young woman) in her early 20s that was almost in tears because she forgot to ask permission to eat a peanut butter sandwich at lunch. It was really astounding how deep this emotional damage was with her as she was physically shaking with fear the programming was so deep.
There are some young adults who are figuring out how damaged they are from their upbringing that they are undergoing counseling to help them with their anxiety and other issues. That is great, but they are in the minority and they shouldn’t have to. Really, all young people AND their parents need to be undergoing therapy these days.
Regarding wasting time, it is kinda sad that what once was normal is now something that needs to be suggested. In North America we have been conditioned that productivity is everything, and that unless we are spending time being ‘productive’ in some way we are awful humans. People need to spend time In Italy, Spain or other countries in the world where people simply LIVE and the whole productivity mindset doesn’t exist. Quality of life is much higher.
Regardless it’s a great idea. I think parents should keep their kids out of school for a day every few weeks, just for the heck of it. Allow them a day to do whatever they want, regularly. I have a relatives who take their kids out of school for two weeks in mid winter and go to places like Disney World before the holiday crowds are there, or travel to pother parts of the world just to see it. Kids will learn WAY more from travel experiences than they will in any classroom The biggest challenge to doing things like this is ignoring the cries and admonishments from other (brainwashed) parents who will tell you that you are a bad parent because your child is missing school, not being productive or will get behind.. (insert fear based list here..)
Boy, this was supposed to be a little note.. I do get going..
“I really donâ€™t know the extent of your bullying as you didnâ€™t say. Perhaps it was serious and perhaps it was something that affected you PHYSICALLY well into your adulthood and like I said in my post, if the bullying is vicious and consistent, then I would understand your point. But if it involved name calling or just general pushing around and if the person who bullied you is now friendly and mature as an adult, Iâ€™d say you have a major chip on your shoulder.”
She was a monster who tormented me whenever she got a chance, got other people to torment me too, and basically made my life miserable. If not being okay with that is having a chip on my shoulder, then I guess I do. Oh well!
I live in the same school district I grew up in. I know plenty of former classmates who are just as nice as pie now. One of them, who was in the guffawing mob that cheered on the guy who stuck his hands inside my clothes and whispered filthy things in my ear while he had me cornered against the school library checkout desk (I hit him with a book and got him expelled), happily introduced me to his girlfriend as “the smartest girl in the school.” Not a hint of awareness in his face that as far as I was concerned he was as trustworthy as a junkyard dog. After all it was ~so long ago.~ Heart eyes, everybodeeee!
“Do you really think the fine young men and women currently in our military will be sitting down with the jihadists someday over tea and bagels? I highly doubt it.”
You don’t know much history, do you? Yankees and Rebels have done it. Nazis and Brits have done it. Ireland was governed for a good half-century by people who opposed each other in the Irish Civil War.
“Nowadays, EVERY type of conflict between school kids is considered â€œbullyingâ€ and is treated with 0 tolerance. THAT is what I adamantly disagree with!”
You’ll get no disagreement from me on that. But physical violence and credible threats of violence is common enough. Apparently some official “definitions” of bullying actually exclude that these days. A large local school board meeting turned very ugly a few years ago when the school officials denied there was even one incident of bullying in a whole semester. One parent showed evidence that at least 20 kids had been sent to hospital emergency rooms for assaults in school. The school officials replied that they didn’t consider that bullying! Parents attending the meeting were not amused.
@BL But then again, many ex-soldiers or civilians on occupied territories keep on hating for the rest of their lives. You did not seen that many beers between nazi and russians nor jews and nazi. Some planning revenge for years afterwards. The propaganda was too hateful and atrocities seen just too much for that.
Frontline WWI soldiers stopped war for Christmas and even celebrated a bit together, same did not happened in WWII.
Many definitions of bullying require it to be repeated, because they do not want to lump one time assaults and fights into it too. I think that violence on school that ends with injury and doctors is serious whether it is called bullying or not. Even if it is not bullying by administration definition, I would want to know whether and what they plan to do about it.
We’re doing the opposite. Teaching adults to need supervision — mandatory motorcycle helmet laws, mandatory seat belt laws, laws against base jumping, lawsuits brought by people who did stupid thing (like walking on train tracks), etc, etc. This will happen more and more as we raise children who have no idea how to make their own decisions and choices and accept the consequences of their own actions — the adults are not setting a good example of even where these children should be heading.
Saw this title and for some unexplicable reason I thought of you.
@Lisa: re: seatbelts&helmets: I think drivers and motorcyclists can do enough other stupid stuff while in traffic that some basic measures to keep them alive don’t really affect their capability of making their own decisions…
My 3 year old goes to dance class, and today I got the joy of listening to the other parents talk about their 3 year olds’ preschools, their homework, and so on. Now, my kids go to a babysitter’s during the week, where I’m pretty sure they spend the entire day playing around, and I consider it a pretty successful day if they’re covered in mud when I pick them up. I think he’s pretty impressive for knowing his letters and numbers and the life stages of a caterpillar, because I’ve never really taught him anything. Sure, we’ve read plenty of books, counted rocks and clouds and cereal and shoes and worms, and we’ve looked for bugs under leaves, but that’s because he wanted to. I certainly haven’t ever had him fill out a worksheet. So I was a bit concerned when I heard that these kids were working on sight words and addition and subtraction.
And then I realized – why does my 3 year old need to know those things? Three is a time for exploring. These kids certainly weren’t more mature than mine – a dance class for 3 year olds is still like herding cats, regardless of whether or not those cats know what 6-2 is. Maybe those kids are really happy with their lessons and their homework (though by the complaints of the parents, it doesn’t sound like it), but I do know for a fact that my 3 year old is happy, he’s pretty smart, and he isn’t already burnt out. So we’ve got that going for us, I guess.
It is okay for a kid to do “nuthin'”. As a Scout leader I counseled youth and adults to this fact.
I recall one day in camp, a staff member came to me concerned about one of my Scouts who was “just sitting there”. The “nuthin'” he was doing turned out to be concentration on the activities of an anthill. That would be insect study, right?
That ‘Nuthin’ might also have been meditation or introspection that leads to transformation. By far the most important work a person will do in their lifetime. Indeed psycho-spiritual development only really happens in solitude and with effort. If everybody developed themselves in this way all the problems of the world would end. (In my 30s I found out that the ‘daydreaming’ i used to do in school, that my teachers would complain to my parents about, was a form of meditation that I had just discovered on my own, which turned out to be far more important than what they were trying to program me with)
But Dean, you witnessed in your above comment the conditioning that is at work in people today that prevents them from doing this work. If someone is seen to be by themselves, they automatically think something is wrong; “Is he depressed, maybe he needs drugs?” It is even worse that they have been conditioned to fear being alone themselves. People will think something is wrong with me. or I have shockingly heard from people “I would die if I had to be alone with my own thoughts”. WOW!
I think everybody should spend two hours every week floating in a sensory deprivation tank.
Not gonna beleaguer this subject any longer as it’s time to move on BUT I’ll leave you with an excerpt from Dr. Benjamin Spock, who was a Pediatrician and I think Child Psychologist in the 1960s, on bullying. I whole heartedly agree with what he said here and it’s basically what I’m trying to say:
“If parents rush out to scold a child who has been bullying their children or telephone his parents, this convinces the victims that they can’t protect themselves but can be saved only if their parents are present. So in general, I think, it is better for parents to take a philosophical attitude that THEIR CHILDREN MUST FIGHT THEIR OWN BATTLES (emphasis mine). But if one of their children is being persistently abused by a larger child, they may decide that they will have to speak to the bully or call his parents, preferable when their own child is not aware of this interference.” (This is what I was alluding to if the bullying becomes extreme. Again, perspective is needed).
“If they can learn a matter-of-fact attitude toward the occasional blows and snatchings of their contemporaries, it will form a partial protection against bullies, because bullies particularly love to go after frightened children”
-Dr. Benjamin Spock
(In 2016 terms, just substitute the word “schools” for “parents”)
So you see, Dr. Spock discouraged adult intervention in bullying cases as much as possible. The problem is, with a 0 tolerance approach to “the occasional blows and snatchings of their contemporaries” children can NEVER learn the matter-of-fact attitude toward it because the perpetrator is completely removed from their life by the school via expulsion after only one blow and snatching!
This is precisely why today’s college kids demand “Safe Zones” and want to shut down free speech anytime they hear strong words against something they hold near and dear.
@John The problem is that many people who were subject of that other extreme Benjamin Spock advocates, did not grew up to be bully proof. Which is no wonder, because that approach gives no usable advice nor help to victim. Meanwhile, it is perfect for bully who is a bit stronger or have a pack of friends and enjoys tormenting little or lonely kids a bit. If I would be a bully, I would want adults around to adopt that policy.
Kids don’t always figure it out by themselves and both extremes are wrong. In any case, if my kid would be bullying somebody, I want to know about it, because I care about raising a kid that is neither bully nor victim.
The thing about bullying is not just that victim might need to be taught how to fight back. It is also that bully is learning set of behaviors that are wrong morally/ethically and those old rules accepts bullying behavior as normal standard adults effectively endorse. Bullies should be raised not to bully, just like kids that steal candy in store should be raised not to steal.
“The thing about bullying is not just that victim might need to be taught how to fight back.”
That’s not the only problem. What if the victim does fight back, and does so effectively?
Then suddenly the “fight your own battles” advocates reverse gear and come swooping in the save their pwecious bully from getting a boo-boo, whining “it’s gotten out of hand” or “you’re overreacting”.
If it’s going to be law of the jungle, it’s got to be law of the jungle for both parties.
@BL Yes, exactly. You are supposed to fight your own battles, but “two wrongs don’t make right” and therefore old school approach punish shy usually good docile kid when the kid first time calls names back, refuses to “borrow” the toy or don’t go out of bully way when bully demand it. It all too often devolved into expectation that well behaved kid should toughen up and passively accept bullying or else is bad or overreacting as you say.
The first attempt at self-defense is almost guaranteed to be wrong in some way – either too much or too little or wrong way. It needs to be learned over time. I think that solution is to praise the kid for first step and give advice to the kid how to do it next time better instead of just yelling at the kid and punishing it for first attempt to be non perfect.
You know, raising that kid instead of closing eyes and pretending that we are making the kid self confident by pretending the problem does not exists.
If we want be hands off, we need to accept that good girls and boys sometimes need to be rude to other girls and boys, stand their ground and little ages sometimes push each other when someone skips the queue – instead of being hypocritical about how it works and hiding behind feel good slogans that simply don’t work and demand that they smile at each other and be nice.
There used to be a time when adults were just too busy to supervise kids.
So the kids just wasted time….doing what kids naturally do.
Only that isn’t so natural anymore.
Ironically – adults are now even busier
And one of the reasons why (along with the million other things they have to do)
is that they now also have all that “supervising” to do.
…..as if a child, or children – alone…..is some kind of “wasted” resource.
Perhaps….imagination, creativity, and independence – don’t count for so much, anymore.
(then what is it that kids are being raised to be, anyway?)
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I would suggest that this zero tolerance and instant intervention might turn teasing into bullying in some instances. My daughter and her friend were being teased by a group of boys — no, the boys weren’t being nice–they were being unpleasant and childish (go figure!). When the girls complained to the teacher because they didn’t know how to stop it, the spat was escalated to the principal’s office because the offense was “too serious” to handle in the classroom.
Ok…so these kids are normally friends. A few weeks ago, we had them all at a party. But they’re 9 years old — spreading their wings and quite messily trying to figure out the power-dynamics — boys vs girls, who is popular who is not, who are real friends and who are not. Do you think bringing the kids before the principal, calling their parents and getting them in a world of trouble is going to resolve the name-calling? Or just ensure that it escalates? Is there no protocol — first you try to handle it yourself, if that doesn’t work, you get the teacher involved, if that doesn’t work you go to guidance, if that doesn’t work the principal gets involved. What was once stupid and hurtful but not malicious will most certainly become malicious if the recourse goes straight to zero tolerance punishment. Few kids actually want to be bad. We know that conflicts are best resolved if you can find a way for the offending party to save face and do better next time. Escalation should be for the most egregious or chronic cases. We take teachable moments and ensure that they are not.