My sister was watching Michael Smerconish on CNN a few weeks ago. He was interviewing an expert on how social media is wallopping kids’ mental health, and my sister, Hannah, was incensed on my behalf: “They didn’t even talk about overprotection, or kids being in adult-run activities all the time, or how it feels to be treated like a baby when you’re 8 or 10 or 12.”
She told me to write to Smerconish and say, “Hey! You’re missing a big piece of the picture. Maybe the biggest! Consider the lack-of-independence angle!” So I did what she said. (She is my older sister, after all.)
Whereupon Smerconish not only emailed back, he invited me on his Sirius Radio show. Here is the interview! I LOVED our chat.
Afterward, his producer called and said, “Now Michael would like you on CNN next Saturday to talk about the same thing.” So here I am, on CNN, this past Saturday.
Naturally it was a much shorter interview, but I did make my one big point — I hope — by reading the following aloud: Sentences written by 7th graders about things they wanted to do, but had been scared to try:
*I was hesitant to try walking my dog alone because I was scared that he would get loose from the leash or a scary man would take me.
*I was afraid to try and cook because there’s an open flame and I could get hurt.
*I was hesitant to use a sharp knife as my parents had never let me before.
That is anxiety, I said to Michael: The fear of not being able to handle things. What I forgot to add is that those kids actually ended up DOING all the things they were afraid of, thanks to The Let Grow Project (the free homework assignment that tells kids, “Go home and do something new, on your own!”).
My six minutes zipped by so fast, there were tons of ideas I didn’t get to: The importance of trust. The way our culture shoves fear down our throats. And how much WE got from that rapidly disappearing luxury: time we could “waste” outside, or with friends, or on hobbies.
But viewers got the gist: When we let them, kids rise to the occasion. Time to let them.
It’s also time to salute all the older siblings out there still looking out for their kid sisters. Thanks.
Thanks to Hannah for the suggestion and to Lenore for an excellent interview. Independence is not only an important life skill but also a closely connected to self-efficacy and executive functioning. Failure is also important. Kids wrapped in bubble wrap will forever be reliant on others.
Smashing interviews, as usual, Lenore. What strikes me about the quotes is the pathological fear of failure. As though all endeavors must be accomplished — perfectly. I increasingly believe, feel that the pathologies being discussed amongst children are pervasive, too, amongst adults. Adults terrified of slip-ups in parenting? As though they must be perfect themselves. Not extend themselves, their families to where their control may slip. What a wretched burden. What a terrible role model. My parents needed our freedom, our independence in largely occupying ourselves, in freely working to help our parents each hold down a job, a life themselves. Yes, acceptance that failure happens, the freedom to carry on, pick ourselves up, is pivotal to successful upbringings. So too, to rewarding adult lives, parenting.