My piece on The Washington Post’s op-ed page should calm some parents — even those whose kids seem to be wasting every moment. It begins:
“How do you not helicopter parent in this environment? Ideas????”
This email from a friend said it all. With so many schools closed, playgrounds off-limits and parents working at home — or wishing they were working — we really are in four-question-mark territory these days. What is a parent to do?
Here’s a thought: Give up!!!!
Yes, even smushed together with the kids 24/7, there is simply no way a parent can be hovering, helping or doing that “High five, little buddy!” thing all day long. And the good news is: Children don’t need it.
The idea that parents have to enrich every second of their kids’ lives was a crazy lie even before the coronavirus. Kids never needed all that parental stimulation. You know how Einstein spent much of his time as a kid?
He made houses of cards.
Just imagine young Albert, the little loser, balancing cards and learning absolutely nothing. Except … well … patience … and concentration … and physics.
NOT that kids are all going to become geniuses at this particular moment. My point is just that kids have ALWAYS wasted time in ways parents and teachers could see no educational upside to. But kids are always learning — even when playing Call of Duty (one of my son’s current obsessions). Call of Duty!
But is that terrible? Nothing is interesting to kids — or any of us — if it’s not at least a little challenging. So even if a kid is working on his “kill/death ratio” (sigh), he is learning focus, frustration tolerance and how to make alliances. Those are transferable skills — not wasted hours. Video games are absorbing because they turn kids on, not off.
Long story short:
Our kids are not going to seed even if they are sleeping, gaming and bingeing on YouTube. In fact, they’re growing, simply because kids are always growing and learning from everything — houses of cards, Nerf guns, Barbies, baths, videos, but most of all from that vital resource more rare and precious than toilet paper: free time.