But getting to know your neighbors is another post for another day. Today we are going to talk about kids.
In our increasingly disconnected society -- I mean disconnected with what sustains us (our food, water, etc) -- we are becoming more and more reliant upon big businesses to take care of us. There's nothing inherently wrong with that (but we should probably have a back-up plan, and be sure to keep the businesses that soak up our money in check), but we are, as a society, undoubtedly less self-reliant. So much less self-reliant, actually, that some of us are actually teaching our kids to be less self-reliant.
What are a few ways we teach our kids to be less self-reliant?
- Making (and buying) things that are plastic and overly safe
- Not allowing them to help make food
- Showering with toys that severely limit creativity and imagination
- Not allowing safe unsupervised play
- We even make them physically less self-reliant, keeping them ridiculously clean (not letting them wash themselves, of course) and showering them in antibiotics and antibacterials which may weaken their immune systems while simultaneously encouraging the growth of "super bugs"
I'm a mom of two, and I understand how nice it can feel to be needed by your kids. It's so much easier and faster to just make dinner real quick while your kids watch TV, to wash their hands for them (they always miss spots!), to push your 12-month-old around in a stroller, how much better you feel when your little one goes on the little slide (NOT the big slide-he might fall!). It's also easy to convince yourself that you're teaching your kids how to do these things by showing them how to do it... but you never let them try. You just let them rely on you, and that's what they will pick up on more than anything. And in today's fast-paced world, who has the time to slow down and interact? Isn't that what you send your kids to school for, anyway?
The thing is, your kids will still need you, even if they are self-reliant. Self-reliance doesn't mean "never get help" or "don't have a loving family" or "don't talk to people." Self-reliance is ridiculously difficult if you don't have the help, encouragement, and love of others. And that's what parents are for, I think: Just to be there for their kids- to love them and encourage them and give them help when they need it. They don't need help all the time.
This, I suppose, is my response to a post on the Free Range Kids blog. Lenore Skenazy (the author of the Free Range Kids book) posted a short essay which had been anonymously written and published in an elementary school newsletter. The essay is simply about witnessing a parent "babying" her kid.. something that might be expected on the first day of school for a kindergartener; however, this was a much older kid in the middle of the year.
The essay goes on to say:
"When children have no need to do things for themselves, what do you think will happen over time? When children know their parents will do everything for them, what message did the parent send? And when their peers see this happening, do they see the child as independent and a “can do,” capable person? They may see incapable, they may see lazy, or they may think that the parent is being fooled."I think that when a kid's peers see this, especially from multiple people in multiple places, they think it's okay. They may even think its expected. I mean, how many times have you seen kids bossing around their parents in public? My opinion is that this started from a well-meaning parent that did everything for their kid. The first image that comes to mind is Cartman from South Park.
The kid begins to expect to be catered to. The kid's peers notice this behavior... and many of them try it out. I'm sure you remember some particularly bratty things you did when you were a kid. With so many overworked, overtired, overstressed parents these days, however, I think a lot of people have less energy to stand up to their own children and make solid rules that are followed on a consistent basis. I'm really worried about the direction these kids (and their parents) are heading.
Do you think kids' self-reliance is being "stolen?" Are we doomed? Is this all just normal?