Sunday, February 27, 2011

Stealing From Kids

At our house, we kind of have a bit of an obsession with self-reliance.  As a result, our kids are unschooled  and we are members of a local self-reliant community. We think it's important to know how to be able to take care of yourself. Most adults probably would not know how to take care of themselves if things they rely on -- grocery stores, gasoline, fresh water, electricity -- became unavailable. In our changing world, we think it's important to, at the very least, know the basics of self-reliance. Oddly enough, it involves actually talking to the people around you.

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?
  1. Making (and buying) things that are plastic and overly safe
  2. Not allowing them to help make food
  3. Showering with toys that severely limit creativity and imagination
  4. Not allowing safe unsupervised play
  5. 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? 


  1. Found this really interesting.

    Was watching a program about Japanese people, think it was Justin Lee Collins. They send their kids to a work place, more out of fun for the kids. Its all staged scenarios and acts out certain places of work such as fireman, office worker, cake seller or something.

    Thought this was great as it gave the kids loads of confdence and an idea right from the start on how it feels to work.

  2. Eh, a few cuts and bruises are good for character. I know I got my fair share when I was a kid, and I plan on letting mine (if I ever have any) do the same.

  3. Kids today are spoiled - they get everything they want. My kids will know what discipline is!

  4. I think that not all the methods are 100% effectives, it depends on the kid.
    And I think that a balance is the key, not too much of something but not too few either.
    I would personally never deprive my kids from going to school.

  5. I have to agree with you on moat all points except home schooling. From what I've seen, the social interaction provided by public schooling does a lot of good. In any case, however, it sounds like you probably have a zombie plan, so I approve.

  6. @Patti D. & Robert Fünf~ Thanks for sharing your concerns about homeschooling. =D

    We live in Washington State, which allows kids to go to school part-time and still be considered "homeschooled," which is pretty epic. We plan on doing that when our kids are in middle/high school. =D

    We're well aware of the socialization concerns, which is why we joined the YMCA. Our 7-year-old is on the basketball team and goes to classes a couple days a week.

    It's a struggle to find homeschooling groups that aren't bible-thumpers... but during the summer we go to Park Day with a bunch of AWESOME unschooling families once or twice a month - but they are like an hour away from us. =(

    Luckily, however, we live on a street with a bunch of kids for our 7-year-old to play with regularly. =D

    @BlowingInTheWind~ That program seems awesome; I'll have to look it up! =D

  7. I agree on the need for self reliance in these changing times - cool post, following

  8. Self-reliance is too important thing, which we must teach our children. Otherwise, our children and their childs in future will be a lazy helpless consumers.

  9. Can't tell you how refreshing this is to hear... I was raised by somebody who thought like you, and I intend to pay it forward.

  10. Yep, so tired of undisciplined kids these days, it makes me so angry that they don't know how privileged they are, but yet they feel that they have a right to certain things.

  11. In general I find kids today are too pampered. I remember being set free to walk to and from school when I was about 6. Heck I even took the bus on my own!

  12. it very much depends on the kid

  13. Im going to grow a garden now

  14. Haha your other blog is 100% broken. But I like the way it looks!

  15. The crisis of family is evident.

    Partially because in the present spirit of the time money fixes everything and parents often just toss money at their kids expecting them to work out well for they did invest in them quite a bit.

    Not to mention the fact that the human interaction of today is really lacking in physical touch, which is essential for a good development of a child.

    Like Carling said "Touch the little fucker..."

  16. Okay, I'll try the tips you wrote down. Thanks for that. my gaming news

  17. There always needs to be a balance when it comes to parenting. However, it's a difficult balance to learn. Great post, good read. Thank you for sharing!