Hudson Valley Parent

HVP - April 2014

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8 Hudson Valley Parent n April 2014 have no room today for "late bloomers." Children who don't achieve suc- cess early or high enough are looked at as inept. The prevailing belief has become: "If my child has trouble doing it himself, I'll do it for him." It is falsely believed that all failure and anxi- ety should be alleviated or removed at all cost or the child's self esteem will suffer. Competitive parenting Most parents have the best of intentions by offering the multitude of activities their children engage in, also shielding them from failing. As one mother put it, "You want your child to have everything you never had and not experience the hard- ships of growing up." Parents want their children to have rich happy childhoods, not recognizing that many children are reacting to this "overbooking" with adult levels of stress. This push for success has made "parenting the most competitive adult sport" says Alvin Rosenfeld, a psychiatrist and author of "The Overscheduled Child." He says we are trying to professionalize child- hood. There is no place in a child's life where the adults haven't intrud- ed or assisted. Although there is no total agree- ment among experts about how much is too much, there is concern among professionals that there are real and potential problems in a number of child development areas. This high level of structure im- posed upon children reflects the new attitude among parents; that the A ll parents share the same goal for their children: to help them grow and develop the requisite skills to become an independent auton- omous adult. However, today many professionals believe we are doing too much for our children and inadvertently curtailing these two desired devel- opmental tasks. Social calendar The belief is that many of today's parents are either structuring a barrage of activities for their chil- dren with independent play being sacrificed or doing things for their children that their children should be doing for themselves. Rather than changing from their school clothes and running out to play, today's kids check their text messages, e-mails, social media, or the family planner to access their "daily schedule." If your family's date calendar on the kitchen refrigerator looks like a spread sheet for a corporate take- over, and your family's planning and connections for the day are remi- niscent of an episode from "Mission Impossible," maybe you are pushing your kids too hard and doing too much for them! The hurried child The warning Dr. David Elkind issued to us over 30 years ago in his landmark work "The Hurried Child" (developed today into the "Hurried Child Syndrome") was clear. The pressure to grow up fast and to achieve early and continu- ously has become a fabric of middle class America. Elkind relates that we years of childhood are not to be frit- tered away and that children should always feel special and succeed as a way to enhance self-esteem. Many educators and psychologists are concerned that schedules and supervision, and parent involvement have frequently replaced sponta- neity and autonomy. These rigid regimens and the high expectations are producing passive and pressured kids. Those "hurried children" may be forgetting how to have fun, and are also losing their creativity along the way. Let them choose This goal of parents to ele- vate self-esteem by developing well-rounded Renaissance children may be preventing their children from achieving mastery in an area of choice: their choice! Kids become more confident in their skills when they do things on their own. Family relationships also appear to be damaged by running from one scheduled activity to another. There is no down time. As one critic put it, "There isn't much room for the flow of life, those little moments when things happen spontaneously." — that lazy alone time when ideas about self can blossom. As parents, the greatest gift we can give our children is our time, not more lessons. Paul Schwartz, PhD., is a profes- sor of psychology and education at Mount Saint Mary College. PAUL SCHWARTZ Child Behavior Are we overscheduling our children? Kids become more confident in their skills when they do things on their own.

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