A recent issue of The Atlantic points to the increasing concern we have for child safety and the way we have changed how we view play and the time we spend with our children. We worry over reports of child accidents and abductions.
In turn, we parents are more involved in our children’s activities. The article concludes that this is causing our children to lose their sense of adventure and the freedom afforded by taking risks.
Year ago, kids had more freedom to explore without mom or dad monitoring our every move. We spent hours outside, making up games, exercising our rich imaginations and sometimes pushing the limits out of curiosity and a sense of derring-do. Today, play spaces are structured and prescribed. Children are much less spontaneous. Play is more often indoors, alone, facing an electronic screen.
In the past, interaction with others and a measure of risk helped us overcome fear, become independent, make sound decisions and survive. What happened to those shrieks of childhood fun and joy that we used to hear throughout our neighborhoods? They’re seldom heard anymore.
But it’s not as bad out there as it seems. The Atlantic article notes that, while we certainly want to protect our children, it suggests that our fear is overblown, inhibiting our children from independent discovery and development. Today, the frequency of injury to our kids is barely less than it was in 1980 and abduction cases remain exceedingly rare.
Additionally, a recent research study highlighted in the Atlantic article finds that parental involvement in school seems to yield few academic dividends for their kids. Efforts such as observing a class, meeting frequently with teachers or imposing rules for doing homework seem to have no impact on a child’s academic progress. Scores in creative thinking have actually declined. Children have become less emotionally and verbally expressive, as well as less energetic, humorous, imaginative, passionate and perceptive.
This is shocking news to parents who have sacrificed and dedicated themselves to supporting their children, encouraging their academic success and keeping them safe. Should we just give up? If parental oversight has not resulted in greater safety, and if being involved in a child’s school environment and social activities has had little impact on academic progress, what should we be doing to raise responsible children in a safe and encouraging way? Are we creating dependent children who lack the skills to process information and make decisions?
The article points out that there are some actions that parents can take to provide a supportive environment with a positive impact. They can provide their children with more opportunities for outside play, encourage them to use their imagination, maintain high expectations for their behavior and help them choose their friends wisely.
Regarding education, parents need to make sure their child and teacher are a good match—and if not, request another teacher. They should read aloud to their children and, later, discuss college plans with them.
Tom Tozer and Bill Black are authors of the new book “Dads2Dads: Tools for Raising Teenagers.” Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter at Dads2Dadsllc.com. Contact them at tomandbill@Dads2Dadsllc.com.