If that is the case, then I wonder, why is this an issue now? Helicopter parenting is certainly nothing new.
Maybe, maybe not. This
is a pretty interesting article, in which the writer draws some conclusions based on the fact that unstructured, unsupervised play has steadily fallen out of fashion over the last several decades. That correlates to an increase in anxiety and depression in kids, as evidenced by 130 years' worth of psychological testing conducted on samples of students.
Twenge suggests that the shift from intrinsic to extrinsic goals represents a general shift toward a culture of materialism, transmitted through television and other media. Young people are exposed from birth to advertisements and other messages implying that happiness depends on good looks, popularity, and material goods.
One reason I am glad we got rid of our cable. It felt like "all commercials, all the time" and to say I felt disgusted watching my three year old son absorb all of that loud, desperate screeching is a bit of an understatement.
And here I thought I was a bad parent for being laissez faire with his playing and sleep schedule. Maybe he won't grow up hating the world and all the people in it from a very young age like his old man after all. He is already very eager to start going to school and is extremely outgoing personality wise.
How Coercive Schooling Deprives Young People of Personal Control, Directs Them Toward Extrinsic Goals, and Promotes Anxiety and Depression
During the same half-century or more that free play has declined, school and school-like activities (such as lessons out of school and adult-directed sports) have risen continuously in prominence. Children today spend more hours per day, days per year, and years of their life in school than ever before. More weight is given to tests and grades than ever. Outside of school, children spend more time than ever in settings in which they are directed, protected, catered to, ranked, judged, and rewarded by adults. In all of these settings adults are in control, not children.
In school, children learn quickly that their own choices of activities and their own judgments of competence don't count; what matters are the teachers' choices and judgments. Teachers are not entirely predictable: You may study hard and still get a poor grade because you didn't figure out exactly what the teacher wanted you to study or guess correctly what questions he or she would ask. The goal in class, in the minds of the great majority of students, is not competence but good grades. Given a choice between really learning a subject and getting an A, the great majority of students would, without hesitation, pick the latter. That is true at every stage in the educational process, at least up to the level of graduate school. That's not the fault of students; that's our fault. We've set it up that way. Our system of constant testing and evaluation in school—which becomes increasingly intense with every passing year—is a system that very clearly substitutes extrinsic rewards and goals for intrinsic ones. It is almost designed to produce anxiety and depression.
School is also a place where children have little choice about with whom they can associate. They are herded into spaces filled with other children that they did not choose, and they must spend a good portion of each school day in those spaces. In free play, children who feel harassed or bullied can leave the situation and find another group that is more compatible; in school they cannot. Whether the bullies are other students or teachers (which is all too common), the child usually has no choice but to face those persons day after day.
The results are sometimes disastrous.
A few years ago, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Jeremy Hunter conducted a study of happiness and unhappiness in public school students in 6th through 12th grade. Each of 828 participants, from 33 different schools in 12 different communities across the country, wore a special wristwatch for a week, programmed to provide a signal at random times between 7:30 am and 10:30 pm. Whenever the signal went off participants filled out a questionnaire indicating where they were, what they were doing, and how happy or unhappy they were at the moment.
The lowest levels of happiness by far (surprise, surprise) occurred when children were at school, and the highest levels occurred when they were out of school and conversing or playing with friends. Time spent with parents fell in the middle of the range. Average happiness increased on weekends, but then plummeted from late Sunday afternoon through the evening, in anticipation of the coming school week.
As a society we have come to the conclusion that children must spend increasing amounts of time in the very setting where they least want to be. The cost of that belief, as measured by the happiness and mental health of our children, is enormous.
It is time to re-think education.
This makes a lot of sense. We were considering home school for our son and future children, after reading this, I'm definitely a bit more inclined.