Magazine article Work & Family Life

Are We Pushing Our Children Too Much?

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Are We Pushing Our Children Too Much?

Article excerpt

By Alvin Rosenfeld, M.D. and Nicole Wise

Who else,

we under,

didn't get

invited to

Annie's birthday party? What

will the teacher think of our

family if Jackson brings his

laser squirt gun to show-and

tell? What drills can we do

on weekends and afternoons

to make absolutely sure

Kendra is a starter on her

softball team?

We all want the best for our children but, for many of us, parenting has come to resemble a relentless to-do list. We well-meaning mothers and fathers worry about matters big and small, striving to micromanage every detail of our kids' lives.

We all want to be good par-ents This over-concern-what we call "hyperparenting"-is born of the best intentions. We used to think of it as a "yuppies phenomenon, but these days we've all been persuaded that average, typical or even "normal" isn't good enough: that to prepare kids adequately for the new millennium, we need to give them an edge over the competition, speed up their development, and not let an ounce of their potential go untapped. What makes parenting so intense?

THE MEDIA.

The world "out there" is portrayed as brutal and unpredictably dangerous, so parents always have to be on the alert for their children's safety. The media also tells us that perfection is possible. You can do this, you should do that. Inspirational stories recount how, with the right efforts started early enough, each of us can raise a superstar like, say, golf prodigy Tiger Woods. These stories imply that every child should be above average, as though this was not, by definition, impossible.

THE URGE TO BUY. To get our babies off to an accelerated intellectual start, we're urged to buy an endless parade of educational toys, tapes, books and videos. Some are excellent but they tend to divert our attention away from the things that are really crucial to healthy brain development: daily experiences like banging a wooden spoon on the kitchen floor, playing in a tub full of bubbles and, most importantly, interacting with a loving, playful adult who is present, attentive and involved. Our homes are stimulating, our hugs are enriching; we don't need to set up a theme park on the family room floor.

CONFLICTING ADVICE. Childrearing advice on TV, the Internet, in books, magazines and newsletters can be enormously helpful. It can also be confusing and make you think there's only one "right way" to do something. Remember Dr. Spock's most useful advice: "Trust yourself " It's great to read, learn, talk and study but it's best to question "one size fits all" advice. Feel free and confident to choose what suits you best, what deepens your understanding and emotional appreciation of the relationship you have with your child and what might further it.

Many of us parents today are, quite simply, too involved in our children's lives. We're convinced that every single thing matters, every minute of the day. Not only do we need to know what's going on, we feel like it's our job to sprinkle fairy dust to make it happen in just the right way for our kids.

It is generosity-spiced with dashes of anxiety and ambition-that leads a parent to work so hard to shield a child from failure or disappointment. But as we strive to smooth out their lives so that they can always be happy, we keep kids from developing adaptability and from learning from their mistakes. …

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