There’s a disturbing trend happening in our culture today. In a world constantly chasing fame and fortune, parents have begun to prepare their children for this lifestyle at earlier and earlier ages. Gone are the days of teaching 4-year-olds how to tie their shoes and play with their dolls. The good ol’ days of letting your children run, explore, and use their imaginations is almost a thing of the past. We have now entered the Age of Overeducating Your Kids.
It’s a well-known fact that children are maturing at faster and faster rates these days, and adults everywhere solemnly shake their heads and click their tongues in despair because of this. But let’s take a look at one possible reason why this is happening.
Just a few generations ago, children were able to run and play and, well…be kids. Games of Kick the Can and street hockey were to be found in a great many neighborhoods. Kids were able to catch tadpoles and snakes or play house and Barbies to their heart’s content. If your kids’ days look like this, I applaud you because you are definitely going against the grain in society today.
Today’s norm has begun to look something like this…
*Found out you’re expecting?? Great! Now let’s get down to business. First, find the most prestigious preschool for your child and submit an application before you’ve even had your first sonogram. It’s sooo important for baby to get into the right preschool, or it might upset his/her chances to get into an Ivy League school someday. You can never be too prepared…and those wait lists can be killer.*
Your baby’s 6 months old and not crawling, yet? Better pay for a therapist to come in…we don’t want baby to be behind. Oh, and don’t forget to show those sight word cards to her everyday. She needs to get a head start on her reading.
Happy 3rd Birthday, darling! You can’t really open your gift per se, you see, because we are giving you the gifts of French lessons and computer classes at your preschool! Isn’t it wonderful? What? You want to learn how to tie your shoes? Later, dear. Later.
I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. There is nothing wrong with these activities in and of themselves, but it’s important to look at the motives behind it. Could it be…
-a hope for economic prosperity for your child
-a complete interest in giving your child a head start on life
or…I think the most popular reason…
Could that have possibly entered the picture at some point? But so-and-so’s son is doing it- we can’t look bad. I feel so good when I tell people all about the wonderful things I am doing for my kids. It makes me feel like a better parent.
I really wish that these types of parents would remember one important thing. Their children are CHILDREN. Let them play. Let them dig up some worms, make mud pies, and get good and dirty. Childhood is but a tiny fraction of a person’s life. Don’t squander it on programming them to be little adults!
And it’s not just parents who are guilty of this. The school institution is just as culpable here. 5-year-olds who enter Kindergarten are expected to sit for long periods of time completing worksheets and busywork. Many adults have a hard time sitting for extended periods of time. Why would we expect this of our little ones? Granted, most children do learn to tolerate this tedium, but at what expense? A broken spirit. What else do you expect after their natural energy and curiosity are pushed farther and farther down until they learn to “sit still, keep your eyes and ears open and your mouths closed?”
Enter our current age of progress at all costs. Yes, children are maturing faster and faster. Of course they are. From a very early age, so many kids are being expected to behave like miniature adults. This is not what I want for my children.
I want them to be exactly what they are. Kids. I want them to get so excited about discoveries that they have to be told to quiet down a little. I want them to come back in from outside with slug juice all over their hands and mud all over their feet. I want to trip over their tents made of blankets and their dollhouses made of boxes. Why? Because then I know they are embracing their freedom to be who they are- not what I yearn for them to be. It’s not about me. It’s about them.
So when I hear my 12-year-old daughter calling for her siblings to come and play school, I can only smile. Because childhood lasts a little longer in this house.
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