In a front page article by Claire Cain Miller about how much time and money modern parents are expected to expend on their kids (hint: a LOT), The New York Times notes something we have noticed, too. Even if the "relentless" model of carting the kids from karate to Kumon to clarinet seems to be the purview of the wealthiest, it has in fact become the model for "good parenting," no matter what one's class or creed:
...[R] researchers say the expectations have permeated all corners of society, whether or not parents can achieve them. It starts in utero, when mothers are told to avoid cold cuts and coffee, lest they harm the baby. Then: video baby monitors. Homemade baby food. Sugar-free birthday cake. Toddler music classes. Breast-feeding exclusively. Spraying children’s hands with sanitizer and covering them in “natural” sunscreen. Throwing Pinterest-perfect birthday parties. Eating lunch in their children’s school cafeterias. Calling employers after their adult children interview for jobs.
The American Academy of Pediatrics promotes the idea that parents should be constantly monitoring and teaching children, even when the science doesn’t give a clear answer about what’s best. It now recommends that babies sleep in parents’ rooms for a year. Children’s television — instead of giving parents the chance to cook dinner or have an adult conversation — is to be “co-viewed” for maximum learning.
That's a whole lot of "best practices" that will seem really weird or even unwise (looking at you, hand sanitizer) sometime in the future.
If not already.
In a new paper, Patrick Ishizuka surveyed a nationally representative group of 3,642 parents about parenting. Regardless of their education, income or race, they said the most hands-on and expensive choices were best. For example, they said children who were bored after school should be enrolled in extracurricular activities, and that parents who were busy should stop their task and draw with their children if asked.
“Intensive parenting has really become the dominant cultural model for how children should be raised,” said Mr. Ishizuka, a postdoctoral fellow studying gender and inequality at Cornell.
Let Grow exists to challenge that model.
We do it by asking what's really necessary and what's not. We look to other eras, other cultures and our own childhoods to give us some perspective. We talk to psychologists, sociologists and teachers. And we look at the consequences. If "intensive parenting" is the only proper way to raise kids, it leads to "intensive" amounts of time and money that many cannot afford. And if it is the only LEGAL way to raise kids, it leads to the harassment and even arrest of parents who, by choice or necessity, let their kids wait in the car for five minutes, or play outside unsupervised.
Perhaps the saddest consequence is visited upon the kids themselves: Children growing up more anxious, hypersensitive, depressed. You'd be too, if you weren't allowed to stretch your wings.
Let Grow is committed to normalizing another model of child-rearing -- just as loving, but less "relentless."
A new year lies ahead. Let's turn this thing around. - L