Kids have had whatever independence they enjoyed 40 years ago taken from them. Stolen. They’ve had their environment — home, school, the playground — made so safe, so risk-free you’d think they’re mentally defective or suicidal.
But over the same time period, incredibly, one very large group of Americans has gone completely in the opposite direction, experiencing a dramatic decline in its enjoyment of independence and self-determination. That group is children.
To help illustrate what kids have lost since the late 1970s, here is a partial list of things that the young of my generation did that kids can’t do anymore:
- Climb trees and other objects
- Take off on their bikes for hours, alone or with other kids
- Use adult implements and tools instead of dumbed-down versions like kid scissors, sippy cups, lunchboxes, dishes, furniture, etc.
- Spend time outdoors, hours of it, much of it alone or with other kids; even go camping without adults
- Cook, use regular or power tools, build things, play with fire, tinker with electrical appliances and gadgets, without adults standing over them
- Walk real distances and use public transit, go into stores, restaurants and other public places and buy things, eat or hang out, without adults monitoring, much less child-proofing the place or making a “teachable” moment of it
- Come home from school and decide what to do. No soccer practice, no music lessons, no supervised arts and crafts. This was unscheduled time, alone or with friends, which allowed children to actually do something that has been 100% usurped by adults: make decisions
Kids have had whatever independence they enjoyed 40 years ago taken from them. Stolen. They’ve had their environment — home, school, the playground — made so safe, so risk-free you’d think they’re mentally defective or suicidal. They’re followed by a security detail everywhere they go. Every minute of their day is scheduled by adults who are “looking out for their future,” and literally none of that time permits them to be away from the watchful eyes of adults unless they’re sleeping. None. (Exceptions may be made starting in the teen years, but on a cellular leash.) They’re told what to do, how to do it, and when. (I’ve seen a dad tell his young daughter how to climb a set of easy steps: “Hands and feet!”) They’re expected to believe that a “family concert” with balloon animals is a fair replacement for hours spent exploring and learning about the world on their own terms, unmediated and unsupervised.
Read the rest here. Then go to Let Grow’s section on “Programs,” for ideas on how to change this. Also please join us by signing up for LetGrow emails on the right side of this blog. Eventually we will have enough Let Growers across America for everyone to find each other and send their kids outside! – L