On ABC's "Good Morning America" site the other day, the network quoted an "expert" saying: "If your 12-year-old is capable of walking home from the bus stop by themselves, that's something that you might make a decision about where another 12-year-old may be too impulsive."
To which Christopher Byrne, aka "The Toy Guy," who is content director for TTPM.com, replied:
When Charles Dickens as 12, he began working 10-hour days at Warren's
Blacking Factory. The small amount of money he made paid for his
family's food while his father was jailed for debt. Dickens also had
to get to and from work, visit his father afterwards and get out
before he got locked in for the night.
Arguably, this was traumatic, and it shows up in "David Copperfield,"
but his was hardly an isolated case, though not everyone turned this
type of experience into classic literature.
When I was 12, I had a job working in a greenhouse. It was only a few
hours a day and during the summer, but I was able to get to and from
there and was proud to have the job. I got it through friends of my
parents, and I learned a lot, and I made mistakes. (Specifically that
while I can take care of orchids, I never want a greenhouse.) Plants
are remarkably forgiving.
Teens are anxious, in my opinion, because they get to be teens and are
pushed out into the world--and the pressure of college applications,
etc.--without ever having formative experiences that give them self
reliance. We give them no early responsibility and they don't have the
opportunity to have such experiences because they "might get hurt."
By not allowing kids to do things by themselves, certainly within
parameters, we do them a disservice. The fear of what "might happen"
is preventing kids from making things happen for themselves. No wonder
they're anxious when they suddenly are more on their own.
And a merry childhood, one and all!