Perhaps you saw Let Grow in “The Overprotected American Child,” the Wall Street Journal’s most-read article of the weekend. It’s a great discussion-starter. And yet, a couple of the “milestones” recommended by the experts struck me as…pitiful. For instance:
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to wait until age 10 to allow children to walk to school, or anywhere else, without an adult.
Ten??? Yet somehow, in Germany and Spain the government wants parents to let their kids walk on their own by 6 or 7. In Japan, kids are taking the subway at 5 or 6. I would bet a bucket of cash that the pediatricians who devised that rule walked to school before age 10 (and played outside, too), and were just fine at looking both ways before crossing the street and not getting into cars with strangers.
Likewise, the idea that a parent has to issue “a good-natured challenge — ‘I bet you can’t make your sandwich all by yourself'” seems the quintessence of absurdly low expectations. It is hard to imagine a child who has no developmental challenges finding it hard to place a piece of bread on the counter, place another something on top of it, and then seal the deal with a second slice of bread. That is not a challenge. A challenge is eating it on horseback.
And while I do love the idea of showing appreciation when kids — or spouses — do something helpful around the house, like washing the dishes, the idea that “when children make these efforts, parents [should] offer enthusiastic and specific praise, along with a pat on the back or a high-five” again seems insulting rather than empowering. Kids WANT to be part of the grown-up world. Trusting them to join us, including in the boring stuff, is part of the deal. Not every single thing a child does requires a 21-gun salute.
In fact, that kind of over-praise seems to be saying how little we actually expect of them.
If you feel the same way — a little dismayed at what passes for truly “giving kids independence” — join Let Grow. (It’s free!) You’ll be able to talk to others on our forums page, and find other Let Grow families in your neighborhood. Even folks who let their kids walk to school before their voices change. – L