The problem with kids these days...

>> Sunday, April 11, 2010

Following is the text of what I submitted for this week's Discussion assignment on the status of play.  Free play is required for children to be healthy developmentally in all areas, but many kids aren't given that option. When kids don't get the chance to decide on their own how they will play, they lose the ability to make specific kinds of decisions and navigate diplomacy, a skill called "executive function". This lack causes severe difficulties and behavior problems. This text is my reaction to the articles assigned on the topic. They were really quite fascinating; I'll link them at the end.

Throughout our readings there has been a continuing theme that perhaps could use a different perspective. Each article has addressed a similar variety of potential issues that have lead to the situation in which we find ourselves today regarding play. However, these issues have been presented simply as causes, and not truly confronted head-on as the source of the issue. The problem here is not a debate over what is appropriate for our children. The problem really has nothing to do with the children at all... it's the adults.

Many children are no longer allowed to free play because of physical danger; either they have no safe outdoor place to play or the indoor environment is not safe to navigate unguided. In other words, parents are afraid of harm, and therefore assert control over where and how their children play.

Many children do not free play while at home because parents believe they must interact with their child but don't have time to do so, and so they turn on the TV or computer. In other words, parents are afraid of what other people will think if they say no to a request and schedule more time around their children. And so they assert control through where the children are and what they're doing so that they (the parent) does not need to be present.

Many children are overbooked through activities and events to the point of creating stress disorders. This happens because parents may be afraid of what other parents think, or are afraid that they are not good enough parents, instead of being secure in the knowledge that they are smart and intelligent people who can learn about children and be confident about what is right for their own child. In response to that fear, they micromanage every moment of their child's day.

The fact that play is being eliminated from classrooms across the country stems from an adult fear that the children will not meet up to the world's expectations; not only when they are adults, but also as children. Our world is so overly competitive in a way that children don't naturally understand, and so adults push them in a reflection of their own fear of failure. This fear of failure, of the potential of not living up to the rest of the world, causes adults to control academic requirements and school responsibilities to assert the potential to win.

My opinion is that the best way to fix this problem is world-wide therapy sessions! Seriously though, the pattern of fear --> control is one that arises in many areas of life, in overprotective parenting, in disorders and crimes, in dysfunctional marriages, in struggling businesses, in political budgets. While a certain amount of fear is healthy and instinctive, I believe our technological age and city living has led to a loss of real areas in which we were not meant to control, but merely to observe and learn. Living as we do, we have more time for introspection and emotional connection to our fears, and less practice letting things be as nature intends. Humankind has been successfully navigating life for millions of years, but not until recently has living become relatively easy for most. We've become soft and squeamish as a society, and allowed our fears to overtake us.

In order to let our children play, to learn and develop naturally as children were created to do, adults (parents, teachers, and lawmakers included) must step back from their fear and release control. They must allow for the possibility that a child may get poked with the stick they swing, that they might get muddy or bitten by mosquitoes in the creek, or that they might experience the pain of a friend calling them names. As most of our resources have pointed out, living through and learning from experiences like these lead us to understand how to navigate life and to be successful in our future. Depriving our children of these opportunities in the name of avoiding potential harm will instead create a whole new range of developmental problems, and a society in which adults no longer understand how to interact appropriately with one another.

List copied from our "Resources" tab for Modules 1 & 2 from Walden University:
(Sorry for the wonky formatting)

Required Resources
Supplemental Resources

  • Web Article: Taking Play Seriously

  • Web Article: Creative Play Makes for Kids in Control

  • Video: Stuart Brown: Why Play is Vital--No Matter Your Age

  • Web Article: Recess and the Importance of Play

  • Introduction 
    Organized Activities Marginalizing Free Time 
    Technological Innovations 
    Web Article: The Impact of Home Computer Use on Children’s Activities and Development
    Increased Focus on Academics
    • Web Article: Another Look at What Young Children Should be Learning
    • Web Article: Should Preschools Teach All Work and No Play? 
    • Web Article: No Outdoor Play Hurts Children 
    • Web Article: Alliance for Childhood Campaigns to Take Pressure off Children 
    • Web Article: The Three R’s: A Fourth is Crucial, Too: Recess 
    • Web Article: Recess and the Importance of Play 
    • Video: Immersion


      About This Blog

      Life is about changes; transitions from one place to another, from one purpose to another, from one being to another. They say that the person you are today is a completely different person from who you were ten years ago and who you'll be ten years from now. So far, at the age of 33, I've had four major transitions in my life which redefined who I am. Two years into the results of the most recent transition I am again - still - exploring how God is shaping me. Over the next few months I hope to review my past and set goals for the future, and embrace the next adventure of rediscovering me.

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