Posts Tagged ‘Childhood’

Do kids nowadays need to be taught how to play?

October 14, 2015

When I was a child, I learned how to play games from other children.

No adult taught me how to play tag or dodge ball or Quaker meeting [1] or hide and go seek or even baseball.  I learned them all from other children.

I learned the rules of fair play from other children.  All games have rules.  If you didn’t play by the rules, other kids wouldn’t want to play with you.

Playworks supervised play

Playworks supervised play

Now I learn there is a company called Playworks that offers services as a “recess consultant.”   It organizes school recess to create “more inclusive and structured playtime” to create a “quality playtime experience” that will enable children to be more successful adults.   I am not making this up.

I see two possible ways to look at this—one bad and one worse.

The merely bad possibility is that this is a typical bureaucratic scheme to take all the spontaneity out of life.

The worse possibility is that companies such as Playworks actually are needed—that adults organize children’s time so thoroughly that they literally don’t know how to play, only how to take part in organized activities.

That’s why so many kids nowadays are devoted to their Smartphones.  The Internet is the only realm where they can be free of adult supervision.

Now I don’t see any evidence of this on my street.  I see hopscotch chalk marks on the sidewalks, the same as when I was a child.  I see kids playing ball and doing other normal kid things.


Neil deGrasse Tyson on education

March 16, 2015

tiffany.nbHat tip to tiffany267.

Black and white ways of child-rearing

September 23, 2014

Brittney Cooper, who is black, wrote for Salon about why black parents are often so authoritarian and white parents are often so permissive.

In college, I once found myself on the D.C. metro with one of my favorite professors.  As we were riding, a young white child began to climb on the seats and hang from the bars of the train.  His mother never moved to restrain him.  But I began to see the very familiar, strained looks of disdain and dismay on the countenances of the mostly black passengers.

They exchanged eye contact with one another, dispositions tight with annoyance at the audacity of this white child, but mostly at the refusal of his mother to act as a disciplinarian.  I, too, was appalled.  I thought, if that were my child, I would snatch him down and tell him to sit his little behind in a seat immediately.

My professor took the opportunity to teach: “Do you see how this child feels the prerogative to roam freely in this train, unhindered by rules or regulations or propriety?”

“Yes,” I nodded.

“What kinds of messages do you think are being communicated to him right now about how he should move through the world?”

And I began to understand, quite starkly, in that moment, the freedom that white children have to see the world as a place that they can explore, a place in which they can sit, or stand, or climb at will. The world, they are learning, is theirs for the taking.

Then I thought about what it means to parent a black child, any black child, in similar circumstances. I think of the swiftness with which a black mother would have ushered her child into a seat, with firm looks and not a little a scolding, the implied if unspoken threat of either a grounding or a whupping, if her request were not immediately met with compliance.

So much is wrapped up in that moment: a desire to demonstrate that one’s black child is well-behaved, non-threatening, well-trained.   Disciplined

I think of the centuries of imminent fear that have shaped and contoured African-American working-class cultures of discipline, the sternness of our mothers’ and grandmothers’ looks, the firmness of the belts and switches applied to our hind parts, the rhythmic, loving, painful scoldings accompanying spankings as if the messages could be imprinted on our bodies with a sure and swift and repetitive show of force.

I think with fond memories of the big tree that grew in my grandmother’s yard, with branches that were the perfect size for switches.  I hear her booming and shrill voice now, commanding, “Go and pick a switch.”   I laugh when I remember that she cut that tree down once we were all past the age of switches.

via The racial parenting divide –

I think there is a lot of truth in this.  How parents bring up children depends partly upon whether they see the world as a harsh and dangerous place, or whether they see the world as a place of opportunities to be explored.  (I’m writing now about normal families, and not about messed-up families without any real parenting).

The differences are not just between black and white families.  Blue-collar families, of whatever race, tend to more strict than upper-crust families.  Contrary to the stereotype that some black people have, not all of us whites are affluent, college-educated professionals.

I think there also is a generational divide.   Looking at the generations in my own family, my grandparents were much tougher disciplinarians than anybody would be today.   That was because of the customs of the times.  Nobody then would have thought that slapping or spanking a child was a form of abuse.  But those customs were a product of a much more demanding and unforgiving world than the one I grew up in.

One of the problems of the children of the Baby Boomers was that so many of them were raised to live in a kinder, gentler world than the one the found themselves in.

I think it’s tough to be a parent.   I don’t know how you strike the right balance.

Children and their right to roam

July 6, 2012

We older folks know that children have much less freedom to roam than we did when we were young.  That’s true in Britain as well as here in the USA.  The above map shows four generations of Thomas children, who live in Sheffield in the north of England, and how each has a smaller free range than the one before.

    • In 1919, George, the great-grandfather of the family, was allowed to walk six miles by himself to go fishing at Rother Valley.
    • In 1950, Jack, the grandfather, was allowed to walk one mile by himself to go play in the woods nearby.  Like his father, he walked to school.
    • In 1979, Vicky, the mother, could walk by herself to the swimming pool, half a mile away.
    • In 2007, Ed, the son, was only able to walk to the end of the street on his own – a mere 300 yards.  He was driven to school, and even to a place where he could ride his bike safely.

via Strange Maps.

One reason is that parents are more fearful nowadays of traffic accidents and kidnapers.  Maybe another is that they don’t know their neighbors as well as earlier generations did.   Ed has a lot more interesting things he can do right in his living room than George did.  But Natural England says children need exposure to the natural living world, not just monitors and screens.

I think it is too bad that children today have so little freedom and so little opportunity to learn self-reliance.  But I don’t know what I would do if I were a parent.  The world really does seem more threatening than it did when I was a child.

Click on The Great Indoors, or Childhood’s End? for background by Frank Jacobs on his Strange Maps web log.

Click on How children lost the right to roam in four generations for more background from The Daily Mail of Britain.