Letting kids walk home as child neglect

A 10-year old-boy and his 6-year-old sister were walking home from a park in an affluent Maryland suburb.  The police stopped them and are now investigating their parents for child neglect.

The parents are said to be part of the “free-range” parenting movement.  But I walked seven blocks to and from school from the time I was in the first grade, aged six.  And once I could ride a bike, the whole town was my playground.   My parents, who were not part of any movement, certainly weren’t neglecting me!  Are the times that much more dangerous today?  Evidence would suggest not, and yet letting a six-year-old walk to school like that probably seems unthinkable to most parents.  (It’s unthinkable to me, thinking of my grandchildren!) [Read more...]

Confessions of a liberal parent

The Washington Post has a touching and rather humorous piece on the following theme:  “I’m a diehard, bleeding-heart liberal. And it’s ruining my parenting.” [Read more...]

Does having kids make you less happy?

Raising kids is hard, stressful, and exhausting.  A new book goes so far as to say that having kids actually makes people less happy than people without them.  The author does say, however, that having kids gives something different than happiness:  joy.

After the jump, a review of Jennifer Senior’s book,  All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood, along with some reflections. [Read more...]

Common law marriage?

A “shotgun wedding” refers to a couple getting married because the woman had gotten pregnant.  (The term conjures up the image of her father pointing his shotgun at the groom.)  That doesn’t happen so much anymore.  Instead, according to a recent study, we are having “shotgun cohabitation,” in which getting pregnant becomes the impetus for the couple living together.

Now this is bad, but it also is a testimony to something good.  The mother and the father need to be together to raise a child.  That is, in fact, one of the natural foundations of marriage.  But even when marriage is dismissed and even when this ideal is often not realized, the impulse remains for parents to take care of their child.  And at least half of the cohabiting parents are still together after five years.

The study also shows that cohabitation has become the “poor person’s marriage.” [Read more...]

Structure and freedom for kids

Washington Post education columnist Jay Mathews discusses some findings in Michael Petrilli’s book The Diverse Schools Dilemma; namely, that middle class and working class parents tend to have different parenting styles that impact education:

A middle-class, college-educated parent of any ethnicity is likely to be like me: Overscheduling children’s free time but preferring innovative instruction and informal discipline at school.

The research Petrilli cites says working-class and poor parents of any race are more likely to let their children amuse themselves as they see fit once their homework is done but tend to prefer schools with traditional teaching styles and strong discipline.

He cites the work of University of Pennsylvania sociologist Annette Lareau. She and her team closely tracked 12 families of different racial and class backgrounds. They found the center of life in middle-class families was the calendar, with what Lareau said were “scheduled, paid, and organized activities for children . . . in the two-inch-square open spaces beneath each day of the month.” But despite the forced march to improvement that characterized their children’s free time, those parents tolerated a lot of back-talk and often negotiated with children about what they wanted to do. They preferred teachers who did not give orders but encouraged creativity..

Working-class and poor parents, researchers found, left their children on their own on weekends and summer days but were more likely to set strict behavior rules. Those parents tended to like teachers who were tough and structured.

As a nation, we have been arguing for many generations about the best parenting styles. Those of us who prefer lots of scheduled activities but not much discipline should remember that many members of the revered Greatest Generation who won World War II were raised the way many low-income children are brought up today. . . .

Do loose school lessons teach more than structured ones? Does regular weekend soccer practice do more for our children’s character than roaming around with their friends? I don’t know. The research doesn’t say.

If middle class and low-income parents have different methods with their kids and different expectations for their schools, how do principals and teachers serve both populations?

via Do rich and poor parenting styles matter? – Class Struggle – The Washington Post.

So when middle class teachers go with a “creative” free-form approach to teaching, working class kids end up with no structure, either at school or in their free time.  Perhaps home-schooled middle-class kids tend to do so well because both their schooling and their free time are highly structured.  If this breakdown is correct, poorer kids would do really well if they only had more structure in their schooling.

As I recall, though we were middle class, my school was highly structured and my free time was my own.  That may have more to do with “greatest generation” parenting, times gone by, and local culture.  I think it’s good to give children some space for freedom and for pursuing things they enjoy on their own, rather than scheduling every minute with sports and self-improvement lessons.

Do you think this holds true?  Can you make a case for one of these parenting/educational styles over the others?  Are there other possibilities?

Parents and children are not natural enemies

An interesting observation from Miss Manners (a.k.a. Judith Martin) in response to a question from a young adult who is living with her parents and wanting to know how best to respond to rude questions (“You’re how old and still living with your parents?”):

The people who say this are HOW old?

Miss Manners asks because the generation that considers relatives to be natural enemies is aging. They grew up denouncing their parents’ values, styles of living and psyches; they left home as soon as possible and resented the expectation of telephone calls and holiday visits; and they predicted antagonism from children — their own as well as others’ — at every stage: Babies would ruin your life, teenagers would hate you, young adults would go off and never be heard from again, or, worse, come home.

That other cultures value and seek to prolong family ties does not discourage such believers from declaring generational enmity to be normal human behavior.

But things are changing. You are far from the only young adult living with his parents. And while doing so is always explained in terms of economic hardship and maternal laundry service, those are not the only reasons.

It seems that another generation of parents has reared children who become fond of them. Miss Manners keeps hearing of, and even reading about, college students who keep in frequent touch with their parents, and graduates who are frankly happy to return home, in preference to living in solitude or with yet more roommates.

So you should be hearing fewer such remarks. That aging generation is beginning to realize that if a time comes when they are no longer able to live on their own, it is their children who will decide where to place them.

via Miss Manners: Some young adults live at home because they like it – The Washington Post.

The issue I’d like us to contemplate is not whether adult children should live at home but the observation that the  hostile “generation gap” was an artifact  of the 1960s and not a universal condition, and that children are now growing up who are fond of their parents and enjoy spending time with them. This is progress, isn’t it?


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