Monday, 6 June 2011

Hey parents, leave those kids alone

The Weekend Australian Magazine's article Hey parents, leave those kids alone was mostly sensible, though the breathless tone of surprise annoyed me.
You believe, because it is one of the last self-evident, incontrovertible truths, that raising a child is one of the most influential jobs in the world.

And that’s why you will find what comes next so difficult. All those extra bedtime stories read, violins purchased, chess clubs driven to, trips to the museum made, cosy fireside chats delivered; all the arguments over homework and bribes, all the blueberries served, all the guidance offered, all your values instilled, all your world-view shared, all the worry, heartache, effort, blood, sweat and tears of being a responsible parent. All the things you do that make your child special. It’s all for nothing.
Actually, I didn't find this difficult at all. I've always thought that nature (genetics) is the primary factor and that nurture comes a poor second.
The argument of this book is one of the most provocative and counterintuitive for a modern Western adult to absorb. The implications go far deeper than the notion that all your middle-class neurosis has been wasted, towards the idea of genetics as a driver of social class. Both make us squirm. “Tiger parenting is pointless at best,” says Caplan. “Kids literally inherit educational and financial success from their parents. The most influential gift that parents can give their children is not money, connections or help with their homework, but the right stuff.”
No surprises here.
Caplan says his message is ultimately a happy one. He quotes from Mary Poppins. Stop thinking that children, as Mr Banks does, “must be moulded, shaped and taught, that life’s a looming battle to be faced and fought!” And just enjoy.
I cannot agree more.

Surprisingly, there is no mention of Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy, a refutation of much of today’s parenting ‘wisdom’. Skenazy was branded “America’s Worst Mom” after she allowed her nine-year old son to ride the subway alone, then wrote about it in her column in the New York Sun. Again I felt that what she had done was both sensible and empowering. Every time I let my children take responsibility, they do not disappoint me.

1 comment:

  1. I heard an interesting talk on genetics the other day. The speaker pointed out that the biggest determinant of criminal behaviour was genetic - in particular, being male. He pointed out that those most likely to murder or be murdered were young men, and that this was the same throughout the world.

    He then observed that in England, murder rates were less than one twentieth of those in southern Africa. So you have a genetic component, but the environment has a huge say in how that genetic component presents.

    As he said, he finds it surprising that people are absolutely fascinated by the genetic component which you can't change, but far less so by the environmental factors which we can change.