Childhood Opt Out Parents Play Students

Lenore Skenazy: Let Your Children Play

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Lenore Skenazy wrote this article in the Washington Post. Her advice to helicopter parents: Give up! Relax! Let the children play and figure things out. It is a welcome antidote to the policy wonks who are predicting that American children need constant academic pressure, more testing, more worksheets, held back a grade, or face a life of failure.

Skenazy is an advocate of “Free-Range Parenting.”

She writes:

The idea that parents have to enrich every second of their kids’ lives was a crazy lie even before the coronavirus. Kids never needed all that parental stimulation and all those teachable moments.

You know how Einstein spent much of his time as a kid? He made houses of cards.
Just imagine young Albert, the little loser, balancing cards and learning absolutely nothing. Except … well … patience … and concentration … and physics.


The point being not that you should run out and get your offspring a deck of cards so they can win the Nobel Prize before school starts up again. (Don’t run out for anything!) The point being that kids have always been bored, and they’ve always come up with things that seem like a total waste of time to adults — I’m looking at you, slime! — but maybe aren’t.


Many are the parents right now who are worried their kids are turning into “Call of Duty” fanatics. Okay, perhaps I am worried one of my sons is turning into a “Call of Duty” fanatic now that his college classes have switched to pass/fail.

But is that terrible? Nothing is interesting to kids — or any of us — if it’s not at least a little challenging. So even if a kid is working on his “kill/death ratio” (sigh), he is learning focus, frustration tolerance and how to make alliances. Those are transferable skills — not wasted hours. Video games are absorbing because they turn kids on, not off.



Coronavirus has parents and families self-quarantining with their children. So don’t worry about those.
Don’t worry, either, if a child seems to be slacking off in the homework department. Think back on how much you loved summer vacation. Wasn’t it a huge relief to finally not worry about grades and tests?


Before covid-19, childhood anxiety levels were going through the roof. In a 2018 Pew Research Center survey, 70 percent of teens said anxiety and depression were “major problems among their peers.”
Now children have, basically, a long, strange, twisted vacation. Yes, for many, school is continuing, but it’s not taking the same number of hours, and all their after-school activities are off, too. This opens up a vast swath of free time that many children and teens have never had before. It can turn into a period of growth — mentally and emotionally.


Though not every youngster will become an Einstein while quarantining, many seem to be turning into the kids they would have been if they’d grown up a generation or two earlier, with more time to discover their real interests and hobbies (remember those days?), before childhood got so structured and busy.




So, don’t worry that everyone else’s children are making fabulous “Les Misérables” parodies while yours is hitting his brother with the webcam. You can shower your child with construction paper and glue sticks, but if she hates arts and crafts, she probably won’t emerge from quarantine an artistic genius. (Just like I stocked up on lentils. Why? I am not suddenly a vegan. I should have stocked up on chicken thighs.)


What I mean is: It’s all okay. Our kids are not going to seed even if they are sleeping, gaming and bingeing on YouTube. In fact, they’re growing, simply because kids are always growing and learning from everything — houses of cards, Nerf guns, Barbies, baths, videos, but most of all from that vital resource more rare and precious than toilet paper: free time.
My advice for would-be coronavirus helicopters? Think of the quarantine as an AP class in chilling. You can help your kids ace it by stepping back.

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