Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Kicking Footballs Not Allowed

Back in January I wrote a piece on parenting, or the lack thereof, for the Los Angeles Daily News. The phenomeon of parents trying so hard to be their children's best friends should be worrisome to us all. As I said then:

Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that parents are acting more and more childish at a time when they are striving so hard to become their children's best friends. The tragic irony is that precious childhood seems to have been replaced by premature adulthood. To put it another way: Our kids are losing their innocence all too soon.

What's to blame for this?

In a 2004 City Journal essay titled "Who Killed Childhood?" Theodore Dalrymple observed that "overindulgence in the latest fashions, toys, or clothes, and a television in the bedroom are regarded as the highest - indeed only - manifestations of tender concern for a child's welfare." This trend reached its apogee late last year with a $10 million bat mitzvah for the daughter of a New York defense contractor, at which performers such as Don Henley, Aerosmith and 50 Cent performed.

What happens when children are given everything their little hearts desire? When the only boundaries they are aware of are those they cross on a summer trip to Europe? When they never hear the word "no" or have to utter the word "please"?

I see the answer every day in the classroom: Children with no self-control and an appalling lack of respect for others. Their outward show of defiance is usually a subconscious plea for structure in their lives.

Of course, too much structure is a recipe for disaster as well. Ellen Scolnic discovered that after an incident on the playground at her son's elementary school:

I forgot the incident until a few weeks later when a large packet arrived in Andy's backpack. Evidently, committees had been formed, irate parents alerted, and the expert assistance of psychologists, counselors, and administrators enlisted. Eight pages of "Recess Rules for Appropriate Behavior" were written, copied, folded, and sent home with every child. It lay on my kitchen table staring at me, daring me to stick my tongue out and sneer back at it...

So you can understand my skepticism as I opened the packet of rules for recess behavior. Sure enough, the first page was a thorough outline of what would happen to pint-size offenders. After the punishments came the rules. Pages and pages of detailed instructions on how to play:
"On the swings, don't swing too high. Don't walk in front of swings. Don't share swings. Do not kick footballs. When playing soccer, the ball may not be kicked in the air. Do not head or throw the soccer ball."

Do not make up any games yourselves, I added to myself. Imagination is forbidden. You are only 7 years old.

Forbidding childhood pleasures is another reason why children are losing their innocence at an all too early age.


Blogger Peter B. said...

I like Ellen Scolnic's solution of amending the rules before signing off on them. I would have added that kicking the soccer ball in the air is a necessary and important part of the game. Any defender will tell you that defenders like to keep the ball high while attackers like to keep it low. Also, when the soccer ball goes off the side of the field, it is put back into play with a throw-in. There is no other choice. Throwing the ball is an integral part of soccer. I'm sure most of the rules presented could have been edited similarly.

4:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just Some Facts About

Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879, around 11:30 AM LMT, in the city of Ulm in W�rttemberg, Germany, about 100 km east of Stuttgart. His father was Hermann Einstein, a salesman who later ran an electrochemical works, and his mother was Pauline, n�e Koch. They were married in Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt. Albert's family members were all non-observant Jews and he attended a Catholic elementary school. At the insistence of his mother, he was given violin lessons. Though he initially disliked the lessons, and eventually discontinued them, he would later take great solace in Mozart's violin sonatas.

1:14 AM  

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