Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Why are American kids so spoiled?

Elizabeth Kolbert argues, in The Atlantic, that American kids need two things: to be given less supervision, to be given more responsibilities, and to be told "No." Wait, verily, those are three things.

Kolbert contrasts the situation with the way children are raised among the Matsigenka tribe, and in France. Some flava:
[In a study in the United States, it was observed that] an eight-year-old girl sat down at the dining table. Finding that no silverware had been laid out for her, she demanded, "How am I supposed to eat?" Although the girl clearly knew where the silverware was kept, her father got up to get it for her.

[A boy was observed to be unwilling to tie and untie his own shoes. His father did it for him.]

... [The] French believe ignoring children is good for them. "French parents don’t worry that they’re going to damage their kids by frustrating them," [Pamela Druckerman, an American ex-pat] writes. "To the contrary, they think their kids will be damaged if they can't cope with frustration." One mother, Martine, tells Druckerman that she always waited five minutes before picking up her infant daughter when she cried. While Druckerman and Martine are talking, in Martine's suburban home, the daughter, now three, is baking cupcakes by herself.

... [Among the Matsigenka,] toddlers routinely heat their own food over an open fire, ... while "three-year-olds frequently practice cutting wood and grass with machetes and knives." Boys, when they are six or seven, start to accompany their fathers on fishing and hunting trips, and girls learn to help their mothers with the cooking. As a consequence, by the time they reach puberty Matsigenka kids have mastered most of the skills necessary for survival. Their competence encourages autonomy, which fosters further competence—a virtuous cycle that continues to adulthood.
We've had this discussion before, over and over; I once observed that the reason that we came out OK was because our parents let us play in the street. Kolbert thinks so, too, and worries about the future of the Republic. We're doomed.

Read it all.

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