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My name is Bernice and I am a mom of 4 grown children, and nana to 8. Read more...

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FYB 180

Do American parents have it backwards?

The days of summer are quickly coming upon us and I am reminded of catching fireflies and running through the neighborhood playing hide-and-go-seek in the dark as a kid.

My kids are now ages 20-31, and I know they have many of the same memories, running in the woods, playing with the neighbor kids, riding their bikes to the corner store to get ice cream.

I hope my grandkids get to have those same memories. I know my oldest tries to give her kids some freedoms and experiences that she had. It is just a different world, and even more so, there is a different mentality of parenting, I believe.

Are our kids too sheltered? Is that possible?

I get that we want our kids to be safe, that is one of our most important jobs as parents. I just sometimes wonder if we are protecting too much, especially from the natural consequences in life.

A recent article on Huffington Post asks the question Have American Parents Got It Backwards?  Are we doing too much, stepping in too quickly to save the day?

The author did extensive research on parenting and interviewed experts in numerous countries and found out some interesting things we should consider doing differently. Below are just a few:

We need to let 3-year-olds climb trees and 5-year-olds use knives.

Our instinct is to keep them safe by childproofing their lives. But “the most important safety protection you can give a child,” Sandseter explained when we talked, “is to let them take… risks.”

Instead of keeping children satisfied, we need to fuel their feelings of frustration.

The French, as well as many others, believe that routinely giving your child a chance to feel frustration gives him a chance to practice the art of waiting and developing self-control.

Children should spend less time in school.

The Finnish model of education includes a late start to academics (children do not begin any formal academics until they are 7 years old), frequent breaks for outdoor time, shorter school hours and more variety of classes than in the US. Finnish children frequently rank among the best in the world.

Children can go hungry from time-to-time.

In Korea, eating is taught to children as a life skill and as in most cultures, children are taught it is important to wait out their hunger until it is time for the whole family to sit down together and eat.

Give your kids room to grow

My second most popular post, How not to raise a brat,  raises some of these same ideas, that we should allow a child independence to teach responsibility, and that everyone should be expected to do their fair share.

I love that at The Bizy Mommy’s house, she has kids cooking, and kids playing in the water in the yard, and that she has no idea where her kids’ shoes are because it is their responsibility to keep up with them.

What do you think? Have we swung too far to the other side? Are we too protective?

Have you done or allowed some things that were a little scary, yet you did it anyway? 

2 comments to Do American parents have it backwards?

  • I think this is pretty spot on.

    My Mother was a total hovercraft. Granted, she was nurse, but despite her wishes of me never jumping on a trampoline or climbing a tree- I did, and they are some of the best memories I have as a child.

    I climbed the same tree every time I was sad, and the energy I used to get up there… always calmed me.

    I’ve also read that crime and things of that nature have went drastically DOWN since 20+ years ago, but it seems like a horrible scary place because that’s what the news reports.

  • Ann

    I’m an American expat in Germany. I think people are pretty relaxed here and for many things I’ve adapted that attitude. It makes life a little easier and even though I’m in a city, I don’t worry too much when we go out. It’s strange because when I go to the states, I see all these precautions for things relating to kids that, now looking at it as an outsider, seem a bit silly. Like, shopping cart covers and rules lists a mile long at indoor play areas. The indoor play area I take my son to locally has two rules: don’t wear shoes, don’t bring food in the play area.

    On the other hand, there are things here that I think are odd. Like I said, I’m in a city and if I take my son to our local gym’s day care there’s no sign in/sign out. They just remember which kid belongs to which parent. That freaks me out, I don’t care how safe the place is.

    It’s interesting to see what other countries do, but at the end we just go with our instincts.