Let's Not Hurry Children Through Childhood
By Michael Grose
Have you ever experienced one of those days when you wanted to
return to the carefree days of childhood when your biggest worry was
how you could con your parents into staying up a little longer at
night. Have you ever thought that you would like to be a child once
more when the biggest decision for the day was choosing which
topping put on your ice cream?
While this worry-free existence maybe idealized, there is little
doubt that most parents want to capture this carefree, happy feeling
for their children.
But many children feel the same stress that adults feel. In a
culture that values success they can easily be pressured to grow up
to quickly. It appears that the pressure for children to perform is
perhaps strongest in the United States.
American author Dr. Gail Gross writes, Many parents seek to create
"super kids," pressuring their children into becoming premature
adults and making them overly competitive. Ironically, in their
eagerness to create an academic prodigy, overzealous parents often
create an underachiever.
My feeling is that many parents in Australia are unwittingly going
down the American parental track of raising kids to develop
academically at a quicker rate – i.e. to be smarter and more
competent but at a younger age.
Dr. David Elkind, author of The Hurried Child, advises parents to
let children be children. His research suggests that students are
more likely to have academic success if they were not hurried
through their early childhood by parents who overestimate their
child's competence and overexpose them to academic experience.
Ironically, when parents release the pressure and focus on
developing children's general well being they perform better in the
long run. The London School of Economics Centre for Economic
Performance followed the fortunes of all babies born in the first
week of April 1970 in Britain. There was clear evidence that
children with a higher self-esteem at the age of 10 got as much kick
to their earning power as those with higher math, reading and other
academic abilities. They had less chance of being unemployed later
in life and if they were, they would soon be back in the workforce.
To avoid hurrying children through childhood it helps to honor their
natural instincts to play and avoid continually turning their play
into work or even some type of learning experience. Play fosters
creativity and reduces stress. Play is a life skill that many adults
have forgotten about.
It helps for children to have plenty of free time when they can just
hang around and basically do nothing. It is strange but in our
increasingly achievement oriented culture the notion of free time is
equated with laziness or lack of ambition. Adults and children can
benefit from some free time when nothing productive is achieved
It also helps to remember that children may act grown up but they
don't often feel grown up. While it maybe possible to accelerate
their academic development it is impossible to accelerate their
A post World War 2 British mental health inquiry concluded that the
major contributor to an adult's general wellbeing and happiness was
the existence of a happy childhood. By ensuring that children have a
long, happy childhood we provide a solid foundation for happy,
Childhood is an important stage of life that needs to be protected
and valued by adults. It is a stage of life worth preserving for as
long as we can, not something to be rushed through.
Michael Grose is Australia's leading parenting educator. He is the
author of six books and gives over 100 presentations a year and
appears regularly on television, radio and in print.
For further ideas to help you raise happy children and resilient
http://www.parentingideas.com.au. While you are there subscribe
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