“Don’t Prepare The Path For The Child, Prepare The Child For The Path.”
Yes, Our Children Are Growing Up In A Crazy Environment–And We Naturally Want To Protect Them
Last month I wrote about how our society’s norms for our young are completely wack! The average US 8–year old spends 6 hours per day on entertainment media and US children rank #1 in the world–for sugar consumption–just to give two egregious examples.
Sometimes I find myself wanting to react to these norms by saying “Stop! No more! Let’s bury the devices in deep hole in a vacant lot, never allow sugar in the house, and live in a cave!”
But there is a problem with that approach. The problem is that our children need to eventually live and thrive on their own in this very same nutty, wacked out world. Putting our heads in the sand, or in a cave, will simply not prepare them for reality.
Plus, caves can be quite unpleasant, especially if you don’t like to get bats in your hair.
Our Ancestors Also Grew Up In A Crazy Environment
On the African savanna food could be hard to find–and sometimes it would run away! Even worse, sometimes hungry predators thought we were food! When our ancestors were children, they had to learn to hunt, to hide, and to work together with others to survive.
Can you imagine our ancestors thinking, “We must keep our children safe from the threat of wild animals, and we must spare them the pain of gathering berries and hunting antelope! Let’s have them stay in the branches of a tree all day!”
How would that work out?
Leaving them in a tree all day would only prepare them fall, uh, I mean fail.
Plus, leopards can climb trees anyway!
“Preparing The Path For The Child” Just Won’t Work
Our world is very different than it was 100,000 years ago. But there are still threats and complications: from cell phones, to dangerous addictive drugs, to sugary cereal, to social media, and more. Some of them are just as dangerous as hyenas and cobras.
But just like our ancestors didn’t have the option of not going to the water hole just because predators were staking it out, our kids don’t have the option of not entering the world full of unhealthy choices, bad examples and dangerous addictions.
Here’s an example.
Binge drinking is super common on college campuses–in fact, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism over 1,500 college students die each year from over-drinking, and alcohol is involved in the majority of sexual assault cases. That’s a lot of pain, trauma and tragedy!
While there are multiple risk factors for binge drinking, according to the NIAAA, two major risk factor are:
- A lack of self-efficacy (the belief that we can meet challenges)
- A lack of experience with unstructured time
Let me restate that in my own words: not giving your younger kid unstructured time and not letting them practice dealing with challenges when they are younger will make them weaker and more prone to bad decisions when they are older!
Put Kids In Charge? Yes!
We’ve all heard about “helicopter parents” protecting their kids from all harm, and “snowplow parents” easing the way for their kids. But I believe that our success as parents is best measured by what our kids do when we are not involved. The best gift we can give our kids is to help them be ready to be in charge of their own thriving.
That’s why setting boundaries for sugar or screen time can be tricky. When the children are very young, we can just control the situation. But as they get older, they have to be involved in the reasoning. Can you imagine a 12-year-old who isn’t allowed to cross the street without holding somebody’s hand? That would be an unprepared, unsafe teenager and adult.
Let’s get our kids involved as soon as possible in guidelines.
Given: that too much sugar is bad for you, how much sugar do you think we should have in the house?
Given: that people who start studying earlier do better on tests, when should you study?
Given: that hyenas and cobras are lurking near the water hole, what do you think would be the best approach?
I love this quote from some anonymous wise person:
“Don’t Prepare The Path For The Child, Prepare The Child For The Path”
Now I’m going to go chase an antelope!
On To Greatness, In Parenting, Music and Life,
Founder, NYC Guitar School
All About Self-Efficacy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-efficacy
National Institute Of Health Binge Drinking https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/time-for-parents-discuss-risks-college-drinking
The Epidemiology of Binge Drinking Among College-Age Individuals in the United States. https://www.arcr.niaaa.nih.gov/arcr391/article04.pdf
Alcohol Plays A Major Role In Campus Sexual Assaults. https://www.alcohol.org/effects/sexual-assault-college-campus/
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