Rarely do parenting books trigger in me an exhale. But the title alone for Heather Shumaker’s new book came like that rare August breeze: “It’s OK NOT to Share .... and Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids,” (August, Tarcher/Penguin).
This is a book with some radical tips:
●Let kids express their anger by hitting and kicking.●
● Let kids swear and whine.
”I looked around for a preschool when my oldest child was 3, and couldn’t find one that really understood children’s emotions and need for play. ...” Shumaker, a journalist who writes about parenting, told me.
That journey set her on a course to find more about how some of our modern assumptions on parenting may be ignoring the basic needs of kids.
“The more we learn about what kids need from brain research, the less we seem to allow it in our culture. There’s a huge disconnect today. We now know more about how kids develop emotionally, socially, physically and intellectually than we ever have, yet you wouldn’t guess that from our homes and schools.
“We’ve become an indoor culture ... so there’s less space and acceptance for wild and rough play. We’re an accelerated culture. Technology is driving everything to speed up, everything to be instant. But kids are on the same evolutionary track they’ve always been — you can’t really speed that up, even if policies impose reading and writing into programs for 3-year-olds.
“We’re a scared culture. There’s a general aura of anxiousness that hangs over us -- whether it’s ‘Orange’ alerts from Homeland Security, safety scares from endless product recalls or simple safety consciousness like helmets, seat belts and stranger danger. All important things, but taken to extremes it means kids aren’t climbing trees, exploring and taking social and physical risks much.
“Also, I think we’re a forgetful culture. We’re not always around kids, and few adults truly remember what it’s like to be a very young child. We forget that a young child is full of fears and behaviors that are not like an adult’s, and that they meet most of their developmental needs through play, even if the play is not to our taste. We’ve begun to distrust childhood.”
Which has led Shumaker to offer more “rules” like:
●“Friends should be allowed to hit each other: Roughhousing — even play boxing — is social and healthy.”
●“Don’t make kids say ‘sorry.’ Saying ‘sorry’ is a magic word that lets kids off the hook. Instead teach them to take responsibility and take action to set things right.”
And, my personal favorite ...
●“Teaching 3-5-year-olds to read is NOT smart... long-term studies show that kids in academic preschools do worse in later years, and kids who play do better.”
What d o you think? Have we forgotten the innate nature of kids?