Thursday, January 30, 2014

Over-Protectiveness: More Freedom Improves Child Development

You can never know what kind of parent you will be until parenthood is thrust upon you.  Whether or not you "plan" to have a baby there is NOTHING, I repeat nothing that can fully prepare you for what it will actually be like until you are there.  This is absolutely true no matter how many days you have been a parent...  Each day presents it's own unique set of fun, challenges, learning opportunities, mistakes, victories, and of course more love than the day before.  With that being said let's talk about this crazy thing that happens from the second you see that little one for the first time and is sealed forever from the first moment they are in your arms: over-protectiveness.

You suddenly feel the need to protect this precious life with every part of your mind, body, and soul.  it is something ingrained in us and it is a constant battle of balance as a parent.  You want to make sure that your child is safe, but you don't want to be SO over-protective that they don't learn anything either.  You want to wrap them up in a bubble suit before they go outside or lock them in the house (ok I didn't feel this way but many parents do).

Any moment that your child is spent in pain of any kind you feel crazed inside.  You would do ANYTHING to feel the pain for them, for them to never know sickness, or cuts or bruises.  And then you have to step back and realize that all of these things bring about knowledge and experience for them.  I know that sometimes a child will need to be burned to truly understand that something is hot.  You can tell them a million times but until they touch the oven or the burner or a flame, they will not be able to fully comprehend what "hot" really means without experiencing it for themselves.  Now hopefully at some point in their life they will have managed to acquire enough knowledge, experience and common sense to not need to experience EVERYTHING to learn from it.  Hopefully there will come a time when they can learn from observing those around them as well to avoid many negative paths that they could but don't have to travel.

Well let's get to the heart of the matter, at least as it pertains to the message I wanted to get out with this blog.  I recently came across an article about schools in New Zealand that have decided to take away all of the rules as they pertain to recess on the play ground.  They were having trouble with kids paying attention, sitting still, bullying one another etc.  From the outside looking in, one would think that all hell broke loose and that supervision had long since fled.  They would see tree climbing, skateboarding and *gasp* barefooted children playing outside in the dirt!  The horror (in case you don't know me in real life I mean this in the most sarcastic of ways)!  This school was actually letting kids go out and be kids outside in nature!  Of course there was still supervision to prevent any serious harm and to be there should anyone scrape a knee or need help in one way or another. 

However more amazing than actually letting kids get outside and be kids was the resulting aftermath.  After being allowed the freedom to play without strict rule following and constant berating for stepping out of line; these children were doing BETTER in school.  They were paying attention, exuding more confidence in their work, participating more.  Bullying dropped to a level of being nearly nonexistent.  More surprising the level of serious injuries also saw a decline! 

By being given the chance to learn around them and to learn what the boundaries where for themselves through experience they were able to more accurately learn the physical limitations of their own bodies.  They learned what "hot" really meant, what falling out of a tree, or off of  skateboard when going to fast was like.  And without anyone shoving the information down their throat or limiting their play to a level when any playground equipment became a "danger" they were able to set healthy limits on themselves!  These children were learning things that no amount of reading or hearing about could EVER teach them.  They were experiencing the world for themselves in a supervised but not overprotective controlling, rule-ridden environment. 

Of course my initial thought at reading this was how awesome this idea was, and how can I ensure that my son goes to a school of an obviously high intelligence in the way to "teach" and view children.  Then my second thought was: No wonder this is in New Zealand, if it was in America people would freak out and sue the school, etc.  Which made me wonder what the HECK is wrong with us.  Ok so I wonder this ALL the time.  But the whole legal system has become such a joke....  but that is going WAY off topic. 

The fact of the matter is that we live in a over-protective, over-medicated society and we have gotten lazy and selfish.  Instead of letting kids BE kids, so many people want to diagnose a healthily active child (especially boys) with having ADD.  "Sorry you son can't sit still for 4 hours at a time when he is 2, he must have ADD." What?  he is 2, he should be required to do something like that at his age, it's ludicrous and bad for him.  He needs to get around and learn using all of his senses.  He needs to be allowed to be 2.  Children are young for such a VERY short time.  Why take that away from them.  They need this foundation of learning through senses to have as many tools to make it in the world as an adult as we can provide them.  Yes we should teach them things, but in an age-appropriate way.  Counting, let's count the rocks in a line, or steps we have to walk up to go down the slide, or the petals on a flower, etc.  Colors, let's write the name of each color with the coordinating sidewalk chalk or get messy with paint (washable is always best) on some construction paper.  Let's let them learn as children CAN learn.  Let us as parents and teachers and anyone else who will ever have a moment to influence a child let them learn how to TRUST themselves, and their instincts.  Let's help them to learn their limitations and then how to strengthen themselves physically, mentally and spiritually to overcome any obstacles that they do encounter.  Let's give them role models worthy of attaining.  Let's teach them how the entire world is a learning experience, but also how to be safe from grave or serious harm.  Let's teach them how to work hard and reap the rewards with the freedom of play :)  Heck, do it for our own sanity, especially parents, teachers of the younger children, let them exercise and expend energy!  It will make an amazing difference in the behavior of a child!

Here is the awesome article that got me on this thought process.  I would love to hear your thoughts as well!  Feel free to comment below.

School Ditches Rules and Loses Bullies

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