Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Letting Kids Be

Madcap Mum has a post up about her frustration in trying to find local children's programs that aren't infested with nastiness among the children. AnvilCloud commented:
Those kids can be depressing. They are trying so hard to be something, but they're nothing at this point. It's so sad.
I think he nailed it. They are "trying so hard to be something."

At bible study this morning we were talking about changes in the church, and wondering what has changed in the community and the world, that it has become so difficult to get people involved. A couple of things came out:
1) people no longer think that God is taking care of their lives; they make their own lives
2) family life revolves around an exhausting round of kids' activities
3) the time for an individual to take a place in the community has been pushed later and later in life. Whereas a child used to begin to find a place and a role as soon as he or she could lift a basket or a hoe, that time gradually moved to sometime when the child started thinking "I've had enough school, I'm ready to work." Around that time, they would begin to try to impress the elders of the community with their strength or their smarts. Now it's pushed off even farther, and community involvement is just another thing to add to a resume to try to get a scholarship. Everything is focussed on getting into college, and few students even begin to think about their place in a community until they're suddenly convocated and job-hunting and trying to learn to "network." (The effect on the church is that there is no continuity, from Sunday School through confirmation class to a valued role in the church community. After confirmation, the young people leave, and maybe, maybe, they come back to bring their own kids to Sunday School.)

With all the focus on "what will you be when you grow up?", there is a backlash saying "let kids be kids," which translates into a lot of entertainment and recreational events. But there is very little acknowledgement that kids want to be something, now, today. They want to be listened to, and they want to contribute. That is the great gaping hole in their lives, and sadly, many of them don't even know it's there.


Paul said...

Laura, Could it be that some of the same causes for problems that we're experiencing with global warming, peak oil and the environment are at work here? At one time, people were part of a small community within walking distance. Parents and extended family lived close by helped supervise children, discipline children and be role models. Without electronic entertainment and with parents and extended family close, children did the natural thing and spent time with family and learned to be part of a community. Now, with both parents working and commuting, children are left in a vacuum that reality TV fills with negative models.

revhipchick said...

i think both you, Laura, and i wonder, are onto something. i guess i wonder--what do we do now? i don't think we can turn back the clock, nor do i neccessarily want to. afterall it is through the electronic entertainment that we all have found voice and communities here on the net when we could not find them in our own "isolated" communities.

i think all of our questions, and many others, need serious thought, discussion, and action on a grander scheme to make overarching differences. i definately believe all the small ones matter and change things, but i also know it is frustrating to feel as if "i'm the only one around here (whereever that may be)" and that also translates into individuals being eaten and consumed by the larger society.

i am optimistic that we can change things, my fear is that it will have to get much worse before enough people will wake up and make a societal scaled difference.

kind of like bushites in the us-- i know they can't hold the power forever, but damn they can make life suck in the meanwhile.

Madcap said...

I think the basic problem, one step back from children having the opportunity to contribute real skills, is that they simply don't have enough one-on-one time with important adults in their lives to learn those skills or to mature. The kids at that class had spent all day at school, and then were dropped off at a class for the two hours in the evening before bed, the hours they needed to be with their parents. A 25 to 1 ratio of children to adults is just not what kids need in order to mature, especially if they're not getting a significant parental investment in the non-school hours.

Thus saith the (admittedly biased) homeschooler. Kids need to learn to be adults from adults.

You know, I just had a thought, and this is off the cuff of my head here, so I hope I don't say anything really stoooopid, but nobody thinks you can train a dog in a class with 25 other dogs and one instructor. It takes a one-on-one investment. Obviously kids aren't dogs, but to think that we can expect healthy maturation without a significant investment of parental time is .... wrongheaded.

Paul said...

I've thought about this since my original comment. Here are some thoughts and feelings.

We can't turn the clock back. That impossible. Even if it was possible, the good old days had problems and weaknesses that we no longer have.

I sometimes visit 55+ communities that have nurses on site, hair salons, regular delivery of oxygen and medical care, gates for security, etc. These communities are designed for older adults and provide services designed for them. It is possible to create intentional communities for families with children. These communities could provide services needed for young families.

I think it's important -- extremely important -- to buck the current economic and social systems to provide an example and encouragement for young parents and to make it easier for them. For example, if we try to live simple, well within our economic means, then we provide a small help for others to resist the peer pressure and maketing strategies that lead people into debt that require both parents to work. A young family should be able to survive on one salary or two part-time salaries. Another example: I bought 10 acres of land two years ago. This past week I heard of two 10-acres plots less than a mile from me that sold for more than twice what I paid. I refuse to see this as a good thing. My property hasn't increased in value. Rather several young familes have been forced to go deeper in debt or give up on hopes of owning.

Communes and utopias appear to be doomed. We don't need to go down that road but we should be able to learn from past mistakes and structure communities that will work and provide good environments for children.

I think I saw, but did not read, an article on planned communities in a recent issue of Psychology Today. I'll try to find the article.

arcolaura said...

I understand the desire to have a community that supports your own efforts toward a healthy, wholesome lifestyle. But I also feel strongly that a community is not buildings or bylaws, it's relationships. Madcapmum, I totally agree. We have to give our kids our time and energy in order to nurture adulthood within them. Likewise, we have to put the time and energy into relationships with our neighbours in order to build community. It's hard, when everyone else seems to be headed in a very different direction. But it's the same with anything else in life; it's hard when you first start. Gardening, guitar playing, tree climbing - they all get easier (or so I'm told!), and what starts out feeling like drudgery can develop into a great pleasure.