Sunday, March 28, 2010

Recess Coach

Just when you think you've heard all there was to say about modern childhood, along comes something new - a recess coach. Kids cannot be counted on to either behave well on their own or respect the authority figures in school. Enter the recess coach to enforce compliance. Who ever thought this up first has got to be a genius.

Here is yet another example of adult intervention to solve problems they helped created for kids. When we decide to structure our childrens' time to the point that they have no room left in their lives to be fancy-free and run wild like we did as kids, we stunt their emotional and social development. They may come out the other side of childhood with a lot of extra curricular accomplishments but without have experienced some of the simplest joys of being a child.

If I want J to go out and play in the evenings, I have to make phone calls to parents to see if anyone's child is available to play. Used to in my time, that a bunch of kids would come knocking at the door asking me to come out and play. We would go around the neighborhood, collecting our buddies and head for the nearby park or even someone's backyard. There was no order or structure to our games and definitely no adult supervision. We did have our bullies and pushovers but can't recall even one instance where it became necessary for an adult to come in and resolve conflict. Unless someone got hurt accidentally, there was never a need for adult involvement.

J's generation will grow up never having experienced this. Instead they will have play dates and now recess coaches to help them socialize with their peers.I can't begin to count in how many ways this is a bad idea for the children. If only we would leave them alone and let them be the way nature intended for kids to be, life would be so much better.


Priyamvada_K said...

"When we decide to structure our childrens' time to the point that they have no room left in their lives to be fancy-free and run wild like we did as kids, we stunt their emotional and social development."

In a lot of ways adults have created messes and their band-aid solutions for the messes create more problems.

I have heard a parent here say that the only way to ensure that their preteen is kept safe (from peer influences, peer pressure, boyfriend-girlfriend stuff) is to fill their days with so many activities that they have no time to think.

Many Indian parents (perhaps other Asian parents too - considering the pressure on Chinese children in my area) see this as a way to keep their children innocent.

First, adults create a culture where kids grow up too fast, media influences them to dress a certain way, behave a certain way, there's technology broadcasting these images everywhere, and so on. There is no way to fight against these - first amendment freedoms prevent censorship. Plus, separation of church and state means no prayers or moral instruction in schools. What was once viewed as moral aberrations (multiple partners, casual sex) are now a "lifestyle choice" by "consenting adults" - and no attempt is made to keep such choices discreet either.

THEN other adults in an attempt to keep out the fallout from these, try to straightjacket their kids into following a narrow path. Looks like the adult fear of creating completely wild beings has been the driving factor in attempting to make robots out of children, shuttled from one class to another with no rest even on weekends.

This is such a sad picture. I feel pressured as a parent to put my child in more classes, but I don't want her to feel pushed too hard. You're so right in that it is hard to find company for her - kids are in too many classes.

Two activities a week are where I draw the line - but other parents have accused me of being "too soft". I'm being cautioned that my kid may end up being "too Americanized" in her thinking. I try my best to impart my language and traditions to her at home but apparently that's not enough.

You should see the lines in Balavihars and Chinmaya Mission classes in my town. More than moral instruction, parents want to keep mainstream culture at bay. I can't say they're wrong but the fear is very palpable.


Heartcrossings said...

Priya - I could not agree more with your observations ! High achieving parents (lot of Asians fall in this category) will overschedule kids to keep them out of trouble and primed for college admissions. From what I can tell, it is making the children compliant bots.

I would rather be "soft" and not push J to do 10 things because everyone else is. She would at least have the time to be a child and do nothing - a thing of great value that I enjoyed growing up.

As for innocence, the more you try to protect the more you harm them for all the reasons that you have rightly pointed out.