Skip to comments.Back to baby basics
Posted on 05/10/2008 4:38:17 PM PDT by Clive
Parks filled with children playing idly. Homework within limits and prohibited on holidays so as not to be overbearing. Mothers less inclined to shuttle their children to an endless roster of programs.
Could this be the end of hyper-parenting?
There is evidence -- in the parks, the play-dates, the homework schedules and even Hollywood magazines -- that the end is at least near for the pattern of modern parenting that has in recent years dictated highly scheduled lives for children and spawned the species described as helicopter parents.
It can be found in the stories of mothers at playgrounds and schools, who no longer spend so much of their days scurrying their children from one activity to another; in the experiences of parents who successfully lobbied Canada's largest school board to introduce a radical policy that bans homework on holidays and sets limits for work; in the shelves of the nation's bookstores, no longer filled with sprawling racks of angst-filled tomes about how to make a better baby, but smaller now and more likely devoted to simpler topics such as play.
These are baby steps, certainly, but they are nonetheless indicative of a movement whose madness may have reached its peak and moved on to a point approaching sanity.
"I think it went so far that the pendulum is starting to swing back," says Jen Lawrence, a keen chronicler of modern mothering, who recently traded in her popular mommy blogs (Mothered Up Beyond All Recognition and TO Mama) to found the online newsletter BlissNotes. com. She is a former Toronto banker and a mother of two, and she first noticed the shift in parks and play-dates.
"The parks are really full now, and they weren't so much before. And when I'm arranging after-school play-dates, people are available," she says, remembering how not so long ago such arrangements involved serious maternal day-timer consultations to work around a child's over-scheduled existence.
Small things, yet significant indicators of change. Ms. Lawrence's oldest daughter is not yet five, and still she has come through a seismic shift in parenting culture.
Whether it is called hyper-parenting or over-parenting, the micromanaged child or the over-scheduled child, it means the same thing: a generation of children signed up in utero for the right preschool; primed for early brain development with Baby Einstein and the like; embarked on a scheduled life in babyhood with play groups in French immersion, kindergym and infant music sessions; enrolled in tutoring by the age of three; every school day book-ended with a loaded program of scheduled activities and organized games.
It has been more than 25 years since The Hurried Child first raised the alarm about this style of parenting, but if book titles are an indicator, it reached its zenith in the past few years: Worried All the Time: Over-parenting in an Age of Anxiety; The Over-Scheduled Child; The Hyper-Parenting Trap; Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety.
That is changing. The Secret Life of a Slummy Mummy became a sensation and a popular catch-phrase in Britain last year, and a televised series called May Contain Nuts poked fun at the hilarity that ensues from competitive parenting.
Andi Buchanan, the Philadelphia author of Mother Shock and other parenting books and, most recently, The Daring Book for Girls, says she has noticed a trend "towards emphasizing the 'slacker mom' -- embracing the slow lane, as it were," in parenting writing, particularly blogging.
"I think it's almost a self-correcting thing: We've been pushed for so long to do more and give more and be perfect -- and judged more along the way throughout the process -- that it makes sense to me that many women are reacting to it by figuring their own way or returning to the less high-pressured experience of their own childhoods, or rather, their idyllic childhoods."
The trend is evident in the parenting books sections of Indigo and Chapters stores across the country, which are carrying fewer books on those shelves than they did five years ago, but sales in parenting titles are growing. "We find that we sell more copies of fewer books than in the past," said Janet Eger, the company's director of public relations, who said some of the parenting staples, What to Expect When You're Expecting, Kids Are Worth It, remain top sellers.
Ann Douglas, whose Mother of All Parenting books series is among those perennial favourites, says she too has noticed a shift: "Hyper-competitive parenting is definitely on the wane," she says. "Instead of seeing one another as 'the enemy' -- the mind set that develops when parents are pitted against one another by impossible parenting standards -- parents are once again seeing one another as allies."
She likens the atmosphere to that of grassroots parenting movements of the 1970s and 1980s, with parents now speaking out loudly against school board homework policies and funding cutbacks affecting community pools.
"Who has time to worry about keeping up with the Joneses … when there are so many pressing issues to deal with?" One example of that shift in focus is the new homework policy adopted last month by the Toronto District School Board, which defines parameters for what counts as relevant homework, stipulates grade-appropriate time and bans homework on holidays. The new policy, which has been hailed by parents and drawn interest from schools and parent groups around the world, is a significant shift from the days when the parental push was more inclined towards more drills, more tutoring, more testing and back-to-basics learning.
Ms. Lawrence, the Toronto blogger, says that in addition to the more relaxed school pace, most of the people she knows have scaled back their children's after-school activity schedule too. She only has her daughter enrolled in two activities, one after school and one on the weekend, "and no more of that rushing to Baby Pilates and Baby Feng Shui and all that."
She says some cues can be taken from the coverage of celebrity parenting, or, what she calls "the Britney factor."
Hyper-parenting was at its peak when Ms. Lawrence had her first child, and she remembers all the tabloids and celebrity magazines filled with glossy pictures of perfect-looking mothers, in beautiful nurseries, writing children's books on the side and gushing about parenting as the most satisfying thing 24/7. Now, she says, such airbrushed coverage has been replaced by such stories as Brooke Shields talking about postpartum depression, Angelina Jolie and Madonna and their adoption missteps, and the parenting train wreck of Britney Spears.
"Compared to the cult of parenting perfection that was being peddled," she says, "there is a lot less to live up to now."
Started to happen when I was a kid in the early 1990s. Sometimes parents get way too involved in their children. Parents should not be their children’s friends.
Please get rid of homework!!!!!
I never had much homework growing up, and my poor 11 year old twin daughters have always had a ton of it. Then one of my daughters is special needs (the other gifted), and things take her about twice as long as my gifted daughter. We can’t do anything during the week, and every weeknight is stressful.
I don’t want to homeschool. My daughters love their school, but I just hate homework.
i'm a little confused with this part.
I don’t remember having much homework at all until high school. This was in the seventies.
My daughters do their homework, but it just takes my gifted daughter about an hour and my special needs daughter 2 to 3 hours every week night.
I think the only thing that should happen at home is studying for tests and reading until around high school.
I have never seen the need for kids being sent home pages to color when they are in first grade.
Kids are also tired after school. Just let them go outside and play.
The worst time of year is winter. By the time they get done with homework it’s dark outside. If you let them play outside first, then they are too tired to do the homework.
she did not say she did her daughter’s homework.
only that her daughter’s homework load limits the other things she and her family can do.
i do not remember having 2 hours of homework every night when i was 9/10 yrs old.
but my daughter does.
homeschooling is looking better and better, just to give us flexibility and time together as a family.
What is infobahn?????
My high school math teacher had the following policy in her upper level classes: Homework was optional, but everyone who completed all of the homework during the term was guaranteed not to get a failing grade. I skipped most of the homework, doing it only when I felt like I hadn’t fully understood that day’s concept in class. I like the policy, because it saved me a lot of time and repetitive drilling I didn’t need.
That said, this approach probably wouldn’t work with younger or more marginal students. Some benefit from extra practice and drills. For others it’s just busy work.
I have one other gripe about homework. For years now, my daughters get sent home the assignment of writing your spelling words 3 times each.
My gifted daughter already knows how to spell most of her spelling words before she even gets her list, so why should she write them 3 times each.
My other daughter gets so tired from writing, and she doesn’t really have time to study the words.
How about the teachers assign a spelling list, and just test the kids at the end of the week. The kids (and parents) will figure out the best way to study the words at home.
The # 1 reason why kids are screwed up in this country.
Today's generation of parents have bought the line of poppycock nonsense pablum that your child will be "damaged" by low self esteem if you treat them like your offspring rather than a friend.
Having raised six myself, I was never my child's friend, I was their parent. It was a God given responsibility to raise them, not befriend them
It would work for all of my kids. They are great at math, and I have never seen the need for doing tons of repetitive work. I think they need some practice on new concepts, but don’t need tons of repetitive work.
You might be shocked at how little time is often spent teaching in the classroom.
Once you take away the time given over to changing classes, taking attendance, disciplining a student or two, handing out assignments, disciplining a few more students, teaching to standardized tests, filling out forms (which take away from the teacher’s time in class), and so on, it is no wonder so many teachers have to give homework.
They have no time to teach in class.
We homeschooled. Mine spent hours and hours independently reading or working on one project or the other. On the other hand, math never took more that 20 minutes or so a day.
Ping list for the discussion of the politics and social (and sometimes nostalgic) aspects that directly effects Generation Reagan / Generation-X (Those born from 1965-1981) including all the spending previous generations are doing that Gen-X and Y will end up paying for.
Freep mail me to be added or dropped. See my home page for details and previous articles.
How many words do your kids get? Mine get 25-30 every week. We only got 10 a week when I was a kid. Here’s how spelling went way back when:
Monday: Pre-test. This test did not count toward your grade, but if you got words wrong, you wrote those words 10 times each. Get them right and you don’t have homework that day.
Tuesday: Write each word in a sentence. More than one sentence that starts with “I” and it was marked wrong.
Wednesday: Write a SHORT paragraph using as many spelling words as you can. The paragraph had to make sense, and if you used them all, you got a gold star.
Thursday: Write the words in alphabetical order and study.
Friday: Final test. This was the one that counted. Penmanship counted, too. If it was sloppy, it was wrong.
As an aside, in the third grade, multiplication tables were a standing order. You wrote them out 10 times each no matter what. This resulted in having them indelibly printed on our brains forever. We couldn’t forget them if we tried.
Oh! That reminds me of the time our class did something VERY bad (don’t ask me what it was; I don’t remember) and the teacher assigned the following as punishment: Write the muliplication tables 10 times each, but write them in ROMAN NUMERALS. AHHHH! (Worked though... never had to do it again.)
Canada should spend less time doing homework and more time designing a bigger logo to put on the space shuttle robotic arm.
Me either. I just didn’t do it.
I am nor a fan of homework and I’ll tell yu what— the idiot teachers at the school act like the only way I got involved in my kids’ lives was to check the silly homework and I highly resented that coming form those numbskull teachers.
We found homeschool the only way out of the swamp. Our kids love it and have plenty of time to do fun, social things.
And the best part is when the school day is done, so is the schoolwork.
The flexibility homeschooling gives is one of its greatest benefits!
We go to the beach during the week, never on weekends. We go to the cheap matinees at the movies during the week. We travel in the off-season, even sometimes taking school with us.
We also love the flexibility with school. The kids truly go at their best pace.
The problem is the public schools treat everyone alike. I could make excellent test scores without doing any of the homework.
This whole self-esteem movement has done more harm than good. It is tied with the self-help movement, ilks like Dr. Phil. The self-help industry is a multi-billion dollar industry and their profits are huge, a lot larger in terms of percentage when compared to the petroleum industry. No one decries the self-help industrial complex.
**Could this be the end of hyper-parenting? **
Hopefully. As more children are born, parents will realize they don’t have to be so perfect.
infobahn = internet. sorry it took a while to respond. i had to walk the dogs.
If your special needs daughter is on an IEP or a 504 and you do not think she needs more writing practice at home, have her use the computer to type her spelling words. or if typeing is a problem to maybe use a voice recognition type of thing to type them. This would fall under a resonable accomodation. (also look around on share ware sites to see if you can find some type of spelling game that allows you to put your own spelling list into it, I found one 10 yrs ago and I even thought it was fun)
"infobahn = internet. ..."
It is a play on the once popular term "information superhighway"
The German word for "superhighway" is "autobahn", hence the internet becomes the infobahn.
Using all lower case became a shortcut way of typing, especially in Unix/Linux systems in which the default usage is lower case and upper case is considered to be "shouting" and changing case for style purposes, such as capitalizing proper nouns and sentence beginnings was inefficient when just talking between geeks or writing code comments.
The earlier teletype usage formerly used by wire services was all upper case. Note that, for instance, the NOAA hurricane centre still uses all upper case for its bulletins.
The internet is Unix based.
I have a degree in Computer Science, and I never heard of infobahn. I haven’t worked in 10 years, so maybe it’s a newer term.
I hated when software engineers would not use proper English when writing comments for code. It’s a pet peeve of mine. I don’t like the shortcuts because it makes it more difficult to read.
My code was always well commented, and easy to debug or alter. Other people who had to use my code (mainly hardware engineers) always liked it. In fact several hardware engineers requested me writing their code because they could always understand what I wrote.
(This is very off topic. Just a rant.)
I was talking to my special needs daughter about homeschooling, but she doesn’t want to. We switched my daughters out of public school a few years ago, and put them in a private Christian school. The teachers in the private school are pretty accomodating of my special needs daughter, and she loves it there. She’s making lots of friends, her social skills are lacking, so that’s a big deal for her.
She’s going into middle school next year. We’ll see if she can keep up. If not, I’ll just homeschool her.
Each year is different with her. At least there are some options, and homeschooling is something we’ve thought about for a long time.
She’s actually in a private school now, and they don’t make her write it out 3 times each in that school. She did in public school. Her twin sister still has to, and her brother had to when he was in elementary school.
My special needs daughter gets around 15 spelling words. Her language arts school work is modified.
Her twin sister gets around 25 words. She has to write something like 15 sentences each week. She has to write a story using most of her spelling words each week. She has to write the words 3 times each. The last one is separating the words in to syllables.
They’ll give my daughter a pretest at the beginning of the week. She’ll maybe get 1 wrong. I’d rather her write that out a number of times instead of writing words that she already knows.
I agree with you on the spelling words, luckystarmom, though I must tell you that I left out a key element of my story: that spelling assignment and the multiplication tables were often the ONLY homework we got. If there was any more, it was a VERY short assignment, like current events. (Cut out an article from the paper and be prepared to talk about it — that sort of thing.)
I’m amazed at the amount of homework some of the younger kids get; my older boy (6th grade) gets FAR less homework than my younger (4th). Should be the other way around, IMO.
Anyway, gotta fly off to church. Happy Mothers Day!
In many cases there's no need to take the school because the trip IS the school. I learned a LOT of Canadian history when my parents took me to visit some relatives in Nova Scotia. Depending on where to go you can find stuff to reinforce just about any subject under the sun.
My pet peeve is coders who act as though variable names are still limited to just a few characters. There’s nothing worse than debugging 10,000 lines where the variable names are meaningless. If you’re calculating the number of days in a billing cycle, don’t use DIBC, use DaysInBillingCycle so I know what it means!
He's in kindergarten and he has “math” and “English” homework every night of the week but Friday.
He's expected to read, write sentences, graph charts and solve abstract problems.
I fully expect him to be studying the time/space continuum and Beowulf (from the original olde English text) next year. I'm almost kidding.
Of course I help him, but
Who knew that my child rearing methods were “chic”? :)
What’s VI times IX?
I agree that there s no one solution, either for each child or for their entire education.
Another thing to consider is that all your children would not have to be homeschooled. I find a lot of people who assume it has to be all or none.
I think in the case of your daughter with special needs social skills are even more important, and, sometimes, more difficult to acquire. So if she’s doing great in that area, that’s wonderful!
The pages to color would be something like color something based on the answer to a math problem.
My son was good at math, but hated to color. He actually didn’t mind the math portion, but it was torture to get him to color after he had done 30 math problems.
The coloring didn’t even have anything to do with math.
Oh, my 8th grader gets less homework than his 5th grade sisters. He can handle having homework. His sisters can’t.
He’s given time in class to finish most of his work. There’s been a few days he’s had a lot of homework, but it’s really inconsistent.
I don’t really mind homework for the middle schoolers and the high schoolers. For one thing, they are old enough to stay at home by themselves and do the work by themselves. They can do their homework while I go to the grocery store or when I run errands.
With the little kids, we are all stuck at home doing homework.
I would only consider homeschooling for my special needs daughter. My other 2 like all the activity at school. My other daughter actually hates the summer because it is not busy enough for her.
I’m also looking at some charter schools that do things differently than the other public schools or private schools in the area. I’ve only read about them on the internet, and I haven’t actually visited them. They are more project based and self paced schools. They sound interesting, but I need to actually see the schools.
I do like that we are starting to see options in schooling. I think every kid is different, and it’s wonderful to start seeing options.
LIV (I think)
I never remember having homework in grade school. I had so little home work in high school, I did it in study hall and never brought a book home in four years. These were college-prep classes in the ‘80s. Still aced SAT’s and graduated top 10 and got into every college I tried for. This trend towards excessive homework is ridiculous and wasteful. It is because the teachers are lazy and vindictive.
Geepers! I’m jealous...I grew up in North Andover in the ‘80s, and had at least 2 hrs a night in elementary school, up to at least 4 in High School...had a great SAT score but wound up at the University of Georgia anyway. I was ready to trade it in for a social life. ;) Oh well, in my career I worked next to Harvard and RISD grads who were in way more debt than I ever was...