My sister-in-law recently moved into a new house, and apparently the couple that used to live there had a subscription to a mainstream parenting magazine. My sister-in-law passed it on to me since I have children and she doesn’t. However, this magazine just floored me.
Almost every article in the magazine was tailored toward getting the preschool-aged child to be independent. Separation anxiety? They will get over it at summer camp! Still sleeping in your bed? Move them out, and here is how and they may cry, but that’s okay! You will have your own bed back! Here is how to help your child cope while they are apart and away from you when they are three or four! You can make this work, everyone is doing it!
I was horrified.
This is what we are doing to children in our society?? Taking these TINY preschoolers, shoving them off into day-long commitments of daycare, preschool, lessons, like they are just smaller adults and should be able to handle all this? Start early and fill them up to the brim like a bucket! Shove their heads full of intellectual facts through every paper and pencil means possible but don’t think they need to experience anything hands-on first! Make them independent because they have to learn how to do that now!
What a load of complete and utter rubbish.
Children under the age of 7 and even under the age of 9 are not ready to be “separate” from you. They start separating from you, start thinking they are less of one unity with the rock on the ground and the birds in the sky beginning only around age 9 (unless someone has just intellectualized the devil out of them). What about the innate beauty and wonder of what is INSIDE the child, the things the child brings with them to this Earth, what about the beauty of the child unfolding in their own timetable of maturity?
If I hear one more adult tell me how reasonable and mature their six and seven year is, or even their four or five year is, I am going to just lose it. They shouldn’t have to be any of those things, and yes, sometimes the circumstances of life forces things we would wish otherwise, but the consequences of adults imposing adult-like patterns of thinking and being in the small child does have life-long consequences and does deserve consideration.
Your children are still small, and yes, they are dependent upon YOU. Younger ones are not only dependent upon you for their physical needs, but for their emotional needs and intimacy, but your older children are STILL dependent upon you for protection from themselves, for emotional intimacy and for guidance and for learning for how to function in our society!
A seven and eight year old will want to do EVERYTHING under the sun, and it is your job to help decipher what they can handle – and what they can’t! Just because they ask you a million questions it does not mean you have to answer every question in a complete and detailed and serious nature – they may just as happy with a short answer, with a “I wonder”, with a “I had a lot of questions about that when I was your age as well! When you are a little bit bigger we will talk about that, you and I! Right now let’s go outside TOGETHER and look for ripened strawberries in the garden!”
That is the rub – children are many times into all these lessons, school, dry facts, long days, long explanations – because NO ALTERNATIVE has been presented by the parents. And the parents say – well, they enjoy it! They want to do it! Yes, because they want to please YOU. They ask a million questions because you answer them and give them ATTENTION for it. Pay attention to your child, give them warmth and spend massive amounts of TIME with them – but don’t confuse trying to fill up these basic needs of time, warmth, silence together, reverence and wonder, attention – with separation, pushing for independence at such a young age when THEY are dependent, and the need for attention that could be filled in more age-appropriate ways.
In this day and age, what a parenting magazine should be doing is supporting parents in the most challenging job they will ever have – being a mother or father. And they should set the bar high by letting parents know what is developmentally NORMAL, what really is realistic and really what is best for children of different ages – not just the things that parents WISH were true so they could just “stuff” the kids somewhere into their already too-busy, overscheduled life.
I personally wanted to send a copy of Gordon Neufeld’s “Hold On To Your Kids” to the magazine’s editorial staff so they could read it.