Saturday, November 21, 2009

Overcoming Overparenting [edited]

I saw this Time article linked on a couple of blogs. It is a must-read for any parent. I'm not sure I agree with all their final conclusions, and while it can obviously go either way (if we celebrate our failures too much, we could end up justifying error that maybe we should correct), I do agree that our generation has swung more to the side of hyper-parenting.

This brought to mind Elder Oaks' talk, "Good, Better, Best." For example, he said:

The amount of children-and-parent time absorbed in the good activities of private lessons, team sports, and other school and club activities also needs to be carefully regulated. Otherwise, children will be overscheduled, and parents will be frazzled and frustrated. Parents should act to preserve time for family prayer, family scripture study, family home evening, and the other precious togetherness and individual one-on-one time that binds a family together and fixes children's values on things of eternal worth. Parents should teach gospel priorities through what they do with their children.

Family experts have warned against what they call "the overscheduling of children." In the last generation children are far busier and families spend far less time together. Among many measures of this disturbing trend are the reports that structured sports time has doubled, but children's free time has declined by 12 hours per week, and unstructured outdoor activities have fallen by 50 percent.2

The number of those who report that their "whole family usually eats dinner together" has declined 33 percent. This is most concerning because the time a family spends together "eating meals at home [is] the strongest predictor of children's academic achievement and psychological adjustment."3 Family mealtimes have also been shown to be a strong bulwark against children's smoking, drinking, or using drugs.4 There is inspired wisdom in this advice to parents: What your children really want for dinner is you.

[edited to add the following quote that came to mind after I posted...] That same general conference also included this wise counsel from Sister Beck that rings in my head often...from her "Mothers Who Know" talk:

Mothers who know do less. They permit less of what will not bear good fruit eternally. They allow less media in their homes, less distraction, less activity that draws their children away from their home. Mothers who know are willing to live on less and consume less of the world's goods in order to spend more time with their children—more time eating together, more time working together, more time reading together, more time talking, laughing, singing, and exemplifying. These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all.

Some quotes from the Time article that stood out. For example:

"I hope that we're getting away from the helicopter parenting," Meyer says. "Our philosophy is 'Give 'em the morals, give 'em the right start, but you've got to let them go.' They deserve to live their own lives."

Sounds an awful lot like Joseph Smith's teach correct principles principle, doesn't it?

I won't quote any more...just go read it. And then let's talk. I don't believe there is one right way to parent (which is another point in the article -- we have to figure out what is right for our own families). But I do believe it's good to talk about these things.

So...How do *you* find a balance in guiding your children and helping them prepare for their futures, and letting them fly and learn and make mistakes -- and just be kids? What do you to do to simplify and carve out more family time? What do you do to not hover to the point of smothering?