Sunday, April 28, 2013

Ranting and Raving

Can I just take a sec to rant and rave over here?

I have several large pet peeves related to parenting.  After all, parenting is a skill I have spent my life researching and I have several strong opinions on many aspects. 

But one of the BIGGEST pet peeves is the ridiculous American notion of entertaining children. 

It can be so frustrating for me to go the park.  I see parent after parent directing their child(ren) on the equipment. "Let's go play over here, Johnny."  "Why don't you go down the slide?"  "Look, there's a scavenger  hunt, where's the rocket ship?"

What is wrong with our culture that we don't trust our children to be responsible for their own entertainment?  Why do we constantly feel the need to push them, to tell them how to play and what to play?  Why do we put small children on our laps and take them down the slide because they aren't ready to do it by themselves - which, if they aren't ready to do it on their own, they should not be doing it! Parents are setting their kids up for failure - and even injury - when they take control of their kids' playtime. 

Cole and I spend time outside almost every single day - and we are often at a park.  I have never "showed" or told Cole what to play or how to play at the park.  I stand and observe; Cole plays.  I am present and watching, but not telling him what to do or encouraging him to anything.  And guess what?  Cole is FINE.  He is perfectly happy and capable to play without me ruining it.

What's more important is that by trusting Cole to play completely on his own, I am trusting him to know and create his own boundaries.  He doesn't get "stuck" at the top of the tall slide, because he is completely in charge of when he feels safe to go up there and come down independently.  He learns problem solving, without an adult to do it for him.  He learns that he alone is responsible for his own entertainment. 

So, so often as a parent, I find myself saying to people, "Please, just stand back and observe.  Please DON'T play with my son until he invites you to, on his terms.  Please allow him to own and direct his play, because that's the most important job he'll ever do and your "help" is actually a huge hindrance.  Please, just let him discover instead of showing him."

If there was one thing I would change about the way Americans parent, it would be this: Trust your child.  Trust your child to know just what they need to do, when they need to do it, without forcing, directing, or showing them how.  Just step back and let the kids play.


  1. The only time I have directed my little guys in play at the park was to intentionally remove them from a play group of destructive children. It happened the other day actually. A babe about Phinneas's age (2.5) was at the top of the slide, Isaac right behind him, the three meanies behind him, and Phinneas in the back. The three in the middle started pushing, yelling, and jumping up and down, insisting that the little "GO DOWN! COME ON! HURRY UP!" Isaac held them back, the little dude in front of him was scared to death as his mom coaxed him down as fast as she could. The parents of the meanies did nothing, didn't even notice. I chastised the children for being mean to a little guy, but they didn't care--just smirked and ran back to the top of the slide. I moved the boys to the swings.

  2. Well put, Mandy! I totally agree, but am sometimes guilty of this myself. It's hard to just sit back and not worry that she'll fall off the slide or something. I've been trying to be better about this as she gets older and more capable. Thanks for the reminder!


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