Stepping into fragile territory...
A review of The Fragile Generation by Lenore Skenazy & Jonathan Haidt
Big thanks to ma boy, JT, for sharing my concerns and for being the first to bring this article to my attention.
I have held onto this one for several weeks for a few reasons. In the timely sense, this is the feature in the December issue of Reason Magazine. Philosophically, because I am a bit sensitive to the reaction this may create as I never! firmly want to tell parents how to parent nor do I want to persuade them in a direction opposite of the norms to which they may be working well with their kids already. But also because of the depths of the constant negative matter circling above and around the current affairs of bullying in schools, child neglect and abuse, and more recently, seemingly unavoidable - gun violence, mass shootings and sexual harassment cases to name a few. You name it … things are not exactly all positive right now.
So let's take life back now and show our kids how to be stronger and more resilient for a more promising and positive tomorrow. I had this actual article discussion with my ma and dad over a year ago and we clearly were looking for answers.
Why are more kids not walking to school or riding bikes to the playground?!! (Apparently, Only 13 percent of them now walk to school.)
What happened to the days you can play in the backyard for hours without worry or play 2 on 2 basketball in the driveway until your fingers start to bleed? Does anyone even play Kick the Can anymore, my God that was the life!
Why are sports so incredibly structured… from 2 years old and up now it seems!
This article is the first substantial take I have read on the subject. IN. MY. OPINION., in The Fragile Generation (TFG), Lenore Skenazy and Jonathon Haidt do an outstanding job of storytelling and providing fact driven lessons and research that I can only hope starts to catch on in the doctrines of modern day parenting and teaching (and coaching)!
Each section within TFG hits home. Not just for me but for most, if not all the kids and families, I work with. Their anecdotes are spot on; the 911 call on the boy chopping wood, swings and teeter-totters being banned, kids under 12 not allowed to go to library alone and my favorite being the (adult) couple who called the police to ultimately come over and set a mouse trap for the mouse in their apartment. For crying out loud, the authors cite that the Consumer Product Safety Commission even warns parks of "tripping hazards, like…tree stumps and rocks," a fact unearthed (so to speak) by Philip Howard, author of 2010's Life Without Lawyers.
Fear & Structure
Skenazy (@FreeRangeKids) & Haidt (@JonHaidt) are not afraid to squash the fear of rising preds and perps in the world either. If you look further into this, today, your kids (and adults) are safer today than ever since 1963. "While Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker writes in 2011's The Better Angels of Our Nature that life in most countries is safer today than at any time in human history, the press keeps pushing paranoia. This makes stepping back feel doubly risky: There's the fear of child kidnappers and the fear of Child Protective Services."
When it comes to the Youth Sports Industry and the astronomical amount of time and dollars spent on structured sports, there must also be a way of bringing back how things use to be. At least, this is one of my personal agendas to fix.
#FamilyFirst #6:00Supper #BackyardPickupGames #UnplugForADay
To me, this article has it all!
If you are more into watching video than reading the TFG article, the YouTube within, mostly the interview with author and "The World's Worst Mom", Lenore Skenazy, is inside. (Most of you know, I am not a parent, though I think reading and watching this video will serve you well.)
At AKASPORT, we push Free Play more than anything. If you ask the kids, "What is your favorite part of the day", without question, the 99% answer is FREE PLAY, which we designate as at least 4.5 hours of the 11 hour AKA summer camp day experience. And in the AKA after school programs, we design this Free Play mentality around creating a safe haven of sports and fitness at the schools that focuses on 60 minutes of play, with minimal instruction but a great deal of multi-sport variety, togetherness and young adult mentorship and coaching. And in the newly launched AKA Outdoors division, the vision is to get more kids outdoors and to take part in more unique, mind opening activities to appreciate more of the natural aspects of good living.
Professor and research contributor, Peter Gray writes in 2013’s Free to Learn, “Free play is the means by which children learn to make friends, overcome their fears, solve their own problems and generally take control of their own lives.” … “Nothing we do, no amount of toys we buy or 'quality time' or special training we give our children, can compensate for the freedom we take away. The things that children learn through their own initiatives, in free play, cannot be taught in other ways.”
Time for Parents and Leaders to Step UP ... Open to Discussion
The story of late that has taken off like wildfire is of course the sexual abuse scandals that headline the news seemingly every day. I cannot even begin to imagine how kids are interpreting this or if and how you parents and teachers are discussing why this matters to your kids. But this to me is a perfect example of an opportunity to steer kids away from the negative darkness and show them the positive light.
I can only hope that parents are speaking with their kids consistently about issues and how to be a better person and citizen than the one that is in the news. Seize that opportunity to show these kids the way. I never forget mom's compassion filled talks to me such as the day I walked home from school in 1st grade and some random kid painted a large fresh strip of paint down the back of my winter jacket or the time she cooled me down after I wanted to fight the neighbor friend after a long walk home in 4th grade. Were those big deals, not really at all! I survived and we moved on and those great memory lessons still make an impression on me today. Or the first bike ride mom and dad guided me on to the tennis courts (on Irish Road...never forget!) so that I knew where and how I was to go. That set the course...they showed me the way and then trusted me to do it on my own...safe, secure and independent. Those simple "rehearsal" treks set the path for me to go a long, long way and I am forever grateful.
As this article, The Fragile Generation, and topic is deep and clearly hits home in today’s turbulent society, I encourage you all to chime in and speak about what you are doing with your kids or how your schools may or may not be addressing these issues. No, it is not ideal for every kid, based on their neighborhood or proximity to friends and parks, to walk or bike to school nor is it perfectly convenient for them to play with close neighbors and friends if they don't have them. But there are always ways we adults can support the habits of kids without structured sports, tablets or look the other way neglect. Take action and let us know!
Thank you for reading and... Happy December!