Lately, I’ve been writing a lot about the epidemic of bubble-wrapped and over-protected children. What I’ve been saying is that when parents do too much for their children and deprive them of any consequences for their bad behaviour, these children grow up lacking the skills and attitudes necessary for success in all aspects of life.
Sadly, it’s not only parents who have this well-intentioned but utterly wrong-headed approach to bringing up kids. Many schools are – perhaps in direct response to parental pressure – adopting a bizarrely lenient attitude toward disciplining children as well as bending over backwards to accommodate these children’s and their parents’ every demand. This is evident at all levels of education, from primary school to colleges and universities.
I was speaking to someone recently who is knowledgeable about the school policies at the elementary level in Ontario. This person described a school environment in which children are subject to virtually no discipline and are graduated to the next grade regardless of whether or not they have learned the material.
In our discussion I learned that many of the young people in these schools will finish their elementary education lacking the fundamental academic and social skills required to succeed in higher education or in the workplace.
According to my source (whose information has been corroborated by others) in grade schools in Ontario, teachers are no longer allowed to defend themselves if students physically assault them. They are expected to stand there and take it.
Also, because these students are under no expectation of appropriate behaviour and are receiving no discipline or consequences for misbehaving, incidents of student-on-student and especially student-on-teacher violence are escalating at an alarming rate.
The answer to this from school administrations: teachers are told to wear body armour to class. In fact, teachers are subject to reprimands or worse if they call out a student for attacking them and often, the teachers are blamed for the attacks, even when they’ve been ganged up on by a group of aggressive teens.
Recently I read an article about how gangs of teen-agers are attacking people and their pets at a local dog park. It’s not surprising that they’d be doing this, if such wilding behaviour is condoned in the schools.
The rate of PTSD in many grade school teachers is sky-rocketing, and if things continue apace, no-one will be willing to go into teaching at all. The saddest thing is that these schools are turning out children who are ill-suited to being constructive, productive members of civilized society.
It’s unclear what’s causing these school administrations to believe that children should be subject to no limits, no discipline and no stringent requirements for receiving a passing grade. Perhaps it’s an extreme over-reaction against the excessively harsh discipline employed in the past.
Perhaps, as I suggested above, administrators are simply responding to the increasing pressure of those helicopter parents who insist that their children should be allowed to do whatever they want and to graduate, regardless of whether or not they’ve mastered the material.
Whatever the cause, these administrations are, in fact, doing a terrible disservice to today’s young people and to society as a whole.
Childhood is a phase of intense physical, emotional and psychological development. Children need to learn what behaviour is appropriate in their society and how to get along with their peers and the adults in their lives. They need to learn how to play by the rules, as opposed to being taught that it’s acceptable to break the rules or to have no rules at all.
Kids need to learn essential values such as empathy, responsibility, hard work, and self-discipline. They must be taught conscientiousness, resilience and integrity. The way our schools have been doing things, we’ll have exactly the opposite result.
Schools that refuse to set limits, give kids consequences, or have appropriate expectations of academic and social performance are depriving their students of the skills and attitudes necessary for their future success.
These types of schools will turn our kids who are at best, overly-entitled individuals expecting everything to be handed to them on a silver platter and incapable of functioning in the workplace or in their relationships and at worst, disturbed individuals who lack any sense of right and wrong or any internal limits to their antisocial acting out.
Recently, I read a fascinating article by Kathryn Streeter, in The Week, entitled, My daughter’s teachers stood up to my helicopter parenting. I’m so glad they did. In the article, Ms. Streeter describes how she was making a case to her child’s teachers, school counselor and principal that the child should be held back a grade. Her argument was that her daughter was the youngest in her class and although doing well academically, she was lagging behind socially.
The school staff disagreed with Ms. Streeter’s request, telling her that her daughter would “be okay,” would “catch up emotionally” and that she was “where she needs to be.” In the article, Ms Streeter writes that, one year after agreeing to the school staff’s recommendation, she realized how right they were and “felt grateful that I’d listened to them.” She saw that her daughter was thriving both academically and socially and “showing me how to be resilient to pressure, and ultimately, how to be a better human.”
Ms Streeter realized that “one of the greatest challenges for teachers and principals is dealing with stressed, over-reaching parents who, like me, can’t see the bigger picture. What ostensibly counts as supportive parenting can sometimes inadvertently disadvantage a child.”
She goes on to cite the example of the “father of a kindergartner who arrives unfailingly at lunchtime to cut food into bite-sized pieces” who “would do well to listen when a wise official suggests they let their son figure it out like his classmates.”
Ms Streeter learned a valuable lesson about stepping back and allowing school staff to get on with their jobs. She shares what she’s learned in order to help other parents do right by their children.
Our schools don’t have to revert back to institutions in which children are harshly punished for minor infractions, but the pendulum has swung to an absurd degree in the opposite direction.
Children need respect but they also need guidance and limits. They ought not to be abused but at the same time, they shouldn’t be permitted to abuse others.
They shouldn’t be humiliated for not knowing the lesson, but there ought to be clear and consistent expectations that they meet a certain standard in order to progress to the next educational or career level.
How will our society function if we continue to graduate illiterate, innumerate young people who have no sense of a work ethic and virtually no social skills or moral compass? How will these young people cope in life without these social, ethical and educational necessities?
If we think it makes kids happier to spoil them, the stats contradict this. A recent Toronto Star article points to research which shows that the rate of depression, anxiety and addiction in high-school and university students has exploded in the past few years, and many are saying that over-protective parenting and overly-lenient school environments are a large part of what’s to blame for this.
In many institutions of higher learning, parents of students in their late teens to late twenties are arguing with teachers about their kids’ marks and insisting that the young people receive their degrees, even without having submitted passing essays or exams.
These intrusive parents are going as far as suing these institutions to make sure that their child obtains a degree, even when this young person is unable to comprehend the material or perform the skills required for their chosen field. No-one wins in such scenarios; neither the student nor society.
Imagine what would happen if we had to start seeing physiotherapists who had no real knowledge of anatomy or physiology; if engineers began performing their duties without knowing the fundamentals of their profession, or if accountants had graduated school without having learned the necessary material.
What would happen to us if lawyers started being unable to prepare an adequate defense, if nurses no longer knew how to give the proper doses of medication, or if doctors graduated without knowing how to perform that life-saving surgery?
Even worse, what if these incidents of wilding increase? What if we can no longer leave our houses without risking random attacks by gangs of savage youths? If you think this is a fantasy scenario, think again. It’s already happening in schools, parks and malls today.
We’re heading toward a societal crisis of epic proportions if we don’t recognize the danger of continuing to allow our educational institutions to coddle and enable our kids. We’re on the verge of destabilizing our society as we continue to kill our kids with kindness. The madness has to stop.
All over the world, people see education as the number one way to get ahead in life and to transcend difficult circumstances. For millions of young people around the world, attending school is what will enable them to free themselves from lives of poverty and oppression.
If our school administrations continue along these terribly misguided lines, going to school – at least in Ontario – will do exactly the opposite of what it does for everyone else in the world. It will become the thing that actually destroys our children’s opportunities for future happiness and success.
Parents must take responsibility for correcting this situation. They must first of all, stop over-protecting and coddling their own children. They must see that every time they spoil their child, they further decrease the child’s chances of having a happy and successful life.
Parents must also begin lobbying their school administrations, not to be more lenient with their kids but to be less so. They must do like Kathryn Streeter, and listen to the wise advice of their school staff.
They must insist that their children not receive a passing grade unless they have mastered the material and they must equally insist that their children receive appropriate discipline and consequences for unacceptable behaviour.
They must do these things to help their children learn how to be positive, productive, adequately educated and socially successful members of society.
This is the only way we’ll be able to save our children and perhaps, even the future of our society.
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