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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Protecting or Over-protecting Our Children?

ONE News (October 29, 2007) reports, "Too many children are over-protected and lead "a bubble wrap existence", according to new research from Britain.The study found constant adult supervision and a zero-risk attitude was damaging for youngsters.

New Zealand psychologist Sara Chatwin told ONE News anything to the extreme can be dangerous.
"Over-involved and over-protective parenting can impinge on children's self esteem and their ability to explore the environment," she says.

But Chatwin says the other side of the continuum is neglect and abuse and the British report is right to stress the need for balance.

It seems to me that issues of protection and over-protection of children should primarily be matters of parental concern. When parents assume children are risking life and limb with every exploration, they limit essentially productive environmental experience and learning. The parents must be educated themselves in the proper application of risks and protections that pertain to children, even if they lacked such information in their formative years.

These days too many parents are not willing to dedicate themselves to producing balanced children. They prefer to let institutions such as daycare or school, or even worse -- media supervision -- provide most needed interaction in their children's so-called "safe" environments. With media reports of potential danger everywhere, parents not only shut off their children but also shut off themselves from curing the real problems. Loving parental control is seriously lacking, and children's sense of happiness is deteriorating at alarming rates.

 According to Sue Palmer, a damning survey by the U.K. National Consumer Council revealed that children who watch too much television and spend hours on the internet are "greedy and unhappy". The report said,"These children argue more with their families, have a lower opinion of their parents, and lower self-esteem than other children." (Sue Palmer,, July 2007) Palmer claims unhappiness is not a natural state, yet she believes the challenges children face today are pretty toxic.

Britain also struggles with alarming numbers of children whose unhappiness causes anti-social behavior, self-harm, eating disorders, binge-drinking, under-age sex, and suicide.
Sue Palmer continues, "I'm convinced that, as our country has grown richer and more "advanced", we've lost sight of certain fundamental truths about child-rearing. We've come to believe that 21st century children are different from children in the past - that they can get by with less parental time and attention, skip stages in their development and cope with pressures and emotional burdens children shouldn't have to cope with.The brutal truth is that they can't. Life may have changed enormously over the past few decades, but the human brain evolves much more slowly - in fact, it hasn't changed since Cro-Magnon times."

The processes of child development cannot be rushed. Parents, supported by their wider community, must help children towards maturity, gradually equipping them with the inner strength, skills and knowledge needed to live in a complex technological culture. Now, more than ever, children need a gradual entry from innocent childhood into complex adulthood.
Children's basic developmental needs are physical: food, shelter, and sleep. Yet, with an abundance of talk about weight control and eating disorders have parents lost sight of the importance of wholesome food in recent decades? Do parents keep their children from essential opportunities to learn through real life experience -- riding bikes and breathing fresh air-- because they are overly concerned with safety? And, are children getting less sleep than ever while electronic games, cell phones, and televisions drone through the night? Food, shelter, and sleep, though seemingly simple needs, are very real concerns.

And what about the emotional stability of children? Parents' responsibility for providing children the feeling of being cared-for and secure is often transferred to day nurseries because both parents are forced to work to pay for necessities of life. And, as children grow older, emotional security is associated with regularity and routine -- family meals and bedtime rituals. These patterns for security seem sorely lacking in many families.

The responsibility for adults to love, to provide regularity, and to set and maintain boundaries for their children's behavior is often not provided with both warmth and firmness. Parents assume the children can handle such pressures with their own young minds. To complicate matters, how difficult is this to accomplish during times of divorce or in a one-parent unit?
Now, according to Sue Palmer,  "At home, babies often sit in front of an electronic babysitter and, as they grow older, there is that problem of older children having TVs in their rooms, which means that even when the family is in the same building, its members are splintered off from each other." (, July 2007)
Ironically, with more ways to communicate than ever before, parents communicate less and less with their own children. Too much isolated play is happening on PlayStation, and too many solitary games are being played on GameBoy.

The U.K. National Consumer Council report found that in millions of households "the screen appears to be ever-present, particularly during meal times." As the Prime Minister pointed out, this "exposes children to the pressures of very aggressive advertising." Has television created a generation of mini-consumers who want everything they see on screen and equate happiness with materialism?

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