Alexander McCall Smith writes a series of ten popular books concerning the "Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency." They are excellent as are his tales of "44 Scotland Street." In the latter he tells of a five year old boy in Edinburgh named Bertie who has an extremely overbearing and sheltering mother who believes he should learn Italian and play the Saxophone in lieu of Bertie’s desire to play Rugby, go fishing, and enjoy the perks of youth as his friends do. Because of his mother, Bertie is an unhappy kid.
I thought of poor Bertie when I read George Will’s column in the Sunday Republic. Will writes of a Massachusetts school where during physical education classes, kids jump rope. That sounds like good exercise to me except there is one important exception: the kids don’t use ropes! Why? Because it is the same old bunk I wrote about in an August 29, 2007 blog about how dodge ball and tag have been eliminated from the games kids like to play. The school feels that some kid’s feelings may be hurt if he/she is not effective as a rope jumper. What are these people thinking?
Parents are so worried about their child’s self esteem that they feel the necessity to constantly tell them how wonderful they are and avoid the risk that the kid might not be able to jump rope. These are the same parents who campaign for kid’s soccer teams to not count goals because it may damage the disposition of the kids who suck at soccer. And, of course, everybody gets a trophy even if they are total losers. It is incomprehensible that anyone would think this behavior is going to get any child prepared for real life.
A new book called "NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children" by Merryman and Bronson points out that parents who constantly praise their kids with silliness like notes in their lunch boxes telling them how incredibly intelligent they are, are doing their kids a great disservice. Those kids tend to falter when they encounter academic problems. Overpraised kids also tend to cheat "because they have not developed strategies for coping with failure."
In summation, Bronson and Merryman feel that parents need to lighten up and let kids be kids. I have never been a parent but I agree with that. I would rather have a kid who stands up for himself and comes home with a black eye instead of a kid who gets awarded a trophy for being incompetent.
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