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Are We Raising Our Kids to be Functional Adults?




By:  Dr. Katherine Albrecht, Ed. D.

Fort Fairfield Journal, February 17, 2016


    We've really changed our definition of what is shocking neglect on the part of parents and what's appropriate parenting.  Kids are kept home, stuck in front of the TV, a video game, or a screen of some sort or another because parents assume that at least that way they'll be "safe."  As a result, we're creating a whole nation of couch potatoes - kids who are not in shape - but more importantly who aren't mentally in shape or socially in shape because they never get to make their own decisions.  We have a problem. Kids are too sedentary, their lives are too controlled, they grow up and we have a generation of 20-something year-olds who don't know how to be adults. 

   For those of us who were kids in the 1950’s—80's, compared to the life of a kid in 2016, our lives were remarkable.  We went outside every day, we played in the street or in the woods and we made all sorts of decisions for ourselves.  We solved all sorts of problems, all sorts of disputes.  We made rules.  We did the kinds of things we expect people to do when they're grown up.  Nowadays, most kids’ decisions are made for them, all their disputes are solved for them by adults and they grow up and actually don't know how to run the world.  It makes it easier for bad people to control society when you have a population that's used to being told what to do throughout their childhood, never learning how to make decisions to prepare them to be adults.  That's not a good thing for liberty or our country.  Yes, it's really stressful and nerve-wracking to teach kids how to be independent because you're putting them on the edge of their abilities, but that's what growing up and maturing is all about.

   Something most of us did as children was walking or riding our bike to school every day by ourselves.  Today most kids either get a ride in a car or on the bus.  They have absolutely no training in independence and self-determination.  What's worse is we're living in a society that somehow thinks parents are neglecting their children if they do allow them to do things like that on their own.

   This problem is going to reverberate for generations to come.  It's going to be really challenging once our generation is gone and the next generation, the people who are now in their 20's, take over and run their own communities or even the world. Who is going to be around to really help remind future generations that it ever used to be any different?  I do worry often about that.  Once we're gone I don't know if anyone is going to remember a time when kids were able to think and reason on their own and make their own decisions.  It's going to be some antiquated notion that kids used to have the freedom to do those things themselves. 

   I have a doctorate in Developmental Psychology from Harvard and these topics weren't raised the whole time I was there.  Never once was there a discussion of what we are doing to kids if we don't allow them to develop the autonomy to make some decisions. 

    When we grew up our parents would say, would you get out from under foot and we would go outside and play all day long.  We'd only come home when we noticed the sun was starting to set.  So, mom would be able to do whatever she was doing around the house and didn't have to feel responsible for constantly entertaining us.  Back in those days there were actually rainy day activities because those were the only times that mom had to figure out how to keep you busy because you literally couldn't go outside.  What happens now when kids get home from school is parents feel guilty that their kids aren't doing things so they pile on all the activities, you're going to have to go to this class and that class and that event and this event and then you're going to have a play date between the hours of whatever and whatever and I'm going to go with you on your play date.  It's not only impacting the kids negatively but it's really impacting the parents negatively when they feel constantly, around the clock responsible for the entertainment of their own kids as opposed to saying would you get out from under foot, go outside, I'll see you tonight.

   Now, obviously in today's age just saying go outside isn't going to work.  We're going to somehow create a community.  That's one of the challenges that we face.  I'm guessing there are a lot of kids out there who have no idea who their neighbors are, there are probably parents out there who don't know their neighbors.  Not everyone lives in a community where people intentionally come together to create community. 

  Kids in the 1960’s—80’s had a local neighborhood hangout, either a part of the street, or a section of woods if they were rural and every day after school they could go there and find somebody they would like to see and hang out with.  Today, they don't do that so when they get done school they end up on Facebook, Snapchat  or texting on their phone as a substitute.  Back then kids would roam a half mile to two miles from their home on a regular basis because there weren't video games, internet or much television.    Today, kids don't have the attention span to walk for a half hour just to see what's going on. Also, most parents aren't going to let them. 

   We've got to change something that has become a very fundamental reality in the lives of virtually every family in this country, that is that parents are hassled and harried having to manage every moment of their kids' lives and kids are hassled and harried having their parents involved in their own lives and really there's no opportunity for kids to just go out and have some independence.  I guess even the notion that kids would have independence, to make their own decisions, to decide how to spend their own time has become scandalous to many people.

   I read a book written in the 1960s about a mom who had to go to the hospital and the dad went with her, leaving their nine year old daughter at home for several days to take care of her younger siblings.  The nine year old had skills, she could cook and take care of the younger children and the way this book was written then, it was perfectly okay.  Today, however, I'm sure the parents would be arrested for child neglect and their children taken away from them and put in a foster home.   How did we get to this point?

   I wonder if it's even possible for our culture to move back to the way it used to be, to move away from this notion of constantly being afraid, constantly feeling that we need to have total control over our kids or else something terrible is going to happen to them.  As a result the parents become the terrible thing that happens to them.  What's it going to take to change that?  Can it ever change?

   Somehow we've got to collectively as a culture understand we're all in this together, we're all human beings.  Kids are going to grow up and become adults, they'll be caring for us when we're old and they'll have their own kids to worry about.  It's all of us together in this experiment called the united States and we better figure out a way to solve this problem and raise our kids to be self-sufficient, upstanding and independent adults.

This editorial was transcribed and adapted for print from a recent Katherine Albrecht radio program, by David Deschesne, with her permission. Dr. Katherine Albrecht, Ed. D. is a syndicated radio talk show host on the Genesis Communication Network. Listen to her program live daily, or download her podcast for listening at any time at Katherine’s website is: 


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