Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The hurried child #1: independence

I am reading David Elkind's "The Hurried Child". It is certainly thought provoking.

Elkind writes too much about what parents should or should not let their children do, rather than thinking about why children develop certain preferences. The authoritarian undertow of the book is pretty wearing.

But he made me think once again about independence. Many parents are keen to encourage their children to become independent, by sending them off to nursery at less than a year old, say. Over-protection is not the only alternative. From the moment when a child first wriggles out of hir mother's arms to roll on the floor to the moment when the chils starts offering hir parents a loan for a new car, children will embrace independence at their own pace, given the freedom to do so. Knowledge of parental support whenever needed (being rescued from the sleep-over party that the child wanted to attend but became homesick at, for example) gives a child the inner security and confidence to experiment and push the boundaries of their independence.

I believe that children whose parents withdraw their time and assistance in the name of 'promoting independence' become less confident, and less able to navigate the challenges of life without help.

Note: independence is not the same thing as autonomy, which we have, and which should be respected, from the start.

No comments: