We grew up Catholic, so obviously we grew up with the underlying philosophy that a lot of things that are good for you are painful. “It builds character,” my mother would say anytime I’d complain. “Yes, just think of all the years I’m burning off of Purgatory,” I would reply.
There was also that Midwestern Protestant stoicism telling us what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger. We’re not sure how much we believe it, but it is in our blood pushing us ever onward.
That’s not the message we hear coming out of the coasts, the NYTimes, the mommy forums… That message is that if kids don’t like something, they shouldn’t have to do it. Schools shouldn’t give homework. Kids shouldn’t do extra-curriculars they don’t like (or at all!). Tiger Moms are horrible people. Five year olds should be red-shirted so they can play in the dirt another year before starting school. Kids need to play, not learn. Why do kids need to read? (But… but… my kid LOVES reading/learning/math.) I think Cloud said it best when she talked about adults projecting that they wished they had lots of free time on their kids (and, as a corollary, that they don’t like math). The Rousseau dream-child concept is still hard at work.
(Somehow when it comes to a gifted kid being bored, then they really need to learn to be bored… it’s ok to force a kid to be bored but not ok to force a kid to do activities.)
I did swimming lessons for 7 years, but didn’t want to quit. I had to do piano lessons for 9 years. I’m glad I wasn’t allowed to quit. I did Ballet lessons for 5 years. I wish I’d been allowed to quit a lot earlier. I did Catholic Sunday School or CCD until I was in 4th grade, despite constant complaining. I’m not sure if I wish I’d been allowed to quit sooner or not, considering I switched religions and went of my own volition once no longer forced to be Catholic.
Growing up there were many things I was forced to do I wish I didn’t have to do, and many things I’m glad I was forced to do, knowing what I do now. Younger me isn’t a great predictor of older me’s preferences, and who knows if parents are better or not. Hopefully they’re a little better.
So: Bottom line: We think that sometimes it’s ok for kids to do things in their best interest even if they don’t wannnna. We still wish we hadn’t had to go to public school. Blech.
Not enough controversy here? Check out the cross-post at Scientopia guest blogs.
Grumpeteers? Your thoughts?