Story 1: How Overparenting Makes Kids Overweight
A study just published in the journal PLOS One is the first to prove a link between helicopter parenting and obesity: Between ages 10 to 11, the researchers found, maternal overprotectiveness “was associated with a 13 percent increase in the odds of children being overweight or obese.”
Warning: Story contains awful photo of fat kids enjoying food, watching tv, sitting on the sofa. Because we all know thin children never do that!
Story 2: Why I Walked to School Alone and My Kids Never Will
It’s no secret that raising kids today is nothing like it was a decade or two ago.
In fact, many moms say there’s no way they would let their children do what their own parents gave them free reign to do as kids.
“I remember taking the city bus with friends and riding to downtown Atlanta when I was 11 or 12, maybe younger,” said Samantha Gregory, a single mom of two children. “I would never let my kids do that today.”
Story 3: Risky play and skinned knees are key to healthy child development
Here’s what kids at play have always liked to do: Race, climb, wrestle, hang, throw, balance, fence with sticks, jump from heights and gravitate toward sharp objects. Ideally, while escaping the watchful eye of grown-ups.
Here’s what today’s kids hear when they’re even flirting with such pursuits: Slow down, get down, put that down. No throwing, no sticks allowed, don’t jump from there. Don’t touch, that’s too dangerous, be careful. And for goodness sake, don’t go anywhere without an adult.
In the last generation, adults have been consumed with protecting kids against all odds. But now, some child injury prevention experts are warning too much bubble wrap may be thwarting healthy development.
“The way we’re treating children isn’t conducive to raising kids that are going to be independent and able to get out in the world and manage risks for themselves,” says Mariana Brussoni, an associate professor at University of British Columbia.
A few thoughts:
- Most of the news articles that talk about children, risk, and inactivity look at the costs of parental over protectiveness in terms of the adult the child becomes. They tend to focus on a single outcome: Will the child turn out to be fat? I think that misunderstands the risks of inactivity. Thinking more broadly we might wonder about the future adult and risk aversion, health outcomes beyond weight, comfort in the outdoors, or losing out on the pleasures of sport and play.
- We also need to think beyond the goods that occur in adult life and ask more broadly about the childhood goods on which our kids are missing out. It’s not just that they’ll suffer as adults if they aren’t allowed to play outdoors and walk to school. It’s also the case they’ll have worse childhoods and that matters too. See my paper, “The Goods of Childhood, Children’s Rights, and the Role of Parents as Advocates and Interpreters” for more on this. It’s a chapter in Family-Making: Contemporary Ethical Challenges , Françoise Baylis and Carolyn McLeod (editors), Oxford University Press
- Why the focus on moms and mothering? So much of this research looks at “overprotective mothers” and it’s as if fathers play no role at all in parenting. Blame the mothers. Of course.