Thursday, December 8, 2011

Stealing Your Kid's Childhood

"Stealing your kid's childhood" something that is very noticeable this time of year. It's most noticeable during the Christmas season when many parents send out letters to friends and family. Many of these letters include comments on the advancement and maturity of their children compared to their peers, which is wonderful and delightful. What isn't wonderful is how some parents insist on these kids giving up their childhood just to prove to outsiders that the child is more advanced. Many parents push their kids to give up age appropriate toys, push them grade levels above their peers, and push them to be in activities that interest the parent not the child.

It seems lately that kids just can't be kids anymore and that after the age of 10 years old it's time for them to give up the toys. Yes, I've noticed this with my 11 year old's peers, many of my friends, and some teachers. When it comes to this age level of the kids, toys are out and video games, computers, socializing and sports are what they should do with their free time. I was even criticized by my daughters teacher for allowing my 11 year old to play with dolls. Playing with dolls makes my child immature, because the other girls no longer play with them. I homeschooled my kids for the last three years, so I had no idea that they gave up toys at the age of 10 years old. It's a good thing my daughter has intelligent loving parents because we believe in kids having a childhood, so we have encouraged our daughter to play with toys and ignore those that are more mature and gave them up in 4th grade. I feel bad for the mature kids that can no longer play with toys, because they have parents and teachers that discourage it. These kids have given up their childhood early and will regret it at some point in their lives.

The issue of advancing their kids grade levels above other kids the same age. This has become very popular over the past 15 years, and seems to make parents feel extra special to have an advanced kid. I know some people are questioning how do you advance kids a grade level? It's difficult to do in a public school, but very simple if you homeschool or have your child in a small religious private school. It was suggested many times while I was homeschooling to advance my oldest daughter Emelie because school was simple for her. She has always been ahead of her peers, she learned her alphabet at the age of 2 years and entered 1st grade reading at a 4th grade level. It was tempting to advance her, but my husband and I knew that we would be forcing her to grow-up faster than she should. We wanted her to enjoy her childhood and teen years hanging out with kids her age, not 2 years older than her. She will continue to advance in an age appropriate grade level, because she has parents that spend time with her and challenge her. We have no need to push her through school, just so we can brag to people that she graduated from high school early. That is what I'm picking up from parents that advance their kids, it seems to be more of a self-esteem boost for a parent that has always had a poor self-esteem. It's a chance to say look everyone I'm great, because my kid is advanced. I don't believe that the parent is a better person and I feel sorry for the kid that will graduate at 15 or 16 years old and be forced to be an adult to early in life. They could use those 2 to 3 years advancing the learning processes further and enter college at 17 or 18 years old with a stronger educational background. They can enjoy being a teenager and become an adult during their senior year like most kids. If a kid is advanced they will advance in life without being pushed up a couple of grade levels, and still enjoy their childhood.

This is another area that I've seen parents living life through the child. Parents place their kids in activities that they wish they excelled or participated in. I've seen little girls forced to be in dance, gymnastics and/or ice skating due to their mothers dreams and hopes of raising a star. I've seen boys forced to play sports or participate in other activities because they are expected to be like their dad. These parents are stealing their kid's childhood by forcing activities on their child. These parents had a childhood and they can't relive what they wish they had in a childhood through their child. Emelie decided 18 months ago that after 6 years of ballet she no longer wanted to dance. I would of loved for her to continue and go on to become a wonderful ballerina, but that would be very wrong of me to force her to continue to dance. She announced to her ballet classmates that she was leaving dance and was going to try gymnastics. One of her classmates questioned her mother on why she must continue to dance when she no longer enjoys it. That mother told her daughter because I want you to dance, and you will be glad I made you do it later in life. Really??? Her daughter is going to be happy that she had no choices in life as a child? She is going to be happy that she never participated in activities that she had an interest in because she spent most of her free time at dance lessons? I've seen moms place daughters in gymnastics as toddlers in hopes of them being the next Mary Lou Retton. I had both of my daughters in gymnastic just for fun when they were 3 and 5 years old. I had no plans of them continuing after the first 2 years. They only went for one year due to me not wanting my kids around these crazy mothers. One mom even told her 5 year old daughter to tell my 5 year old daughter that she was terrible at gymnastics. Yep, that is how evil a mom can be when she is trying to relive her childhood through her kid. This mom must of had a really low self-esteem to stoop so low and is now placing that low self-esteem on her kids. Emelie is back at gymnastics by her choice and seems to be with a wonderful group of girls. I was worried about encountering more crazy moms, but their 11 year old kids have been in gymnastics for 9 years and are at competition level, so I don't have to deal with them. Emelie is with girls who's parents waited until the child picked the activity and is supporting a healthy fun childhood. My kids will discover who they are with a little help from their father and me, and we will enjoy watching them live their childhood. We lived our childhood 3 decades ago and yes we have regrets, but I won't force my regrets on my kids.

I better end this crazy rant, because I could go on for days. I just ask parents to let their kids have a full childhood and not to steal it from them. I will enjoy reading the Christmas letters and I'll feel bad for the children that are growing up faster than they should be. I'm going to make sure my girls have an enjoyable childhood.