Monday, July 07, 2008

Parents, are you raising children or adults?

This is the question asked by sociologist and youth minister Jim Hancock in his book "Raising Adults: A Humane Guide to Parenting in the New World". What he means by that is explained in this Indianapolis Star article : "Our task has often been defined as raising children," Hancock said, "and ultimately that's what we've ended up with -- adult-aged children who don't feel very well prepared for life in the real world. I think if we were to shift our emphasis to raising adults, everybody is happier."

Jim describes a method of parenting that teaches children how to become independent. "One thing we should never ask our kids is, 'Do you have your jacket, homework, gym bag, backpack, keys,' listing everything I can think of that you might possibly need in order to survive your day. I think effective parents learn to ask their children, 'Do you believe you have everything that you need for today,' and teach their children to figure out what is on that list." He demonstrates classic errors: "Hancock tells the story of a woman who skipped a business meeting to take her adolescent son's homework to him at school. "I thought, 'how long has she been doing that?' Probably since he was 6 years old, and he's learned to depend upon her for those kinds of details. He will be very angry with her one day when she takes a vacation or dies and he's left without his homework. Not to mention when he's 32 and the boss needs the memo, and his mother is not there to bring the document to him."

He also offers a free online book , "Ten Things We Should Never Say to Kids".


Chalicechick said...

Boy, it's lucky the previous generation didn't have moms who stayed home and cooked and cleaned, or they'd be starving and living in squalor right now.

Oh, wait, they for the most part did have moms who did that, and when they needed to learn to cook and clean, they did, in approximately similar proportions to people who learned to cook and clean in the previous and following generations. (There are always people who never quite learn to cook and clean.)

People, mostly, develop skills as they need them and I'm not sure why making them need them artificially early matters much.

"Life in the real world" is a big change for just about everybody. Few of us feel truly prepared for big changes, even those who had parents with the seemingly infinite amount of free time that it must take to prepare for school using the socratic method.

I think this article is pretty silly.


Joel Monka said...

People with your intelligence and drive learn skills as they need them- which is not everyone, or even most, in my experience. Whenever I've worked with teens or young adults- as an assistant ROTC instructor, in a neighborhood association, and especially as an employer- I saw many who had never learned to apply general principals to specific situations, never even learned how to learn. Problems that would look nearly identical to you or me are completely new puzzles to them each time. Kids who actually got good math grades in school, and yet were totally incapable of using that math in work situations. Or even balance a checkbook. Kids who, even though they had used shopping lists their mothers (or wives!) had given them never thought of writing a checklist for work- and who, even when the concept was explained to them, were incapable of writing one on their own without instruction. I had an employee at the print shop describe "3 7/8" as "4 minus one of the little things; not the littlest, the one next to it."- apparently, she wasn't capable of figuring that if the biggest line was obviously halfway, the next one must be quarters, and the next one eights, etc. One thing all these people, and many, many more examples from decades in the workplace I could give, is that never in their lives had they ever had to figure anything out on their own; someone always gave them the answer. And I'm not talking stupid people, because they weren't- but having intelligence doesn't mean you can think clearly, any more than having an appetite makes you able to cook. Both skills must be trained.