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IdentityCrisisMama 05-22-2013 05:17 AM

This is a long but really wonderful article about how our culture of parent involvement is perhaps undermining children. 


Behold the wholly sanitized childhood, without skinned knees or the occasional C in history. "Kids need to feel badly sometimes," says child psychologist David Elkind, professor at Tufts University. "We learn through experience and we learn through bad experiences. Through failure we learn how to cope."


And this part really resonates with me...  



There are kids who are worth worrying about—kids in poverty, stresses Anderegg. "We focus so much on our own children," says Elkind, "It's time to begin caring about all children."

Snydley 05-22-2013 05:33 AM

i loved this article too.  Really sums up what is wrong with how we are raising our kids these days.

skycheattraffic 05-22-2013 07:23 AM

I loved the article as well. It resonates with me so much. It also highlights why I left the teaching profession before I got started in it: the teachers' hands are tied. They can't enforce hard deadlines, or record a zero for work not attempted/submitted. This is in high school mind you with 14-18 year olds. A student can literally walk in with all the assignments on the last day of the semester before reports and the teacher is bound to evaluate them and credit them just as the work turned in on time, weeks or possibly months earlier by the rest of the class. I find that terribly unfair although I completely support accommodating students with legitimate needs. It's the healthy, capable students who are not held to some consequences that I simply can't tolerate. These kids will hit the post secondary world without learning to manage their responsibilities and budget their time in a low risk setting. Anyways that's my rant for the day wink1.gif

One_Girl 05-22-2013 09:54 PM

I love this article. My mother and I were just talking the other day about how silly it is that a child can't get a c in a subject without the school trying to label them. Our university education department was a joke, the students who rarely showed up to class got B's everyone else got A's, so it is no surprise.

ronart 05-22-2013 11:27 PM

Interesting article.  Thanks for the link.

mary934 05-23-2013 08:44 AM

Failure - there is plenty of research showing how failure can be devastating to self esteem and success. The real question is how kids experience success and failure.


Jerome Bruner said this - we want students to experience success and failure not as reward and punishment but information.


So mistakes become our friends , an opportunity to learn and failure is not in the falling but not getting up 



see Alfie Kohn's more in depth take on ' failure '

Linda on the move 05-23-2013 07:37 PM

I used to be a big Alfie Kohn fan. I had several of his books and based a lot of my parenting on his writing.


None the less, these days I see him as very limited. He writes about a subset of upper middle class, 2 parent families as if they are the whole of society, when really they are the exception. 


22% of American children are living in poverty. There parents tend to lack the time for all the nonsense. 1.5 million children in the US have a parent in prison. Many of those children are drifting through, often living with a relative or in foster care. Yes, there are lovely and soft playgrounds in the burbs, but I seriously doubt that Kohn has recently visited any of the playgrounds in the "city" part of my city. He would have written a very different description.


I also doubt that he's spent significant time on an old fashioned playground. I know he was just being metaphorical about the skinned knee, but I doubt that any adult who has helped stopped bleeding, made a guess about whether a bone was broken, and gotten sand out of eyes would wish for more DANGEROUS playgrounds. Recess is the busiest time in the nurses office of most elementary schools.


BTW -- recess still happens and is required by state law in my state. Through 5th grade, kids have to have recess twice a day.


I also venture that most kids with accommodations at school NEED THEM. As a parent of a kid with autism, who also works with sp ed students in a school, that whole paragraph just ticked me off. I don't doubt that some parent is misusing the system, but what is far more common is that sp ed kids aren't provided with the support they need to reach their full potential, which is a loss for us all. 


Kohn also speaks as if attending a 4 year college full time is the norm, but it isn't. About 60% of highschool grads go on to college, but only 60% of these attend a 4-year college. Many, many kids are finished with school at 16. "In October 2012, 16.1 million persons age 16 to 24 were not enrolled in school" (


I think Kohn needs to get the heck out of his ivory tower, or privileged suburb, and see how more Americans live.   I agree with the final paragraphs of the article, but not the overall tone. He writes like the over-parenting done by a few parents is the norm and it isn't. In reality, our society has far more children who aren't receiving enough time, attention, and resources.  We aren't a "nation of wimps," we are a VERY diverse nation with some tough and street wise 6 year olds. We are a nation where some children are going through very big bumps, with not nearly enough adult support. And our very strong young men and women, from whatever social class and background, deserve better than the likes of this article.


Heck, kids on the playground at recess aren't allowed to call each other wimps. There's just no excess for an adult to call children names.

IdentityCrisisMama 05-23-2013 08:10 PM

This article isn't written by Kohn, as far as I can tell. The author credited is Hara Estroff Marano. That said, I do like Kohn for the most part and think his philosophies translate well in some struggling areas. Also, I do think the article tries to come full-circle and get to the issue of poverty, privilege and etc. And, I appreciate that. In fact, I was an educator at a Baltimore City school that shared this article with me and we had a long discussion about this just this am.  


I can see the rub, however, when it comes to the issue of IEPs. It's difficult to discuss someone's opinion of one child's IEP without considering the fact that there's always going to be someone out there with an negative opinion of an IEP that you find perfectly valid. (not that someone's opinion matters...)   I am not someone to begrudge a child their IEP, honestly, I think all kids should have one.  

IdentityCrisisMama 05-23-2013 09:35 PM

Originally Posted by mary934 View Post

see Alfie Kohn's more in depth take on ' failure '


I see that point, Mary.  I liked this part of the Kohn article: 



Many students whom a teacher brands with zeroes already see themselves as failures.  They’re likely to experience his insistence that they be “held accountable” as yet another dose of humiliation and punishment.  (And it’s the students’ perception, not the teacher’s intention, that determines the result.)  The idea that another goose egg will snap them out of their cycle of failure and put them on the road to success is, to put it gently, naïve. 

mary934 05-26-2013 12:23 AM

I had a chance to read the whole article. Thanks for sharing the article. 


The title is at most an attention grabber and has very little to do with the article. In a sentence the article is  deals with parental anxiety over their kids achievement and success. It leads to overcontrolling kids lives, passing on their own anxiety onto kids to succeed and then stepping in to prevent failure. Kids today are under increasing pressure to be competitive and succeed and are being tested regulary at even very young ages. It is even worse today with high stakes standardised testing. I would add , and this is from Alfie Kohn , parents are regulary using ' conditional love '  showing kids more love and affection when they behave well and are academically successful and express disappointment and are less affectionate when kids don't perform. But should we be blaming the parents. Are not the politicians who are pushing so called education reform with focus on competiton, ranking kids and now also teachers one against each other, high stakes testing on a regular basis to blame. ?


I agree with IC-ma that Alfie Kohn fits in well with those approaches that focus helping challenging kids such as RDI - relationship development intervention and CPS , Ross Greene's collaborative problem solving approach that focus on the whole child. AK also advocates on behalf of poor kids and their families and those of color who tend to be offered a different kind of education - ' drill, skill and rote accompamied by punitive discipline.


if parents want to change things - they should be campaigning for less homework and testing and more commitment to the whole child - values , the love of learning and community 

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