We all want the best for our children but the philosophies on child rearing have changed quite a bit over the generations. These days it seems there are more and more families trying to engineer their kids’ childhood to ensure future success. I don’t know if this is even possible but many seem to be trying. They are putting their kids in extra academic classes so that they are ahead of their classmates and also participating in several extra-curricular activities. Parents know that a child needs to be well-rounded to get into a good college or to qualify for scholarships so they are taking extra music classes, joining multiple sports, etc. Kids of previous generations also participated in many extra activities based on their interest. The difference was that back then many of these were through the school or if they were private, it was because the child really wanted to do it. There wasn’t as much thought about how this will benefit them on a college application. Kids used to go to tutors and Kumon because they were having trouble in school and when they were already A-students. Nowadays, kids are often lacking any sort of free time to just play and imagine because they are in so many structured activities. Even if they aren’t in a class, they must practice or do related homework.
Is this level of constant pressure, increasing their chances of success? It may be if you believe that hard work pays off but there are also other things to consider. Will these over-stressed kids burn out faster? Will they have less social or soft skills in life because they spent too much time in structured activities over social ones? Are we robbing them of a precious childhood where things were supposed to be more carefree and relaxed since adulthood is full of work and pressure anyway? Some argue that there is global competition now and the kids have to work harder because of it. I do agree that we can’t let our kids slack off and they do have to understand that learning and focus will pay off. I just also believe that innovation and forward thinking is most often done in free-time and not in a classroom. I’m sure the kids that are doing all the extra work and classes will eventually get good jobs. However, to foster the creativity and brilliance that brings amazing new ideas into the world, I think we need to let these kids have some time to find themselves, use their imaginations, make friendships, and navigate uncharted territories. We as parents have to realize that we can give them opportunities and love but we can’t engineer their childhoods and know a certain outcome.