Are You Over Parenting?
Time Magazine ran a very interesting piece in the 11/3/0/09 issue about a new trend in parenting to decrease demands and supervision, thus allowing children more time to play and more time to learn through bumps and bruises.
The authors of the article note that parents have been encouraged over the past decade (or more) to closely monitor their children and make detailed plans so that every minute of every day is accounted for to maximize learning and productivity. A form of hypervigilance has been deemed appropriate by parenting professionals -- that is, parents have been encouraged to closely watch their children in order to minimize risk (physical and emotional) while enrolling children in a variety of classes and programs designed to improve brain development and school achievment.
The value of free time has been diminished to the point that time spent by children in play has been reduced by 25% while home work has more than DOUBLED. Yikes!
The authors write: "Studies now reinforce the importance of play as an essential protien in a child's emotional diet; were it not, argue some scientists, it would not have persisted across species and millenniums, perhaps as a way to practice adulthood, to build leadership, sociability, flexibility, resilience .."
If over parenting is a problem for the typical child or teen, then it is an even bigger problem for a child/teen on the spectrum. The dominant orientation in the delivery of intervention is to eliminate free time in the service of therapay. The family raising a child/teen on the spectrum is told to maximize therapeutic hours by minimizing free time or unstructured play time. In the place of play is "floor time": an adult lead form of play that isn't really play at all -- precisely because it has a therapeutic focus (not fun).
The central idea to think about is this: with the elimination of risk and the maximizing of child productvity comes the loss of creativity and learning via trial and error -- both of which are crucial for the 21st century work place.
At the end of the article the authors quote DH Lawrence: "How to begin to educate a child. First rule: leave him alone. Second rule: leave him alone. Third rule: leave him alone. That is the whole beginning."