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Thread: Changes in Parenting (and Playgrounds)

  1. #1

    Default Changes in Parenting (and Playgrounds)

    I happened to hear an interview with the woman who wrote this article today on the radio. Having heard this kind of thing before, I didn't think she'd have anything new or interesting to say. A lot of it did strike me as fairly familiar territory, but her comments on the differences in playgrounds caught my attention, and even moreso in the article as it has great pictures.

    As I said, it's a long article but I found it an interesting read. Even if you have a short attention span, click on the link and look at the pics and see if The Land isn't a fantastic playground. It's even better than the vacant lot across from my house as a kid. Unlike the author, I never wondered if I was romanticizing my childhood and my independence as a kid. It's good that she could find video examples from the 70s to compare to modern play but I didn't need that to confirm that my upbringing was quite different from the current norm.

    For those who can get through the article, and particularly the younger ones here, I wonder if they can comment on the effects of the different styles up upbringing. My assumptions has always been that independent play is superior and that seems to be her position as well but I don't know that there's much data to back it up. Maybe there are advantages to following kids around and doing everything for them that we haven't considered (although it sounds ghastly to me).

    For my part, I would say I wasn't the most adventurous kid around and there weren't many kids in our neighborhood anyway. It paid to be able to entertain yourself or think of things to do. On weekends or in the summer, I'd often be gone from home most of the day. That could well be over at a friend's house or out in the woods. Just a vague plan and ranging radius of a mile or so was enough information to give my parents.

    Reading this article fills in some of the pieces I used to wonder about when talking to our younger members as they described their difficulties in getting out to buy diapers. A last nudge to read the article as there are little bits in there that are relevant- does this ring true to you young adults out there?

    Practicing psychologists have written (in this magazine and others) about the unique identity crisis this generation faces—a fear of growing up and, in the words of Brooke Donatone, a New York–based therapist, an inability “to think for themselves.”
    Frankly, it seems overly dramatic but it did sort of make me wonder if we're raising kids in such a way as to make this kink somehow more attractive?

  2. #2


    Quote Originally Posted by Trevor View Post

    Frankly, it seems overly dramatic but it did sort of make me wonder if we're raising kids in such a way as to make this kink somehow more attractive?
    I think that's a fair and good question, Trevor...
    I'll read the article after a while...but, I was prompted to respond now...from having experience growing up with a forest or woods to explore and there seems to be a difference from those who have had this environment, and those who didn't... independent play was certainly a part of it...

    I'll be interested to see what the younger responders to this think too!

  3. #3


    Things have certainly changed. The landscape (both literally and figuratively) in which childhood development borrows from or derives from certainly includes these freedoms to explore. This freedom can prove consequential to traits of independence or a developed sense of self-reliance. Without the learned ability to gauge responsibility or consequence, it is perceivable that children are growing up in an environment stale of these riches.

    Now to be fair, these examples are indicative of those subject to close-proximity life in an urban dwelling. It could be stated that those raising families in a rural or remote setting deal with less worry or threat to allowing their kids explore outside the home.

    I have certain cause to believe that my own personal up-bringing laid foundational ground-work in my current sense of independence. There was no television in our household. I was merely 'forced' outside to explore.

    To kindle the essence of this article; It could be said that children who are exposed to guarded playground settings could develop strong social skills. The close proximity to others of similar age would not detract from this notion.

    Situations of location and threat versus the freedom of perceivable security both have weight in the base of the argument. I certainly lean toward the advantage of raising a family in a rural setting. Perhaps I am under biased notion here but: If a child is given the opportunity to hang-out in a playground setting vs. exploring beyond protection they will most likely choose the adventure outside of the 'gates'. To stifle or suppress these natural desires of curiosity only leaves or breeds a sense of dependability.

    My own personal account: I was allowed to roam as far as I could on my bicycle in a given time-frame. I built forts both above ground and below ground. I explored alleys, washes, neighbors backyards (under guise of course), rooftops, parking garages, drainage pipes, ravines, local campuses, golf courses, and desert area nearby. I cannot fathom trading these experiences for a stale environment.

  4. #4


    I would not been allowed to play at such a site as a kid, especially not unsupervised. My mother was EXTREMELY overprotective, supposedly pre-chewing my food until I was 3 and taking away the plastic knives that came with a toy kitchen set. (I remember having one she must have missed.) My parents slept in my room with me until I was about 3 and never left me with a babysitter or sent me to daycare, the closest I got was probably a few hours with my grandmother. From the age of 3-9 I lived in a somewhat rural area and the house was next to a dangerous road. I played primarily in the gravel ''front yard'' and on the porch and patio. I had a swing set in the back yard but don't remember my mom taking me down there to play all that much. Certainly I would not have been allowed to wander about.

    At 9 we moved to a more residential community but I still stayed close to home, eventually I was allowed to go for walks, and with some convincing on my part, bike rides. I remember doing so around 15, not sure what age it started. During their younger days neighbor kids were a real menace, egging our house so badly we needed new siding, so obviously I wasn't to get involved with them.

    Hell, my parents are still overprotective. They even tried to convince me not to take swimming lessons.

    So yeah, I can see how my upbringing may have negatively affected me, and why I'm terrified of walking to a store to buy diapers.

  5. #5


    I live in middle of no where in woods. So I played alone in yard most time if not inside. I think ones a week would go to a public playground with friends when i was like 5-9, but same as modern ones in usa, with ruber/mulch ground, slides and such, and big clearing around so no where to hide. I've never heard nor seen anything like what was in that article. In next few years I think outdoor play will probably die down. everything is virtual now.

  6. #6


    I grew up in an environment much like the playground, except it was how some backyards looked, growing up in poverty. My cousins lived two houses down, in several houses in a row. Their dads were in construction, so there were tools and wood everywhere. It seems that we were always building a club house, badly.

    The problem was that they were brutal to me. I would have to stand barefooted, while they would throw a hunting knife into the ground, seeing how close they could come to my foot. They would beat me up almost every day, and I would run home crying. Eventually my parents moved to get away from them. That community was smaller, more remote, but just as violent. In addition, as I grew older, sex, boys hitting on me, wanting me to "do thing" entered into the mix.

    My point is that I kept most of this hidden from my parents, as they seemed to be uninvolved anyway. They knew I'd get beaten by older boys, and they'd just say that I had to stand up to them. Eventually I started setting fires, I cut myself, I blew things up, I stole things and the list goes on.

    I think parents need to find a happy balance. We need to let our children discover things for themselves. They need to venture out and take small risks. At the same time, we need to talk to them and find out what they are doing. We need to teach and advise, and if necessary, say no.

  7. #7


    Quote Originally Posted by Trevor View Post
    Frankly, it seems overly dramatic but it did sort of make me wonder if we're raising kids in such a way as to make this kink somehow more attractive?
    not just this kink, i often wonder.

    as for child-centricity and mollycoddling, i think that it's part and parcel of our socio-technological development, particularly for urbanites and city-dwellers. i mean, take away our excessive material and technological wealth, and state nannying, of parents and children, and you are just left with 'the olden days'.
    what amazes me about nowadays is how much people forget their own olden days, especially in Britain where the differences are quite huge over just a relatively few years. like, when we got central heating in the late seventies, we were considered to be posh. who now thinks about having to get a fire going in the morning?

    so, while it's true that younger folk are softer and stupider (exceptions excluded), that also applies to the older folk.

    i don't think it's right to focus on single issues [at hand], though. i think that doing so would only be the same as what got us into this 'mess'. the view needs to be comprehensive.
    i can remember when this new child-centric pscho-babble came over here (notable for it being brought over by by americans; "another bloody Yank" we'd moan) and the crux of the idealism was to create an american, middle-class idyllic family environment for evey child, giving every child the 'same chance in life', equal opportunity, etc.
    of course, this meant that a mono-culture would need to be established.

    a sad spin-off was that mono-culturism played into the hands of the government in eradicating dissent and conflict, in tandem with a greater material wealth for all making everybody more passive and compliant.
    with ever expanding urbanization and the state control that that needs, we now have a mono-culture of thought and behaviour as dictated by the state. the visible effects vary from the overt to the subtle (like, as subtle as spelling urbanization or apologize or realize with a 's', instead of a 'z' and, when confronted, ranting that with a 'z' is the american spelling).

    the point is, rhetorically, would a rougher and readier, independently minded people be what government would want, or would it prefer them pigeon-holed, quelled, needy and accountable, like cattle?

  8. #8


    I feel somewhat split on this issue. On the one hand, I do think there is excessive protection of young kids these days. I've seen studies suggesting that things like increased allergies and autoimmune reactions are associated with hyperclean environments, and just in general I feel like parents have become super worried about every little thing. I also saw one of the playgrounds where I used to play when I was little torn down and replaced with a bunch of much lower super safe plastic equipment that made me seriously sad. Sure I got a few splinters, but climbing atop big wooden structures and going down metal slides used to make me feel like the king of the world.

    On the other hand, I grew up in the big city. We heard about murders all the time, missing kids and all that. My parents didn't ever let me go anywhere on my own until I was in High School, and if were in the same city with my own kids today, I'd definitely do the same. Plus, even though I was kept really sheltered in that I was always chauffeured around by my parents, once I did get out on my own in college, I had no trouble adjusting and going places by myself. You do stuff when you need to do it, and pretty much all of us can figure out the basics, like how to get around alone. So I don't really feel like general sheltering hurts people in the long run, and I do think it's good in dangerous places with lots of strangers around.

    So yeah. On one hand there's some stuff done in the name of safety that drives me totally nuts. Whereas other stuff I think makes total sense.

  9. #9


    There's another entity which to some extent, is raising our kids, and that's big industry. They manufacture the clothes, the style, Axe and other body products, games, entertainment, and they use the media to not just sell their products, but construct a virtual world that demands these things if kids want to fit in. They do the same, to some degree, to us adults.

    Most homes have either two parents working, or a single parent who works. They come home tired. They cook dinner, do laundry, pay the bills; they keep the house running. The media entertains their kids, imparting it's values on them.

    When I was a kid, the media was small. It pushed toys on us, but for the most part, we went outside and played. We took our parents values with us, and our play reflected those values. From what I've seen working with kids at school, they stay in their rooms playing games which are sold to them. They Skype their friends on Ipads and computers which are sold to their parents. The machine makes new demands on how we spend our money, and how our time is consumed. Into these new media are a new set of values, whether it something simple like Mindcraft, or something like Grand Theft Auto. It's something to think about.

  10. #10


    I think this idea works well as long as there is a secure attachment to the parents/guardians. In my case, I had an insecure attachment to my parents, while being left to pretty much do what I wanted. I could explore the neighborhood, hang out in abandoned buildings, play in the creek behind the house, ride my bike all over town unsupervised. But I still grew up with severe anxiety and some phobias. It's because I was basically neglected for most of my childhood. So I think confidence-building techniques such as the idea presented with the playground would be terrific when in combination with a secure attachment. Likewise, a secure attachment without risky play also leads to trouble.

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