Huffington Post Article, “Have American Parents Got It All Backwards?”

I just read an article by Christine Gross-Loh on the Huffington Post’s website called “Have American Parents Got It All Backwards?”, and it reminded me of my commentary on the laissez-faire style of teaching in Thailand. I mentioned in my last post that despite a lack of obsessive rules to protect children’s safety, kids at my school never seem to get hurt. They light fires at camp and use really big knives, they jump off the top level of the play structure, and they sprint through hallways on slippery tile — and yet, I’ve only heard of one more-than-minor injury, and it was one that could have easily happened while the kid was following a set of an American-style set of rules.

The Huffington Post article is really interesting. The author’s findings about successful parenting (and by extension, teaching) from research all over the world include:

1. We need to let 3-year-olds climb trees and 5-year-olds use knives.

2. Children can go hungry from time-to-time.

3. Instead of keeping children satisfied, we need to fuel their feelings of frustration.

4. Children should spend less time in school.

5. Thou shalt spoil thy baby.

6. Children need to feel obligated.

I think that Thai parents and teachers generally follow #1, #2, and #6, at least from my observations. I love being in a new country where ‘normal’ is different from the ‘normal’ I’m used to. It is so important for teachers to understand as much as possible about their students’ backgrounds and home lives because we have no idea if we are communicating, disciplining, or responding to students’ behavior in completely opposite ways from how their families do. Students, especially ones being taught by people from outside their culture (like mine in both San Jose and Bangkok), are expected to switch mindsets in order to be successful in school, which is a huge challenge! Anyway, that’s a bit of a tangent. I just wanted to share this article because it gave me some great food for thought — as a current educator and eventual parent.

What do you think?

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4 thoughts on “Huffington Post Article, “Have American Parents Got It All Backwards?”

  1. The children in Sweden, as described in the article, live in a society that allows them greater decision making capabilties in a country where society generally follows rules and laws that they beleive exist for their own greater well-being. Unfortunately, based on my own observations, Thai society view following rules and laws differently, sometimes looking for simpler options and methods to circumvent well-meaning regulations and laws for convenience sake. Existing in such an environment the free spitited and independent decision making Thai child has a lot more to fear from the sidewalks,streets and the general urban landscape surrounding them.

  2. That’s a very good point, Sean. Comparing Sweden and Thailand is like comparing apples to oranges, but my school, where everyone is rich and the kids all live in big compounds and play on very safe play structures, is perhaps more like Sweden than the rest of Thailand! I have to remember that Thailand as a whole is still far from being on an even playing field — socially, economically, and safety-wise — with countries like Japan, Sweden, and the U.S.

  3. Very interesting article (and love your perspective). I actually find myself agreeing with these tenets, but who knows how I’ll feel when I’m watching my little one climb a tree or wield a sharp object. This is a huge part of why I’m so excited about the Montessori philosophy… my class visit showed SO much autonomy and independence allowed in 2-5 year olds. And you know what? They were behaving like (gasp!) fully competent people. Again – easy to say from the perspective of not being responsible for the health/safety/well-being of any little ones 😉

    • I agree…it’s easy to agree with the ideas, but putting them into practice is probably a lot harder. I can’t wait to hear more from you about the Montessori philosophy and how you see it played out in your classroom. Thanks for your comment, amiga!

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