Warning: don’t tell your children how to play
A magazine article recently reported on a study in which the studiers found that little children whose parents had constantly told them what to do were likely to be struggling academically and showing a bad attitude in school.
The researchers, who were in the United States and Switzerland, a combination not explained, observed more than 200 children from age 4 to age 10 and their mothers. and the Swiss parents used German, French, Italian or Romanish; you never know with Swiss parents.
If I interpret correctly the results of the study from a terse 125-word article about it, the child who has the rules and regulations of ball-playing and other little kid activities heavily explained to him by the old folks “loses out on an important learning opportunity,” to quote the lead researcher.
And the kid who had to figure things out for himself does better in the future, if he didn’t get hit by a truck.
I’m not prepared or qualified to make strong judgments based on a short article about a presumably extensive load of research, but it seems to me that good parents (and I hope you had and/or are one) have to be a little of both kinds of parent and know when to be which.
I think of my grandfather, my major supervisor when I was of preschool age while my parents were at work and my grandmother was handling the household necessities.
He had to teach me to play checkers. I could never have figured that out myself. Once I learned, I was on my own. He occasionally cheated a bit to let me win, but I usually caught him and complained bitterly.
He smoked his pipe quietly while watching me work on a coloring book. He might mention that it wasn’t quite accurate to color a cow blue, but he didn’t criticize.
I wasn’t told what toy to play with or how to do it, as apparently many of the kids in that study were. My father and grandfather did have some ideas of their own about how to deploy toy soldiers, but, hey, little kids have to indulge old folks sometimes.
I was given rules more than instructions at that tender age. I could go alone anywhere I wanted, as long as I didn’t cross a street.
Maybe I was just lucky that I wasn’t a micromanaged child. (Or maybe I didn’t turn out as well as I thought I did.)
The article ended by saying that the researchers suggest that hovering parents give their toddlers space to play independently and only intervene when a task becomes unmanageable. I hope my children think I was that kind of dad.