Too Much Over-Protection? From Our Kids to The MtcWatercooler

Thursday, Feb 19, 2009 1:03pm

mtcwatercooler.pngMany of you may know about The MtcWatercooler, a Yahoo group that’s full of information but moderated by a small clan of over-protective, self-righteous locals. MontclairUnModerated, another Yahoo Group, eases up on the rules for posting (because there aren’t any), but it’s not as active. Both listservs are worthwhile to join, though, to get recommendations for everything from plumbers to unlodge Thomas the Train from your toilet to a spet who can teach you to talk to your plants. You can also use these online groups to find a highly recommended sitter who won’t feed your kids the Philodendron.

Speaking of over-protective, I read a post on MontclairUnModerated that listed a free e-book that is right up our community’s anal alley. It’s all about how today’s parents over-protect and micromanage our children much like the MtcWatercooler micromanages us.

Here’s more from this English professor, Tim Gill, in his free e-book on this topic called No Fear: Growing Up in a Risk Adverse Society.

He says our kids’ lives are far more protected and controlled than they were 30 years ago (when most of us were children), and that doesn’t have to be the case:

  • In 1971, 8 out of 10 kids ages 7 or 8 went to school on their own. But 1990, only 1 in 10 went to school by themselves.
  • In 1971, the average 7-year-old made solo trips to his friends’ or to shops. By 1990, he couldn’t do that till age 10.
  • Children today spend 4 times as much time being looked after by their parents than children did in 1975.
  • With extended school hours in many places, kids have far less unstructured free time than in the past.

So what’s the problem? Gill says we parents need more deregulation and balance. “We need to accept the need for children to develop the skills and experience to keep themselves safe.” Basically, kids need more experiential learning opportunities that they create themselves. This reminds me of my own childhood, and I feel a sense of nostalgia for the time I climbed the neighbor’s tree and threw mud pies at the cars that passed underneath. Obviously, mom wasn’t micromanaging me at the time. She was probably at home reading Jane Austen books because life was that easy for our 1970s-era parents.

I admit I over-schedule and micromanage my kids. But they’re not walking to their friends’ houses alone until they turn 40. No way. But maybe, just maybe, I’ll let them play in the back yard this spring without their helmets from One Step Ahead.

In all seriousness, I do think the over-protective MtcWatercooler could ease up a little. Adults who head to the ethers for information could probably survive with a little less regulation.

What do you think? Are we parents too protective these days? Does the MtcWatercooler drive you nuts, too?

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And we can get this project completed in time for Montclair's sesquicentennial when we can stick a fork into historic preservation as a public policy.

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