Today I want to address an idea that is often expressed in our society, and is perpetuated by articles like this. I touched on this topic once before, in The Myth Of Permissive Parents. Here is a quote found in Gottlieb's article, from Barry Schwarz, a Professor of Social Theory and Social Action at Swarthmore College:
Most parents tell kids, ‘You can do anything you want, you can quit any time, you can try this other thing if you’re not 100 percent satisfied with the other.’THIS IS A MYTH! It shocks me every time I hear it. This is NOT what most parents say. Let me alter it slightly for you with some of my own additions in bold:
Most parents tell kids, ‘You can do anything you want when you are not in school or doing homework or chores, you can quit anything except for school any time unless I already paid for whatever it is, you can try this other thing if you’re not 100 percent satisfied with the other, unless the thing you are not satisfied with is your school.’Ah, now that rings true. Sounds a lot less "permissive" and free that way, doesn't it?
Gottlieb also brings this up when she talks about some of her patients in therapy, saying:
They truly did seem to have caring and loving parents, parents who gave them the freedom to “find themselves” and the encouragement to do anything they wanted in life.She goes on to describe several ways these parents had been involved in the lives of their children, including four school-related ones: driving carpools, helping with homework, hiring tutors, intervening in cases of bullying. So when was the freedom to find themselves given? Certainly not during the school year. Could they really do "anything they wanted?" Clearly not. This seems so obvious to me. Yet the conclusion Gottlieb wants us to draw is that the parents gave too much freedom, too much choice.
|This is not freedom (source)|
But school is a huge part of a child's life. It is a confining place, where there is little to no freedom. Where individuality is not valued. Where all people are measured by the same yardstick. Where only certain pursuits are worthy, and only certain talents are valued.
In all this talk about "finding ourselves," do we ever consider why we are getting lost in the first place? Isn't it possible that school has something to do with this?
Nope, let's just ignore that giant elephant in the room. It's just easier to blame the parents.
I am NOT saying that school is the only thing to blame for the empty feelings of our nation's youth. I just want to know why we don't consider it as PART of the problem. Why is that giant chunk of our childhoods completely ignored when we look at the amount of freedom our parents gave us?
More from me on Gottlieb’s article:
Part 1: If My Kid “Lands” in Therapy
Part 2: "You Can Do Anything You Want." Except That.