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Back to baby basics
National Post ^ | 2008-05-10 | Anne Marie Owens

Posted on 05/10/2008 4:38:17 PM PDT by Clive

Parks filled with children playing idly. Homework within limits and prohibited on holidays so as not to be overbearing. Mothers less inclined to shuttle their children to an endless roster of programs.

Could this be the end of hyper-parenting?

There is evidence -- in the parks, the play-dates, the homework schedules and even Hollywood magazines -- that the end is at least near for the pattern of modern parenting that has in recent years dictated highly scheduled lives for children and spawned the species described as helicopter parents.

It can be found in the stories of mothers at playgrounds and schools, who no longer spend so much of their days scurrying their children from one activity to another; in the experiences of parents who successfully lobbied Canada's largest school board to introduce a radical policy that bans homework on holidays and sets limits for work; in the shelves of the nation's bookstores, no longer filled with sprawling racks of angst-filled tomes about how to make a better baby, but smaller now and more likely devoted to simpler topics such as play.

These are baby steps, certainly, but they are nonetheless indicative of a movement whose madness may have reached its peak and moved on to a point approaching sanity.

"I think it went so far that the pendulum is starting to swing back," says Jen Lawrence, a keen chronicler of modern mothering, who recently traded in her popular mommy blogs (Mothered Up Beyond All Recognition and TO Mama) to found the online newsletter BlissNotes. com. She is a former Toronto banker and a mother of two, and she first noticed the shift in parks and play-dates.

"The parks are really full now, and they weren't so much before. And when I'm arranging after-school play-dates, people are available," she says, remembering how not so long ago such arrangements involved serious maternal day-timer consultations to work around a child's over-scheduled existence.

Small things, yet significant indicators of change. Ms. Lawrence's oldest daughter is not yet five, and still she has come through a seismic shift in parenting culture.

Whether it is called hyper-parenting or over-parenting, the micromanaged child or the over-scheduled child, it means the same thing: a generation of children signed up in utero for the right preschool; primed for early brain development with Baby Einstein and the like; embarked on a scheduled life in babyhood with play groups in French immersion, kindergym and infant music sessions; enrolled in tutoring by the age of three; every school day book-ended with a loaded program of scheduled activities and organized games.

It has been more than 25 years since The Hurried Child first raised the alarm about this style of parenting, but if book titles are an indicator, it reached its zenith in the past few years: Worried All the Time: Over-parenting in an Age of Anxiety; The Over-Scheduled Child; The Hyper-Parenting Trap; Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety.

That is changing. The Secret Life of a Slummy Mummy became a sensation and a popular catch-phrase in Britain last year, and a televised series called May Contain Nuts poked fun at the hilarity that ensues from competitive parenting.

Andi Buchanan, the Philadelphia author of Mother Shock and other parenting books and, most recently, The Daring Book for Girls, says she has noticed a trend "towards emphasizing the 'slacker mom' -- embracing the slow lane, as it were," in parenting writing, particularly blogging.

"I think it's almost a self-correcting thing: We've been pushed for so long to do more and give more and be perfect -- and judged more along the way throughout the process -- that it makes sense to me that many women are reacting to it by figuring their own way or returning to the less high-pressured experience of their own childhoods, or rather, their idyllic childhoods."

The trend is evident in the parenting books sections of Indigo and Chapters stores across the country, which are carrying fewer books on those shelves than they did five years ago, but sales in parenting titles are growing. "We find that we sell more copies of fewer books than in the past," said Janet Eger, the company's director of public relations, who said some of the parenting staples, What to Expect When You're Expecting, Kids Are Worth It, remain top sellers.

Ann Douglas, whose Mother of All Parenting books series is among those perennial favourites, says she too has noticed a shift: "Hyper-competitive parenting is definitely on the wane," she says. "Instead of seeing one another as 'the enemy' -- the mind set that develops when parents are pitted against one another by impossible parenting standards -- parents are once again seeing one another as allies."

She likens the atmosphere to that of grassroots parenting movements of the 1970s and 1980s, with parents now speaking out loudly against school board homework policies and funding cutbacks affecting community pools.

"Who has time to worry about keeping up with the Joneses … when there are so many pressing issues to deal with?" One example of that shift in focus is the new homework policy adopted last month by the Toronto District School Board, which defines parameters for what counts as relevant homework, stipulates grade-appropriate time and bans homework on holidays. The new policy, which has been hailed by parents and drawn interest from schools and parent groups around the world, is a significant shift from the days when the parental push was more inclined towards more drills, more tutoring, more testing and back-to-basics learning.

Ms. Lawrence, the Toronto blogger, says that in addition to the more relaxed school pace, most of the people she knows have scaled back their children's after-school activity schedule too. She only has her daughter enrolled in two activities, one after school and one on the weekend, "and no more of that rushing to Baby Pilates and Baby Feng Shui and all that."

She says some cues can be taken from the coverage of celebrity parenting, or, what she calls "the Britney factor."

Hyper-parenting was at its peak when Ms. Lawrence had her first child, and she remembers all the tabloids and celebrity magazines filled with glossy pictures of perfect-looking mothers, in beautiful nurseries, writing children's books on the side and gushing about parenting as the most satisfying thing 24/7. Now, she says, such airbrushed coverage has been replaced by such stories as Brooke Shields talking about postpartum depression, Angelina Jolie and Madonna and their adoption missteps, and the parenting train wreck of Britney Spears.

"Compared to the cult of parenting perfection that was being peddled," she says, "there is a lot less to live up to now."

TOPICS: Canada; Culture/Society
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1 posted on 05/10/2008 4:38:17 PM PDT by Clive
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To: Clive

Started to happen when I was a kid in the early 1990s. Sometimes parents get way too involved in their children. Parents should not be their children’s friends.

2 posted on 05/10/2008 4:41:17 PM PDT by Ptarmigan (Bunnies=Sodomites)
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To: Alberta's Child; albertabound; AntiKev; backhoe; Byron_the_Aussie; Cannoneer No. 4; ...


3 posted on 05/10/2008 4:42:07 PM PDT by Clive
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To: Clive

Please get rid of homework!!!!!

I never had much homework growing up, and my poor 11 year old twin daughters have always had a ton of it. Then one of my daughters is special needs (the other gifted), and things take her about twice as long as my gifted daughter. We can’t do anything during the week, and every weeknight is stressful.

I don’t want to homeschool. My daughters love their school, but I just hate homework.

4 posted on 05/10/2008 4:47:38 PM PDT by luckystarmom
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To: Clive
"with parents now speaking out loudly against school board homework policies"

i'm a little confused with this part.

5 posted on 05/10/2008 4:49:51 PM PDT by robomatik ((wine plug: cabernet sauvignon, riesling, and merlot))
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To: luckystarmom
when i was a kid, i did my own homework. (and don't give me grief about the lack of caps, its an infobahn thing).
6 posted on 05/10/2008 4:52:01 PM PDT by robomatik ((wine plug: cabernet sauvignon, riesling, and merlot))
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To: robomatik

I don’t remember having much homework at all until high school. This was in the seventies.

7 posted on 05/10/2008 4:57:26 PM PDT by balch3
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To: robomatik

My daughters do their homework, but it just takes my gifted daughter about an hour and my special needs daughter 2 to 3 hours every week night.

I think the only thing that should happen at home is studying for tests and reading until around high school.

I have never seen the need for kids being sent home pages to color when they are in first grade.

Kids are also tired after school. Just let them go outside and play.

The worst time of year is winter. By the time they get done with homework it’s dark outside. If you let them play outside first, then they are too tired to do the homework.

8 posted on 05/10/2008 4:58:07 PM PDT by luckystarmom
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To: robomatik

she did not say she did her daughter’s homework.
only that her daughter’s homework load limits the other things she and her family can do.
i empathize.
i do not remember having 2 hours of homework every night when i was 9/10 yrs old.
but my daughter does.
homeschooling is looking better and better, just to give us flexibility and time together as a family.

9 posted on 05/10/2008 4:58:38 PM PDT by silverleaf (Fasten your seat belts- it's going to be a BUMPY ride.)
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To: robomatik

What is infobahn?????

10 posted on 05/10/2008 4:58:45 PM PDT by luckystarmom
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To: Clive

My high school math teacher had the following policy in her upper level classes: Homework was optional, but everyone who completed all of the homework during the term was guaranteed not to get a failing grade. I skipped most of the homework, doing it only when I felt like I hadn’t fully understood that day’s concept in class. I like the policy, because it saved me a lot of time and repetitive drilling I didn’t need.

That said, this approach probably wouldn’t work with younger or more marginal students. Some benefit from extra practice and drills. For others it’s just busy work.

11 posted on 05/10/2008 5:02:02 PM PDT by Huntress (Barack Obama--Not just another empty suit.)
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To: luckystarmom

I have one other gripe about homework. For years now, my daughters get sent home the assignment of writing your spelling words 3 times each.

My gifted daughter already knows how to spell most of her spelling words before she even gets her list, so why should she write them 3 times each.

My other daughter gets so tired from writing, and she doesn’t really have time to study the words.

How about the teachers assign a spelling list, and just test the kids at the end of the week. The kids (and parents) will figure out the best way to study the words at home.

12 posted on 05/10/2008 5:03:21 PM PDT by luckystarmom
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To: Ptarmigan
Parents should not be their children’s friends.

The # 1 reason why kids are screwed up in this country.

Today's generation of parents have bought the line of poppycock nonsense pablum that your child will be "damaged" by low self esteem if you treat them like your offspring rather than a friend.

Having raised six myself, I was never my child's friend, I was their parent. It was a God given responsibility to raise them, not befriend them

13 posted on 05/10/2008 5:04:00 PM PDT by Popman ("When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.")
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To: Huntress

It would work for all of my kids. They are great at math, and I have never seen the need for doing tons of repetitive work. I think they need some practice on new concepts, but don’t need tons of repetitive work.

14 posted on 05/10/2008 5:05:20 PM PDT by luckystarmom
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To: silverleaf

You might be shocked at how little time is often spent teaching in the classroom.

Once you take away the time given over to changing classes, taking attendance, disciplining a student or two, handing out assignments, disciplining a few more students, teaching to standardized tests, filling out forms (which take away from the teacher’s time in class), and so on, it is no wonder so many teachers have to give homework.

They have no time to teach in class.

We homeschooled. Mine spent hours and hours independently reading or working on one project or the other. On the other hand, math never took more that 20 minutes or so a day.

15 posted on 05/10/2008 5:09:49 PM PDT by mountainbunny
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To: qam1; ItsOurTimeNow; PresbyRev; Fraulein; StoneColdGOP; Clemenza; m18436572; InShanghai; xrp; ...

Xer Ping

Ping list for the discussion of the politics and social (and sometimes nostalgic) aspects that directly effects Generation Reagan / Generation-X (Those born from 1965-1981) including all the spending previous generations are doing that Gen-X and Y will end up paying for.

Freep mail me to be added or dropped. See my home page for details and previous articles.  

16 posted on 05/10/2008 5:13:38 PM PDT by qam1 (There's been a huge party. All plates and the bottles are empty, all that's left is the bill to pay)
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To: luckystarmom

How many words do your kids get? Mine get 25-30 every week. We only got 10 a week when I was a kid. Here’s how spelling went way back when:

Monday: Pre-test. This test did not count toward your grade, but if you got words wrong, you wrote those words 10 times each. Get them right and you don’t have homework that day.

Tuesday: Write each word in a sentence. More than one sentence that starts with “I” and it was marked wrong.

Wednesday: Write a SHORT paragraph using as many spelling words as you can. The paragraph had to make sense, and if you used them all, you got a gold star.

Thursday: Write the words in alphabetical order and study.

Friday: Final test. This was the one that counted. Penmanship counted, too. If it was sloppy, it was wrong.

As an aside, in the third grade, multiplication tables were a standing order. You wrote them out 10 times each no matter what. This resulted in having them indelibly printed on our brains forever. We couldn’t forget them if we tried.

Oh! That reminds me of the time our class did something VERY bad (don’t ask me what it was; I don’t remember) and the teacher assigned the following as punishment: Write the muliplication tables 10 times each, but write them in ROMAN NUMERALS. AHHHH! (Worked though... never had to do it again.)


17 posted on 05/10/2008 5:32:51 PM PDT by VermiciousKnid
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To: Clive

Canada should spend less time doing homework and more time designing a bigger logo to put on the space shuttle robotic arm.

18 posted on 05/10/2008 5:42:16 PM PDT by ConservaTexan (February 6, 1911)
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To: balch3

Me either. I just didn’t do it.

19 posted on 05/10/2008 5:43:14 PM PDT by CindyDawg
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To: luckystarmom

I am nor a fan of homework and I’ll tell yu what— the idiot teachers at the school act like the only way I got involved in my kids’ lives was to check the silly homework and I highly resented that coming form those numbskull teachers.

20 posted on 05/10/2008 5:45:39 PM PDT by yldstrk (My heros have always been cowboys--Reagan and Bush)
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