This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every moring: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion saith my soul: therefore will I hope in him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD. Lamentations 3: 21-26

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Hurried Child--Growing Up Too Fast Too Soon

by David Elkind, Ph. D.

A book review

As a homeschooling parent I have acknowledged one benefit I find in homeschooling is that I can control (to an extent) how fast my children grow up. While at activities the boys participate in with other children not homeschooled, I am amazed at the adult content of these public and private schooled children’s speech and actions. Even more amazing to me are their parents’, “Whatcha gonna do?” attitudes; as in “Whatcha gonna do? They all have girlfriends at 10 nowadays.” Ummmm….Really??? Or “Well they are going to turn 16 and then we will have to let them drive.” Really???? Wow. I beg to differ.

The Hurried Child is not a homeschool book. I don’t believe the concept of homeschooling is even discussed in it. What the book is, is a commentary on the phenomenon our society has created by being in a hurry and hurrying our children.

“Although the pressure to get things done more quickly and efficiently has positive benefits—it has made us the most innovative society on earth—it has its drawbacks, such as producing impatience. For all our technological finesse and sophisticated fa├žade, we are a people who cannot—will not—wait. Compulsive about punctuality and using our time most efficiently,we become surly when forced to relax and wait our turn.” Ch. 10, p. 204

The notion that “earlier is better” pervades our society. Children are expected to read, write, and participate skillfully in sports and the arts earlier, possibly without the benefit of enjoyment. Schools have too much in the way of administration and not enough in the way of teachers who deal directly with students. Decisions about our children’s educations are dictated by the bottom line and reports and not the reality of what is happening to each individual child. We compare our schools and children to foreign models without taking into account that our society is fundamentally different and does not provide the same support system as those societies we wish to emulate. We fail to look at the consequences of the foreign models and the outcomes, failures and damages that those models create. Schools hurry through the labeling and assigning process and children who have different learning styles are often quickly labeled “learning disabled” and the chance to remove that tag from a child is rarely presented.

As a society we have allowed the television to come into our homes and dictate what our children are exposed to, without taking into account if our children are physically, mentally and emotionally ready to be bombarded with the ideas and images that are fired rapidly at the child.

Even children’s literature addresses more adult content and current events than formerly, and while that in itself may not be a bad thing, the manner in which these topics are addressed and followed up on can impact and stress our children, causing them to feel pushed forward before they are ready.

With the average parent working more and having less time to pre-approve music, computer games (educational or otherwise), a movie, television show, or book our children are allowed access to more than they have been in the past, without the consideration of whether or not the individual child is ready for it.

Elkind discusses several psychology theories of development and applies them to the reality of today’s child growing up in a world that is constantly on fast forward. Parents are more stressed and expect more from children. And he is not saying that responsibility is bad for children. But he does consider if a child should be responsible for the care and welfare of many things including being a support to a parent.

The effect of absentee parents, either missing due to work or work related travel, divorce, illness or death is a stress that caused children to hurry and grow up faster. Hurried parents are absent even when they are present and can cause a sense of insecurity in children. Hurried children, stressed children are tired children and their energy reserves are often depleted. Physical and emotional health and therefore performance in school and in relationships suffer.

Short-term affects of hurrying include illness, depression, falling behind, acting out, drinking and drug use. Long-term affect of hurrying may not be realized until years later. Whether a child is allowed to hurry or is demanded by circumstance to hurry the results are usually that areas of growth are left unfinished, foundations are shaky and problems will occur.

I don’t know that I learned many new ideas from The Hurried Child, but felt that many of my opinions were validated by Dr. Elkind’s work. The first half of the book was anecdotal and there for a bit easier to read. The second half involved more applied research and was a bit heavy with technical theories—not a read for before bedtime for me. But overall a thoughtful, well researched and relevant book.

The Hurried Child was NOT on my Spring Reading Thing list, but was definitely worth fitting in.


Amberly said...

This sounds very interesting. I'll have to give it a read.

Bss said...

That was our lifestyle in the states.....hurry, hurry, hurry. We didn't slow down until God dropped us off in the desert! This change in lifestyle has certainly given us a lot more time together and time to think about what is truly important in life. It's interesting to note that part of this society is very relaxed, not held by punctuality, etc. Things get done when they get done, and no one should worry about anything. Then you hve the other half- kids are put in uniforms and sent to school at age 4, people become reckless speeders behind the wheels of cars,etc. The modern and the old come together, cultures mesh.

I'll look for that book, too. Thank you for the review!

Iris said...

Actually, he DID talk about homeschooling and he favours "home enrichment" over "homeschooling". In particular, he is not supportive of "school at home". If you check the index, you can find the pages easily. He spent about 5-6 pages on the topic.

Anonymous said...

The entire socio-economic spectrum which is spinning our society slowly out of control and off its axis - is causing meltdown in parents' attitudes toward the imagined future success of their children. Overfunction like crazy and you too, can be one of the lucky 10% who actually will be able to jump through the hoops of two dozen job changes in your working life, junior, and make it into middle class (or better) existence.
What of the other 90%?
What of the smart kids that figure this out somewhere along the long and winding road of their childhood?
We love our kids to bits and wish them all the happiness in the world, but we can't change the forces and factors that drive this mania. In that manner, do we not fail them?


Anonymous said...

afraid that the real astute comment got eaten by your security guard -this one ain't worth its salt...

Joyful Days said...


Your comment was NOT eaten. I just don't spend every moment at my computer waiting for remarks. My blogging has lapsed as of late as life has gotten in the way--life is, indeed, "hurried".

As to your "astute" comment--"We love our kids to bits and wish them all the happiness in the world, but we can't change the forces and factors that drive this mania. In that manner, do we not fail them?"

I believe we CAN change our response to the "forces and factors", as I said in my review. Dating does not have to happen at ten, driving is not an inalienable right at sixteen. Just because "everyone else" is doing something does not mean my children will.

I'm not necessarily the most popular mom with other people's children--or other parents for that matter.

We can choose how we parent. I'm not always 100% a great parent. But I do put thought into my parenting. Hopefully when all is said and done my children will not feel that I have failed them. Hopefully they will see I made conscious choices about how they were raised.

As far as "overfunction"-ing, I think picking one goal to focus on and trying to excel at is a good thing for children. Perhaps only 10% will succeed. But one will never succeed without attempting to reach the goal.

Not sure that you noticed but the original post was from 2007. But it was good for me to revisit the topic and remember how easy things were almost three years ago.

All the best,