Freedom to play helps democracy

The term a few years ago was “helicopter parenting.” I’m not sure if there is a new phrase. There has to be in some cases, because it can be witnessed that parents are a LOT closer to their kids and their activities than a helicopter.

Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff in their book, The Coddling of the American Mind go over studies where kids by generation have lost a sense of ability to “free play.” It’s not their fault, of course. It’s us, as parents. The thought of telling our kids just to “get outside and play” has a terrifying feeling to it at times. We’ve seen too many Law and Order: SVU episodes.

The ability to let kids play independently and without much “supervision” is actually helpful to democracy. This is a contention of the book. Studies have shown effects of allowing kids to play more independently vs. hovering. The kids would have more of an opportunity to develop communication skills, independence, self-confidence, and more.

One study’s conclusion: “…parenting strategies and laws that make it harder for kids to play on their own pose a serious threat to liberal societies by flipping our default setting from ‘figure out how to solve this conflict on your own’ to ‘invoke force and/or third parties whenever conflict arises.'” (p. 192)

If we don’t learn how to interact (and this is best learned by trial and error) then our social skills diminish. We will create a world with more conflict and violence. We will want to “solve our issues” by “taking it out” on someone else… or a group we deem “at fault” for our situation. The first reaction may be to invoke coercion of other parties to solve problems they could have been equipped to solve on their own.

We don’t have to be this way. We don’t have to continue down this path. We can challenge each other and then challenge a new generation to look at the world differently and learn to find ways to cope and survive and thrive.

There are valuable lessons in being treated unfairly. In that unfairness, if we will walk through that pain, we may learn the value of justice. If we are lonely from time to time, we can learn the value of friendship and not take it for granted. If we lose from time to time, we may learn not to gloat over another opponent’s loss. We can learn from our misfortunes. We have to try and fail… and try again.

Photo by Sébastien Marchand on Unsplash

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: