Under Pressure–Parents and Children Today

Carl Honoré’s new book Under Pressure should be required reading for all new parents. It is full of practical, real world advice for parents today trying to maneuver through political, competitive, consumer-oriented terrain with differing advice from a variety of “professionals” with questionable backgrounds to be dispensing nuggets to bewildered and sometimes overwhelmed parents.

A parent himself, Honoré has dealt with many the issues he discusses, but he brings true examples from around the globe to state his case about how easing off can postively impact our families. He also looks at an enormous amount of research in parenting, childrearing, sports, education, competition, and a variety of other areas.  The subtitle of his book Rescuing our Children from the Culture of Hyperparenting brings a similar Slowing down focus as his previous book In Praise of Slowness (see 23 June 08 blog post for more on this book).

Each chapter tackles a different subject facing families today: early years, toys, technology, education, extracurricular activities, sports, discipline, consumerism, and safety. It seemed such a natural flow from one chapter leading to the next.   I was also fascinated  with  the amount of history he brought to life, discussing the evolution of his subjects from homework to health and sports. 

Under Pressure is not anti-parenting or anti-technology or anti-education, it simply gives a fresh look at many of the issues I face on a regular basis.  I was surprised how different some cultures (US to Japan to Korea to Finland) view education, competition, and extra-curricular activites but how similar families worldwide are trying to change child-rearing practices and parental involvement today.

I found most of the information in the book common sense, rather than earth shattering, but I see nothing wrong with looking at things from a fresh perspective.   I am glad that Honoré didn’t try to set out a model for us to follow, as we all have different family dynamics, finances, belief systems and educational issues, but laid things out for us to make the right decisions for our families. 

I agree with the what I think is main tenet of the book–for our children to succeed, we need to let them be children longer, let them develop and explore their passions by giving them freedom to play, and to let them make some mistakes along the way. Hopefully this will allow them to grow into creative-thinking, happy, adjusted adults with a variety of interests. 

Sounds so simple, doesn’t it?  And summer seems like the perfect time to let them PLAY. C

Comments from the author Carl Honoré, from his blog 13 July 08

Thanks for your very generous words, Cindy. It’s interesting that you mention the title. To be honest, I’ve never liked it – it was the publishers who made me do it! I feel the title is too negative, when the book is actually meant to be upbeat and hopeful, to make everyone feel less anxious and clenched about children. I especially dislike the sub-title because it uses the phrase “hyper-parenting.” To me, it sounds like the book is demonizing parents when the opposite is true. Childhood is the way it is today because our whole culture has shifted, and often parents just get swept along in the flow. Schools, advertisers, politicians, bureaucrats, doctors, sports coaches – so many other people beyond parents have a hand in shaping our children’s lives. Anyway, that’s my little rant for the day…Maybe the sub-title will get changed in the paperback edition…

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2 thoughts on “Under Pressure–Parents and Children Today

  1. Yup – we get too uptight sometimes and could do much better just doing what we are naturally inclined to do. I’m also a big fan of playing WITH my kids – it’s good for me and for them. Thanks for your thoughts!

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