Friday, April 18, 2008

Henry The Explorer

When I was in second grade, my favorite book, actually it was a series of books, was Henry the Explorer by Mark Taylor and Graham Booth. The way I remember, there were three or so books about Henry and his dog Angus and their exploring adventures. Each week, on Library day, I would bring home one of the Henry books and ask my mom to read it to me, over and over again. I don’t think I ever checked-out another book by another author. I only read about Henry.

In each book Henry would pack his backpack with various necessities such as a flashlight, a sandwich, a bone for his dog and some other stuff. He also always packed a bunch of little yellow flags with a red letter “H”. As he explored he would use his flags to claim his discoveries. Henry would eventually get lost and then need to follow his flags back to his house.

I remember my mom making me exploring kits on the weekends, complete with yellow flags with a red “B”, so I could explore the neighborhood and the woods down the street from our house. I would be gone for the better part of the day. I remember exploring the freshly dug foundations of the new housing development on Silvestri farms and claiming each new house as mine. My brother Jim now lives in one of those houses and I don’t think he realizes that his house is actually mine. He probably doesn’t realize that I probably peed in his basement (that was just last week ((I kid)).

Recently I became aware of two books, Dangerous Book for Boys and Last Child in the Woods that have brought up the issue of today’s parents being overprotective of our kids. That today’s children do not get out into nature enough nor is there enough “natural play”, pretending, and creativity when it comes to a child’s free time. I have heard the authors interviewed on different radio programs and one of them mentioned that the parent’s fear of their child getting hurt is actually making our children weaker. Our fear as parents is making our kids afraid.

I know that I sometimes fall into the category of being an over protective parent. Lauren and I have talked about this a few times but our children are still very young. We make efforts to get them outside, to skim rocks and hike and explore the outdoors.

But I can also see a time in our near future where we are busy carting them off to Little League and soccer, where the scores don’t matter and even the worst teams get trophies and everyone is a winner. Is this good for our children?

What are your thoughts?

Nilbo posted a great piece about this today.


Anonymous said...

Jamie Lee Curtis was on Oprah last week and told this story of what she found out when she became a spokes person for the company that makes kids games.

Do you remember in Chutes and Ladders, the chute near the end of the game that would take you almost all the way back home to the beginning? Apparently they have removed that chute from the game because Mom's complained about their kids getting upset when they lost because of the chute!!

what happened to the days when you were told to not be a sore loser?? Or sorry you don't always win??

I think this, and the little league trophies, are setting our kids up for unrealistic expectations for life! I mean, nobody gave me a trophy when i didn't get the job i wanted!

Anonymous said...

I agree with anon. We spend so much time making sure that everyones' feelings don't get hurt and that they don't lose in a game, that we have totally eliminated a child's ability to learn coping mechanisms as well as thinking a problem thru. We have totally killed the "If you first don't succeed, try, try, again" axiom. In school's children aren't challenged because parents have complained about everything being so "hard". We are only reinforcing a drive thru society; pull forward, order, and get your way.
Argh! BTW my kids are in college and have been fighting "against" these "standards" for years.

Anonymous said...

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I am a firm believer in cut 'em loose and let them play in an environment that is safe or appropriate for their age.

There has to be a good balance between organized sports/play and unstructured time. But I think one problem is TV and video games have cut into the precious little free time left in a child's day that could be spent being "creative" even if they means what my son does which is park all 50 of his toy vehicles in straight lines while making lots of car acceleration noises.

I loved doing ballet and playing soccer as a kid and I still had a lot of free time with no adult guidance or supervision (our TV had no reception).

Time alone affords kids some "breathing room" and a chance to feel in control at an age when nothing is in their control (see: what you eat, when you go to bed...). It also helps the kid learn that he or she is trusted, believed to be responsible, and considered to be "adult" enough that she will be able to get herself out of trouble when it comes biting her on the ass.

I really hope I can somehow pass that on to my kids the way my mom was able to do so with me!

Anonymous said...

I only know what I believe to be best and not what has been proven in the lab!
Children grow up best in a loving caring family. This can sort out most ills in the world.
You'd be surprised how many parents can't do that.
Your children will get a healthy dose of reality each day, whether you like it or not. Just be there and love them no matter what!

Anonymous said...

Nothing beats a nice set of nocs.

Anonymous said...

That is why Captain America's son is named Henry.

sari said...

When my 9-year old played Little League two years ago in the farm league, they didn't keep score, it was always "a tie" which was a load of crap. Why play? But they were all 7 so we parents just sort of said "well, technically it wasn't really a tie..." and sort of let it go at that.

This year he's in the minors and they do keep score and they do care about how they play, many parents much more than others. I think it's a fine line between letting your kids play and enjoy themselves and inserting yourself as a parent and your wants for your child into sports (which is a little different tangent, but there's my opinion).

On the other point, I am a mom who plays video games myself, so I'm the bad guy who's introduced that to the family. My husband isn't too happy about it, but I have no problem telling my boys to go outside and play and climb trees. Sometimes they say they don't have anything to do but when they say that I tell them I have work for them and they quickly remember how to play and can go out for hours.

We don't have any forests or creeks or anything like that to explore but we do have climbing trees and swimming pools and holes to dig and pets to play with, and I think that helps them tremendously.

Also we did get the Dangerous Book for Boys for Christmas, it's good.

Lowa said...

When I was eight years old, I could ride my bike three miles down a grid road into the nearest town. I could go by myself and spend a few hours in town. I could roam our 80 acres alone all day long and my brothers and I would spend days out in the woods, only to return at night for some food and a bath.

How do we do that now?? With all the creeps and pedophiles out there?? Not to mention my kids are being raised in the city.

*sigh* I want my kids to have freedom and explore. I am just not sure how to go about it. They have camps and all kinds of things here where your kids learn about wilderness and spend days in the woods being taught survival skills. Still, as great as that is...I dunno. Where is the freedom in still having an adult there with you the entire time, "teaching" you. And what if the camp instructor is a pedophile!??! I mean seriously, things are not the way they used to be.

Kids can't be kids anymore. Their parents shuttle them from activity to activity, then they have home work and chores and the only down time they seem to know is video games. What happened to playing with rocks and sticks and playing in puddles?? Creativity and imagination. When I say no to video games for a few weeks, it is so fun to see what all my kids end up doing together for those few weeks. We take more walks, paint more and they play lego together or just all kinds of imaginary fun games.

That chutes and ladders thing is disturbing. Unreal.

It's like Mr. Incredible said in the movie, "They keep coming up with new ways to celebrate mediocrity."

Cheryl said...

Oh, I have STRONG feelings on this one. Balance is the key. As a teacher, I see the results with kids who have every single moment of their day choreographed by a parent or some guy with a whistle around his neck. That's not a good thing. Kids who don't have down time or time without a hovering parent (once they're old enough--your kids are still young) don't develop problem-solving skills. They have trouble getting along with others and they're the ones who ask their teacher dumb questions like, "Should I use scissors to cut this piece of paper?" because they've NEVER had to figure anything out for themselves.

My rule for my kid is one sport or extracurricular at a time. The rest of time is for church, family, and unstructured play.

Also? Our neighborhoods are safer when LOTS of kids are out playing. They can watch out for each other and it helps us to know our neighbors, which is much wiser than staying locked up inside our houses fearing the unknown.

bew said...

We have that book, "Dangerous Book for Boys". It was purchased after someone suggested it to my son. He loves it. So much, in fact, that at times, I've had to take it from him so he could actually go to sleep and quit his planning to take over the world.

Erases the rest of my post and leaves it at that.

Jody said...

I keep my girls within my sight but don't hover over them when we are out. You have to find the balance between safe and wrapping them in bubble wrap. :)

As for winning and losing... We're raising a bunch of kids who don't know how to lose. It's gonna be a rough wake-up when they get older. I say bring back the red ink on school papers, give big trophys to the winners and teach kids how to do their best.

Anonymous said...

Hey don't be knocking that whole "even the worst teams get trophies" thing. I'm all for losers getting trinkets, especially if they buy said trinkets from our shop. I don't care if it means there will be a bunch of self-entitled, smug adults in the future.

My trophies (as a kid) were always the large, 1st place (earned) ones, but my younger brother did receive "participant trophies". He knew they were the "losers" trophy though and was bitter about it. Perhaps that made him try harder in life? I'm just sayin'...maybe they're not *so* bad ;-)

C. said...

I feel like the generations are more and more coddled. I am 33, my sister 36 and when I care for my nieces and nephew I see how parents treat their kids. I was even speaking of this topic this afternoon.

Kids are coddled and have negotiations with their parents, or really the other way. Parents from what I see are more and more negotiating with their kids for whateber reason. I suppose to avoid conflict, not be the "bad parent". i know many parents that try and be their kids friend. The sense of entitlement and sensitivity in the young people is disturbing. I am in a position of hiring in my office and what I see coming out of college is scary. They don't want accountability but responsibility. They want far more money than the market demands and pout when they actually have to do work. I see a bunch of sheltered, selfish, entitled young people.

Kids need to be taught boundries, respect for themselves, their parents and the other beings that occupy the planet.

Competition is healthy. When they hit the real world there is no trophy for the losers. We do keep score. The top producers are recognized and rewarded. The kids hitting the market out of college are shell shocked because they dont know how to lose, or win for that matter.

Fetcher said...

I have to say that I think much of the issues with children these days can be nailed down to parents trying to be a "best friend" to them, instead of a parent and an authority figure. One of my sisters has never uttered the word "no" to her children, for fear of stunting them creatively and so they won't be mad at her. Those two kids are the worst behaved, mouthy, rude little demons because they've never received an ounce of discipline in their lives from either parent.

Before anyone says "OMG ... he's talking about spanking" keep this in mind: the word discipline uses the same root word as disciple. A disciple is a follower, a devotee, a pupil according to the thesaurus. So to discipline a child is to teach them, train them, etc. Now I also realize that life lessons to our children need to be adjusted appropriately for the age of the child. I learned early in life that things weren't fair, and that I needed to work hard for what I wanted. I turned out fine ....

Anonymous said...

When i was a kid, I spent many hours playing in the 'crick' behind our house. Now that I have children, I don't want them anywhere near that 'crick' because it's the sewage system for the neighborhood.

I also remember not making the cut for several teams in high school. I wasn't part of the 'everyone's a winner' generation, though. If you didn't make it, try harder next year.

Personally, I think we're setting our kids up for disappoinment with this mentality that as long as you try, you get it. That's not the way it works, in real life.

Like others have said, you have to find the balance between hovering and guiding.

I'm working on it.

Teach-ME-Mom said...

I read "Last Child in the Woods" over the winter and have just started to re-read it. I am a teacher, like a previous poster, and I too see the kids coming through that don't know how to think for themselves. Some of them need their hands held for every step of every move of the day. It's sad. They always have someone telling them what to do, and they either follow blindly or go into a rage. They have no coping skills. Board games could definitely have a part in that!

As far as the 'pedophiles are everywhere' thing - they were there before, we just know about them now. The more kids are out the more they learn, and we can help teach them to look out for themselves, too. If kids travel in packs it helps their safety as well as their social skills. Children are adept at reading people, they need to be taught to trust their gut and know when to get out of a situation - or avoid it completely!

How many times as kids did we see the 'creepy neighborhood guy' and know to avoid him, or have a bunch of friends around helping us to walk away from the car that pulled over for directions?

My daughters are 2 1/2 and almost 1, and we already allow them some exploring time outside. Of course, at their age we're still out there with them, but we hang back and let them poke with sticks, splash in the puddles, and yes, taste dirt. I hope that they can grow to be self-sufficient, self-confident, and self-driven women. They're not going to get that only playing on the latest equipment at the indoor playground.

Bogart said...

You know, I would love to help and offer sage advice. I have ideas and theories, but since I have no kids, they remain theories and ideas.

I can't wait to have little ones running around and have to figure this stuff out.

Bogart said...

Forgot to mention that Claire got me the Dangerous Book for Boys for is wonderful!

Even for boys over 30

Carrie said...

this is for sure a good topic.

we're all about finding the balance in our house.

children, in my opinion, must learn what it's like to fail sometimes so that they have the faith in themselves that they are strong enough to rise again and face new challenges.

Brent Rust said...

I remember reading about the lady that let her kid ride the subway home on his own and her rational v irrational thought process. Because of that, I let my kids walk home from school every so often. Even from the sports practice. We talk about dangers and "acquaintances" a lot now too. As a family, we go Geocaching and participate in team sports. I teach my kids that if you are going to practice to play, you play to win. Makes it pretty nice when many parents just want their kids to play.

OHmommy said...

Beautiful pictures.

I keep my kids in sight but never hover. Does that make sense?

I love to be outside.

Ricky said...

I read your blog often. I actually live in Hatboro. I never post but this time I thought I would.

You mentioned Silvestri Farms. I come from the Silvestri family. My grandmother lived on the farm. So I just figured I would let you know that not only did you pee in your brothers basement. You peed on my grandmothers farm!! :)

I enjoy the blog!

Anonymous said...

Great story. My parents kept me pretty sheltered so I try hard not to be like that to my kids. Its not easy.

The Champ's soccer doesnt keep score but you know the kids do.

Unknown said...

You and I listen to the same radio shows so of course you know I loved the Last Child In the Woods guy. I LOVED building forts when I was a kid...out of anything.

I tend to be an underprotective parent, and I get yelled at a lot for it. But my three year old knows not to go in the street, so I feel like I can leave him playing in the driveway for a few minutes at a time unsupervised.

However, the worrywart in me is totally freaked out about the high percentage of homes in Houston with backyard pools. I'm sure they're great when you're kids can swim but I'm afraid I won't sleep at night worrying about my toddler drowning.

Anonymous said...

Since the Dangerous Book for Boys is mentioned here, thought I'd give a plug for the girls' equivalent: The Daring Book for Girls, co-authored by a friend of mine, Miriam Peskowitz.

Anonymous said...

I am so completely overprotective with my cats - I can only imagine if I had kids.

These are fabulous pics of your boys!

Marmite Breath said...

I love the Dangerous and Daring books. My kids never stop reading them.

I have strong feelings on these overprotected, coddled and basically unlikeable (through no fault of their own) children, but I can't get my thoughts together enough this morning, so I will just say that I agree with those who advocate balance. I see wildly different ways of raising kids--from neglect dressed up as 'letting them be' to hovering suffocatingly over them and creating nervous, socially inept creatures.
I don't think I do either. I'm not perfect by any means, but God, a little balance goes a long way.

Vajana said...

I commented on Nilbo's site, and I have to tell you, being an 'overprotective' parent is not my forte. But my parents were very protective, but they were still not able to prevent me from getting into trouble. In fact, their overprotectiveness probably caused me to be more risky thank i should have been!

Bravo to you for not setting such limits. Life is too short...and although some things are good to do, i.e. putting on a seatbelt, sometimes life is just going to happen anyway and the one thing you never worried about might just be the thing that happens.

Nature Girl said...

I just got back from a week long vacation and every single nature center I went into had the book "Last Child In The Woods" I picked it up several times and now wish I had purchased it.

I agree to an extent that we coddle a bit too much and are over protective to an extent, but when our kids are being stolen out of our fenced front yards what else are we to do? Mine are 16 and 19 now and my 16 year old works about a mile from the house and walks to and from work and school and I STILL make him call when he leaves and if he isn't in the door in about 15 minutes I get a little on the panicky side.

At the same time, I remember the days I would wake before my parents did, pack my backpack for the day with all my adventure gear and they wouldn't see me till dinner time or the street lights came on and I was only about 10 back then! Gone are the days sad as it is.

And the trophies for everyone just makes it all the less enticing to try your best, in my opinion, it's setting the kids up for failure in the long run.

Just my 2 cents.

Gina Coggio said...

I LOVE those pictures! All the yellow, how you interspersed them through the piece....goodness. This was a great post.

Cathy said... much to say - but I'm just going to focus on one thing. Organized Games.
I will not pay the money for my children to participate in any organized games (T-ball, soccer, football, etc) until they are at least 7 years old. Up until that point they're not developmentally ready to understand all the rules, teamwork, etc. etc. Up until that point I can encourage them to play using the skills used in t-ball, soccer, etc. with their friends in the backyard. A preschooler in my class told me, "I really don't like soccer. I keep waiting for it to be my turn and nobody gives me the ball." She's just not old enough to truly get the point of that sport. Up until my kids are over 7 I'm sticking with individual sports - we just finished up ice skating lessons and will soon be starting swimming. And we've been playing soccer with the neighbor boys almost every night this week - just kicking the ball around together and enjoy the nice weather.
Oh and as for the not keeping score - that's BS. Kids aren't dumb. They know when the other team got a bunch of goals or hits and when they barely got any.
Just my opinion.

eclectic said...

One of the problems is that no two children are equivalent. What might be a perfectly appropriate level of responsibility for a given child of a certain age may be wildly inappropriate for another. Life isn't fair -- some kids have longer attention spans or higher reasoning powers than others.

The thing is, parenting is a long-term committment, requiring time, attention and effort. You can't afford to "check out" on the responsibility, but you can't simply "control" your way through those first 18 years either. You don't own them. They won't always succeed... nor should they. As my granddad used to say, "If you don't snag the bottom every now and again, you're not throwing the line deep enough."

Children need to be given the meaningful chance to try. And I believe they also need some time to struggle. Sometimes, hopefully, they'll win. But it's unrealistic (and downright annoying) to think they should win all the time.