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Is Investment Parenting A Waste Of Time?
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Are you the sort of parent who pushes your child to do all sorts of activities? According to Dr Caplan, a well known parenting guru from the George Mason University in Virginia, America, if you do so then you’re probably wasting your time. In his new book to be published this month, Dr Caplan believes that this “investment parenting” doesn’t make any difference to how successful children are later in life, and parents should be investing more time in themselves and stop feeling guilty about the amount of time they spend with their offspring.

Rather than ‘investment parenting’, Dr Caplan advises that parents should use ‘serenity parenting’ and give children more of their own space. He suggests that parents shouldn’t worry about how much television they watch even suggesting they should be allowed to watch more. His theory is to have more of a relaxed approach to parenting where parents refrain from trying to control every aspect of their children’s lives. Dr Capalan may well be right. He says his serentity theory is based on scientific evidence where the success, health and well being of children is shaped by their genes and their own choices not sacrifices that parents make to have them doing lots of activities.

Now there are some that suggest that Dr Caplan’s research will come as a great relief to a number of parents as they realise that they shouldn’t feel so guilty. However, I’m not convinced. Although there will be some who might feel relieved at the thought that they should devote just a little more time to themselves, there are too many parents who carry around such a large pile of parental guilt they would find it impossible to imagine spending less time with their children.And the parents who want their children to have all the things ‘they never had as children’ will continue to push their children towards greater accomplishments and are unlikely to be convinced that it never makes any difference.

I confess, I was one of those children brought up to do lots of activities. However, back in the 60’s this certainly didn’t involve lots of sacrifices on the part of my parents time – because children generally went off to do things by themselves. I remember going to piano lessons age 4 with my older siblings who were, 7,9, 10 and 11. By the time I was eight I to piano lessons by myself. We had freedom back then that today’s children can only dream of. That’s probably because my mother was busy running a large house for 7, caring for parents, neighbours, friends etc. And even when we were all at home, time we actually spent with our parents was limited, they had their own concerns. We had plenty of resources to occupy ourselves (even though television was restricted). Now I’m not suggesting this was some sort of golden age – it was different. But we were able to do lots of those activities that Dr Caplan is slightly dismissive of because we got ourselves to them by walking, cycling, going on the bus or train alone. Our parents didn’t have to make huge sacrifices on their own time for us to do them.

So life is clearly different for today’s parents where lots of children spend week days and weekends packed with additional activities and need a taxi service (aka parents) to take them there. However, will this sort of investment parenting go out of fashion? I think not. With the high rates of unemployment in young people and fierce competition for university places, some parents are going to continue to feel the need to provide their children with every opportunity for success in the future. Those that have always had a little more chilled approach to child rearing will smile knowingly and carry on as before.

Is it a waste of time? Well I believe the only people who can really answer that will be the children in the future. As for my own experiences, all those activities I did as a child, may not have made me more successful, but those piano lessons at least were well worth it. I play for my own pleasure every day.


Street Talk

I loved this article. I had to do most on my own when I was younger, even taking myself to the doctor's. If the doctor knew you and your family is was okay and they did not have the liabilities that they do today. I remember at seven, eight years of age walking to the bus station about two miles away in the dark to go to my grandmothers house two towns away. most kids today would never dream of getting on a bus at all. I over did it with my kids as many of us in my generation wanted to makeup for what we didn't have. The emotional turmoil I went through raising my own children just wiped me out. It was my own fault though. I am seeing kids taking so long to mature these days, it's sad . I agree 100% that we enjoyed a freedom that kids today do not have even with all their electronic gadgets and "helicopter" moms.

Reply
  about 8 years ago

Very interesting article. My parents had a relaxed approach to parenting and didn't try to guide my activities in any way. As a kid growing up in New England I participated in the usual activities that where typical depending on the changing seasons. Being fiercely independent as a kid, I never asked them to drive me anywhere. I walked or rode my bike everywhere. That's how we all did it in those days. Now, in my 40's I see my parents often and have a wonderful relationship with them as I always have. I'm glad they didn't feel the need to smother me.

Reply
  about 9 years ago
  

Thanks for taking the time to comment. Glad you enjoyed the article. My parents too had a more relaxed approach. It makes quite a difference. It saddens me when you see people smothering their children.

Reply
  about 9 years ago
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