January: the season of stopping. Abstinence rules and the dark winter days are spent making amends for the sparkling excesses of Christmas. This year, however, not all the red light headlines have been related to rationing the Rioja. Since the start of the new school term, there has been an increase in stories advocating that we decrease the parental pressure during our children’s downtime. Pushiness and busyness have long been the after school modus operandi but now we are being encouraged to join the elite breed of parents who – gasp – take it easy. Welcome to the brave new world of the Kick Back Parent.
First came the ‘Let Kids Be Bored’ story that broke just as we went back to school. The words of Julie Robinson, education and training director of the Independent Association of Prep Schools and ex-head teacher, sent chills downs the spine of the mothers across the land who micromanage clubs, extra curricular music lessons and tuition. “It is all too easy for parents to be sucked into a competitive busyness, ensuring that children are constantly occupied and stimulated,” she said. “We should not fear boredom however. Quiet, reflective time is just as important as purposeful activity.”
The message is clear: do less after school. Kick back. Write STOP at least one night a week on the Jamie Oliver family organiser. Experts believe our children need it. The Kick Back Parent relishes the gaps in the schedule tonight because their hope is that their children will come back more refreshed tomorrow. They know that rest comes in between work and play.
Posting the story on School Guide’s Facebook page stirred up some interesting reactions. It wasn’t just tiger mother defensiveness either. One parent wrote: “Busyness is not just down to pushy parenting. In my experience it's parents trying to replicate what they were taught in school and which don't feature as much (if at all) in the curriculum these days - swimming, art, football, hockey...”
A few days later, Ray Winstone joined the debate. Okay, well not exactly Ray Winstone, but the brilliant short film Respect, made by the Football Association and starring the British actor, seemed to perfectly express the sadness in the story about pushy parents (the shouty ones) spoiling sport for children – and even turning their children off sport for good. BBC News said experts were calling for “less yelling” and “more stepping back" after a mother collapsed in a heap at a top London school after her daughter failed to excel at the school swimming gala. Not very Kick Back Parent.
So as we dive deep in to January and wonder when it’s socially acceptable to stop the stopping (go on then, just one glass…), think about the positives that might develop throughout the whole year if we resolve to give up one or two things for our children. Counterintuitive it might be in the age of competition for grades and the focus on achievement but less, it would seem, could be more.
Are you a Kick Back Parent who has seen results improve? Do you worry that over-scheduling your children’s after school activities might be affecting their performance? We’d love to hear from you. Post your comments below…