I wonder while I wander

…musings about this wild and wonderful world


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Perspectives on childhood: the overprotected kid

This is a wonderful article discussing the shift in ‘childhood culture’ over the past few decades, mostly in the US and the UK. In the past, children grew up with much greater freedom and independence. They took risks, looked after themselves, built forts, explored nature, had adventures. They had a world, at least partly, free of adult supervision. As a result, they learned how to face their fears, how to overcome challenging situations, they learned to think for themselves and took pride in their own accomplishments.

This is so different from how most children grow up today. There is so much fear and worry involved in parenting. Everyone is a potential child-molester or child-abductor. Every possible safety risk has to be managed and eliminated. Children’s entire lives need to be constantly supervised, controlled and planned by adults.

How are children supposed to learn to be self-sufficient, to take responsibility for themselves, to test and overcome their limits? Ultimately, how are they actually supposed to grow into functional, capable, adaptable, confident adults?

It is a difficult challenge for parents to balance that impossibly strong desire to protect one’s most valuable ‘possession’ – one’s offspring –  and to give them the independence and exposure to challenge and risk that makes childhood both more rewarding and empowering.

This is a great article for parents, grandparents and those who work closely with children of all ages. It’s definitely food for thought!

THE OVERPROTECTED KID – A preoccupation with safety has stripped childhood of independence, risk taking, and discovery—without making it safer. A new kind of playground points to a better solution. | Hanna Rosin | THE ATLANTIC


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Self-esteem: social cure-all or recipe for narcissism?

This article from MEDIUM has given me so much to think about, I hardly know where to begin!

It certainly raised a lot of questions for me. At their core, are humans bestial and sinful or inherently decent? Does high self-esteem help us unlock our true potential or simply inflate our egos out of all proportion? Does increased self-regard make us better, kinder, more functional members of society, or praise-junkies at risk of lashing out when our view of our own greatness is challenged?

As a parent I find the issues raised by this article particularly important to reflect upon when thinking about the values and self-image I’d like to encourage in my children. But beyond the implications for parenting, I think this piece provides a thought-provoking perspective on some key American values and cultural elements. I had taken for granted that fostering high self-esteem was crucial for a child’s development and was inherently positive, but now I’m not quite so sure. Or at least I’m not so sure the common ways self-esteem is currently ‘taught’ are really that healthy for children. I think it is such a ubiquitous part of American culture nowadays (and perhaps other cultures as well) I never thought to question the idea. I just didn’t consider the possibility that the focus on self-esteem could be anything but positive.

Please leave a comment and share your opinions on the pros and cons of the obsession with self-esteem. I’d love to hear other thoughts on these ideas!

The man who destroyed America’s ego: How a rebel psychologist challenged one of the 20th century’s biggest – and most dangerous – ideas MEDIUM

Echo and Narcissus by John William Waterhouse


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Do we inherit the suffering of our ancestors?

I’ve recently come across a number of articles on the subject of epigenetics. According to LiveScience, epigenetics ‘literally means “above” or “on top of” genetics. It refers to external modifications to DNA that turn genes “on” or “off.” These modifications do not change the DNA sequence, but instead, they affect how cells “read” genes.

Studies have seemed to show that the effects of things like stress, obesity, and living through famine or war can be passed on from parents to children, and perhaps even to grandchildren and beyond. The effects of these experiences on a parent can alter the way genes are turned on or off in the DNA of one’s offspring. So, in my lay person understanding, it seems that parents might not just pass on their basic genetic material to their children, but also residual effects of certain life experiences.

I’m not going to pretend to understand it all, and I’m certainly not going to try and explain what I’ve read. It’s a bit too complex for me, and I think I’ll need to give these articles a few more readings to better get my head around the information. But this certainly adds a whole new layer to the way we think about genetic inheritance and the effects parents have on their children and future descendent. Our experiences, life style choices, and physical and mental health may be even more important to those who come after us than we previously thought.

If you’d like to read more, here are a few recent articles on epigenetics:

The Economist Explains: What is Epigenetics? | The Economist

Epigenetics: The Sins of the Father | NATURE

Can Children Inherit Stress? | New York Times

Poisoned Inheritance | The Economist