Dutch treat: Happy kids, relaxed moms

Dutch children are the happiest kids in the world, according to an international survey. Dutch moms may be “the most relaxed mothers in the world,” writes Mihal Greener, who’s raising her family in the Netherlands.

The Dutch “aren’t encouraged to stand out or be different,” so parents don’t pressure their children to be exceptional, writes Greener.

Dutch primary schools rarely assign homework. Students get one free afternoon a week.

Part-time work is the norm for Dutch mothers, she writes. “By removing the worry of losing your identity to motherhood, or the stress of not being able to remember the last time you were home before 10 p.m., working part-time makes it that much easier to enjoy the time you have with your kids.”

I worked part-time till my daughter was eight years old. I loved it.

A kiss is just — an assault

13-year-old boy faces second-degree assault charges for kissing a 14-year-old girl on a dare.

Both are 8th graders at a Pikesville, Maryland school.

Via Reason.

Many years ago, when my daughter was in first grade, a friend dared her to kiss a boy, Alex P. She kissed him. He hit her. She seemed to think that was fair.

I did nothing. Well, I smiled.

They are now Facebook friends.

‘Sesame Street’ cuts deal with H, B, O

Sesame Street episodes will debut on HBO, then air on PBS nine months later. The partnership will allow Sesame Workshop to produce 35 new episodes a year, up from 18, and fund a Muppets spinoff and a new educational series.

As Mitt Romney said, Big Bird can survive without taxpayer funding, writes Jonathan Tobin on Commentary.  In the 1960s, when there were only three channels, federal funding for “educational TV” made some sense, he writes. Today there are endless cable, satellite and streaming options, including many channels of children’s programming.

Does birth order matter?

Firstborns are supposed to be conscientious, agreeable — and smarter than their younger siblings, writes Ami Albernaz in the Boston Globe.  The youngest in the family is supposed to be free-spirited and outgoing.

However, personality and IQ differences associated with birth order “are so small as to have no practical impact,” according to a University of Illinois study published in the Journal of Research in Personality.

The Illinois study used data on 377,000 U.S. high school students and controlled for factors such as number of siblings, socioeconomic status, family structure, age, and gender.

Among the slight personality differences the researchers found, firstborn children were more conscientious and agreeable, and less sociable and neurotic, than later-born kids. Yet though these differences were statistically significant, they were so small as to be meaningless, the researchers wrote. Firstborns also had slightly higher IQs, but this difference — about one point — was also not enough to be perceptible.

“Parents will often say their firstborn is more responsible,” said Rodica Damian, the study’s co-author. “But unless you have a video camera and can go back to when the firstborn was the age of the second-born or lastborn, you can’t fairly compare. Your personality changes as you age.”

I was the second of four children, but raised as my 15-months-older sister’s twin. People used to ask if we were identical twins, even though she was taller. She also was smarter than me — and not just because she was older. She had more musical and artistic talent. I was the sensible one. It didn’t seem like much at the time, but it’s worked out for me. Growing up trying to compete with my sister was good training too.

Kick your kids out of the house

Kick your kids out of the house, suggests Ed Driscoll on Instapundit.

In Nature Valley’s ad, grandparents and parents remember tobogganing, fishing, planting, building forts and just heading out to play with friends, notes Lenore Skenazy on Free-Range Kids. The kids love video games and texting.

In just one generation, it has become almost bizarre to see kids heading out to find fun on their own outside. That’s why people call 911 when the see a child in the park. It’s like spotting a tapir escaped from the zoo. Kudos to Nature Valley for encouraging kids to get outside!

But a commenter named Marcie observes a key difference. The parents and grandparents remember playing alone or with other kids. When the ad shows kids going outside, adults are present. “It pretty much says that outdoor play is necessary but must be supervised and lead by an adult.”

Unsupervised play is the key, concludes Skenazy. “Parents have to realize it is the super-vitamin kids need. And kids need to see that the outdoors is their . . . videogame, another world they can escape to — with or without a granola bar in their pocket.”

My Little Pony vs. equality

My Little Pony is showing children the dangers of “enforced equality,” writes Brandon Morse on The Federalist.

In “The Cutie Map, Parts 1 and 2”, the main-character ponies visit a town where the smiling, ever-pleasant ponies bear a gray equal sign in place of the distinctive “cutie mark,” that shows a pony’s distinctive traits and powers.

. . . They have given up the things that make them unique, because uniqueness causes animosity between ponies, and thus discord. The main characters meet the leader of the town, Starlight Glimmer, who soon takes them all up to a cave that holds all the cutie marks of the village inhabitants.

Springing a trap, Starlight Glimmer steals the cutie marks from the main characters, replacing their marks with the black equal sign. The main characters are quickly thrown in jail until they have properly resocialized into the correct kind of thinking.

The hero ponies expose Starlight Glimmer as a phony who’s kept her own cutie mark.

After the leader has been exposed, the town revolts, reclaiming their cutie marks and thus their individuality. Using their reclaimed unique skills, they rescue the main characters’ marks and thus their powers, while chasing the villain into a mountain cave system, where they lose her. The show ends with the now-unique and fun-looking village having a party.

To children, this message is clear. It’s better to be yourself than to be the same as everyone else.

Morse sees the story as a blow at Marxism. It also could be seen as a stand in favor of diversity.

Madness? This. Is. PENNSYLVANIA!!!!

Field trip?
Permission slip.

Sex-ed videos?
Permission slip.

Rough contact sports?
Arguably permission slip.

Eating an Oreo?

A mother in Pennsylvania seems to have stirred up a teapot-sized tempest over one teacher’s having gone the extra mile in the great CYA-race (note that her tweets are protected, and only visible to confirmed followers):

Insanity. I have to sign a permission slip so my middle schooler can eat an Oreo. @FreeRangeKids pic.twitter.com/v71v64OFQD
— Main Line Housewife (@mainlinewife) March 23, 2015

A copy of the letter that was sent home is available here, at Reason.com, courtesy of Lenore Skenazy.

I understand the revulsion at this. I really do. But I think that calling it insanity is probably going too far. Just because your opponents on an issue are (or seem to you to be) insane does not thereby make everything that they do correspondingly nuts. I don’t think it’s crazy to check with a parent before giving their kid something to eat, particularly not when you’re acting in your official capacity as a teacher and a representative of the school. Because you can be damn sure that if some kid had an allergy, forgot about it, and died, that the school and the teacher would be in world of… doublestuff.

As it happens, the tool that the teacher has for making this sort of check-up with parents is the permission slip: it provides documented proof that the parent consented. Could there be a more elegant solution? Sure.

I’m a huge fan of so-called “free range” parenting — although I tend to recoil a bit at the name, because kids are not chickens. But whatever. I’m sympathetic.

But at the same time, I had a conversation with a very good friend of mine a few months ago about this — about how when we were teenagers (I’m only a little older than she) we had a lot of freedom that our students — this friend was also in graduate school at UCLA — don’t seem to possess. So you could all pile into the back of your friend’s pick up truck and just head up to the lake to hang out. No seatbelts, no helmets, no nothing except the radio and good times.

But that sort of freedom came with a cost: every year or so, some kid would die doing something ill-advised. It was like a tax — an offering to the Gods of freedom so that the rest of us could enjoy ourselves without care.

You can have a worry-free school where the teachers hand out Oreos willy-nilly, where people just go with the flow, and where students are able to leave campus for lunch without saying where they are going. You can have a childhood without bike helmets, without seatbelts, without car seats for 7-year olds.

But there’s going to be a cost. And picking one side or the other of this trade off isn’t “insanity”. And wanting to get a permission slip before distributing Oreos — however silly and fussy it may seem — isn’t quite madness.

It’s just Pennsylvania.

Is your child ready for first grade — in 1979?

A generation ago, children weren’t escorted everywhere by a parent.

A 1979 guide for parents — Is Your Child Ready for First Grade — shows how much things have changed, writes ChicagoNow blogger Christine Whitley.

In addition to the child’s age and teeth, the list asks:

3. Can you child tell, in such a way that his speech is understood by a school crossing guard or policeman, where he lives?
4. Can he draw and color and stay within the lines of the design being colored?
5. Can he stand on one foot with eyes closed for five to ten seconds?
6. Can he ride a small two-wheeled bicycle without helper wheels?
7. Can he tell left hand from right?
8. Can he travel alone in the neighborhood (four to eight blocks) to store, school, playground, or to a friend’s home?
9. Can he be away from you all day without being upset?
10. Can he repeat an eight- to ten-word sentence, if you say it once, as “The boy ran all the way home from the store”?
11. Can he count eight to ten pennies correctly?
12. Does your child try to write or copy letters or numbers?

These days, most children learn to write letters and numbers and count pennies in preschool. Long before first grade, they’re used to being away from Mom. But they’ve never walked to a friend’s house or talked to a crossing guard.

Whitley has no idea if her six-year-old could walk four to eight blocks, she writes. “I’ve never let her even try! I’d probably be reported to the police if I did try!”

Slate’s KJ Antonia considers herself a “free-range” parent for letting a seven-year-old walk to a friend’s house unaccompanied and leaving a nine-year-old in charge of younger siblings. But she can’t imagine letting a pre-first grader walk “four to eight blocks” alone, even though Antonia thinks she did it herself at that age.

When did it become bizarre for kids to walk in their own neighborhoods? My daughter walked or bicycled to elementary school, the library and to friend’s houses in the late ’80s. Once she got lost for awhile. Another time, she was chased by an older, larger girl, the Catholic school’s official bully. She dealt with it.

Being 12

Twelve-year-olds in New York City talk to WNYC about Being 12.

Kids don’t want to grow up

Most of Michael Godsey’s high school students don’t want to prepare for college or careers, he writes in The Atlantic. Adolescence is fun. Adult life holds little appeal.

After years of teaching AP English, Godsey now teaches average students. They enjoy reading books written for or about teens, but appear “utterly bored” when counselors talk to them about “college pathways.” They’re not interested in exploring careers either.  They want to stay kids as long as they can. 

Technology lessons don’t appeal. His school’s “Bring Your Own Device Day” was a flop. Only five of his 150 students brought a device they wouldn’t otherwise have taken to school.

 One of the teens explained to me, “We like using our phones and laptops for games and talking to each other, but we don’t really want use them for school.”  

. . . A recent nationwide survey by NuVoodoo shows that while most people, regardless of age, use Facebook, teens say Instagram—which is used by just 16 percent of middle-aged adults—is their “most important” social network. My students for their part prefer to communicate through Snapchat, a photo-messaging application in which the messages “disappear” within ten seconds of being viewed. According to researchers at the University of Washington, most Snapchat users—59 percent—primarily rely on the app to share funny content like “photos of stupid faces.” Not surprisingly, Snapchat is used by just 4 percent of middle-aged adults.

Unless we can find a way to “make adulthood more appealing or adolescence less luxurious,” college and career readiness programs won’t reach their full potential, Godsey writes. That sounds like  job for parents.

Average (non-AP-taking) high school students typically enroll in a community college or not-very-selective four-year institution. Weak on academic skills and motivation, a majority will quit before earning a degree. Some will complete a vocational certificate in a technical or medical field and get a decent job. Many will find adult life just as difficult and unfulfilling as they’d imagined as teenagers.

U.S. “millennials” (16- to 34-year-olds) do poorly in literacy, numeracy and problem solving compared to young adults in other developed countries, according to a new ETS analysis.