Remember the saying “when I was a kid”? I often wonder what happened to being a kid. It seems like today kids are not allowed to be kids, or at least not allowed the “kid” childhood that I remember. The stress and pressure to succeed and get through school quickly, whether it is high school or college, is strong. What happened to the saying “you will work the rest of your life, enjoy this time.” It is hard for kids to truly be kids today with the stress and pressure put upon them to take as many “hard” classes as possible so they graduate early or so they can start college as a junior. To be honest, I struggle as to why this is a good thing developmentally.
I have a child who started high school this year, and I felt like we were entering college! Not only did we have to outline her next 4 years (while she was still in 8th grade) but we also had to pick a curriculum track. Okay, I could probably live with that (even though many a college freshmen doesn’t yet know what they want to do) but it wasn’t just about picking classes, she had to decide between regular, honors, pre-AP or AP. Also, she had to take the “right” class so that the following year she could take the class she wanted. Depending on the classes chosen by a child the counselors and teachers told parents to expect 2 to 3 hours of homework per subject per day. You do the math. If a child doesn’t get out of school until 4 pm then this means they could be doing homework until 10pm – 1am in the morning. This doesn’t take into account extra-curricular activities or even just down time.
What does this say about our society? What has happened to and where is the balance between studying, down time and family time? To enjoying being a kid? Does there really need to be this much pressure and stress at this age?
I know some parents disagree with me when I tell them that my message to my daughter is “to find a balance.” A healthy balance. A balance that works for her. I am okay if she doesn’t take all AP classes and if it works for her I am okay if she does, but I want her to find the balance between school, family time, down time and fun time.
Five or ten years from now no one except maybe her (and maybe a few others) will remember what courses she took in school. Learning how to balance the stress and pressure in her life is important. It will be a skill she needs and uses all of her life. I firmly believe that to be successful you need to take care of yourself, meaning finding a balance, determining your priorities, learning to say no when appropriate, and not trying to fit 80 hours in a 40 hour week. Am I good at finding a balance, no, not always but I try. I certainly want my daughter to be better at it than I.
This pressure in school doesn’t come without a price tag on the health and well-being of everyone, students, parents and teachers. Whether it is high school or college. But, what are we teaching to not just this generation but also the next generation? Will the next step be taking high school classes when you are in middle school so that by the time you get to high school you will “already be a junior”? At some point, I think we need to re-evluate the message we are giving them and let our children be “children” again.
Director, Department of Residence Life at Texas A&M University