Childhood Can’t Be Changed Without Parents’ Help

A large proportion of child development professionals – folks like teachers and playworkers and professors of child psychology – are very dissatisfied with childhood in the 21st Century. They believe kids are sitting in front of screens way too long at home, and are supervised too much by adults in activities outside the home. Thus, they don’t play on their own nearly enough outdoors.

Unfortunately, most of these professionals are oblivious to the fact that a number of parents far larger than them – in the millions – agrees with these attitudes.

I should know. I’m one of the most vocal parents in this camp, and my activities on put me in touch with many thousands of others.

These professionals blame “parents” for most of the problems of childhood. They have conferences where they talk about their heartfelt concern for children, never mentioning how parents can be their allies. “Parents” are the overbearing ones, the folks who keep kids from playing and push them too hard to achieve at school.

By dismissing parents as a monolithic group, these child development professionals are wasting their passion to change childhood. I firmly believe that childhood can’t be changed without parents’ help. Parents’ grip on their children’s lives is just too strong, particularly these days.

I’ll give an example of how these professionals’ ignorance of parents hurts the cause of children. I recently attended a conference full of these child development professionals that advocated for children’s play. At one presentation, a professor talked about the struggle to get the governments of the UK and the US to fund the work of thousands of “playworkers” – professionals who facilitate children’s play in public spaces such as playgrounds.

I’m a big admirer of playworkers’ philosophy and the work they do. They’re big advocates of children directing their own play. They’re very good at creating a safe and playful environment and stepping back, so that children can take charge. For instance, they are the driving force behind children’s own construction of the UK’s amazing adventure playgrounds.

The problem with the playworker profession is that their funding, always small, is dwindling now. The UK and US governments are very much in budget-cutting mode these days. Meanwhile, there are millions of parents who have goals for children similar to those of professional play workers, and many of these are stay-at-home moms and dads.

So, I asked this professor, “Why don’t you figure out how to teach parents like me the methods of playworkers?”

He flatly rejected my idea. In fact, he didn’t even consider it. He reflexively replied to me that parents are a big part of the problem. They’re overbearing. In fact, one of playworkers’ jobs is to keep parents away while they’re working.

Certainly, I can understand how he could say this about many, if not most parents. However, I’m not that way – I could be his ally – and I personally know thousands of other parents who could be as well (hi, there!). If I made a concerted effort to pull parents like me together, we could easily outnumber every playworker in existence, and he wouldn’t have to raise a dime to pay us. He’d just have to educate us.

Right now, parents who want their children to play and the “professionals” who work toward this same goal are in completely different silos. They work in parallel, but there is no synergy between them because they don’t work together. With the help of these professionals, play-minded parents could not only serve their own children better, but they could also better influence other parents who are not focused on play.

We play-minded parents are desperate to change the culture of childhood now. We could use whatever help we can get. We’re more numerous than most people imagine, especially if we include all the parents who are sympathetic to our cause but are silent, going with the flow.

What do you say, play-minded teachers, playworkers, professors, etc.? Can you fit us into your plans to change childhood?

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