Parenting: Hands-on vs. digital
Updated: 2013-04-07 07:43
(The New York Times)
Parents who spent their own formative years with textbooks, pencils and typewriters can tell you that our technological age can be a confusing place to raise a child. But some things never change. Parents still want the best for their young.
It's likely that the couple who raised Nick D'Aloisio, a 17-year-old British high school student, are pretty pleased. Nick recently sold his news-reading app, Summly, to Yahoo for a price reported to be in the tens of millions of dollars. Nick's mother and father apparently had no special knowledge of technology but nurtured their son's early interest in it. While money doesn't signify a lifetime of good parenting, it reduces the urgency of the question of what Nick will do to make a living.
This is not the case for almost every other young person entering the work world. "There is increasingly no such thing as a high-wage, middle-skilled job - the thing that sustained the middle class in the last generation," The Times's Thomas Friedman wrote recently. "Now there is only a high-wage, high-skilled job." Every middle-class job today either requires more skill or can be done by more people around the world or is being made obsolete faster, Mr. Friedman wrote. Tony Wagner, a Harvard University education specialist, told Mr. Friedman that parents and educators need to prepare their children not to be "college ready" but "innovation ready."
Young people who can handle life's ups and downs will no doubt fare better, and there is no shortage of advice for parents on how to produce them.
Reports say that texting instead of nurturing may not only lead to toddler tantrums but could also affect a child's health. "Our personal histories of social connection or loneliness, for instance, alter how our genes are expressed within the cells of our immune system," Barbara L. Fredrickson, a psychologist, wrote in The Times. "New parents may need to worry less about genetic testing and more about how their own actions - like texting while breast-feeding or otherwise paying more attention to their phone than their child - leave life-limiting fingerprints."
Technology is noticeably absent from another strategy shown to bolster self-esteem. Parents who have told their children stories of how hard it was for their grandparents, aunts and uncles back in the old days, may have actually done their offspring some good.
"The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative," Bruce Feiler wrote in The Times. A small study showed that children's knowing the story of their birth, where their parents met or a story of misfortune in their family was a strong predictor of emotional health and happiness.
Some, like The Times's Frank Bruni, are baffled by the "boundless fretting" of parents, "as if ushering kids into adulthood were some newfangled sorcery dependent on a slew of child-rearing books and a bevy of child-rearing blogs." Mr. Bruni thinks the modern parent's habit of giving too much weight to their children's demands is a negative. "Parents forget: in the political realm, you don't get a say until you're 18. There's a reason for that."