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Volume 1, Issue 29
The Hurried Child (25th Anniversary Edition)
Growing Up Too Fast Too Soon
Author: Publisher: Release Date: ISBN: David Elkind, Ph.D. Da Capo Press January 2007 978-0-7382-1082-7
David Elkind, Ph.D., is Professor of Child Development in the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child development at Tufts University. Through his writings, media appearances, and lectures in the United States and abroad, he is recognized as one of the leading advocates for the preservation of childhood. The author of more than a dozen books including All Grown Up and No Place to Go and The Power of Play, he lives in Boston and on Cape Cod.
Preface to the TwentyFifth Anniversary Edition
When I wrote The Hurried Child in 1981, I had no inkling of the technological revolution that was to come. Indeed, I wrote the manuscript in pencil on lined, yellow pads, typed it up on an electrical typewriter, and sent the manuscript to the editor via parcel post. This new introduction, written in 2006, was typed on a computer and sent to the editor as an attachment to an e-mail over the Internet. The electronic media have simply reinforced our need to hurry and our ability to get things done quickly. Much of this spills over into our child rearing and eduction. Indeed the revolutionary nature of the last quarter of a century is reﬂected in at least ﬁve new innovations in the lives of children.
1. Infant Education. From a child development point of view, perhaps the most signiﬁcant transformation in child life has to do with the new attention to stimulating infants and young children. 2. Out-of-Home Care for Young Children. Today, 12.5 million children, 63 percent of the nation’s children under ﬁve, are in some type of child care each week. 3. The Child As Consumer. Even the Girl Scouts have been co-opted and now take camping trips to the mall. 4. Childhood Moves Indoors. When I ﬁrst wrote this book, I was most concerned about the stress our culture placed on children and the mental health consequences of continued emotional upset. Today, however, the sedentary lifestyle introduced by
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Parents are still the major inﬂuence on children’s overall development. There are many other pressures as well. dance. increasingly portray young people as precocious and present them in more or less explicit sexual or manipulative situations. the stresses of growing up fast often result in troubled and troublesome behavior during adolescence. and spontaneous play to the child’s healthy. self-initiated. and even computers. the years are to be used to perfect skills and abilities that are the same as those of adults. talk. given homework. Our Hurried Children Today's child has become the unwilling. and take home a report card. unintended victim of overwhelming stress— the stress borne of rapid. is the importance of free. Although there are still many summer camps that offer swimming. The change in the programs of summer camps reﬂects the new attitude that the years of childhood are not to be frittered away by engaging in activities merely for fun. archery. And what I appreciate now. so vital to the traditional American way of life. music. and television. The ages at which children learn to walk. The so-called unaccompanied minor has become so commonplace that airlines have instituted special rules and regulations for them. Not surprisingly. The media too. Many children today travel across the country. even with all the effort to introduce them earlier. The phenomenon is a direct result of the increase in middle-class divorces and the fact that one or the other parent moves to another part of the country or world.” The Hurried Child 2 . and children are tested. ﬁlms. tennis.Parenthood our new technologies makes child physical health an equally important concern. sailing. and social development. Rather. and learn the three Rs have not changed. While emphasizing the changes that have come about since the ﬁrst edition of this book. I would be remiss if I did not also remark on what has remained the same. our support. is threatened with extinction in the society we have created. including music. and children still need our love. alone. The ﬁfth and ﬁnal innovation of the last quarter of a century is one that I believe is positive and offers the most hope for the future of children in our society: the increasing penetration of computer technologies and programming in our schools. and our limitsetting. taught with workbooks. camps for children. horseback riding. Such portrayals force children to think they should act grown up before they are ready. The Technologically Empowered Student. 5. including foreign languages. and camp ﬁres—activities we remember from our own childhood—an increasing number of summer camps offer specialized training in many different areas. The result of this educational hurrying is that from 10 to 20 percent of kindergarten children are being "retained" or put in "transition" classes to prepare them for the academic rigors of ﬁrst grade! Another evidence of the pressure to grow up fast is the change in the programs of summer “The concept of childhood. books. baseball. much more than when I ﬁrst sat down to write this book. and indeed across the world. mental. emotional. bewildering social change and constantly rising expectations. It still takes a mother nine months to carry a baby to term. In too many schools kindergartens have now become "one-size-smaller" ﬁrst grades.
we prefer to think of our children as endlessly ﬂexible and resilient materials. why not the whole house? The temptation to pile heavy domestic burdens on the child is strong for parents under stress. Another index of the stress encountered by today's children is their overall health. 25 percent will be pregnant at least once before leaving the teen years. Pediatricians report a greater incidence of such ailments as headaches. Parallelling the increased sexuality of young people is an increase in children of what in adults are known as stress diseases. ‣ THE CHILD AS SURROGATE SELF Although I have no statistics to back up such a generalization. ‣ THE CHILDHOOD AS PARTNER It is not always easy for working parents to separate what is reasonable from what is not. This pressure reﬂects parental need. they may therefore be expected to adapt easily to our (adult) needs. schedules. parents brag not only about the colleges and prep schools their children are enrolled in but also about which private kindergartens they attend. on the other.Parenthood The rush to experiment is perhaps most noticeable in teenage sexual behavior. The contributors to teenage suicide are multiple and complex. inundated with the multifarious demands of life. As such. Helping parents is one thing. interests. at an early age. from the competition for high grades and getting into good colleges. contribute to the increase in the number of young people who take their own lives. The last hurrying-related teenage phenomenon I want to discuss is teenage suicide. compensatory interest in children’s participation in sports often arises when the children are very young. then why not have him or her prepare the whole meal? If the child can keep one room tidy. and a disproportionate concern with offspring’s success in sports. but it does not seem unreasonable to suppose that some of the contemporary hurrying stresses on teenagers. I would venture that there is a strong tie between job dissatisfaction. ‣ THE CHILD AS STATUS SYMBOL The Dynamics of Hurrying: Parents We hurry children because stress induces us to put our own needs ahead of their needs. We expect them to adapt more to adult life programs than we adapt to their child life programs. And as job dissatisfaction now arises earlier in professional careers. allergic reactions. like reading. stomachaches. on the one hand. taking over their jobs and responsibilities is quite a different matter. not the child’s need or inclination. to the pressures to use drugs and become sexually active. The Hurried Child 3 . If a child can start dinner. Today. The desire of parents to have their children read early is a good example of parental pressure to have children grow up fast generally. It is estimated that of girls who are fourteen years old today. Caught up in our own coping struggle. “I believe there is no reason to involve a child in such sports until at least the age of six or seven. and so on in today's youngsters than in previous generations. Researchers say that kids these days are on their way to being the most unﬁt ever.” Parents also hurry children when they insist that they acquire academic skills. perspectives.
and death and dying. the children have spent more time in getting up and getting down than they have in learning! Departmentalization and rotation at the elementary school level hurries children. The problem is. When he sees the children on weekends. If this process is repeated four or ﬁve times a day." which so dominates today's educational climate. Children are pressured to meet uniform standards as measured by standardized tests. The factory model of education hurries children because it ignores individual differences in mental abilities and learning rates and learning styles. One of these is growing number of schools that are rotating elementary school students from one teacher and classroom to another for instruction in different subjects. and the symbolic achievements of their children to relieve their stress. The Hurried Child 4 . abortion. and set up shop at another set of desks. Or he may express his resentment about the arguments that caused the break-up. begins to confide in her eight-year-old daughter. and ﬁrst-grade issues. living alone. contraception. there is a temptation not only to ﬁll the bottles faster but also to fill them earlier. In some ways this is a natural phenomenon: a young mother. means that such programs will be and are being used with preteen and young teenagers who may be given more information than they want or need. or his jealousy over their mother's new relationships. schools are engaging in other practices that hurry children. Some parents are so stressed that they become egocentric and either forget or ﬁnd it impossible to use the knowledge we have about the nature and needs of children. of course. Such parents need the support. Another example of how schools hurry children is the progressive downward thrust of the curriculum. the companionship. All of us today are under a great deal of stress from our rapidly changing society. It hurries them both on a day-to-day basis by The Dynamics of Hurrying: Schools Many of our schools reﬂect the contemporary bias toward having children grow up fast. however. the conviction that "earlier is better. there is also controversy over the new sex education and its impact on children. Consider the time it takes nine-year-old children to put away their materials. that what may be appropriate for seventeen-year-olds may not be appropriate for younger children. Inevitably. In addition to testing and questionable subject matter. Why not put in as much at kindergarten as at ﬁrst grade? Just as there is controversy over the current management emphasis in schools. They do this because such schools have become increasingly industrialized and product oriented. The new courses on sex education include much more than anatomy. One common way that single mothers hurry their children to grow up is to treat them as conﬁdants. and its resulting pressure on children. mental illness. homosexuality. he may complain to them about how much money he has to give to their mother and how little this leaves him to live on. masturbation.Parenthood ‣ THE CHILD AS THERAPIST Though stressful to both parents (as to children). When school is looked upon as an assembly line and when there is pressure to increase production. they deal with such issues as dating behavior. move to another classroom. Single fathers also use children as conﬁdants. divorce and separation mean something different for men and women. The children are caught in the middle of these adult conﬂicts.
the monitoring The Dynamics of Hurrying: Lapware. all too many schools still regard children as empty bottles on an assembly line of grades-each grade fills the bottle up a little more. to create the temptation to use them with ever younger age groups. because children do need to be socialized and it is our job as parents to teach them the socially prescribed rules of behavior. is not The Hurried Child 5 . The real danger of growing up fast is that children may learn the rules of social license before they learn the rules of social responsibility. And it is necessary. inevitably. the bottle representing the child's memory. and it hurries them on a long-term basis by depriving them of a teacher who knows them sufﬁciently well to reﬂect back to them their continuity and wholeness as persons. Additionally. What infants need most. and achievements are skipped or what will give them the bypassed. which can give rise best foundation for to serious problems later. It is only when the stresses and pressures become inappropriate and extraordinary. overt sexual activity. Brain Research.Parenthood requiring so many additional adjustments to new teachers and classrooms. and the Internet The introduction of new technologies seems. I think it is a temptation that parents should resist. not out of some misguided notion that childhood is a period of innocence that has to be shielded but. By the 1990s. That is to say. the advent of cable television and rented CDs has made monitoring young people's ﬁlm watching even more difﬁcult for us. And it does so just when we are least able to bear it. rather. But we do need to monitor. Recent surveys indicate that parents are working more and have less time for child rearing than in the 1970s and 1980s.” whatever world they are going to live in. What the schools fail to appreciate is that the "bottles" are already overﬂowing with information about the present and future that is provided by the media that now includes the Internet. important misguided. This inverted sequence increases the potential for uncivil behavior The Dynamics of Hurrying: The Media As we have seen. and violence in movies that we have become less vigilant about letting our children watch this material. A certain amount of stress and pressure are important and healthy for children to realize their full powers. nudity. Nonetheless. These concerns are understandable. as they are in many of our schools today. demands on us have increased just as the time available for such oversight has decreased. parents have become so numbed to the swearing. The explicit sex and violence that pervades the media puts a greater monitoring burden on parents. This has certainly been the case with computers. despite our knowledge about children's development. The amount of time is also reduced because of the number of two-parent-working and single-parent families. The promoters of these products play on our parental guilt and anxiety about our children's ability to compete in an increasingly technological and global economy. that expectations and demands become hurrying and the stress unhealthy. but “When children are pressured they are also a little to grow up fast.
it poses a number of risks for children and adolescents. At the same time. age-appropriate programs may do no harm. we can help by investing in toys and playthings that give the greatest scope to the child's imagination. Although the pressure to get things done more quickly and efﬁciently has positive beneﬁts— it has made us the most innovative society on earth—it has its drawbacks. and to have simple and safe crib toys such as rattles and play gyms readily available. It is a tremendous resource for getting all sorts of information rapidly and in our own homes. or selfesteem.Parenthood provided by any computer program. whether at home or at school. we become surly when forced to relax and wait our turn. On the other hand. set reasonable usage rules. rather. Compulsive about punctuality and using our time most efficiently. as an important period of life to which children are entitled. we do have a solid basis for encouraging parents to talk and sing to the infant. As parents. And it is an extraordinarily helpful educational resource as well. “Valuing childhood does not mean seeing it as a happy innocent period but. We are always on the lookout for ways of doing things faster and more expeditiously. What they need most is a healthy sense that the world is a safe place. such as producing impatience. The price of our new technologies. or the more complicated intellectual games of adolescence (like Clue) children should be given the time and encouragement to engage in them. Like most of our new information-age technologies. and that they will be cared for and protected by the grown-ups in their world. we can probably get the best out of the Internet and avoid some of its less savory offerings. that their needs will be met. the Internet is a mixed blessing. and do some monitoring.” The Hurried Child 6 . like the price of liberty. children need the opportunity to play for play's sake. Whether that play is the symbolic play of young children. self-conﬁdence. There is no evidence that early exposure to computers gives children an edge in computer literacy. We build superhighways to speed up transportation and household gadgets to speed up housework. Play: An Antidote to Hurrying At all levels of development. But if we use common sense. it is unlikely that such exposure will have important or lasting benefits. is eternal vigilance. In this regard it is well to remember that Bill Gates. the games with rules and collections of the schoolage child. we are a people who cannot-will not-wait. Basically. founder and CEO of Microsoft. Helping Hurried Children Ours is a hurried and hurrying society. did not have a computer as an infant and young child. We have the supermarket to speed up shopping and fastfood restaurants to speed up eating. For all our technological ﬁnesse and sophisticated facade. Although some exposure of children over the age of three to well-designed. play is nature's way of dealing with stress for children as well as adults.
And it is equally important. it is very important that we apologize and make School-age children are more independent and more self-reliant than young children. often unverbalized expectancies perceive hurrying in a less stressful way. they often seem to welcome hurrying in the sense that they are eager to Focus on the Present If we concentrate on the here and now. thoughtful and sensitive people themselves. How children perceive hurrying simple and effective ways of easing stress in determines its effects as much as the fact of children and of helping them to become hurrying itself. for instance: "I'm really going to miss you today and wish you could be with me." calendar or clock hurrying. we lessen some of the stress of hurrying. or the zoo. we can either cut Being polite to children speaks to their back on our demands or increase our supports. the park. In the same way. as evidence that their parents do not really care about them.Parenthood What can we do to help children who are being pressured to grow up fast and who experience this as inordinate stress? it clear that we really are sorry. If you are a working mother. politeness is one of the most dimension. when you pick your child up at the end of the day. By worrying about the past and future. like any stressor.” do something for us. we show in amount and variety of supports we are the most simple and direct way possible that willing to offer. to save us time. and they know when we are with them physically but not mentally. it is really If we are asking too much and are engaged in important to say "please" and "thank you. or to help us out. we lose the present and our children don't have us. when we have to hurry young children. that we have of our children and with the When we are polite to children." The exact words are less important than the message that the separation is painful for you too but necessary. If we need to break a promise about taking a child to a movie. feelings of self-worth (as it does to adults). we need to appreciate children's feelings about the matter. This is an objective way of helping children which are always threatened when we hurry deal with hurrying in the sense that it deals them. Being polite to children helps them to with the actual. Thus. we value them as people and care about their But hurrying. without worrying about yesterday or tomorrow. We need to respond to a child's feeling more than to his or her intellect. even when we are around. enjoy the time you spend with your child and don't spoil it for him or her by worrying about the time you were not around or about the times you will be separated in the future. The Hurried Child 7 . our children will do likewise. ‣ YOUNG CHILDREN ‣ SCHOOL-AGE CHILDREN Young children (two to eight years) tend to perceive hurrying as a rejection. By responding to the young child's feelings. Consequently. when they have to be at a day-care center or with a baby sitter. to say something about how happy you are to see him or her. “We hurry our children when we ask children to because we hurry ourselves. Accordingly. has a subjective feelings. Children live in the present. One might say.
‣ ADOLESCENTS terms. Preface for the Twenty-ﬁfth Anniversary Edition copyright © 2007 by David Elkind. But if we really value human life. This is one reason why young adolescents criticize their parents for the way they dress. $16. LLC. eat. and all-generous and then compare their real parents with this ideal and ﬁnd them sadly wanting.Parenthood take on adult chores and responsibilities. 1981 by David Elkind. particularly in single-parent homes. adolescents blame their parents not only for hurrying them as adolescents but also for hurrying them as children. Other Chapters in The Hurried Child ‣ ‣ ‣ Growing Up Slowly Learning to Be Social How Children React to Stress If you liked this summary.com. and so on—but also that we know they are still children and that there are some things they should not be burdened with. a childhood is the most basic human right of children. And when adolescents feel hurried by parents. that we committed against them when they were children. 288 pages. From The Hurried Child: Growing Up Too Fast Too Soon (25th Anniversary Edition) by David Elkind. it is important that we communicate our appreciation for all that they do for us—helping around the house. Da Capo Press. For this age group. more complex mental abilities.95. Copyright © 2001. they begin to see it in more abstract. As young people move into adolescence and attain new. Secondly. we will value each period equally and give unto each stage of life what is appropriate to that stage. 1988. Summarized by permission of the publisher. where they may try intuitively to ﬁll the role of the absent parent. Summary Copyright © 2009 by FamilyIntel. they don't forget it. look. adolescents pay us back in the teen years for all the sins. act. click here to buy the book. baby sitting. ISBN-13: 978-0-7382-1082-7. All rights reserved. talk. the criticism often reaches a frenzy.familyintel. Although adolescents also perceive hurrying as a rejection at a deep young-child level. ISBN-10: 0-7382-1082-X. The danger with this age group is for parents to accept this display of maturity for true maturity rather than for what it is—a kind of game. In the end. While school-age children rationalize parental hurrying. and so on.D. In effect. www. real or imagined. adolescents construct concepts of ideal parents who are all-knowing. except in the case of registered FamilyIntel users who may print or download the summary for individual use. No part of this book summary may be reproduced or transmitted in any manner without written permission from FamilyIntel. all-good. First of all. complex ❖ ❖ ❖ Hurrying children into adulthood violates the sanctity of life by giving one period priority over another. hurrying is again seen in a new way. The Hurried Child 8 . Ph.
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