In case you’ve missed it, there’s a new-old show being pushed on Netflix called Old Enough! The episodes can be nerve-wracking because – well, look at that photo! That tiny guy is sent off to cross traffic with nothing more than a yellow flag to get cars to stop. They do stop, which is probably because Japan is a country of politeness and rule-following. The U.S., on the other hand, is a country of “Get out of my way!”
Watching Old Enough! reminded me of my experiences in working at a university from 2009-2019. In 2009, my freshmen were able to navigate the world of higher education and adult life sans Mom and Dad. By 2015, not so much, and by 2017, I’d had to develop a class to help them do all that.
While not all students were unable to “adult”, enough were that it got national attention. It was determined that a good chunk of this inability was directly tied to children who’d never been asked to do anything difficult at a young age without a direct reward. Do your homework and I’ll play with you. Play by yourself and you’ll get ice cream. Do your chores and you can have TV time.
Now, we are not necessarily the same country as we were in the late ’60s when I was sent to the grocery store on a bike with a note from my mother telling the grocer it was okay for me to buy a pack of cigarettes for her.
But the world is not near as dangerous as some would want us to believe. A good example of how it can be different for your child is to see the difference between kids who grow up in rural areas versus in the city (although, we must give a hat-tip here to Lenore Skenazy, who wrote about her free range parenting in New York City). Rural kids get responsibility at far younger ages – as I’ve observed in two wonderful trips to Sweet Grass Ranch in Montana – and are so much more mature than the average non-ranch/non-farm child … and still alive. (Despite some crazy jumping off of ledges that terrified me to watch.)
Do I think we should send 3-year-olds out with a yellow flag to cross traffic alone so they can one day be a successful college student – or even just unload the dishwasher without begging?
Probably not. But we absolutely can take a clue from the Old Enough! TV series and get our kids ready for the world long before college and make them better family contributors right this very second.
That’s the topic of my column today in the Arizona Daily Star. I hope every parent reads it right here! (Or, in a first for my column, listen to it via the “Listen to this story” option!) (photo: screen grab from Old Enough!)