"The Hurried Child-Growing Up Too Fast Too Soon"
A book review by: Katie H. Lam
Today's child is ever "hurried" through childhood. It is important that as parents and educators that we are knowledgeable and understanding of the development of the child. This book analyzes the ways that America as a society is pressuring youth for early intellectual achievement in this notion of being fast paced for success earlier and earlier. Elkind's book is divided into a three main sections-a preface that includes updated information on societal changes since his original publication in 1981, Part I-Our Hurried Children, and Part II-Hurried Children: Stressed Children.
In the preface the author offers a discussion on current topics such as the "Internet", "Lapware", and Britney Spears and the impact on our youth. He states that in twenty years we have hurried our children and teens more and more.
In Part I of the book the author analyzes the dynamics of what areas of society hurry our children from parents, schools, the media, and technology (Lapware and the Internet). The author states that the majority of the factors are coming down through changes in adult society. He discusses that children are hurried from the time of conception with new technology that speed up learning processes in the womb. The author also looks in this portion of the book what the media does to hurry our children through the television programming available twenty four hours a day specifically aimed at them. Elkind states that parents and society try to accelerate a child's early acquisition of skills and abilities through summer educational programs, children's fashions that mimic adults dress, and the use of adult behavior and language. He also looks at what and how a parent's stress reflects upon children. Parents have begun to treat the child as a partner, a therapist, and as a conscience. The author also looks at the American model of education. He states that society ignores differences in mental abilities and the pace at which we learn is not addressed at all. Children are pressured and hurried to meet bench marks through standardized testing and it is all designed to "keep up" with competing countries as just the beginning of the madness. Elkind looks at how schools are starting to rotate children from class to class at much too early of an age, thus contributing to problems in education down the road. The author stresses that another factor in hurrying children is "Children learn the rules of social license before rules of social responsibility." The book carefully addresses how society "encourages" risky behaviors in children through pseudo-sophistication and that they are taught to model emotional and intellectual maturity, thus inviting them to behave in wise, mature ways such as drinking, sexual activity, behavior, etc.
In Part II, the author looks at ways to remediate the stress that is put on children. He reviews basic child development stages through Jean Piaget's stages of appropriate child development and readiness. I think this is an excellent addition to the book, to assist parents with research and data to support the need to slow down the "hurrying" of our children. The author stresses the importance of following the age related stages. The author also strengthens his point that it is important and healthy for children to have a certain amount of stress and hurriedness to realize their full potential. An excellent quote in the book on this topic is, "the boiling water that hardens the egg, softens the carrot-what causes one person to fall apart doesn't bother another person." The final chapter of the book examines strategies for helping stressed children including a chart for identifying stress levels in a child. He addresses five qualities that children possess who manage stress well share: social competence, impression management, self-confidence, independence, and achievement. His main emphasis in the book is to remember that "the importance of free, self-initiated, and spontaneous play to the child's healthy, mental, emotional, and social development. In the end, a playful childhood is the most basic right of children." I fully recommend this book for anyone that works with today's children or have children of their own. It is an organized, well-structured, and will help you realize what is really important in the world today.