Too Much Pressure on Kids

Last week, the New York Times ran an article that discussed a new movie about stressed out children, and then followed up with interviewed parents who viewed the film. This article received a lot of chatter in the mainstream press and is still being discussed around here.

These trends pieces in New York Times follow a certain pattern. A. The author claims that he has discovered some brand new horror. B. The author interviews three of his friends in Park Slope, Ridgewood, or Westchester. C. The bad guys are usually suburban moms.

The article rightly points out that over committed kids are mostly found in wealthy suburbs. My kids aren't experiencing that kind of stress. Instead, Jonah is stressed out by dumb tests and grading rubrics that demand precision, require art projects, and give more credit to neatness than quality. Science and social studies tests are trivial pursuit, while in language arts, they make greeting cards. Stupidity can be stressful, too.

Question of the Day: Are your kids stressed out?

13 thoughts on “Too Much Pressure on Kids

  1. My kids are not stressed out, but they are in the stressful environment being described in those articles. They’re not stressed out because they’re apparently type A competitive little balls of energy. But this is an issue that stresses me a lot!

    Like

  2. My son (8yrs) is not stressed at all. Like your son, he is sort of bored and sort of annoyed by the projects that stress neatness etc but really no stress. He is not overscheduled either- plenty of time for computer and Wii and tossing footballs in addition to gymnastics, bball and martial arts.
    My daughter (almost 11, 5th grade) is rarely stressed by school work or activities. (once she had a project plus 2 tests in one wk and was a little stressed).She is stressed by the “social drama” that the girls always seem to have going on though.That’s about the only regular stress.
    For reference, we live in a fairly wealthy suburb of Chicago.

    Like

  3. We live in a wealthy suburb of Atlanta. (Wealthy is relative, I suppose — one can purchase a 4-bedroom, 10 year old home in our top school district for $250K.) There is a sizable South and East Asian population here (70% of our elementary school). We are among high achieving immigrants and immigrant children, many of whom do extra tutoring and activities.
    Still, my kids (the oldest are 8 and 6) are not stressed at all. And I’ve found that the high-stress culture that is pervasive in the Times is not really the situation here. Most of the households here are dual income– parents can not do all those activities if they are traveling for work or commuting an hour each way into the city. Most parents have their kids in 1-2 activities and that’s it. I can count on 2 hands the number of crazy over-scheduling parents out of the 100 or so families I know.
    I think you’re right about the NY Time’s propensity for blaming suburban moms.

    Like

  4. I asked my daughter if she was stressed, and she said “stressed about what?” Then she told me she is stressed by her nosebleeds (she just had another one).
    No one really overschedules here. Least of all me.

    Like

  5. Ah, “rubrics” (non-linear, read-my-mind grading where it’s almost impossible to get a top grade). Those have been discussed at length at Kitchen Table Math. They kind of set kids up to fail (or embrace mediocrity), don’t they?
    “Are your kids stressed out?”
    No, but we’re still playing hooky from competitive sports. Compulsory team sports start next year for my third grader, so I don’t see the need to start yet, particularly since I suspect it will not be her favorite part of the week. Third grader does profoundly dislike spelling homework, though. She has spelling homework 3 or 4 times a week, which is about 3X as much as she actually needs.

    Like

  6. At present, I’d say my kids aren’t stressed out. The older two are good at school, so academics aren’t stressful if they manage their time well. Then again, none of them are on outside sports teams. Extracurriculars for the older two are music and theater, but through their schools, so the schools are aware of the time commitments. Finals are always stressful.
    When my eldest was being bullied (girl bullying, so psychological not physical), she was under enormous stress. I now realize that the stress was causing physical symptoms which have taken about 2 years to go away. At that time, the general lack of challenging schoolwork was stressful. Being bored out of your gourd while working in cooperative groups with the queen bees was not good for mental health.
    I don’t know if the youngest can be stressed. His teacher said in a recent conference, “I love having him in my class, and I’m so glad he’s not mine.” He truly marches to his own drummer, which doesn’t fit with our current standards-driven public school system.
    We do know kids who are stressed, though. The local public high schools have had problems.
    I think the most stressful event for children is a family divorce. Suburban mothers only facilitate teen stress. The real stress comes from teen ambition, not parental ambition, IMHO.

    Like

  7. “Being bored out of your gourd while working in cooperative groups with the queen bees was not good for mental health.”
    But such good preparation for PTA! (Just kidding–I think people are unfair to PTA people.)

    Like

  8. Sometimes it’s just personality. Our kids go the same school, have the same amount of extracurriculars, etc. Our daughter – who is, perhaps not incidentally, the eldest – is stressed and often anxious. Our son is not.

    Like

  9. My 8 year old, in retrospect, was a ball of anxiety from the day she was born. She ate her hair as a toddler, chewed through clothes in kindergarten, and continues to develop a realm of odd coping mechanisms. She tried to pack for our vacation two weeks before we left. The one thing she is not stressed about (mostly) is school because she loves the structure and predictability of it. Although if she forgets to do hw, or she can’t because of a family commitment, she has a major freak out (and not b/c she’ll get in trouble at school). For the record she’s a scholarship kid at a very tony K-12 that preaches freedom to fail.
    @Amy I teach at the same school and my grade distribution went up when I started using rubrics. The whole point is you give the rubric out in advance to get rid of the “read my mind” factor. You also have to allow for kids to take a risk and go off rubric if the work is exceptional. Also, so as to not have completely unreasonable expectations. But I generally don’t give A-pluses or perfect scores on essays because in history, you never get to be completely right about anything that’s worth knowing and you can only be proven wrong. As I keep telling the kids, all the famous historians were wrong – but they were wrong in really interesting ways. They don’t like that at first, but they come to appreciate it.

    Like

  10. “The whole point is you give the rubric out in advance to get rid of the “read my mind” factor.”
    There are probably good rubrics and bad rubrics. The ones that I have seen a lot of complaints about are the ones where the top grades are reserved for going way beyond the parameters of the assignment, i.e. well beyond what the kids have actually been taught or can reasonably be expected to perform. (This would be less of a problem in high school, where kids actually can go out and get meaningful information.)

    Like

  11. I think my favorite rubric requirement was, “Displays exceptional command of English grammar.” Ah, what? This was in a school which did not teach grammar. To our complaints, the answer was always, grammar would be taught at some unspecified point in the future. Jam yesterday, jam tomorrow, but never jam today.
    I was left scratching my head at what “exceptional command of English grammar” might mean in a progressive middle-school setting. Semicolons? Subordinate clauses? Was it code for, “the parent wrote it?”

    Like

  12. Well, she was. Her final semester of her junior year she lost over 20% of her body weight (and she was tiny to begin with). So we found an alternative for first semester senior year and when she goes back she will only take 2 regular classes at her school and 3 online classes. If it ends up hurting her in college apps, so be it. Life is too short.

    Like

  13. Yes, my kids are stressed out. The 24-year old is a senior at university; his wife just graduated but is doing some post-bacc work before applying to graduate schools when my son finishes next June. Plus they have two children under age 4. My 20-year-old starts massage school in January and is learning to drive.
    They’re all mostly stressed because the economy is so bad and they are trying to start their adult working lives, but there are no jobs.

    Like

Comments are closed.