Friday, April 24, 2009


Continued thoughts on our culture's over-achieving pressure on today's youth and the implications for those with special needs.

Consider the average high school student's daily grind: 7 hours of school, 2 hours of sport/extracurricular activity, 3 hours of homework. Let's assume this student is more disciplined than their peers and gets the 9 hours of sleep recommended by the American Association of Pediatricians. That leaves 3 hours of down time - including meals, grooming, socializing, and family time. I keep asking myself how long I would be able to keep up that pace. As a busy mom with lots of extra volunteer work and writing I need (and get) more than 3 hours of "me" time per day.

I promised a Biblical response to the problems facing our youth, and the verses that repeatedly came to mind are Ephesians 6:1-4 (see quote at left). The key phrase is "Fathers [Parents] do not exasperate your children..." (NIV) In the King James it says "...provoke not your children to wrath..." In the original Greek the word parorgizo contains the whole English phrase "to arouse to wrath or anger." Exasperate (Encarta World English Dictionary, 1999) means to make somebody very angry or frustrated, often by repeatedly doing something annoying or to make an unpleasant condition or feeling worse. The students represented in "Slipping Behind" definitely seemed exasperated in the latter sense. They were too spent to be angry per se, but what should be a happy time of youth had been stolen from them. Well-meaning parents who want the best for their children and know that education and extra-curricular talents are keys to "success" push for more and a little more until inevitably the young person cannot meet the demands and breaks under the pressure.

The student panel that discussed "Slipping Behind" after the advance screening suggested that parents who want to help their children cope with their stress should not emphasize grades too much, but should instead focus on learning. Ask about a student's "day" rather than about "school" since they are worth far more than the sum of their courses. I have already wondered about this in our situation: is 5 hours a day, 5 days a week too much preschool, even if more than half of the time is semi-structured play? This is the recommended program to include all of the various intervention strategies our daughter needs, but does it leave enough time to just be a kid? It's easy to see how an older child with special learning needs might turn into a kid who is all about school in one form or another. We must remember that there should be more to their day than school.

In Ephesians, Paul goes on to tell us to bring up our children in "the training and instruction of the Lord." We'll explore what that means in the next post.

Part one Achievement
Part three Achievement
Part four Achievement


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