I saw a commercial a few months ago on t.v. advertising Subway sandwiches. It started out with a girl about eleven or twelve years old sitting and staring blankly at the camera. In a depressed voice, she says, “Everything is decided for me.” Scene of her looking at her clothing: “What to wear.” Scene of her sitting with a math book open: “What to read.” Scene of her lying in bed with a parent turning out the light: “And of course… when to go to bed.” Switch scene to the girl, now smiling, cheerfully contemplating the selection of veggies, cheeses, and meats available at said restaurant: “But when I go to Subway, I have the power to choose.” She goes on to select so many toppings that her sandwich is ridiculously huge, but she bites into it with obvious relish.
Maybe it’s just me, but this commercial was a disheartening reminder that so many children have very little say in the many decisions affecting their day-to-day lives. The vast majority of children I know are told what to do for every aspect of their existence: get up, wear this, go to school, study this, write this, don’t wiggle, think this. I don’t agree with the philosophy that says children should be allowed to make ALL their own decisions, and I do agree that parents and other adults have the responsibility to look out for the well-being of children, but what is so wrong about letting children have input?
Without structure, children cannot grow or function properly. However, if children are never given the option to direct their own choices, good or bad, then their ability to reason, think for themselves, exercise creativity, and learn from experience will not develop to its fullest extent.
* This is an edited re-post from my previous blog, written last year.