Want your kids to learn more? Give ‘em a break. A nice, long break…

No matter what you think of the George W. Bush-era No Child Left Behind legislation, there are some results that can’t be disputed. One of them is that schools were under a huge amount of pressure to keep their scores high. I have nothing against high scores, but sometimes the costs outweigh the benefits. A lot of schools, for example, decided that they didn’t have enough time during the school day to teach their kids what they needed to know. So they did something that might have seemed logical at the time, but was a complete disaster: They cut out recess. We’re not talking high-schools here, or even middle schools. There are tons of kindergartens where the kids don’t get recess.

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A Date With Maturity

Dear Mr. Dad: A boy from my 15-year-old daughter’s class is interested in her. He seems nice enough but we think that, at her age, she’s too young to date. We hear so much about the dangers of giving teens too much freedom, and we want to protect our daughter for as long we can. We figure she’ll have many opportunities to date when she is older. Are we being (as she tells us) unreasonable?

A: As the father of three daughters (including a 17-year old) it sounds to me like you’re being caring and responsible parents, and that’s certainly commendable. I also understand why you’d be concerned about your daughter’s safety and well-being. After all, you can’t open a newspaper or check your email without hearing about some kind of horror story, so it’s perfectly normal to want to do everything we possibly can to keep our kids (boys as well as girls) out of harm’s way.

That raises an interesting problem. On one hand we want to protect our children. On the other, one of our main roles as parents is help our kids develop a sense of independence and responsibility. We also want them to develop the kind of judgment and self-confidence that will help them make wise choices as they grow.

In other words, we have to prepare our children to survive in a world where, eventually, they’ll have to make their own decisions and live with the consequences—without mom or dad standing over their shoulder. The time will come soon enough. Just not today.

That said, I think you’ve got a little negotiating room here. With two and a half adults (your daughter would do the math differently) sitting at the same table, I’m confident that you’ll be able to find a way to reconcile your daughter’s desire to spend time with her young man and your need to protect her.
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School Dayzzzzzz

Dear Mr. Dad: My 12-year-old daughter spent most of the summer at various camps and came back just before school started. While she was away she was allowed to stay up as late as she wanted. Now that she’s home she’s insisting that she’s old enough to stay up late. I’m sure that it’s unhealthy for her to get so little sleep, but I don’t know how to get her back on track. Do you have any tips for me?

A: Bottom line, your daughter couldn’t be more wrong. Sleep is important. Period. And not just for little kids. She might have spent the summer staying up late, but now that she’s back in school, it’s essential that she get back into a healthy sleep routine.

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