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Sunday, 21 April 2013

Are our kids having too much fun?

This is a problem faced by kids who have too much. It's a rich-kid in the developed-world syndrome.  I saw it when I lived in Manhattan, and I see it even more clearly here in Singapore. In Singapore, it's "an expat-with-kids-at-international-schools" syndrome.

 Everyone around these kids is bending over backwards to make sure that they're "happy," that they're having "fun," and that they're stimulated in every possible way.

 At school, teachers  are trying their best to make school entertaining and enjoyable, and the bar for this keeps getting higher: fancy trips around the world, parties and field trips, special assemblies and events, kayaking expeditions and camping trips. Kids are supposed to be having fun all the time, and if they're not, then the teachers feel downright bad and guilty.

 At home, parents are trying their best to keep these kids "happy" and "entertained" with lavish birthday parties, fun expeditions to amusement parks, and mountains of toys. Parents spend an inordinate amount of time and money planning parties, playdates, and special events for their precious kids.

At school and at home, kids are now surrounded by screens and electronic entertainment. And to top it all off, they have diets that are increasingly full of sugar, artificial flavors and colors, and a host of preservatives.

Put all this together, and what do you have? A world of hyper-stimulation, and kids who are overindulged and entitled. For these kids, nothing is special any more because they have way too much of everything.

With all the special activities,trips, and events at schools, all the lavish toys and parties at home, all the sugar and junk they consume, and  all the screen-time -- our children are completely and totally hyper-stimulated all the time. And as accomplices and enablers of this lifestyle, teachers and parents are totally hyper-stimulated too.

I have started to savor those rare weeks that are quiet and uneventful, and I find myself often longing for a world that is quiet and low-maintenance.  A world with no special activities and events at school, just good, old-fashioned learning. No sugar and junk either at school or at home, just healthy and home-cooked meals. No fast and flashy screens, just old-fashioned books. No lavish birthday parties and fancy toys, just simple family-time and imaginative play. No fancy expeditions and trips, just time playing at home or in the park. No out-sized expectations for "fun", just old-fashioned gratitude for all that we already have.

Sometimes less really is more.

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