Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Power of Hugs

Nicholas Kristof writes Cuddle Your Kid in The New York Times today. He highlights the "power of hugs." I agree with his basic premise and consider it vitally important that we give kids the love and support they need. This includes respite and relief after a hard day at school. For some families, homework becomes a source of positive interaction. For others, it interferes greatly with this important parental function. It's interesting that in Kristof's article, he talks about hugging children, not just because it is generally helpful but specifically because they end up doing better at school.

I wrote a comment on Kristof's blog. The comment is as follows:

I agree about “the power of hugs.” Let’s talk about having time for hugs. In today’s society, we often get in the way of the hugs kids need by giving teachers too much power in the home. They assign and grade homework, which is not always bad, but can be devastating to families when that power overrides the parent’s authority to decide when the child needs a hug and some rest, not more work to do. We afford adults choice (at least those without kids) about what they can do at home after work. Children have less choice and need guidance from the adults in their lives. But when that guidance comes from the school, not the parent, the power to make judgments is taken out of the parent’s hand.

For sure, there are many parents for whom homework rituals are consistent with the norms they have in their homes, and their children do well to the point that homework assignments do not impede family life. But for others, that’s not the case. Some are poor and life is stressful and, as French President Francois Hollande notes, homework can exaggerate the privileges some people have.

But there are other reasons why homework can be stressful. Children are not the same. They have different strengths and different learning styles. They don’t all work at the same pace. They have different needs after a hard day of school. When a parent is trapped by unending demands about what must get done in the home at night, the parent may lack energy for that much needed hug.

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