The global culture is fast changing. Now more than ever, the level of a person’s success and achievements determine the person’s value and worth. One of the negative ramifications of the proliferation of this culture is that parents are increasingly applying pressure on their children and young adults to succeed, achieve and please. Consequently, children are deprived of their childhood as they are tasked with more responsibilities than they should. These children become what David Elkind, a psychologist, described as hurried children. This paper investigates the causes and effects of rushed childhood. The paper will start by identifying the possible reasons children are rushed through their childhood then determine the possible effects of rushed childhood on children and adolescents. Analysis indicates that rushed childhood has extensive adverse psychological impacts on children leading to stress, burnout, substance abuse and even suicide cases. Parents should strike a balance between their children’s intellectual and career endeavors, and their free time to play.
The hurried child phenomenon is fast becoming the norm. Before the turn of the millennium, there were very few complaints of children being pushed too hard to become adults so fast. However, as the world gradually gravitates towards individualistic and materialistic tendencies, parents are being forced to demand more from their children in a bid to shape them into successful individuals. From an early age, the children are instructed to become hyper-competitive. For instance, some parents start scrutinizing their children’s results while still in the kindergarten, when the child does not even understand what academic excellence means. Some parents even go a step further to select a career for their children and pressure them to develop into the person envisaged by the parents. A lot of children, for instance, are pressured into becoming tennis players, or pianists, from an early age. Others task their children with activities that should otherwise be performed by adults. For instance, some children are forced to prepare breakfast for themselves from the tender age of six. While they may be able to prepare the breakfasts for themselves, it would have made more sense if the parents did, and the children wish that the parents could do that for them.
Reasons for Rushed Childhood
Interrogating the reasons for rushed childhood, it is evident that in most instances it is the parents and societal ambitions that exert the pressure. The parents fail to differentiate between their ambitions and their children’s ambitions. Blinded by their aspirations, they seek to fulfill their goals through their children. These parents convince themselves that the pressure they are applying on their children to excel will only benefit the children in the long run. As such introduce their children to concepts of academic and sports excellence very early, when they are still young. Everything the child undertakes becomes works; there are no leisure activities anymore for the child as all time is invested in the activities the child is supposed to excel in life. However, research studies, for instance, Ogunnaike, have established that contrary to the widely-held notion that pushing the child to achieve intellectual and career excellence from an early age boosts their chances, it diminishes their chances of excelling in life. The immense pressure they feel from their parents to perform injects anxiety and fear into the children. The children get scared of disappointing their parents given the high expectations they have in them. Ultimately, instead of performing as expected, the children become overwhelmed by their parents expectations, suffer anxiety-induced memory lapse and end up failing miserably. Consequently, the relationship between the kids and their parents deteriorate and the ripple effects of the strained relationship may be carried into adulthood and, in some cases, even projected onto the next generation.
Another major reason for rushed childhood is the competitive nature of today’s parents. Some parents just want their children to be as competitive as they were growing up. In some instances it is retaliatory. The parents were deprived of their childhood and feel the need to do the same to their children. If the parents reckon that their early maturation into adulthood made them competitive in life, then they are likely to replicate the same strategies that were used on them, in the process denying their children the opportunities to enjoy their childhood.
In other instances, the societal and economic conditions are responsible for rushed childhood. Children in families with low-income are tasked with supplementing the family’s income. Instead of being afforded the time to go out and play with their friends, these children are instructed to help their parents, for example, in manning shops, or contributing regarding manual labor, to optimize their income. In the worst case scenarios, the children are expected to fend for themselves, just like an adult. Among the middle-income earners, both parents get extremely busy as both are gainfully employed. The children are then tasked with babysitting their younger siblings and cook for themselves owing to their parent’s absence.
Effects of Rushed Childhood
Rushed childhood has extensive adverse psychological effects on children and young adults. As has been mentioned earlier, denying them an opportunity to become children, instead allocating them adult tasks, easily stresses them. The children get to worry about things that they should not have to. Consequently, the children deprived of their childhood experience the adverse manifestations of stress including migraines, insomnia and stress-induced eating disorders. These adverse health outcomes not only make the children uncomfortable but also stall their development and deny them life satisfaction. If protracted, these negative experiences instigate a slump into depression. They continually feel like they have lost something in their lives, the chance to be kids, which they can never regain. These feelings of loss eventually transform them into apathetic individuals who take little interest in anything in life. They also develop into self-deprecatory and unmotivated adults later on in life.
Crucially, rushed childhood instances where the parents are demanding intellectual, and career excellence from their young children may also result in children and youth committing suicide. When the children fail to meet their parent’s expectations, they get overwhelmed with feelings of disappointment and may end up contemplating suicide. This phenomenon is especially very common in countries and economies that value intellectual achievement. When these children fail their exams, they lose all the hope they had in life and see no reason to continue living. However, as Smith and Fong aptly point out, this should not be the case. In fact, as the economy increasingly refocuses on the services industry, the intellectual achievement will deteriorate in value, instead interpersonal skills will be the key determinant in the job market. These skills can only be effectively developed if kids grow up at the normal rate, not rushed.
Hurried childhood may also cause burnout in children. Children who are forced to act like adults by their parents eventually give up on their ambitions and develop resentment towards the adults. For instance, if a six-year-old girl is consistently asked by her mother to provide an assessment on her mother’s boyfriend, she may soon start hating her mother and even project the hatred towards the boyfriend. The mother need not task her young daughter with character assessment duties. She should be enjoying her childhood and play without a care, not worrying about the type of people her mother befriends. It is only right that children know no other endeavor other than being children. The child’s only task should be to create the person they are meant to be.
In instances where the rushed childhood was necessitated by the unavailability of the parents, the lack of parental care may increase the children’s susceptibility to social vices. Research studies indicate that children who were denied the chance to be children have an enhanced susceptibility to engage in drug and alcohol abuse in their adolescence. They are also more likely to become sexually active than children whose parents were around and did let them enjoy their childhood. As Ackerman theorizes, rushed children are forced to mature early both physically and emotionally and, consequently, they also become sexually active at an early age. If these children were afforded the time to enjoy their childhood and grow at a normal rate, they could have avoided engaging in sexual activities in their teens.
In conclusion, it is evident that rushed childhood is detrimental to a person’s growth, both as a child and later on as an adult. In most instances, rushed childhood is necessitated by faulty parent and societal expectations. Hurried children are denied the chance to enjoy their childhood; instead, they are forced to grow up so fast into adulthood. Some of the adverse effects of rushed childhood include increased incidences of stress and its effects on children, an increase in children and teen suicide incidences, and burnout. Parents and guardians should strike a balance between their children’s educational and career endeavors, and their childhood endeavors. If the children grow at a normal rate, they will not only avoid the aforementioned adverse effects of rushed childhood but will also grow up happier, more satisfied, and with enhanced creativity and innovation.