Guest Author - Cynthia Parker
“Growing Up Too Fast: The Rimm Report on the Secret World of America’s Middle Schoolers, Practical Parenting Advice Based on a Survey of More Than 5,400 Kids” by Sylvia Rimm, PhD, Rodale Inc., 2005.
As the subtitle states, the interviews of 5,400 kids of middle school age were consulted for the compilation of information in this book. Many times when parents hear undesirable tales of activities within an age group, they tend to deny the possibility, stating that the person(s) reporting these activities “wouldn’t know” for one reason or another. It is a bit harder to deny when the members of said group are the ones making the claim. Hence, the need to question so many middle-school aged kids. Dr. Sylvia Rimm, PhD, child psychologist, uses these interviews to benefit parents in a unique and vitally informative way.
Dr. Rimm, PhD, takes a well-though-out approach in “Growing Up Too Fast” by first presenting the findings of studies conducted by note-worthy psychologists and researchers, following it with the words of middle school age children who were interviewed specifically for her book, and wrapping it up with sound, logical advice. What parent can argue with statistical evidence followed by words of confirmation from a child much like their own? The advice that wraps up each topic is sound and logical. Yet it also leaves room for a parent to conform this advice to fit their own needs based upon their individual children and their own value system.
Most parents will be surprised to find the range of information not only available, but also blatantly communicated to children of middle-school age and younger. As parents, we know that means that we cannot wait until middle school to discuss such topics as sex and drugs with our children. We need to be the one who gets to them first with accurate information and the knowledge of the value system we want to be installed in their young minds. We need to talk to our children at a younger age than ever before – in elementary school. [Personally, I would suggest that drugs be discussed with children on a basic level from the introduction of the child into a public or private school system, even if that is at the kindergarten level. Kindergarten children have brought pills to school and shared them with classroom friends, believing that they were candy. Sex should be discussed with children in the concept of “private zones” and “inappropriate touching” as early as kindergarten age, as well.]
The topics covered in this book include sex, drugs, sex and violence in film and music, bullying, terror (not only world-wide terrorism, but also at-home terror including school shootings, etc.), and the pressures of social acceptance. It explains the risks of our children being exposed to such elements, methods for coping when the exposure is unavoidable, and tools for reinforcing the positive behaviors that we all desire in our children. The advice for parents is logical and practical; it does not require props, complicated communication tools, or money. It does involved time, understanding, good communication skills, an open mind, and a willingness to participate in your child’s life.
Dr. Rimm’s book is well worth the read as both a solid information source for recent studies of child behavior, an eye-opener to the changes in age and environment in which our children are exposed to various topics, and a valuable source of coping tools for helping our children deal with the pressures of growing up. Read it before your children reach middle school age and be prepared – for both of your sakes.