Taking a cue from these findings, many parents not only go to great lengths to send their children to the right day care but also spend lavishly on music and art classes. Some believe that if a child practices everything, when he gets older he will be able to do everything. Specialized tutoring programs and preschools are proliferating. Some parents are willing to do whatever they possibly can to give their children an advantage over others.
Does this type of devotion prove entirely beneficial? While it may seem to offer children an upbringing with boundless opportunities, in many cases these children miss the crucial part of the learning experience that comes through unstructured play. Spontaneous play, say educators, stimulates creativity and develops a child’s social, mental, and emotional skills.
Some development experts believe that parent-led play is creating a new type of problem child—micromanaged children who are stressed and emotionally volatile, cannot sleep, and complain of aches and pains. One psychologist observes that by the time these children reach their teenage years, many have not learned to develop coping skills and are "burned out, antisocial and rebellious."
Thus, many parents are in a quandary. They want to help their children to reach their full potential. Yet, they can see the folly of pushing small children too hard, too fast. Is there a way to strike a reasonable balance? What capacity do young children have for growth, and how can it be nurtured? What can parents do to ensure that their children will be successful?