Saturday, December 26, 2015

‘Commitment’ shouldn’t obligate children to stay in abusive friendships

A 2014 article by writer Amy Joyce for The Washington Post showed up this week in my Facebook feed. In it, Harvard psychologist Richard Weissbourd and his colleagues with the “Making Caring Common Project” offer five strategies to raise moral and caring children.

Among the recommendations, to “Make caring for others a priority,” children should be expected to honor their commitments, “even if it makes them unhappy.”

Weissbourd (or writer Joyce’s summary) offers the example that before quitting a team, band or friendship, children should be asked to consider their obligations to the group or friend. All well and good, but this blanket statement doesn’t offer any nuance about the treatment a child receives from a “friend” or group of individuals.

A child should not be pressured to stay in an abusive relationship out of obligation to the so-called “friend.”

I also wonder if perhaps we should make a clear distinction between working past temporary discouragement and forcing a child to remain in an activity that has proven to be a poor fit. If it isn’t just a short-term setback because an activity proves to be challenging, a child should be able to try an activity and be allowed to fail without penalty.

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