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Letter: Letting go, within limits, is best path

This is a first-grade classroom at Branch Brook

This is a first-grade classroom at Branch Brook Elementary School in Smithtown at the end of the day Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2011. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Columnist Anne Michaud hits the nail on the head in that we have the potential to learn more from our failures than from our successes [“Freedom to fail is freedom to learn,” Opinion, Dec. 17]. The Jessica Lahey book that was cited, “The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed,” also illuminates the unfortunate downside of over-supervision.

Particularly in the suburbs, today’s kids are overly supervised. They participate in structured sports, are driven to and from friends’ homes, etc. When I grew up in Brooklyn, it was another world. We grew up fast, with multiple benefits.

Our parents were too preoccupied to plan and monitor every after-school and weekend move, so we learned to do it ourselves: relating and interacting with many diverse friends in the neighborhood school yard, walking to and taking out books from the local library to read on a park bench, playing sewer stickball — not a good idea, especially when my mother almost killed me for placing my new jacket on a parked car which drove away.

It was a rude awakening during my 45-year public school teaching career to discover that many of the most confused and and worst-behaved students came from ultra-stict homes. Their upbringing left them clearly deficient in common sense, self discipline and the ability to think on their own. This was compounded by distrust and resentment towards adults as a cumulative result of being ordered about and told what to do for years.

Kids cannot learn to think if we do all the thinking for them. Letting go, within limits, is the way to go.

Fred Barnett

Lake Grove