Ever since speaking with Garfield in Hong Kong, I have been doing my best to read each of our assigned books through the lens of “how does this impact my dissertation research” and then have tried to write a weekly essay on how the reading impacts my work. Some weeks I have done that well . . . others, not so much. But this week’s reading The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting up a Generation for Failure by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt didn’t merely impact the way I am collecting data for my research, but impacted the way I want to parent.
Not since reading Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods, have I reconsidered the style and intentionality of my parenting. Sure I want to love my children in as healthy, wholesome, and full a fashion as possible. And by the grace of God I am continually learning more and more about how best to do that.
Louv posits that time spent out of doors and immersed in nature is not only good for all people, but is especially imperative for the healthy formation of children. As an example, Louv writes of how formative experiences out of doors can build someone’s creative thinking and self-confidence. Adults reminiscing on camp experiences from their youth, that took place in nature, were able to “describe transcendent moments – and the importance of building self-confidence in situations of controlled risk.” I immediately thought of this section of Louv every time Lukianoff and Haidt remind the reader of “the books most important single piece of advice: Prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child.” The list they provide on how to go about doing this was not only fascinating to read, but also included this gem, “let your kids take more small risks” which, especially given the example of the authors children playing in an outdoor junkyard playground on an island in the middle of New York Harbor, echoes Louv’s focus on risk taking out of doors.
This “out of doors play and risk taking” concept certainly isn’t a concept that only these two books encourage. There is an entire school of French Painting called En Plein Air and the premise is that painting out doors in natural lighting allows a painter to best capture the natural essence of the object they are painting, and ultimately, improves the overall quality of their painting. This idea has been adopted by educational theorists and outdoor learning has become a central focus in the world of “Play Based Curriculum” schools, including the nursery school at the church I currently serve. Yes, this nature focus leads me to imagine what a church can look like that worships out of doors, that regularly meets and shares a meal outside. Or a church that perhaps spends an afternoon cheerfully picking up trash and litter along the shore of their local river, the river they are of course advocating municipal government to maintain and protect, or even (the scandal!) holds church meetings in a more natural out of door setting. But upon finishing Lukianoff and Haidt this week, I wasn’t thinking all that much about my research. Al I wanted to do was place my children and dogs in the car, pick up my wife at the train, and drive to the local park, so we could go on a nice hike in the great, risky, and sacred, out of doors.
 Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder (New York: Algonquin Books, 2008), 228.
 Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting up a Generation for Failure (New York: Penguin Press, 2018), 237.
 Lukianoff and Haidt, The Coddling of the American Mind, 238.
 “Let’s Play! Using Play-Based Curriculum to Support Children’s Learning throughout the Domains,” Early Childhood News, accessed, 5/16/19, http://www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_view.aspx?ArticleID=453%20.