Nation of Wimps, IV

Hara Estroff Marano’s “Nation of Wimps” (Psychology Today, 2004) . . . which expands upon the perils of helicopter parents. . . continues to resonate for me on several fronts. The article does take to task over-zealous parents.

As the new school year begins, I am reminded how some parents may feel like they have to intervene on their child’s behalf. It has to do with relationships. Education is the rare bird where the majority of relationships are between adults and children of all ages.

If we are not vigilant about treating all students fairly, efficiently, and consistently . . . Katie, bar the door! Here come the parents—and rightly so.

This morning in Pajamas Media, I read “Meet the Parents: Part II.” It is about the middle class helicopters.

Piano lessons, tutoring, art classes and vacations to Europe can all be very enriching. But they become nothing more than highlights on a resume when they are forced upon a child whose life is completely controlled and scheduled. Moreover, we all know that wherever there’s a child with no free time, there’s often a parent who is intent on making sure that child eventually gets into an Ivy League college.

Add this to the mix of “competitive birthing” and the 16-yr old who married her teacher and is now suing her parents to reclaim her PlayStation — and we can see the recipe for 21C change is smacking us in the face.

More gleanings from “Nation of Wimps”:

  • Being examined all the time makes children extremely self-conscious. As a result they get less communicative; scrutiny teaches them to bury their real feelings deeply. And most of all, self-consciousness removes the safety to be experimental and playful.
  • He sees young people becoming weaker right before his eyes, more responsive to the herd, too eager to fit in — less assertive in the classroom, unwilling to disagree with their peers, afraid to question authority, more willing to conform to the expectations of those on the next rung of power above them.
  • They’re taking longer to grow up. There is, instead, a growing no-man’s-land of postadolescence from 20 to 30, which they dub “early adulthood.”
  • Take away play from the front end of development and it finds a way onto the back end.
  • The less time children spend in free play, the less socially competent they’ll be as adults. It’s in play that we learn give and take, the fundamental rhythm of all relationships. We learn how to read the feelings of others and how to negotiate conflicts.
  • In buying their children accommodations to assuage their own anxiety, parents are actually locking their kids into fragility.
  • Sooner or later, he says, most kids will be forced to confront their own mediocrity.

To which I will conclude this four-part series with a “relationship” pearl I picked up at yesterday’s coaches workshop: “They don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”


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