Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Nation of Wimps

Parents are going to ridiculous lengths to make life's journey smooth and easy for their children.  This hyperconcern and micromanaging has devastating effects on kids by making them more fragile and can be the reason for more kids breaking down in record setting numbers.

Even play-time at the park is changing.  More and more, parents are on the all-rubber-cushioned playground right there with their kids.  Few are taking it easy on the benches, as parents used to, letting the kids figure things out for themselves.

Childhood has become overly sanitized, and abhors skinned knees and the occasional C in math class.  Making mistakes, even on the playground, is completely out of style.  Error and experimentation are foundation of success; however, parents are determined to remove failure of any kind from their child's life.  This tends to make them risk-averse and psychologically fragile.  Young kids with severe anxiety are becoming more and more prevalent in elementary schools.  We learn from all experiences, whether good or bad, and it is through failure that we learn to cope.  Children are even sheltered from death and are instead told that their favorite pet 'ran away'.  With few challenges of their own, children are robbed of meaning and a sense of accomplishment.  Whether we realize it or not, we are creating a nation of wimps.

Kids aren't getting the benefits out of childhood that they once did.  Coaches tell them what position to play and where to stand, parents tell them what to eat and wear, and referees tell them who won and what is fair.  Kids are missing out on learning important leadership and problem solving skills.  True play encourages decision making, memory and thinking and it creates an ideal environment for children to develop social skills. These are all being stripped out of a child's play time as parents strive to make sure their child is the best.

Parents are naturally concerned about their children having high self-esteem, and there is nothing wrong with that.  But when it comes to the point when parents are willing to cheat on their child’s behalf to get them ahead of their peers, they have gone too far.  By doing things to make your child 'better' than his friends, you have just told him that he couldn't have done it on his own and shattered any sense of self.  The child begins to believe that if they need to cut corners and take every advantage they can get, then maybe there is something wrong with them.

The fragility factor is easily seen on college campuses across the country.  Psychological distress is quickly increasing; appearing in the forms of anxiety and depression, for example.  Parents are forced to let go of the hand of their adult child when they move out and go to college, but that doesn't stop parents from holding on until the very last good-bye in the student’s new room.  Many parents even go as far as to submit applications for college and scholarships for their teenagers, believe that anything lower than a B is unacceptable (even though a C is average) and believe that any form of failure is a reflection of their parenting.  College students are suddenly thrown into complete independence and are forced to do things they are not prepared for.  I had a roommate who had never down laundry or cleaned a bathroom before because her mom always took care of that.  Even after their child has left the house, parents still look for ways to ease their child's life.  A college administrator told me once about parents who call to protest their student's C in science class because it will damage his shot at grad school.  Well guess what, it was the student's fault and he more than likely earned that grade.

This brings me to the alarming revolution of grade inflation.  The bar is being lowered in order to provide students with success.  In my high school, they no longer had a valedictorian at graduation because of the increasing number of students graduating with 4.0 GPAs.  Many of these students were the ones who took the 'easy A' classes and not the ones who enrolled in multiple AP classes, rarely missed a class, and completed all homework on time.  One of those students should receive the honor of being named valedictorian, but because society promotes equality, it would be ludicrous to give that honor to only one person which would suggest that person was 'better' than the rest of the class.

The sheltered life of home has no physical boundaries.  College students are constantly talking to parents through phone calls, texting and Facebook.  When a problem arises and the student needs to make a decision, they immediately consult mom and dad instead of figuring things out for themselves.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with phone calls to parents, in fact I actually encourage it, but when the sole purpose of the phone call is to ask whether going to the lake for the weekend would be a good idea or not, that seems a little excessive.  Perhaps calling afterwards to relate the events of the weekend would be more appropriate.  Students are now adults and making simple decisions are part of the adult life they agreed to when they moved out.

Parents need to realize that although they mean well, their actions can create devastating effects on their child. 

What do you think?  Is our nation raising wimpy children?

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