Nowadays, it may feel like kids need more help than ever to succeed in life. But is it children who have changed, or parents? In her book, A Nation of Wimps: The High Cost of Invasive Parenting, Hara Estroff Marano points a finger directly at the kind of parents who see no boundary between their child’s life and their own. They’ll do anything to make sure their kids get ahead. And the results can be disastrous.
But wait! It’s important when reading this book to remember that Marano is focusing on the extreme fringe of the recent trend in “helicopter parenting” – the kind of parents who would call a professor on behalf of their college-aged child, or who get a doctor’s note so their perfectly healthy kid can take the SAT without a time limit.
The sad irony is that these parents are taking away exactly the kind of experiences that prepare children for adulthood. Marano’s book is chock full of information and studies that show the negative effects of taking away an adolescent’s freedom to make her own decisions and mistakes. She speaks with college officials about the rising numbers of young adults who turn to binge drinking, cutting, and prescription medication (not necessarily their own), to take the edge off their anxiety.
This study of extremes can serve as a warning to parents who are tempted to do too much for their children. A child’s life should be influenced by a myriad events, people, and emotions. If you have multiple children, you know first-hand that kids are born with individual temperaments and interests. Those personalities react differently to the ups and downs of childhood. But if parents smooth out the bumps for them, children can’t develop that all-important sense of self-efficacy – the certainty that whatever comes up in life, they can handle it. It’s the best gift you can give your child.