Guess how we are screwing up our kids now? At The Atlantic, therapist Lori Gottlieb writes that many parents are being too nice, too attentive and too encouraging to their children and it’s screwing up the kids.
Happiness as a byproduct of living your life is a great thing,” Barry Schwartz, a professor of social theory at Swarthmore College, told me. “But happiness as a goal is a recipe for disaster.” It’s precisely this goal, though, that many modern parents focus on obsessively—only to see it backfire. Observing this phenomenon, my colleagues and I began to wonder: Could it be that by protecting our kids from unhappiness as children, we’re depriving them of happiness as adults?
Paul Bohn, a psychiatrist at UCLA who came to speak at my clinic, says the answer may be yes. Based on what he sees in his practice, Bohn believes many parents will do anything to avoid having their kids experience even mild discomfort, anxiety, or disappointment—“anything less than pleasant,” as he puts it—with the result that when, as adults, they experience the normal frustrations of life, they think something must be terribly wrong.
Child psychologist Dan Kindlon describes this as our “discomfort with discomfort.” He compares childhood emotional health to the immune system: “You have to be exposed to pathogens, or your body won’t know how to respond to an attack.” Psychologist Wendy Mogel describes these fragile children as teacups, because they easily crack and crumble in the real world–because that is the way they were raised by their over-eager and over-protective parents. Kindlen suggest that long-working hours of parents exacerbate the problem, because the parents don’t want to “ruin” their kids by being hard on them during the limited time they get to spend with their kids.
What about the “need” for self-esteem?
According to [psychologist Jean Twenge], indicators of self-esteem have risen consistently since the 1980s among middle-school, high-school, and college students. But, she says, what starts off as healthy self-esteem can quickly morph into an inflated view of oneself—a self-absorption and sense of entitlement that looks a lot like narcissism. In fact, rates of narcissism among college students have increased right along with self-esteem.
Check out the entire well-written and thoughtful article. As you might suspect, I am highly sympathetic with many of these findings/arguments. Reading them, I am reminded of my favorite critic of helicopter parenting: Lenore Skenazy. And see here.
Category: Psychology Cognition