An article from Psychology Today, entitled A Nation of Wimps is making the rounds on several social media sites and being a new parent, I figured it was worth reading to understand the reasoning behind the title. The article, which was originally written in 2004, certainly makes some valid points regarding the social effects on children of anxious and overbearing parents. The author describes a situation in which a 13-year-old child is (wrongfully) given a “diagnosis” of having difficulties with Gestalt or “big picture” thinking and as a result is given unlimited time during tests, including the SATs. When you read and hear stories like the one above, you start to wonder the lengths some parents are willing to go in order to make school/life a little easier for their child and really, at what cost? On one hand, as a new parent, I think I would do almost anything to help my child succeed. However, at a certain point you have to ask, when do we cross the line and actually hinder our child’s ability to find success or failure? If you are always there to catch your child BEFORE he or she falls, what will they do when you’re not around? The article argues this overprotective mindset is exactly why depression and suicide rates in high school and college students have increased significantly over the last few decades – we’ve improperly prepared our children for the real world.
I understand the overall argument of the article and would like to think that I know the difference between parenting and over-parenting, but it’s honestly too early for me to know exactly how I would react given the circumstance. With that said, the one major issue I take with the article is found in the following paragraph:
“There is in these studies a lesson for all parents. Those who allow their kids to find a way to deal with life’s day-to-day stresses by themselves are helping them develop resilience and coping strategies. “Children need to be gently encouraged to take risks and learn that nothing terrible happens,” says Michael Liebowitz, clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and head of the Anxiety Disorders Clinic at New York State Psychiatric Institute. “They need gradual exposure to find that the world is not dangerous. Having overprotective parents is a risk factor for anxiety disorders because children do not have opportunities to master their innate shyness and become more comfortable in the world.” They never learn to dampen the pathways from perception to alarm reaction.”
I know this article was written in 2004, so it is a little outdated, but a lot in this world changed the day 26 people were killed at an elementary school in Newtown, CT. I agree in some sense with what the author is trying to say, but I just can’t stomach the “world is not dangerous” part because that’s just not true! At the end of the day, we all love our children and want to see them healthy, happy and successful in life. I think the real struggle occurs as we strive to find the balance between protecting our children from harm, while also protecting their innocence.
What do you think new Moms, are we just creating a new generation of wimps?