By: Dyan Eybergen RN
As the proverbial pendulum swings, so does that of recommended parenting styles. We have been through the age of the disciplinarian model; turn 360 degrees and a child-centered approach focusing on attachment was the flavour of a decade; only to have the next generation of parents revert back to a more contemporary parent-lead philosophy. And every 10 years or so, the pendulum swings back and forth between the spectrum. However, out of the New Modern World of technology, ever-increasing single-parent families and an era for non-competitive sports where every kid gets a trophy just for showing up, there emerges a new parenting paradigm – one that has rendered many of today’s twenty-something’s narcissistic and incapable of living a “happy” life.
Atlantic Magazine , August 2011, published a piece by Lori Gottlieb entitled “How to Land your Kid in Therapy” that argued that too many parents are over-parenting – hovering over their children like helicopters – and in effect, setting children up to fail. Even NBC’s Saturday Night Live jumped on the bandwagon satirizing the over-indulging parent in a skit titled “You Can do Anything”, starring Daniel Radcliffe (course language advised). The comedy troop showers untalented, overly confident guests with undeserved praise promising them all “best guest” awards.
What we want for our children is for them to be happy—of course—but at what cost? What we envisioned as building a healthy self-esteem has mutated into a generation who has over-exaggerated views of who they are and what they are capable of. We showered children with praise, rescued them from failure and told them they had the world on a string. With a grandiose sense of entitlement, many young adults today have come to expect preferential treatment. They have never learned to cope with uncomfortable feelings or painful emotions because well-meaning parents have protected them from ever feeling unhappy. Children, who have never been allowed to make mistakes, learn from them and take risks, develop little to no coping skills to deal with life’s frustrations. The slightest amount of corrective feedback has the potential to spark reactions that manifest in anxiety or depression.
So in our pursuit to make our children happy, we have deprived them of the essential skills that have been found to procure happiness. Research shows that predictors of life fulfillment and success are based on strong character capabilities such as empathy, self-regulation and an internal drive to commit to a task. When we rescue our children from disappointment, we fail to teach them resiliency and perseverance.