Bad News, Overprotective Parents: You're Really Messing Up Your Kids
According to Psychology Today, anyways. They recently published an article called “A Nation of Wimps”, which is worth a read if you’ve ever wondered if you’re raising a mini-ball of anxiety and neuroticism. Welp. If you’re sending them to school with a CamelBak full of hand sanitizer and giving them a medal every time they fart, you just might be. I feel like this overprotective bulls**t started with our generation and just got worse.
You know that awful roommate you had in college who always left dishes in the sink, piles of towels on the floor of the bathroom and turned the living room into a graveyard for fast food containers? That would be a product of the type of parenting we’re talking about here. On a related note, if you’re spending all your time bitching about cleaning up after your kids, here’s a novel thought: kick them in the ass until they learn that nobody is accountable for their existence other than themselves.
The scary thing is, though, raising a sh**ty roommate is the least of your worries. Buying into the notion of juvenile frailty and religiously hovering over your children at the playground is seriously doing more damage than you might think. Fact of the matter is – kids need to fail. They need to feel bad sometimes and I totally get that, as a parent, you want your little muffin to see the world through smiley-face glasses, but giving them a skewed perception of the real world isn’t helping them in the long run. It’s making them into prescription popping young adults with a mess of psychological issues like anxiety and depression. They’re kept in this bubble created by their parents, meant to protect them in their youth, without considering what’s going to happen when they get to college and realize that they’re no special snowflake and the world ain’t doing them any favors just for showing up. And here’s what happens: 15% of college students suffer from depression, according to The University of Michigan Depression Center. That’s pretty insane, when you think about how much time a lot of these kids have spent being over-monitored and sheltered from all the horrors of adulthood…only to get a big ol’ kick in the butt by the biggest bitch I know: life.
Take. A step. BACK. You’re damaging your child’s damn brain. Literally. What them young churrins need the most is the chance to be stressed, to be scared, to be unsure of what’s going to happen next. They need to learn to adapt and grow and most importantly, they need to realize that while something might suck a whole hell of a lot, it’s not going to kill them. They need the opportunity to develop the tough skin that will get them through the black hole of awfulness that is adulthood. Do you want a fierce, self-actualized, confident kid or a floundering, mess of insecurity and self-doubt? Yeah, that’s what I thought. So CHILL with the texting every hour, calling each night, solving every problem and kissing every booboo. For your child’s sake and well, frankly, for the sake of the rest of humanity that will have to put up with their whiny bulls**t long after you’re gone. Let them fall, break bones, cry, scream, learn how to fight back, make sense of the world on their own terms and just let them be children.
I grew up with a curfew, not a cell phone. My mom used to give me this Mickey Mouse watch, and honey, when that big hand was in between that mouse’s legs, my ass had better be home or my mom would firmly insert her foot into it. And you know what? I f***ed up. A lot. I made so many mistakes as a teen that I literally cringe and cover my face when my stupid brain decides to remind me of them (usually in the middle of a completely unrelated task). But I thank my mom for letting me make those mistakes.
I remember the first time I came home, blackout drunk, at midnight. I must have been 15, tops. My parents were in the basement and I slunk upstairs, hoping to go to my room unnoticed. Except I couldn’t quite make it to my room without puking my guts up all over the guest bathroom. I’m talkin’ so much vomit, the shag rug turned into a swamp. I don’t even remember anything after that. I woke up the next day with barf all over me…in my hair, in my eyelashes, in my armpits. I looked and felt disgusting. Baby’s first hangover. The only thing my mom said to me that morning was, “You jackass. I hope it was worth it. Go clean up the bathroom.” To this day, I honestly have never been that hammered. When I turned 19 (I’m Canadian, that’s our legal drinking age), drinking a bunch of vodka on a Thursday night was kinda old hat to me. I didn’t care to go buckwild at the campus bars every night of the week during college, because I’d already dipped my toes into the binge-drinking pool and it wasn’t THAT exciting for me. My parents kept my leash loose enough for me to do my own exploring and experimenting and figure out what I wanted out of life, instead of what they wanted for me. They trusted me to come out alright on the other side.
Now, before you call me insensitive, let me just say that I get it. I get that you want to protect your baby from haters and failure and whatever else stands in the way of the perfect life you imagine for them. It’s okay. You can worry, you can help them – it’s all part of the parenting process. I think that social historian Peter Stearns of George Mason University sums up my point in this quote taken from the aforementioned Psychology Today piece:
So relax the grip a little, you guys. Don’t stress so much that you lose all the fun of being a parent. Happy parents = happy kids. A skinned knee ain’t the end of the world and if they need a hug, hug those little monkeys ’til they burst. But let’s stop writing term papers for them and wiping their bootyholes well into adulthood. Mmkay? Mmkay.