Helicopter parenting was one thing. It raised a generation of children who have historically high levels of anxiety, an inability to handle criticism or alternative ideas and that struggle to handle conflict.
A recent article by a member of Gen Z actually posits that employers are supposed to act as some kind of intermediary counselor. While there are cultural phenomena that could impact the behavior of Gen Z, such as social media, I assert there are other dynamics at play. Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff wrote an entire book about it called Coddling of the American Mind.
Consider this. There is actually a movement to advocate for “Free-range parenting”. This is the case for allowing parents to decide when their own child is mature and capable enough to allow their child to go to the park independently without fear of state intervention.
There is also actually a non-profit organization to counteract the detrimental effects of overprotective parenting. Called Let Grow they their mission on the website:
Treating today’s kids as physically and emotionally fragile is bad for their future – and ours. Let Grow counters the culture of overprotection. We aim to future-proof our kids, and our country.
Now, instead of heeding the warnings of Haidt and other social scientists who are sounding the alarm, it seems there is a continuing push to overprotect and over schedule our children. Almost always in adult-supervised environments where they do not learn to solve their own disputes or ever encounter obstacles they need to navigate.
Not only that, parents seem willing to abandon some basic functions to the state or technology. I’ll admit freely, my parenting style was an oddity. “Go outside and play” was often said to my four children. Especially after being cooped up in a classroom all day. They went and burned off their energy before dinner and did homework afterward. I raised my kids like I was raised. I wasn’t aware of the new rules.
I also limited screen time, did not allow a gaming system in the house until my youngest was 11 and gave them all “dumb phones” until they were in their late teens. I didn’t even know that was a good idea, it just seemed like the natural extension of my parents limiting the time I spent in front of “the boob tube”.
Yet today, this headline is floating around Twitter:
I get there are some indigent children that need this kind of support. But all children? Are you kidding me? Planning and packing a school lunch and helping mom make dozens of pancakes and egg sandwiches on a Sunday was how I taught my kids to make healthy choices and the basics of cooking. My husband and I both worked in busy professional positions, but the basic function of ensuring our children were provided nutritious food and basic kitchen skills was still our job.
None of this was hard. Packing lunch took 10 minutes in the evening. Preparing breakfasts they could pop in the microwave took an hour or two on the weekend. Now I have children ranging from their late teens to their late twenties that all appear to make relatively healthy choices about what to eat and are capable of feeding themselves in my absence. Yet basic cooking and life skill classes are actually an industry serving Millennials and Gen Z.
Then this floated through my newsfeed:
If you look closely, 25% of parents are using technology to read a bedtime story to their children. Because they are “busy”. Doing what is my question. You really don’t have ten minutes to help develop your child’s ability to recognize letters and begin to understand phonics? Listening to a story is not the same as turning the pages of a book. Did you also have Alexa tell them to brush their teeth before bed? Wash their face?
If you are so “busy” that you are not taking story time to bond, it is not just your children who are missing out. It is you. The bedtime story was ritual in my house. So much so that my younger children would crowd into my youngest’s room to listen and chat. At some point, they even took over the job of reading the story as we all spent a few minutes preparing for bed.
And that time mattered. This year there was a Mother’s day card on the kitchen table left by my youngest child before they went to work early in the morning. As I opened the card that popped up into a cardboard bouquet of flowers, I took note of the message handwritten in the card:
I love you to the moon and back Mom
I am not a crier, but that one got me. It is the last line of a board book loved by all of my kids when they were very young called Guess How Much I Love You. They remember, and that time means something in the mosaic of a parent-child relationship.
Put down the technology and buy a box of Bisquick. This is not hard and you are not too “busy”.