Saturday, July 26, 2008

Helicopter parents 

The New York Times devotes some of its front page to a story about overbearing parents who torture summer camp administrators with their specific instructions, whiny demands for exceptionalism, and unreconstructed anxiety. This is an excellent use of that newspaper's valuable real estate. Anxious and controlling parents are as great a threat to this country's posterity as, say, climate change or Islamic terrorism. As the article makes painfully obvious, parents are teaching their children all the wrong lessons with their interventions, which include attempts to eliminate every discomfort, redress every injustice, and break any rule (such as the ban on cell phones) if it is an obstacle to intensive parent-child contact. These parents are teaching their children to be easily discomfited, hypersensitive in the defense of their own prerogatives, and disrespectful of rules, all traits that are opposite to those required to be a good citizen.

There is some good news in this, at least if you believe that social mobility is a good thing (and I certainly do). Most of these children are from affluent, highly-educated families. If by dint of their upbringing they turn out, on average, to be as dependent and petulant as is the likely consequence of this much parental intervention, they will not be successful and will be displaced in the upper quintile by the children whose parents actually taught them to be adults.


By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Sat Jul 26, 09:00:00 AM:

"If by dint of their upbringing they turn out, on average, to be as dependent and petulant as is the likely consequence of this much parental intervention, they will not be successful and will be displaced in the upper quintile by the children whose parents actually taught them to be adults."

This is the very expectation that guides the upbringing of my own son. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. In the land of the weak and whiny spoiled brats, the tough, ambitious go-getter is king.  

By Blogger Andrew X, at Sat Jul 26, 10:49:00 AM:

Hurrah! All hail the glorious results of post-60's, post-modern culture. Revel in the wonders of a society relentlessly driven to purge itself of anything and everything that might possibly be construed to cause "discomfort" to anyone, down to the snail-darters. Worship the Wise Ones who told us "never trust anyone over thirty", and "everything your parents / teachers taught you is wrong". (And then go have and raise kids yourself.) Enjoy the fruits of the ideal that "Anything less than desirable that happens is not YOUR fault, but most certainly IS the fault of someone else (usually an "Old-Schooler" of some sort) who can be faulted, sued, or browbeaten into submission to the post-modern religion, a religion that can do no wrong because "We feel good about it, ergo it is wonderful."

And society will be just fine. No worries, mate.

(Just make sure you squash ruthlessly anyone who might tell you otherwise.)

Here endeth today's sermon from the podium.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Jul 26, 05:52:00 PM:

I would be endlessly entertained by the seemingly innate rightie inclination to respond to at least half of all topics with "ZOMG SIXTIES ROFLAWL!" if it didn't make me really, really sad. Are there shortsighted and naive practitioners of given philosophy X? Yes, for all X. If you want to attack the philosophical backing for educational policies that care about self-esteem, (in something resembling an intellectually honest and policy-focused way, rather than the standard assailing of hippies,) be sure to address the following:

Perceived low self-worth is historically a major indicator and contributing factor to low scholastic performance, socially detrimental behaviors, (petty crime, antisocial behaviors, and such) and suicide, all of which the state has an interest in minimizing.

Tens of thousands of US teens commit suicide every year, and is the third leading cause of death among 15-19s while homicide and accidental death are 2nd and 1st, respectively.

Perception of capacity to achieve is a crucial first element in actually doing so, as detailed in the recent WSJ article on male/female scholastic performance in high school.

If you have meaningful and/or interesting policy or philosophical points to make, please do. And if druu doesn't then I'll be left to assume in light of this.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Jul 26, 07:35:00 PM:

As someone from Hungary, who lived in the US in the 90s, I would like to point out another monumental parental failure I saw in the US.

People (at least men) in the US generally don't wash their hands after toilet use, and not only after peeing... Back in Hungary, men always greet each other with handshake. I am not surprised that this is not a habit in the US.

For me, this is somewhere a gigantic parental/cultural failure. I am astonished when I see posters on walls (for example in Denny's) on how to wash your hands. Didn't you guys learn it from your mothers?


By Blogger Donna B., at Sat Jul 26, 08:37:00 PM:

Anonymous at 5:52:

Are you suggesting that helicopter parenting increases self-esteem?

How could it when it prevents the child from building any and the resulting void is filled with mere "perceptions"?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Jul 26, 08:46:00 PM:

You forgot to mention that the pricetag of the profiled camp is $10K. For. Summer. Camp.

So, while the headline reads "Dear Parents: Please Relax, It's Just Camp," perhaps a camp like this has brought this on itself by charging enough per "camper" to actually HIRE A "PARENT LIAISON."

If you build it, they will come.

My summer sleep-away camp many years ago had exactly one phone in the office. And no answering machine.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Jul 26, 08:55:00 PM:

@ donna b:

I thought the sixties reference pretty clearly targeted druu's "sermon" (which I encounter more frequently than I would like. I do recognize the potential for ambiguity, though.  

By Blogger camilla the chicken, at Sun Jul 27, 12:54:00 AM:

Donna B.:

think there's a tendency to confuse "self-esteem" with "self-respect."  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 27, 09:10:00 AM:

Regarding the claim that "tens of thousands of U. S. teens commit suicide every year", per CDC figures from 2005 (latest year available), the actual number of U. S. teen suicides was 1,809.


The commenter was talking about some "innate rightie inclination" and the "standard assailing of hippies"; I just wanted to point out an exagerration. In an "intellectually honest way".  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 27, 10:23:00 AM:

I pulled that number from here:
http://www.familyfirstaid.org/suicide.html, and I (mistakenly) took the "total" number provided to speak to the "teen suicide" header, whereas they pulled the actual total across all age demographics. Thank you for the clarification.  

By Blogger David Foster, at Sun Jul 27, 10:52:00 AM:

anon..."Perceived low self-worth is historically a major indicator and contributing factor to low scholastic performance, socially detrimental behaviors." Really?

"From the 200-plus studies they analyzed, the APS group found no evidence that boosting self-esteem (by therapeutic interventions or school programs) results in better job performance, lowered aggression or reduced delinquency. And "high self-esteem does not prevent children from smoking, drinking, taking drugs, or engaging in early sex.." link

An extensive collection of post/links on this topic at my Superheated 'Steem Thread.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 27, 11:59:00 AM:

@ David: The studies I had read (and admittedly, this is dipping deep, way back into my time as a psych major,) were looking to demonstrate a linkage, not evaluate a particular solution, so it would seem at first reading that the quotation you provide repudiates one means of addressing the issue but not the contention itself.

As for drinking, smoking, drugs, and sex; I think (based on no evidence other than personal experience) that those behaviors are much harder to quash, and demand more attentive parenting than is presently common. Particularly, preventing those acts would involve more face time and less babysitting via TV.

I'll chew on your link, but here's one to validate the "how you present education and testing really does matter" principle:

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 27, 12:11:00 PM:

Anonymous 7:35... "People (at least men) in the US generally don't wash their hands after toilet use, and not only after peeing..."

Reminds me of one of my favorite jokes. A Harvard man and a Yalie are standing at a urinal. The Harvard man zips up and begins to walk away. Shocked, the Yalie declares, "You know, at Yale, they taught us to wash our hands after we pee." "Really?" the Harvard man responds, "At Harvard, they taught us not to pee on our hands."  

By Blogger Andrew X, at Sun Jul 27, 04:51:00 PM:

Anon, here is my point in my “sermon” about the 60’s and Helicopter parenting. I may be repeating.

Essentially, I attack the ideals of the sixties, such as they are, mainly because of an extraordinary, even mind-boggling, arrogance that runs through such ideals down to its DNA. In what way can it not be said that the typical sixties activist did NOT assume that his/her wisdom on race, on the Vietnam War, on the culture, on politics, on sex, far exceeded the “pathetic narrow-mindedness and ignorance” of virtually all their predecessors, and I mean hundreds of years of them. And while it seems on the surface they were right, look a little closer. About 5 million dead and exiled Vietnamese and Cambodians might question such “wisdom” on the war. (that exact same dismissal of the consequences that losing in Iraq will have on Iraqis exists in today’s left.) The FIFTIES gave us the civil rights movement and MLK, the post-mod Sixties gave us Malcolm X and the Black Panthers. The effect of Sixties ethics on families, culture, women and sexuality is ripe for at least a hard look, if nothing else, with an eye toward revision.

So it is this, “we must we must we must relentlessly make the world a more wonderful place for puppies and children” even when that may not actually be happening, is, in the end, really about making the people doing it feel better about themselves, and NOT about the “puppies and children”, if you will, that is so aggravating.

Are these helicopter parents REALLY and truly acting in the interests of their child? Just how much of each phone call to the camp is about the parent themselves, raised in this milieu of smoothing out every rough edge, protecting from every single “bad thing”, purging any source of discomfort from little Jimmy’s life because it is in a sense their new post-Christian morality. It is what they “do unto others”.

But its results are decidedly mixed at very best, and I and many others are arguing that it actually is creating worse people. The “New Western Man” is anything but. He’s a pathetic whiner, entitled to everything under the sun, to go through life unchallenged and unoffended, and that is exactly what these parents are and what they are turning their children into, thus causing the terrible pathologies spelled out in Diana West’s terrific book, “The Death of the Grown-Up”.

Forgive the length, I was personally challenged, so I responded. Maybe I should put it more pithy:

Hey kid, shut and stop whining. Hey, Mom and Dad…. Shut up and stop whining, and maybe your kid will too.

And “Empowerment though whining how everyone else is oppressing me” is a decidedly Sixties ideal. Hence the sermon.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Jul 30, 02:05:00 PM:

If there's actually something wrong with the camp, I support the parents confronting them on it. A lot of camps and daycares and so forth are run by idiots. Time-wasting, child-endangering idiots.

On the other hand, I don't believe in babying the kids.

That's why I'm homeschooling my kids. I don't want them to waste hours of their days in classes run by stupid people who can't plan, or allow obnoxious kids to delay the class. I don't want them to be babied, and not allowed to do interesting science experiments, play tag, make weaponry out of plumbing supplies, and climb trees.

Who wants to bet the kids are suicidal because they're trapped in school all day and treated like babies? :P

Kids these days seem to be treated like they're all the same between 4 and 18. That 18 year olds can't have responsibility, but 4 year olds should sit still all day and quietly write their lessons. It's insane.  

By Blogger Unknown, at Thu Jul 31, 10:18:00 AM:

"Perceived low self-worth is historically a major indicator and contributing factor to low scholastic performance, socially detrimental behaviors, (petty crime, antisocial behaviors, and such) and suicide, all of which the state has an interest in minimizing."

There is no research that shows any correlation between so-called "self-worth" and scholastic performance. There is, however, research that demonstrates that criminals have higher self-esteem than the law abiding.

The difference between self-esteem and self-respect is that the former is insubstantial and merely how you "feel" about yourself. The latter is based upon what you have accomplished.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Jan 10, 09:01:00 AM:



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