Creating a Nation of Wimps

Posted on July 24, 2007  Comments (6)

I certainly don’t know if this is true, or the even the consensus of the scientific thought today, but it happens to feel right to me. Not exactly a scientific conclusion but there you go. From, Psychology Today says, A Nation of Wimps:

Parents are going to ludicrous lengths to take the bumps out of life for their children. However, parental hyperconcern has the net effect of making kids more fragile; that may be why they’re breaking down in record numbers.

In his now-famous studies of how children’s temperaments play out, Harvard psychologist Jerome Kagan has shown unequivocally that what creates anxious children is parents hovering and protecting them from stressful experiences. About 20 percent of babies are born with a high-strung temperament. They can be spotted even in the womb; they have fast heartbeats. Their nervous systems are innately programmed to be overexcitable in response to stimulation, constantly sending out false alarms about what is dangerous.

As infants and children this group experiences stress in situations most kids find unthreatening, and they may go through childhood and even adulthood fearful of unfamiliar people and events, withdrawn and shy. At school age they become cautious, quiet and introverted. Left to their own devices they grow up shrinking from social encounters. They lack confidence around others. They’re easily influenced by others. They are sitting ducks for bullies. And they are on the path to depression.

Well for whatever it is worth I think the article is interesting (I am not exactly sure about the introversion part that doesn’t seem to have a strong ring of truth but I do think it is better to experience real failure and overcome it than be too sheltered and without that you don’t learn confidence you just are kept from having to feel discomfort as long as the adults protect you…) even if it is just because it attacks something I find a bit annoying the increasing tendency to act like mistakes are not mistakes, failure to achieve an objective doesn’t matter, kids should not be challenged… I don’t think coddling is a good way to create confident people that function well in the world.

People need to learn that things often don’t work the way you might think or hope, things are not fair, things can hurt you, you can loose things you care about, if you make a decision you have to live with the consequences… It is not that hard to understand these things. Kids might well prefer to just be handed everything they want without an risk or effort on their part. But I believe they will learn how to cope and take pride in actually doing good stuff. Which will work much better than trying to convince them they should take pride in something even they can probably tell is fake, coddling. Of course I don’t have any kids either so my opinions are not only not put into practice by me. Oh well go read the article if you are interested.

Related: 5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids do

6 Responses to “Creating a Nation of Wimps”

  1. Stephen Cronin
    July 25th, 2007 @ 5:44 am

    I agree with everything you say. These days we tend to overprotect our children and I think this limits their growth. Children have to be given some freedom to try things, take risks, make mistakes, learn from them, etc.

    Many of the things I got up to when I was a kid (I’m 36) just wouldn’t be allowed these days, because parents are protecting their children from the big bad world, but these things helped me become more capable and confident.

  2. Annie Maloney
    May 25th, 2008 @ 3:20 pm

    I will second the motion! i know that I am commenting pretty late, but I couldn’t resist given the circumstances….my kids. There are many things that I did, was allowed to do, whenI was a child that I do not let me kids do. I find myself restricting them because of things that are beyond my control. Mine are at a point where they are wanting to gain some freedom and venture off and its hard to let them go and trust that they will make the irght decisions as they are faced with different situations. I guess that is why it is called trust and faith.

  3. Jacob
    June 14th, 2008 @ 3:13 pm

    Oh this is the story of my life. Overprotective mother who just didn’t want her kids to stub their toes, fall off their bike, or get their hearts broken.

    When will parents learn that overprotecting their children is just a recipe for anxiety, stress, and emotional malfunctions in later life.

    Learning to except the uncertainty and not setting an example of fear and loathing, parents are doing their kids a great favor.

  4. Curious Cat: Kids Need Adventurous Play
    August 3rd, 2008 @ 9:11 pm

    “As children, 70% of adults enjoyed most of their adventures in natural outdoor environments. This compares with only 29% of children today…”

  5. annakat
    August 25th, 2008 @ 12:03 pm

    I have 3 children all grown now. Come from a family of 6 children. From the time children are born you teach them to live without you. All my children had an alarm clock the 1st day of school, knew how to get up, dress themselves, and by the 3rd grade could get their cereal. No one could love their children more than I love mine, but true unselfconscious love means teaching them to survive without you.

  6. 5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids do » Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog
    August 4th, 2011 @ 4:46 am

    It is not necessarily the safest thing to try and eliminate all risks. Kids can learn to be safer when they work on not entirely safe things with parents or others that can teach them how to do so safely…

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