Parents: let your kids find their own way in childhood. Let them be disappointed. Make them strong and confident by letting them do things, not by telling them they are special snowflakes. The real threat to America is not Trump; it’s the past several decades of helicopter parenting that turns out 20-year-old spoiled, fearful children.
For the record: I am disgusted that our choices this election came down to… to… them. I’m not happy that we have ended up with Trump as our next President, but I would have been equally unhappy with Clinton, just for different and equally valid reasons. What worries me far more than a President Trump… or a President Clinton… is the goddamn infantile, helpless, whiny reaction from so many of our young and not-so-young adults. Adults!! There have been unflattering, but accurate, comparisons between the 18-year-olds who stormed the beaches of Normandy in 1944, and the dang wusses who tweet that they are “literally shaking” and “so scared” and “crying” following this election. Well, that’s valid. Our nation’s college kids strike me as extraordinarily fragile, weak, incapable and unprepared for real life.
I utterly reject the Pussification of America, enabled by parents and continued by our supposedly best universities. Much has been written about major universities setting up “cry-ins,” providing play rooms for their poor adult students who cannot cope, or deferring exams due to the “trauma” of it all. How can this be? Don’t these universities have enormous rejection rates for their applicants? Can’t they just say “Suck it up, there are thousands of applicants happy to take your place”? It’s what I would say, right after a major eye-roll.
We are supposed to be ready for full adulthood upon graduation from high school. Instead, our best universities now act like nurseries for weak-minded, simpering crybabies. We are doomed.
There is a dangerous – yes, dangerous – and growing tendency to insulate college students from the least bit of stress, controversy, mental discomfort, or any other experience that might be more difficult than cuddling in their mothers’ wombs. Or, more accurately, to allow college students to insulate themselves, hiding out in playrooms and clutching children’s toys to evade any contact with this thing called real life.
I said that this is a dangerous trend, and it is. These students might be competent in their academic subject matter, but they are not competent at something far more important: real life. The headlines are filled with stories of “failure to launch,” “boomerang kids,” and adolescence extending into our 30s and beyond. These people are supposed to be building our economy, running the country, they are supposed to be the future of America. How will they hold jobs, build businesses, own property or raise their own families, if they are coddled, accommodated, living in their childhood bedrooms, and afraid to face a world that – surprise, surprise – doesn’t put up with their crap?
If our universities can’t turn out well-prepared adults, then maybe they should no longer be our source of professionals. Maybe we should turn to apprenticeships and on-the-job training. Give me a confident, honest, and reasonably intelligent job applicant with a decent work ethic, and I can train him to do the job. A fully trained, degree-carrying professional clutching a teddy bear and sucking his thumb is only a liability, and no use whatsoever to an employer.
How did we get this way? There has been a trend for far too long of ever-increasing helicopter parenting, zero tolerance for free range kids (see Lenore Skenazy’s excellent blog in this topic), a complete failure to accurately assess risk, and overblown hyperbole concerning events that were once commonplace and easily handled. I fear that the first generation of kids who were raised in a sheet of bubble-wrap and failed to develop any common sense are now raising the next generation, and with disastrous results. Even if a parent wants to let their kids stretch their wings by walking a block to the corner store, meddling neighbors more often than not call the police over the “danger.” We have been here before, when we explored the effects of over-parenting and mollycoddling:
Indeed, we are seeing an increase in generalized, vague but ubiquitous fear among our population. I have noted before that it seems we have no risk-assessment abilities anymore; we are unreasonably afraid of too many things. Pedophiles lurk on every corner. Schools are locked down for a toy Nerf gun… or a conversation about a toy Nerf gun. We sacrifice our Constitutional rights with little outcry in the face of “terrorism” (I cannot imagine WWII vets in their prime putting up with the ongoing 21st-century Orwellian assault on our liberties in the name of “security.”). This – sorry, but I can’t stand it – this pussification of America, too, may arise in part from a population that has had too little self-directed play for too many generations now:
“Researchers have raised young monkeys and rats in ways such that they are allowed other types of social interactions but are deprived of play. When these animals are tested, in young adulthood, they are emotional cripples. When placed in a moderately frightening environment, they overreact with fear. They panic and freeze in a corner and never explore the environment and overcome the fear as a normal monkey or rat would. When placed with an unfamiliar peer, they may alternate between panic and inappropriate, ineffective aggression. They are incapable of making friends.
“Some people object, on moral grounds, to experiments in which young animals are deprived of play. What a cruel thing to do. But consider this: over the past 50 to 60 years, we have been continuously decreasing the opportunities for our own children to play.”
– Peter Gray, “Give Childhood Back to Children“
So here’s Lila’s prescription to counter the Pussification of America:
1) Parents and teachers: expect more of your kids. Make them earn their way. Throw them outside to play and work things out for themselves. Arm them with knowledge. Make them think. Cops: when you are called to investigate an unattended 13-year-old, I know you have to go do your job. Please go check, but do not arrest Mom because her kid is actually doing something competently and unsupervised at age 13.
2) Universities: dismiss whiners who need safe spaces and trigger warnings. Make clear that you are about producing competence. Deal, or step aside for someone who can. You are not going to lose tuition money, I guarantee it.
3) Employers: you might want to consider some kind of stress test when you hire. Better to find out in advance if someone is prone to meltdowns.
4) Kids: there is a big difference between confidence and entitlement. I’m not interested in hiring entitled whiners. I want competent, confident hard workers who are willing to pay their dues.
Yes, I am worried about how this new administration will play out. I have been worried since the results of the primaries came in. But you know what? I woke up the day after the election the same as I did the day before it, and I suspect that January 21st won’t really be all that different from January 20th. Beyond that, we still have freedom of speech, checks and balances, and the ponderous momentum of Washington bureaucracy (have you noticed that Obama’s policies turned out to be not so different from Bush’s after all?). Whatever comes, we will cope. We have been through worse. Much worse.
So everyone wipe your tears, pull up your Big Girl panties and deal with life like the adults you are supposed to be.