Monday, August 7, 2006

A Nation of Wimps??

I just read a really interesting Psychology Today article.  It is pretty long.  But the author makes some really good points.  Here are a few excerpts from it:

Behold the wholly sanitized childhood, without
skinned knees or the occasional C in history. "Kids need to feel badly
sometimes," says child psychologist David Elkind, professor at Tufts
University. "We learn through experience and we learn through bad
experiences. Through failure we learn how to cope."

up, however, even in the playground, is wildly out of style. Although
error and experimentation are the true mothers of success, parents are
taking pains to remove failure from the equation.

is planned out for us," says Elise Kramer, a Cornell University junior.
"But we don't know what to want." As Elkind puts it, "Parents and
schools are no longer geared toward child development, they're geared
to academic achievement."

But taking all the discomfort, disappointment and even the play out of
development, especially while increasing pressure for success, turns
out to be misguided by just about 180 degrees. With few challenges all
their own, kids are unable to forge their creative adaptations to the
normal vicissitudes of life. That not only makes them risk-averse, it
makes them psychologically fragile, riddled with anxiety. In the
process they're robbed of identity, meaning and a sense of
accomplishment, to say nothing of a shot at real happiness. Forget,
too, about perseverance, not simply a moral virtue but a necessary life

Enter: grade inflation. When he took over as president of Harvard in
July 2001, Lawrence Summers publicly ridiculed the value of honors
after discovering that 94 percent of the college's seniors were
graduating with them. Safer to lower the bar than raise the discomfort
level. Grade inflation is the institutional response to parental
anxiety about school demands on children, contends social historian
Peter Stearns of George Mason University. As such, it is a pure index
of emotional overinvestment in a child's success. And it rests on a
notion of juvenile frailty—the assumption that children are easily
bruised and need explicit uplift," Stearns argues in his book, Anxious Parenting: A History of Modern Childrearing in America. [I might have to look at this book!]

Kids are having a hard time even playing neighborhood pick-up games
because they've never done it, observes Barbara Carlson, president and
cofounder of Putting Families First. "They've been told by their
coaches where on the field to stand, told by their parents what color
socks to wear, told by the referees who's won and what's fair. Kids are
losing leadership skills."

It's bad enough that today's children are raised in a psychological
hothouse where they are overmonitored and oversheltered. But that
hothouse no longer has geographical or temporal boundaries. For that
you can thank the cell phone. Even in college—or perhaps especially at
college—students are typically in contact with their parents several
times a day, reporting every flicker of experience.

The perpetual access to parents infantilizes the young, keeping them in
a permanent state of dependency. Whenever the slightest difficulty
arises, "they're constantly referring to their parents for guidance,"
reports Kramer. They're not learning how to manage for themselves.

Some psychologists think we have yet to
recognize the full impact of the cell phone on child development,
because its use is so new. Although there are far too many variables to
establish clear causes and effects, Indiana's Carducci believes that
reliance on cell phones undermines the young by destroying the ability
to plan ahead. "The first thing students do when they walk out the door
of my classroom is flip open the cell phone. Ninety-five percent of the
conversations go like this: 'I just got out of class; I'll see you in
the library in five minutes.' Absent the phone, you'd have to make
arrangements ahead of time; you'd have to think ahead."

lies another possible pathway to depression. The ability to plan
resides in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), the executive branch of the
brain. The PFC is a critical part of the self-regulation system, and
it's deeply implicated in depression, a disorder increasingly seen as
caused or maintained by unregulated thought patterns—lack of
intellectual rigor, if you will. Cognitive therapy owes its very
effectiveness to the systematic application of critical thinking to
emotional reactions. Further, it's in the setting of goals and progress
in working toward them, however mundane they are, that positive
feelings are generated. From such everyday activity, resistance to
depression is born.

What's more, cell
phones—along with the instant availability of cash and almost any
consumer good your heart desires—promote fragility by weakening
self-regulation. "You get used to things happening right away," says
Carducci. You not only want the pizza now, you generalize that
expectation to other domains, like friendship and intimate
relationships. You become frustrated and impatient easily. You become
unwilling to work out problems. And so relationships fail—perhaps the
single most powerful experience leading to depression.

Virginia's Portmann feels the effects are even more pernicious; they
weaken the whole fabric of society. He sees young people becoming
weaker right before his eyes, more responsive to the herd, too eager to
fit in—less assertive in the classroom, unwilling to disagree with
their peers, afraid to question authority, more willing to conform to
the expectations of those on the next rung of power above them.

Using the classic benchmarks of adulthood, 65 percent of males had
reached adulthood by the age of 30 in 1960. By contrast, in 2000, only
31 percent had. Among women, 77 percent met the benchmarks of adulthood
by age 30 in 1960. By 2000, the number had fallen to 46 percent.

1 comment:

  1. Right on the money! Thanks for sharing that---it is so true! Thanks also for the stat you posted on my blog. It doesn't surprise me a bit but it makes me sad.

    My totally homeschooled dd22 is a supervisor for a major bookstore chain in the city. She tells me that most of her coworkers are older than her, have degrees, live with their parents and don't own cars. They can't believe that at her age she lives on her own, has a car, and does not get financial help from us.

    When I was a kid, young people got married in their late teens or early twenties, had kids right away and did fine. What happened? Baby boomer parents is what happened...sigh.

    I like how you think :)



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