Ever see a college student walking about with a cell phone in hand, paid for by mom and dad back home? Ever see a ten year-old child with knee pads, elbow pads, and ankle pads riding a bicycle with a nervous mother walking behind him, waiting to catch him if he fall? Well, these may not be two entirely different things.
The Spring 2005 issue of The Wilson Quarterly comments on an article entitled “A Nation of Wimps” in (of all places) Psychology Today. In the article, PT editor Hara Estroff Marano describes the “constant intervention” by contemporary parents in the lives of their children. For instance, one third of parents send their children to school with sanitizing gels.
The culmination of American parental over-protectiveness, according to Marano, is the college cell phone. It is a “virtual umbilical cord” that links the student with mother and father constantly, “infantilizing them and keeping them in a permanent state of dependency.”
I’m not often in agreement with the editors of Psychology Today, but they are on to something here. We are living in a culture that is so under-protective of children that we are willing to pack them off to institutionalized daycare as toddlers and subject them to sexualization in grade school. And yet the same culture is so overprotective of children that we don’t teach them to learn how to cope with life. Our kids can’t take the rigors of dodge-ball or competitive T-ball, and yet they are fully able to dress like Britney Spears and learn to put a condom on a cucumber in health class?
Is it any wonder that, by young adulthood, our children aren’t able to make even the most basic of decisions without hitting the speed-dial for home?