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How to Land your Kid in Therapy
June 26, 2011 1:22 PM   Subscribe


 
Likewise, if the kid participates in activities where he gets stickers for “good tries,” he never gets negative feedback on his performance. (All failures are reframed as “good tries.”) According to Twenge, indicators of self-esteem have risen consistently since the 1980s among middle-school, high-school, and college students. But, she says, what starts off as healthy self-esteem can quickly morph into an inflated view of oneself—a self-absorption and sense of entitlement that looks a lot like narcissism. In fact, rates of narcissism among college students have increased right along with self-esteem.

Or if you're like me, the constant stream of "faint praise" makes all praise look suspect and unbelievable. Therefore, everything I do must really suck.
posted by bleep at 1:35 PM on June 26, 2011 [33 favorites]


“My parents would feel like failures if they knew I was here,” he explained. “At the same time, maybe they’d be glad I’m here, because they just want me to be happy. So I’m not sure if they’d be relieved that I’ve come here to be happier, or disappointed that I’m not already happy.”

This line of thinking must be incredibly exhaustive because there's always a meta level where you can have angst.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:40 PM on June 26, 2011 [13 favorites]


Huh. A lot of this seems to stem from the idea that you have to be happy and assured and confident and self-sufficient all the time no matter what and anything less is a personal weakness. Plus, in his book Too Much of a Good Thing: Raising Children of Character in an Indulgent Age,
set off all my "giving your kids teddy bears will make them think the world will always be soft and comfortable! bells in my head.

Also it reads like a wordier, well-heeled version of "Which common household product is giving you cancer" local news report. Like parents need something new to be worried about.
posted by The Whelk at 1:43 PM on June 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


Yes! So true! Let's go right back to screaming at kids and calling them stupid right away!

"I love my parents! I had a great childhood! I've got a good job! Why do I feel so lost?"
The real answer to this question is that life is hard and confusing for everyone, no matter what. "Too much self-esteem" is not a real problem. Any kid who isn't actually mentally impaired in a serious way knows "good try" isn't the same as "success! you're awesome and perfect!!"
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:43 PM on June 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


Ah, the wonderful thing about being a parent. No matter how you do it, there's always someone around to tell you YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG.
posted by Daily Alice at 1:43 PM on June 26, 2011 [32 favorites]


It's really weird how "exhausting" and "exhaustive" can mean pretty much the opposite things.
posted by koeselitz at 1:44 PM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


The pull-quote referenced by bleep is also a huge straw-man argument. Not only is it possible to say both "good try" and "this is what you can improve on," that is what every good teacher or coach or boss in the world does, for children or adults.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:46 PM on June 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Thats because THEY ARE DOING IT WRONG!
posted by sfts2 at 1:46 PM on June 26, 2011


Nobody's happy, you fucking idiot.
posted by jonmc at 1:46 PM on June 26, 2011 [52 favorites]


"...child-centered, collaborative, or RIE? Brazelton, Spock, or Sears?"

So, if I don't know what any of these are, my kid is gonna turn out ok, right?
posted by madajb at 1:47 PM on June 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


And referring to something done by a child as a "failure" indicates there is something seriously seriously the fuck wrong with the person who wrote that.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:48 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think there's a reason that it's 'the pursuit of happiness' rather than 'happiness'.
posted by jimmythefish at 1:50 PM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


When I was my son’s age, I didn’t routinely get to choose my menu, or where to go on weekends—and the friends I asked say they didn’t, either. There was some negotiation, but not a lot, and we were content with that

I'm not sure you can accurately self-report your behavior as a child.
posted by The Whelk at 1:50 PM on June 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


Is it possible that people also excel at being naturally fucked up? And that genetics can play a role?

Furthermore it's interesting that she cites the choice habit "red cup or blue cup?" as a failing that teaches the child to expect control, given that it has a long history of a psychological trick to ensure compliance of the child (this being truly "red cup or blue cup... to drink the same juice?")

On the other hand, I think gnawing your own leg off with worry about your parenting is a natural species trait. I remember my childhood development class, where they had parents with children and psychology backgrounds bring their kid in and explain what was what, just in case we'd never seen a baby before, and I remember the mother of the eight month old, with a Phd. in Child Development genuinely anxious she'd fail and give her kid an attachment disorder.

It's like... lady, you have access to the statistical scarcity of this problem. You personally know it's part of serious neglect, not simply a lack of smiles. Unless you are planning on having your infant float around the foster care system -and- be extremely unlucky with placements down to deliberately moving to an overloaded district with a higher than average child abuse rate, Junior's mental health is by and large out of your control as long as you're hitting the base markers, so chill.
posted by Phalene at 1:52 PM on June 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm going to make damn sure I raise my kids the way I was raised. No compliments ever, that gives kids "swelled heads". If they have trouble learning something, like multiplication, scream at them or hit them with a ruler, they won't make the same mistake twice.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:54 PM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I should amend that: nobody's happy all the damned time. I'm spending an afternoon on my porch drinking beer and listening to music and eating snax, and I'm...happy, I guess, but I don't expect my whole life to be that way. and you know what? That's how most of the fucking world lives, and if you expected better, then you either were raised in an extremely priviliged enviornment or you are a moron.
posted by jonmc at 1:55 PM on June 26, 2011 [17 favorites]


I hate to join a crowd of haters, and I don't exactly loath the article. I mean, it doesn't offend me on some personal level.

But it seems remarkably simplistic, to the point where one wonders where exactly the author studied clinical psychology. Not even Freud believed that all a person's problems flow from her or his parents; yet this basic assumption seems to animate the entire article. I get the feeling that this is probably an easy assumption for people who are new parents as well as people who do some talk therapy, but the evidence against it is strong. Plato's Socrates noted this, and it's true: good parents sometimes have bad kids; bad parents sometimes have good kids. This is so clear, I think, that it should be obvious.
posted by koeselitz at 1:55 PM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


In fact, rates of narcissism among college students have increased right along with self-esteem.

How would you even measure something as ephemeral as narcissism?
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 1:56 PM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think that (mostly) the problem isn't the parents "screwing up" the kids so much as everyone being sold a lie: that you are not happy enough, normal enough, well raised enough, etc.
posted by rebent at 1:56 PM on June 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


What seems to have changed in recent years, though, is the way we think about and define happiness, both for our children and for ourselves.

I feel there's a great need for a new name for this breezy journalistic use of the first-person plural as an illicit overgeneralization from personal experience. It's not the "royal we," anymore — perhaps the "fauxciological we"? Someone needs to hang a huge banner up in the Atlantic offices (and the Times lifestyle desk) bearing the motto "YOUR NEUROSES ARE NOT SOCIAL TRENDS."
posted by RogerB at 1:57 PM on June 26, 2011 [102 favorites]


Bingo RogerB.
posted by nj_subgenius at 1:58 PM on June 26, 2011


And referring to something done by a child as a "failure" indicates there is something seriously seriously the fuck wrong with the person who wrote that.

That seems a little extreme, drjimmy11. Kids fail all the time, from walking from one end of the room to the other without falling to drinking from their sippy cup without spilling it. It's not a big deal. If we refuse to label anything kids do as a failure, then it's no surprise later on that they're petrified of failing.

That said, there's no way I'm going to be judging how people raise their kids, short of actual abuse (please don't scream at or hit your children ad hominem, even ironically).
posted by ODiV at 2:02 PM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


How would you even measure something as ephemeral as narcissism?

The device measured elevated narcissielles in subjects aged 15-25
posted by The Whelk at 2:02 PM on June 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


Wait a minute. Lori Gottlieb?

*googles*

oh god
posted by chinston at 2:03 PM on June 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


In fact, rates of narcissism among college students have increased right along with self-esteem.

To hell with self-esteen. "I like myself!" well, that's great cause nobody else can stand you.
posted by jonmc at 2:04 PM on June 26, 2011


I was stumped. Where was the distracted father? The critical mother? Where were the abandoning, devaluing, or chaotic caregivers in her life?

This smacks of the psychotherapy equivalent of, if all you have is a hammer, every problem is potentially your thumb. Having a good relationship with your parents doesn't give you a purpose in life worth caring about, or a life worth living with goals worthy of your aspiration.

Are these people doing something they genuinely think is important, of value to themselves and the world? If not, your relationship with your parents really can't help you with that.
posted by mhoye at 2:05 PM on June 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


This is so clear, I think, that it should be obvious.

The really determinstic stuff like this always reminds me of my own mom blaming everything form bad grades to needing glasses to short temper on feeding infants "improperly mixed formula."
posted by The Whelk at 2:05 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I should amend that: nobody's happy all the damned time. I'm spending an afternoon on my porch drinking beer and listening to music and eating snax, and I'm...happy, I guess, but I don't expect my whole life to be that way. and you know what? That's how most of the fucking world lives, and if you expected better, then you either were raised in an extremely priviliged enviornment or you are a moron.

You seem awfully cynical for someone who is supposed to be happy.

I mean, I'm your usual middle-class white dude, neither a moron or any more privileged than your average person and I'm fairly happy the majority of my daily life.

Perhaps that was what the article was trying to get to in a roundabout way, if you constantly tell kids they are the absolute best, and great things will happen to them, they're going to be disappointed when, like most people, they have themselves a perfectly ordinary life.
posted by madajb at 2:07 PM on June 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also this would be Lori "If you're single after 35 it's cause you're too picky" Gottlieb,
posted by The Whelk at 2:08 PM on June 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


The "parenting industry" makes a lot of money by selling parents the belief that they can be solely responsible for the success and/or failure of their child, without taking into the account that kids also engage in a society of others, equipped with systems of power, hierarchy, exploitation, etc. in which parents can only obliquely intervene. Of course it's possible to be raised by "perfect" parents and turn out depressed or anxious. The world isn't perfect and yet we grow up in it.
posted by LMGM at 2:08 PM on June 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


ODiV: "If we refuse to label anything kids do as a failure, then it's no surprise later on that they're petrified of failing."

I think one could probably hook an entire breezy journalism alleged-social-trends worrypiece about how FAIL memes are a reaction to exactly that. They became popular just as the generation no one dared say failure to came of age, as a new generation's way of whistling past the graveyard. The breezy worrypiece should be titled "Whistling Past the Failyard: What Internet Humor Trends Tell Us About What We're Doing To Our Kids."
posted by Drastic at 2:10 PM on June 26, 2011 [13 favorites]


Wait a minute. Lori Gottlieb?

chinston: I was just going to point out how it isn't just kids today that don't know their place; single women are getting above their station as well.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 2:10 PM on June 26, 2011


Also this would be Lori "If you're single after 35 it's cause you're too picky" Gottlieb,
I think she was actually a bit of a whackadoodle even before that. I could swear that I'd been reading whackadoodle articles in women's mags by Lori Gottlieb since about 1995. And a whackadoodle anorexia memoir, which has to be like my least favorite literary genre ever. I think she's just a professional literary annoyance.

What is it with the Atlantic anyway?
posted by craichead at 2:11 PM on June 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


What is it with the Atlantic anyway?

Selling the upper middle class their anxiety back to them.
posted by The Whelk at 2:13 PM on June 26, 2011 [50 favorites]


Great idea, Drastic. You write the piece, I'll add my name, and then we can start a "child consultant" business where we basically practice therapy without any relevant credentials or training!

If anyone tells me I'm unqualified and will fail at this I'll start crying, I swear.
posted by ODiV at 2:14 PM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Indeed. Recently, I noticed that one of my patients had, after a couple of sessions of therapy, started to seem uncomfortable. When I probed a bit, he admitted that he felt ambivalent about being in treatment. I asked why.

“My parents would feel like failures if they knew I was here,” he explained. “At the same time, maybe they’d be glad I’m here, because they just want me to be happy. So I’m not sure if they’d be relieved that I’ve come here to be happier, or disappointed that I’m not already happy.”


Worried about worrying. Maybe the next question should be about what they're actually looking for in therapy?
posted by The Whelk at 2:18 PM on June 26, 2011


That Middle-Eastern Lady Who Cleans Your House Every Other Thursday: Is She Sleeping With Your Husband? Probably. - by Lori Gottlieb
posted by Avenger at 2:18 PM on June 26, 2011 [11 favorites]


That Middle-Eastern Lady Who Cleans Your House Every Other Thursday: Is She Sleeping With Your Husband? Probably

Nah, it would be about how much happier your cleaners are cause they don't have to worry about keeping up appearances as much as you do, cause you're a wreck and everything you think is wrong wrong wrong.
posted by The Whelk at 2:19 PM on June 26, 2011


Avenger just made me choke.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:20 PM on June 26, 2011


Just so you know, on a certain level I can understand this but I was cured of it rather young. When I was 20, at the dinner table, I expreesed dissatisfaction with my life and my dad said that at 20 he was at Ft. benning with a rifle in his hand and had no idea if he would ever see the US alive again and that I should shut the fuck up.

Thanks, dad.
posted by jonmc at 2:20 PM on June 26, 2011 [38 favorites]


And for a pscychotherapist (or analrapist or whatever she officially is) she seems really keen on stigmatizing her own industry. Like, remember parents, if your kid needs therapy, that's something to be ashamed of and you fucked up. Now let's discuss that shame and your mistakes which led to it.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:25 PM on June 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


"my dad said that at 20 he was at Ft. benning with a rifle in his hand and had no idea if he would ever see the US alive again "

A friend of mine used to complain to her mom about how hard college was and her mom would say, "I KNOW, when I was in college we used to have to race across the central square of Beirut dodging sniper fire to get to class, it was SO stressful, and the constant shooting and explosions really made it difficult to study. That why we moved to the U.S. when I got pregnant."

She let the STFU be implied.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:25 PM on June 26, 2011 [44 favorites]


Funny, but working almost exclusively with gifted high school students, the story hit on a many many things that I see at the secondary level, much of what college administrators see is true even earlier.

But it is the weekend so I don't have to be quantitative or talk about work. I coach a HS baseball team in the summer, 14-16, and the kids coming up are just as described. I have learned over the years that my role is to tell them that they do not all get to bat or play whatever position that they want -- you earn your spot in the order and your position on the field. They look hurt for a game or two, and then come around and ask what they need to do to improve. The parents are the ones who do not get the life lesson -- they call the league, complain, chat amongst themselves, worry about the damage that I cause by declaring Jimmy not fit for shortstop. Funny but the parents of the 16s either roll their eyes at the haters (their kids have learned the drill) or they aren't even around because their kids are driving themselves. It is so liberating when the kids are just there to play and the parents are not there to watch and comment.

You wouldn't know it, but I am the least hard-ass least likely to act like a drill sergeant person -- but these kids do not arrive with even the most general sense of correspondence between their skill/effort and their efficacy as a contributing member of the team. I am not going to expand this to the level of societal crises, but as a coach a lot of these kids are entering adolescence defective.
posted by cgk at 2:25 PM on June 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


Parents need hobbies.
posted by karmiolz at 2:30 PM on June 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


I gotta say, I feel like I am an absolutely prototypical example of the yuppie parent. So are my friends. We have read a million parenting books and our kids eat whole-grain organic mac and cheese and we are careful not to enforce gender norms and yadda yadda.

We are the kind of people who read shaming articles in the Atlantic about parenting.

And you know what? This is not really about "us," even though it says it is. It's about parents who, except for the purposes of shaming articles in the Atlantic, may not even exist. I've never met them, at any rate, despite being smack in the middle of the demographic.

If anyone's interested in what the trends are for actual yuppie suburban organic-M&C-eating parents, here they are:

* Never tell a child "You're great at X"! Instead, tell them "You did a really great job with this X; you must have worked really hard at it." Because you want to send the message that doing cool things requires hard work, not just intrinsic aptitude.

* Sure, give a kid the choice of which cup to use. Who cares which cup they use? And let the kid choose the restaurant if there's no reason to do otherwise. Let the kid choose to wear sweatpants on a day if he wants. He'll learn that the consequence of wearing sweatpants on a hot day is that he's hot and sweaty, and he won't do it again -- or, if he doesn't mind feeling hot and sweaty, what's it to me if he wears sweatpants? But he doesn't get to choose when to go to bed, or whether he gets a toy at the store, or whether he eats cookies instead of dinner. And letting him pick his own cup makes it easier for the kid to accept that most decisions are not his. (This is "Love and Logic" stuff.)

* Be authoritative, not authoritarian or permissive. (This is Diana Baumrind stuff.)

* Make sure your kids know that all kinds of emotions are part of life, and that feelings of anger, frustration, disappointment, and annoyance are going to come, that the kid can handle them, and that parents can help the kid learn strategies to cope with them. (This is John Gottman "emotion coaching" stuff.)

None of this stuff is adhered to like scripture, but as far as I can tell it's in the mainstream of privileged suburban parenting custom in 2011 and it's pretty much the exact opposite of what Gottlieb is complaining about in this article.
posted by escabeche at 2:32 PM on June 26, 2011 [91 favorites]


My wife have the same conversation over and over whenever we butt heads on child-rearing (which is not as often as that sounds) - moms generally nurture and dads are more likely to teach the "them's the breaks" lessons.

I do think that there has been a significant increase in parents trying to "soften" things for their kids, and that that's not a good thing. Self-reliance is as important as safety, and unhappiness is a natural emotion from time to time.

I cringe at: play dates, time outs, rubber chips on playgrounds, bike helmets, praise for behavior that should rightly be expected. Not that any of them are bad in and of themselves. They just allude to the pervasive coddling attitude these days.

Your job as a parent is to prepare your kids to stand on the own efforts and abilities. You don't have to be an asshole, and you can be a friend, but you have to be a parent first and foremost.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:35 PM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


And let the kid choose the restaurant if there's no reason to do otherwise.

Eh, unless Jimmy has a special gift and proven track record of finding the best eats in town, the reason to do otherwise is because Jimmy's a kid.
posted by floam at 2:39 PM on June 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh yeah, I also teach college kids. I've been doing it for almost 15 years now. There is no visible difference between college students today and college students 15 years ago. In 15 years I have been contacted by a total of one parent about grades. Maybe a handful of students. Here's what college students are like in 2011. Some of them get good grades, some of them get bad grades. The grades reflect the quality of work they turned in and students accept that. They know when they did a good job and they know when they did a bad job.
posted by escabeche at 2:42 PM on June 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


and it's pretty much the exact opposite of what Gottlieb is complaining about in this article.

Since I bet the Atlantic's readership skews older I'm thinking this has more to do with confirming the audience's bias that rar grar kids are over-coddled in my day grar rar
posted by The Whelk at 2:44 PM on June 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Maybe I'm misreading this: the article seems to start and base itself on the premise that there exists a good and right way to raise a child.

I think that's exactly the problem with modern parenting, they will seek the perfect methodology to a method that can never, ever be perfect. The trick is not screwing up as badly as everyone else will and also knowing that you're going to goof on something, more probably on a lot of things.
posted by Slackermagee at 2:48 PM on June 26, 2011


I started subscribing to The Atlantic a couple of years ago, I forget why. Every time I get a new issue I swear I'm not gonna renew. But then the renewal notice comes, and it's only $19.95!, and I think, maybe I should renew after all. I mean, they published Thoreau. Maybe they'll come to their senses.
posted by mr vino at 2:48 PM on June 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


Since I bet the Atlantic's readership skews older I'm thinking this has more to do with confirming the audience's bias that rar grar kids are over-coddled in my day grar rar

I understand the sentiment, but I think it's really hard to argue that that's not the case.

I have a friend who is a college chancellor. We've discussed this many times. He maintains that he gets more and more kids (and these are not stupid kids) that cannot manage basic personal skills. They can't do their own laundry. They can't manage their money. They can't make it to classes on time. They don't deal well at all with the sudden increase in academic rigor. This list goes on.

His opinion, and I agree, is that parents have been so protective and supportive of these kids growing up that they've been sheltered from "real life". Parents have been appointment-setters and chauffeurs and cheerleaders and enablers - not parents.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:54 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I cringe at: play dates, time outs, rubber chips on playgrounds, bike helmets, praise for behavior that should rightly be expected. Not that any of them are bad in and of themselves. They just allude to the pervasive coddling attitude these days.

I didn't think that I was over-coddling my kiddoes, but if the standard for coddling is arranging time for them to play with other kids, isolating them when they misbehave, and providing and insisting on basic safety equipment is the standard for coddling, I'm a cream puff. Praising behavior that should be expected is the only thing on your list that even begins to make sense to me as something to be concerned about.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 2:58 PM on June 26, 2011 [13 favorites]


it's really hard to argue that that's not the case.

I don't think it's hard at all! It's easy! I was just doing it -- in the same anecdotal style, to be fair, as your friend the chancellor.
posted by escabeche at 3:01 PM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


But didn't high schools and colleges offer coerces on How The Adult World Works? I remember more then one memoir of college life in the 50s that mentioned the mandatory life skills class, especially for girls.

Would we have an entire genre of social hygiene films addressing grooming, tabe manners, setting appointments, etc if there wasn't tis concern that kids today don't know nothing?
posted by The Whelk at 3:02 PM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Would we have an entire genre of social hygiene films addressing grooming, tabe manners, setting appointments, etc if there wasn't tis concern that kids today don't know nothing?

You know they had those films in the 50s and 60s too, right?
posted by escabeche at 3:03 PM on June 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Freud said somewhere that parental overindulgence was just as harmful as deprivation. If I were 't outside crippled by this cockamamie iPad I'd try to find the reference.
posted by DMelanogaster at 3:05 PM on June 26, 2011


That's exactly what I was referring to.
posted by The Whelk at 3:06 PM on June 26, 2011


Helicopter parents. Grade inflation. Hiring out one's homework. Poor work ethics. Expectations of entitlement. All common enough stories these days.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:07 PM on June 26, 2011


You know they had those films in the 50s and 60s too, right?

And they all had the same narrator, didn't they?
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:07 PM on June 26, 2011


Benny Andajetz: “I have a friend who is a college chancellor. We've discussed this many times. He maintains that he gets more and more kids (and these are not stupid kids) that cannot manage basic personal skills. They can't do their own laundry. They can't manage their money. They can't make it to classes on time. They don't deal well at all with the sudden increase in academic rigor. This list goes on. His opinion, and I agree, is that parents have been so protective and supportive of these kids growing up that they've been sheltered from "real life". Parents have been appointment-setters and chauffeurs and cheerleaders and enablers - not parents.”

This is why I often despair about higher education: because, in a time when young people seem to be actually taking up the challenge presented by the fact that they have more capabilities than any previous generation – in a time when young people produce more quality work, more engaging moments of thoughtfulness, when young people write more, produce more music, produce more art, than any recent generation – their teachers are wringing their hands because they don't make it to lecture on time.
posted by koeselitz at 3:09 PM on June 26, 2011 [4 favorites]




It's like none of these so-called "educators" have read or taken to heart the lessons of Walker Percy's The Moviegoer.
posted by koeselitz at 3:11 PM on June 26, 2011


Anyway from now on I'm referring to these as Boy Called Sue arguments to hell with them.
posted by The Whelk at 3:11 PM on June 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


As a professor who uses the grade of F when it is warranted, I have first-hand knowledge of 20-year-olds who sincerely believe that failure will never "happen" to them, and if it does, it's someone else's fault. In my inbox at this very moment is a request for a grade change (from "F" to "Incomplete") from a student who claims she was so traumatized by her D- grade on the midterm that she was unable to come back to class for the rest of the term, and so it's MY fault that she ended up failing the course. Can you hear the helicopter parents hovering in the background here? I certainly can.
posted by philokalia at 3:12 PM on June 26, 2011 [13 favorites]


I have a friend who is a college chancellor. We've discussed this many times. He maintains that he gets more and more kids (and these are not stupid kids) that cannot manage basic personal skills.
Do college chancellors ever work directly with undergrads? How exactly does he know this?

(I have a lot to say about this, but it would violate my "don't talk about work on metafilter" rule. Suffice it to say that I find the whole helicopter parent narrative lazy and simplistic, and I actually do work directly with undergrads all day.)
posted by craichead at 3:13 PM on June 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


their teachers are wringing their hands because they don't make it to lecture on time.

I don't think that's the point my friend was making. He doesn't see the students as a teacher, he sees them as an administrator. His point is that they don't seem to be managing as well socially and psychologically as they used to.

Just an opinion of course.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:13 PM on June 26, 2011


You know, it's interesting that there's a spate of "kids are overindulged, parents care too much, kids need to learn to fail" articles right now, during this godawful economic crisis. I don't know very many kids who are overindulged at the moment, myself. In fact, most of the kids I know could use more security, not more knocks.

And these articles are all "how will these children ever succeed in jobs if they are so indulged?" Let me tell you, these children may never succeed in jobs because our economy is turning into some kind of insane zero-sum game. Pretending that the pressing issue is luxury parenting is just a way to deny systemic inequality - of course parents should stop whining about learning disabilities and intervening when things go wrong for their kids - don't they know that little Luis and little Zoraya need to be ready for a life of bias and sub-par employment?
posted by Frowner at 3:15 PM on June 26, 2011 [17 favorites]


Benny Andajetz: “His point is that they don't seem to be managing as well socially and psychologically as they used to.”

If whether you're good at doing your own laundry or making it to class on time is a measure of how well you're doing socially and psychologically, I am a dangerous psychopath in dire need of detainment at a modern psychiatric facility.
posted by koeselitz at 3:17 PM on June 26, 2011 [14 favorites]


I do worry about my kids' happiness. My whole family has a history of clinical depression, so I think I do have some cause. Which is why it is great to have a spouse who can let me know when maybe I'm being a bit TOO sensitive, or when the kids are trying to put one over on me because they know I want them to be happy (my kids are pretty devious. Learned it from their folks).

And when my spouse starts barking at the kids too much when really he's actually frustrated with work and not them, I'm there to remind him to put it all in perspective. Parenting is a work in progress, and anyone who thinks they're doing it perfectly is lying. Or else, maybe, an alien.

But kids are resilient. And even if we DID get too over-protective, there are worse things. If they grow up a little later, that's okay. We live hella long these days anyway. And if they did have a problem, and my kids went to therapy, I'd think, "Good for them for talking to someone!" Life is a work in progress, too.

Wendy Mogel says that colleges have had so much trouble getting parents off campus after freshman orientation that school administrators have had to come up with strategies to boot them. At the University of Chicago, she said, they’ve now added a second bagpipe processional at the end of opening ceremonies—the first is to lead the students to another event, the second to usher the parents away from their kids. The University of Vermont has hired “parent bouncers,” whose job is to keep hovering parents at bay.

Okay, so some parents go a little overboard. We went to a college orientation with our oldest last month. At midday, the prospective students were in this big auditorium, and the parents were up in the balcony section, because they separated us from the 18 year-olds.

As the kids are filing out in their own groups, some of the parents stand, look over the balcony for their kids, wave or sit down. We didn't, but we were in the back row and couldn't see anybody anyway.

So there's this one Mom who stays up after everyone else has returned to their seats. She's been waving frantically this whole time. As the room quiets, she yells at the top of her lungs, "I love you, Baby!"

A groan goes through the balcony, along with rolled eyes and murmurs of, "I'd never embarrass my kid that way."

That was ONE parent, though.

The majority of the parents there seemed to me to have their feet on the ground, and the kids all seemed to get through the orientation weekend just fine.

The next day, the parents have a two-hour plus session on, I kid you not, "From Parent to Coach," about how to let your kids be grown-ups now.

Two. Hours.

The presenters talked to us in condescending, sing-song voices like they were kindergarten teachers, gave us workbooks, and showed videos of scenes from the old Brady Bunch series (still not kidding). There was even a Dateline report on some Helicopter Mom who plays personal secretary for her kids, scheduling all their days even now that they are in college, etc. Okay, we all get it. I even did the workbook exercises, in like ten minutes, while they droned one. Got really redundant after a while.

They took care to remind us, that when we actually dropped our kid off for classes, the latest we should leave was 4 PM. One Dad said, "Do I have to stay that long?" and got a laugh; most of the parents were checking their watches. But they stayed, like good students themselves, not wanting to make waves.

Halfway through the class, though, when the lights were coming back on after yet another video, I got up and walked out. I didn't want to be rude, but seriously, if you're the kinds of parents that haven't figured this stuff out by now, does anyone think a little session on "Be your child's coach and cheerleader, don't hold their hands!" is going to do it? My husband stuck it out, as did some friends of ours, but the consensus of those that did was, "I should have left when you did. Waste of time!"

To be fair, the orientation was full of good information about on-campus resources that weren't available when we went to college, and I'm glad we went, but it amazes me that this whole issue is such a big deal that now we are having classes for parents and articles in The Atlantic about how to let go of our kids.

And honestly, as long as we're paying the bills for our son's education, I think the university can just leave the parenting to us.
posted by misha at 3:21 PM on June 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Let me tell you, these children may never succeed in jobs because our economy is turning into some kind of insane zero-sum game.
Bingo. I complain constantly about how risk-adverse undergrads are, but it's because they're absolutely clear about how tenuous their grasp on a middle-class life is. It's not because they're convinced they're too special to fail. It's because they're thinking "holy shit, I could graduate with tens of thousands of dollars in debt and no job prospects. I had better not take risks, or I might end up living in my parents' basement for the rest of my life. And if dad doesn't find another job soon, they might lose the house, and then I won't even be able to live there. Holy shit. I'd better not fail!"

But I don't work at Princeton, and my kids are mostly lower-middle-class to middle-middle-class, not upper-middle-class, which may be the difference.
posted by craichead at 3:22 PM on June 26, 2011 [15 favorites]


If whether you're good at doing your own laundry or making it to class on time is a measure of how well you're doing socially and psychologically, I am a dangerous psychopath in dire need of detainment at a modern psychiatric facility.

I was just relating discussions I've been involved in on this topic. No one thing is an issue. Different strokes for different folks - I , for example, skipped a lot of classes in college. If your system as a student works, then you'll do your time, get your grades and move in. And you won't be having a sit-down with the chancellor.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:27 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


misha: That sounds really annoying and boring. Why on earth did you stick around?
posted by ODiV at 3:27 PM on June 26, 2011


When I was in college we used to have to race across the central square of Beirut dodging sniper fire to get to class...

We used to get up a half-hour before we went to bed, eat a handful of cold gravel for breakfast, and then we had to walk to school on a dirt road ... using our knuckles. And we liked it.
posted by Twang at 3:30 PM on June 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


get your grades and move in on.( If I could have moved in I might still be in college.)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:32 PM on June 26, 2011


ODiV: "misha: That sounds really annoying and boring. Why on earth did you stick around?"

Well, I did leave that one session. But this was just orientation, attending the orientation was mandatory for the students, and the parents had to wait until the kids were done registering for classes before we could all leave.

Plus they have really, really good chocolate cake in the dining hall.
posted by misha at 3:34 PM on June 26, 2011


Not to derail but that shit annoyed me as a student too, the constant mandatory orientations and meetings where they just talked at you like you're four. I got good at the getting up to leave-asking " are you making me stay here?" routine. It was beyond enraging and a big part of my decision to leave it altogether.
posted by The Whelk at 3:41 PM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ah, okay. I'm coming from a "Put your kid on a plane and then don't expect a phonecall unless he needs money or a floormate killed themselves" experience. I don't really remember any parents sticking around when I was a freshman, even though a fair number dropped their kids off. I think they mostly disappeared until it was time to go out for dinner or say goodbye.
posted by ODiV at 3:43 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


This quote really hit home for me: “Happiness doesn’t always make you feel happy.”

The pursuit of happiness is pointless, because you can always be happy-er, or less happy. Who sets the mark? How do you know? And there lies the pain for those who are focused on the pursuit.

Some years ago, I found that feeling serene and content was what I needed. It is, there is no -er.

You can't buy serene, you can't drink serene, nor can you fuck it. It's not a parent, or the latest boyfriend/girlfriend. It's inside of you, and very different from happiness. It takes hard work - and mindfulness.

It is, and when you have it, it's all that matters, and is the farthest thing away from a therapist's couch.
posted by seawallrunner at 3:48 PM on June 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


"He maintains that he gets more and more kids (and these are not stupid kids) that cannot manage basic personal skills. They can't do their own laundry. "

Because in the 1960s? They totally had MAID SERVICE and LAUNDRY PICKUP AND DROP OFF at my dad's all-boys dorm. Talk about lazy, spoiled, and lacking in basic personal skills. They didn't empty their own damn garbage cans.

The expectation that you'd do your own damn laundry, et al, at college really arose when women started attending in large numbers.

But oh, no, put on the historical blinders and be all "blah blah blah kids today."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:51 PM on June 26, 2011 [39 favorites]


Frowner, that's what it sounds like to me too. The kid with helicopter parents who never has to face the consequences of failure is just another iteration of the welfare lady who drives a Cadillac. The infuriating thing is that liberals buy into the former characterization and think that they're striking some kind of blow for intellectualism.

It seems strange how the "overindulged kids protected by helicopter parents" storyline and the "kids need to be protected from difficult homework/college admissions rejection" storyline always seemed to go together, but considering economic conditions, it suddenly makes a lot of sense. Both involve middle-class families with aspirations for their kids to find enjoyable, fulfilling careers and to stay at least in the middle class. These aspirations are likely not to be met. If we characterize them as the result of coddled kids who suddenly can't cut it when they do get to college, and would have been better off hanging out with their friends and going to community college instead of working so hard in high school, then we have a just world where college grads aren't qualified for the jobs they're not going to get, and would have been happier not aspiring to them in the first place.

And Eyebrows McGee -- that's exactly what I thought about the laundry and "basic life skills" thing. The problem is with college women these days who can't do their own laundry -- the men were never expected to.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 3:55 PM on June 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


"Too much self-esteem" is not a real problem.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:43 PM on June 26


When you're a non-American, your first exposure to American kids causes you to take a different view on this, I'm afraid.
posted by Decani at 3:56 PM on June 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


And honestly, doing laundry is not difficult. If for some reason you get to college without knowing how to do laundry, I am sure that you will figure it out in the first week or so. It's not rocket science. Someone in the laundry room will show you.
posted by craichead at 3:58 PM on June 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, parents have started sticking around a lot more in the first few days of university too. I used to work on a sort of general-purpose enquiries desk for the incoming students at my last university, just for the first week of term, and even over a few years there was a definite increase in parents milling around for days, parents turning up to student induction sessions, and parents asking us questions on their child's behalf (often with said child standing right next to them, looking mortified).

Annoying though the parents were, though, the kids didn't seem any more screwed up or helpless or unable to face failure than they ever had. Even the ones whose parents were drawing up their timetables for them ("Now, Jimmy here has to take two psychology labs a week but he doesn't want them to clash with his rugby practice - Jimmy, show the lady your timetable." "Da-aaaaaaaad!") coped just as well as the rest of them once their parents finally went home. I do wish parents like that would back off and cool down a bit, but not because they're causing their children huge psychological damage. They're just annoying the hell out of them.
posted by Catseye at 4:02 PM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


...that should read "in the first few days of university here, too", with "here" being the UK.
posted by Catseye at 4:05 PM on June 26, 2011


Some kids have a better sense of perspective then Gottlieb: First World Problems Rap.
posted by davel at 4:06 PM on June 26, 2011


fwwwrrrrrrpp
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 4:19 PM on June 26, 2011


a tale of two fender benders:

1. my 17 year old nephew recently had his first car accident, a minor fender bender that wasn't his fault (apparently), but the other driver was being difficult ... and anyway, he quickly called his mom with his cellphone, and she proceeded to sort of calm him down and walk him through all the details of accident reportage, note-taking, not being taken advantage of etc.

2. way back when, when I had my first accident, also at age 17, I just had to deal with it, made mistakes, got taken advantage of etc.

Key question: which of these two situations is likely to create a more dependent adult?
posted by philip-random at 4:27 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


The whiff of jealousy hangs around this discussion, I would have killed to have someone I could have called up t deal with Various Situations I Fucked Up Cause I Was 17. That sounds like it would have been awesome, actually, to not be left hanging.
posted by The Whelk at 4:30 PM on June 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


Trick question! A 17 year old is already an adult.
posted by ODiV at 4:32 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Trick question! Don't get in accidents!

Yeah, on the first day of actual move-in for the semester, we are in the, "Drop him off and disappear way before that 4:30 deadline," even though, of course, I'll worry. But I figure staying around just means he'll take longer to figure out the stuff he needs to do on his own before classes actually start.
posted by misha at 4:42 PM on June 26, 2011


And I was just saying "trick question" because I don't really have an answer about how that would affect someone's coping skills growing up. I think people at any age could benefit from having someone to call in a situation like that.
posted by ODiV at 4:48 PM on June 26, 2011


Really enjoyed the article and video. Thanks Obscure Reference.

What the article said made total sense to me. What comes to mind is that seemingly pleasant parents can also be very narcissistic. Not necessarily pathological narcissists but narcissistic in their needs having to be met constantly, including their constant anxieties about their children needing to be placated.

Children need to connect with their parent/s, become lovingly attached. But they also need to individuate from their parent/s in their own way and time. Attachment and individuation seem to me to be the two main challenges of childhood. Both in some kind of personally meaningful balance.

With narcissistic parent/s their connecting is a merge-a-rama or merge-a-
matic. Fuss fuss fuss. Over control, suffocating, critical or else over-praising. And their individuating is a threat of abandonment. Impatient, obliged to placate the parent's anxiety or else fear loss of connection.

Anecdote: In the last couple of years I became very good friends with two sisters, each who has a son.

One sister, Gina, is narcissistic, in the ways mentioned in the article. She is fastidious about all the food needing to be just so, organic, super healthy, just the right clothes for her son, over-protective, afraid to let her son hear about the negative things in life. She wants the best for her child, all the time, buys him the best computer, latest techno appliances. She lives in fear of her son's late adolescent need to dislike his mother.

The other sister, Lucy, lived a poorer adult life but has always been lovingly generous with others and patient with the hardships she's experienced in life. She was only able to buy limited everything for her son. She expected her son to do housework, to cook, do laundry, help in the renovation of the house, eat the basic food that was on the table. No sweets, only fruits. A funky old TV, which for many years made everything look green, lol. She did stand up for her kid when he was bullied one year, learned a martial art, taught her son that martial art. Knowing her son had to find his way in the world was a source of grieving for Lucy but she went through her individuation process with her son and now they seem to have a genuinely warm relationship.

Gina's son is a spoiled, complaining, ungrateful, lost kid. He's obsessed with a massive social circle but very superficial and definitely materialistic. He's now in therapy, on an anti-depressant, is unable to work because everything is annoying to him. He's very narcissistic, has temper tantrums. I do think he'll find a way to make good money but will end up being a Lost Adult, unable to take care of himself in basic ways.

Lucy's son just graduated at the top of his class in university, travels by himself comfortably, has had meaningful long term relationships with either gender, is highly respected by his boss and co-workers and seems to me to be a steady and likable good guy, able to find solutions, to budget in practical ways and earn money in a difficult economy, live comfortably and elegant on his own, in spite of it not being just the job he would like - yet- but one that pays the rent.

It would seem that Lucy's child has both a healthy attachment and healthy individuation and the latter is what is lacking in in the families that experience "I love my parents! I had a great childhood! I've got a good job! Why do I feel so lost?"
posted by nickyskye at 4:53 PM on June 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


It wasn't an age thing really, it was more, gosh I wish I did know I could call someone up if X happened and they would know what to do.
posted by The Whelk at 4:54 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


When you're a non-American, your first exposure to American kids causes you to take a different view on this, I'm afraid.

Interestingly, Decani, my experience has been the opposite of yours. The young Americans I've met have always completely impressed me by their courtesy and precociousness. I think American teens have a self-confidence and openness (at least, the ones who end up in Australia) that is so refreshing from the self-hating/doubting attitudes that are more common in Australian teens - and the cynicism that goes with it.

The ones I have meet have a curiosity and a willingness to engage with new and different experiences and people in an open, respectful way that I found genuinely refreshing. I thought they were more like little people than typical teenagers. Of course, my sample may be wholly self-selected and it's possible that young people who end up in overseas countries are more generally like this, anyway.

More broadly: I couldn't agree more with The Whelk. I went through some fucking horrible shit that I sincerely doubt made me a better person when I was very young, because I believed that talking to my parents about it was not an option (from shame, from their perceived attitudes, etc). It would have been really nice to have some adult help dealing with those adult problems, when I didn't have the resources - financial, intellectual, emotional - to deal with them optimally by myself.
posted by smoke at 5:23 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I find the comments more of interest than the article. My conclusion: why worry about other parents and their kids? You are you. If you think your parents did a crap job, then do better as a parent. If you think they did a good job, appreciate that.
posted by Postroad at 5:35 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I cringe at: play dates, time outs, rubber chips on playgrounds, bike helmets, praise for behavior that should rightly be expected. Not that any of them are bad in and of themselves. They just allude to the pervasive coddling attitude these days.

Play dates are an artifact of living in bedroom suburbs with no sidewalks where you can't just turn your kid loose for fear they'll end up as roadkill. Blame developers and every Dateline with CHILD ABDUCTED WHILE NEGLIGENT PARENTS LET THEM WANDER THE STREETS as a story line.

Time outs: My dad hit us with a belt. I had good manners. I don't hit my kid with anything and use time outs. My kid gets compliments on his manners all the time. The difference is, he won't hate or fear me as he grows up. I win.

Rubber chips on playground: I broke my arm when I was five because a bigger kid pushed me off a slide onto the gravel. It hurt like hell. I'm ok with my kid missing out on that.

Bike helmets: In the long-ago 80s, I had a giant orange safety flag on a pole on the back of my pink banana-seat bike.* It did not slow me down but did make it easier for cars to see me from a distance. I also went on to became a fully functional adult. I think a helmet will have the same effect on my kid.

*do they still make those? Haven't seen one in years.
posted by emjaybee at 5:59 PM on June 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


This article is silly How about this, how about people feel increasingly alienated on a planet that is dying at an unbelievable accelerating rate. Greed and scarcity has turned us against each other while the hard hearted robber barons amass fortunes while turning a blind eye to terrible suffering and planetary extinction... Even if you had great parents, etc etc, any one with half a brain or a quarter of a heart should and would feel depressed and alienated. The PROPER EMOTIONAL RESPONSE TO OUR SITUATION IS SUSTAINED EMOTIONAL DISCOMFORT. Doesnt mean you can not have some happiness, but if you are paying attention you be feeling very very disturbed. Frequently.

Gazing inward is probably not the remedy. Too late for that. We need to give the corporations and masters of war a little something to think about.
posted by jcworth at 6:08 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Over the weekend, I was having a conversation with my aunt, who works in HR at an investment bank - the type of place that would recruit from the kinds of upper-middle-class people described in this article. She said that, at a recent meeting, someone suggested that the firm start sending gift baskets to the parents of new, out-of-college, hires. Apparently some firms are doing this. My aunt rather strongly disagreed with the idea, pointing out that she knows some young people (my cousin and myself) who would be absolutely, completely mortified by such a move.

I bring this up to point out two things.

1) This trend absolutely does exist. Levels of narcissism have increased in the past few decades. Complaining to teachers about grades, usually for flimsy reasons, was pretty common when I was in high school and college in the early-mid 2000s. There's got to be some reason why colleges are fretting about making parents leave on orientation weekend, and somehow I doubt it's solely because of articles in The Atlantic.

2) This article, like nearly all such articles, vastly overstates the issue. I, personally, do not know anyone who was raised in such a coddling way, but I come from a pretty middle-middle class background probably wouldn't much care for someone so lacking in resilience. Most people are still, as ever, more or less OK, but that doesn't mean that helicopter parents and overindulged twentysomethings unable to cope with adult life do not exist, and in greater numbers than in times past.

One more thing: this stuff and the bad economy are mutually reinforcing. It's not "hey, we fucked up the economy, our kids can't get good jobs, so let's blame our parenting styles and their neuroses." It's "oh shit, we're in for a lost decade and many of us filled our kids' heads with a bunch of anything-is-possible nonsense, and now even less is possible than before, if our kids actually believed us they're really royally screwed." Luckily, most didn't, but some surely did, and that's the problem.
posted by breakin' the law at 6:39 PM on June 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


I am finally realizing that my parents Did It Wrong, and am trying to sort out how.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:41 PM on June 26, 2011


I love this article. Sure, it's overstating things, but it speaks to both me and the society I grew up in.

I was a crap soccer player in 1st grade and got a trophy just for participating for several years. I did not deserve those trophies. They piled up in my room, and my athleticism did not improve with them. I don't know if they actually made an impression on me, but I think not getting a trophy might have influenced me a little more.
posted by shii at 7:05 PM on June 26, 2011


And referring to something done by a child as a "failure" indicates there is something seriously seriously the fuck wrong with the person who wrote that.


Unwittingly or not, this remark really cuts straight to the heart of the issue here. I see this piece as boiling down to a single question: How will we prepare our kids to gracefully cope with failure?

I will never pretend to have the answer. But surely, at the very least, they will need to confront it.
posted by stroke_count at 7:10 PM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


The article does describe a real problem, but it's hyperbolic and cherry-picked. That said, the students in my classes who are most devastated by failure -- that is, who are unable to recognise it as a judgement on their performance rather than a comment on their personal value -- are the poorest, least 'coddled' ones. Students who grew up poor or in tenuous personal circumstances are the ones who see a grade of 47% as meaning "You are a waste of skin; drop out right now" instead of "you have not done this correctly; please come to see me and learn how to do it right".

The sons and daughters of comfort and privilege, on the other hand, often see failure as a challenge to their whining skills. And yes, I've had parents call me and demand that I change their son or daughter's grade, so they can get into med school/pharmacy/grad school -- where they really belong. Seemingly I am always the only person who gave their precious flower a grade of less than 90.
posted by jrochest at 7:38 PM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was a crap soccer player in 1st grade and got a trophy just for participating for several years. I did not deserve those trophies. They piled up in my room, and my athleticism did not improve with them. I don't know if they actually made an impression on me, but I think not getting a trophy might have influenced me a little more.

I got these trophies, as well, except in baseball. I was a terrible baseball player, and they were mostly a source of embarrassment.
posted by breakin' the law at 7:43 PM on June 26, 2011


How will we prepare our kids to gracefully cope with failure?

I will never pretend to have the answer. But surely, at the very least, they will need to confront it.


I don't know how I got to it exactly (a combination of good schooling, parenting, various hard knocks, I guess), but by the time I was in my mid-20s I was pretty clear that I learned the most when I failed at something. So the overall goal was not to avoid to failure but to avoid failing in the same way more than once.

Easy to say, of course -- much harder to live.
posted by philip-random at 7:46 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


“Happiness as a byproduct of living your life is a great thing,” Barry Schwartz, a professor of social theory at Swarthmore College, told me. “But happiness as a goal is a recipe for disaster.”

This was the small diamond I dug out of that article. Strikes me as quite true. You don't find happiness by looking for happiness. You find happiness by going about things, some of which are sometimes difficult, upsetting, and boring.
posted by Miko at 8:02 PM on June 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm 23. My friends growing up were mostly raised working class and lower middle class. All of them had different home lives, but they spent a lot of their time taking care of their younger siblings, doing housework, hearing about how they'd behave If They Were Going To Live Under My Roof, and working second jobs. Many of them stopped being dependent on their parents by their mid- to late-teens.

I went to college at a private liberal arts college, where everyone's parents were yuppies. My friend's parents packed her entire room at graduation. People's parents flew across the country and stayed in a hotel for orientation. Blah blah blah you read the article.

But my point is that these kids are of the same generation. Maybe there's been something of a generational shift, I don't know. But it seems like in some cases, this intellectualized upper-middle class hand wringing about kids these days is probably the result of people not realizing the differences they see are partially due to their own upward mobility.
posted by geegollygosh at 8:27 PM on June 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Meanwhile, a 2010 press release from the NYC school system:

For the first time, more than half of the City’s Hispanic students — 56 percent, including August graduates — graduated in four years.

Fifty-six percent is good enough to make it into a press release.

Moving things back a couple years, in 2006, "only 32 percent of black males graduated from high school on schedule."

I've had occasion to interact in a professional capacity with dozens of mostly poor, mostly minority teens from New York City over the last several years. Some of them were dropouts, some had criminal records, some had kids. I often found myself impressed by their intelligence and their wisdom about the world.

But it is just so difficult to claw your way out of cyclical poverty. Some of these kids do have a shot — make it through school, go to a CUNY, work hard and get good grades, find a field that's hiring, maybe even go to graduate school on a scholarship. It's certainly not impossible.

But it is almost impossible to see that path exists when nobody you know has taken it and nobody is encouraging you. How would you know? Your parents may or may care that you finish school or be setting any sort of example at all, your dad may or may not be in the picture at all. Even if they do care, your margin of error can be so slim. When you grow up in a poor neighborhood, and when your family is likely in the system for one reason or another (Medicaid, food stamps, child protective issues, public housing), and when there are police on every corner, if you slip up, the way that any kid from the suburbs would have the opportunity to, you're screwed. And not just that, if your parents or your brother or sister or your cousin slips up, you're also screwed — weed in the house? Bye bye, public housing; guess what, kids, you're going to foster care for a while. Hope you already finished your math homework, you'll be spending the next couple of days being shuttled around the city.

I'm not sure exactly how this ties in here, but it seems at least worth a mention that even in America, even in this day and age, helicopter parenting is far from the biggest threat to the ability of "kids these days" to succeed.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 8:58 PM on June 26, 2011 [14 favorites]


Yes, great article. I liked the way she repeated the basic theme of The Case for Settling, on the perils of excessive choice, but it seems like in this case, the charge that parents are overprotective at the expense of their child's individuation falls apart. Kids are asked to make choices because parents think that choosing for them is authoritarian and deprives them of their individuality. How does never saying no to your child and making them feel like the center of the universe fall under excessive coddling rather than excessive individuation? I think Gottlieb is observing a real phenomenon (or maybe several different phenomena), I just don't get how it adds up to excessive coddling. There's a big confusion here, because the cultural expectations for loving behavior tends to be about allowing someone to make choices and satisfy their desires. No wonder that kids are in therapy with the impression that their parents have met and exceeded all the cultural expectations for love, and yet feel that something is missing.

Maybe love is not about me, it's about us? When someone says "My parents are my biggest fans," is that a good thing? Being a fan is a very distant way of relating. When someone sees only your positive qualities, it means an absence of intimacy, because idealization only happens at a distance. But the reason you tell someone you only see positive qualities is to imply that they are lovable, desirable or valuable. It's extremely perverse, because it means that the moment you say it, you've essentially withdrawn from intimacy, and that leads to people who feel lovable, but feel no actual love.

Finally, I'd like to dedicate this comment to all the "cool" aunts and uncles upthread who totally get what a bummer it is when the "the Man" is like, all over your case all the time. You're just so cool and laidback, you hardly even seem old at all.
posted by AlsoMike at 9:14 PM on June 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


Your parents aren't the reason that life sucks.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:55 PM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think it's both a shittily written article about the writer's own experience and gossip she's exchanged with people in her circle, and a symptom of a problem that does exist. As someone who worked with troubled teens, I saw kids with both opposite problems: absent or otherwise incapable parents and overprotective, coddling parents who didn't teach their kids any coping skills and then wondered why they couldn't cope. Somewhere in there there is a happy medium, and I like to think my parents found it. When it counted, they were there for me. But they also let me do my own thing.

I also think teachers' and schools' attitudes have a lot to do with it. Once I got detention in high school for a situation that was completely unfair. I complained about it to my mom, and without my knowledge she called my school to complain about it. It was the only time that ever happened, and if I had known she meant to do it, I would have told her not to. After that, the principal called me into her office and told me that my mom had called and that I didn't have to do detention because it was an unfair punishment for something I didn't do. But she then told me that she didn't appreciate my mom calling and that in the future if I had a problem I needed to come talk to her myself. I was so embarrassed, but glad I didn't have to do detention.

One of the things from the article that struck me as false was when she said long work hours lead to this over-coddling. That strikes me as completely wrong. How is a parent who works long hours supposed to be helicoptering in the first place? My mom was working full-time and getting her PhD while I was in school, and she certainly didn't have time to worry about all the details of my life, unless it was something really important.
posted by threeturtles at 9:59 PM on June 26, 2011


Oh, and parents go to college orientation now? I did two separate college orientations on two different coasts and parents weren't expected to do more than carry some boxes in and give some hugs. This was ten years ago. WEIRD.
posted by threeturtles at 10:03 PM on June 26, 2011


This is like First World White People Problems: the article.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:11 PM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


This reminds me of those NY Times articles about how hard it is to find a good loft or how competitive and worrisome it is getting into a good Manhattan daycare or how it turns out that people live lives out in the suburbs and they have homes and everything. There's a certain privileged blinkered cluelessness to the tone.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:32 PM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I cringe at: play dates, time outs, rubber chips on playgrounds, bike helmets, praise for behavior that should rightly be expected. Not that any of them are bad in and of themselves. They just allude to the pervasive coddling attitude these days.

How the fuck do no gravel on playgrounds and bike helmets mean pervasive coddling? I know this was 100 comments ago, but I just can't give this up. What else makes you cringe? Knives that aren't stabby enough? ABS breaks? Fucking seatbelts!
posted by incessant at 10:53 PM on June 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


Children today are tyrants. They contradict their parents, gobble their food, and tyrannise their teachers.
posted by wilful at 10:54 PM on June 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


AlsoMike, thanks for the shout-outs for the cool aunts and uncles. Until I have kids, that's my awesome role, and the nieces and nephews seem to appreciate it.

My brother and sister have extremely different circumstances and parenting styles. (I have another brother whose parenting I've barely seen in action, so he's not a part of this case study.)

My sister's family is very wealthy, out in Connecticut, church-going and active in the community. She is what I would describe as an over-parent. She has three boys and now a little girl, the youngest, and needs to respond to every single thing which comes up, no matter how minor, at all times. Talking with her, you barely get a sentence through without a time-out being proscribed on one of her children. This is without exaggeration. She dotes on the kids and is hyper-involved with their lives.

My brother's family is okay, financially, but never without worry. They are hippy atheists. They have one girl, which immediately, obviously, makes things easier on them. As opposed to my sister, who hovers like crazy, they allow Skye significant freedom, more than most would deem prudent (she is right around 8 years old, but this has been her whole life) but are very strict disciplinarians when she breaks the rules she's got (which are general guidelines for safety and common sense, rather than anything arbitrary.) Her parents are hyper-involved with her life.

My first conclusion from having watched all of this over the years is that, while my brother certainly has a much easier time of it, his style, if possible, is better (I call it his style but it is absolutely my sister-in-law's as well, of course.) Guidelines are important. Rules are noise. ANd Skye has turned out so far to be the greatest child in creation, so I think the proof is in the pudding (I realize most of you in this thread have kids, and I'm sure they are great. They should meet SKye, so as to have further greatness to aspire to.)

My second conclusion, however, is that parents have far, far less of a direct effect on their kids than they would like to believe. My sister has four kids. The oldest two have developed discernable personalities, but are very, very different, even if the boys are best friends. The oldest is smart and very caring towards his siblings, but obnoxious, stubborn, and still extremely dependent upon his mother. The younger one is preternaturally devious, in a way he already knows is humorous, is charming, fairly independent, and sensitive. I love them both but it was clear from a shockingly young age how much more mature and adult the younger one (who is all of six-almost-seven) was than the older one (now 8.5.) Except that the same thing happened with my own older brothers. The parents naturally over-do things a bit with the oldest, and dial it back with the next one, who spends as much time learning from the sibling as from the parents, and corrects for any mistakes. This is largely outside of the parents' control.

As are effects like growing up in Fairfield County vs. growing up in a small California mountain town, as Skye does. She lives in a modest house, but one which overlooks a magnificent and serene vista. The boys grow up in constant exposure to the other boys. My sister is an excellent cook, though one without a sense of taste (literally) and cooks for the boys (and girl, now) towards what they'll like. My brother is a foodie, and thus cooks for him and his wife, and now Skye likes what they like.

In all honesty, I'm not sure either is better. I think it'd be very difficult to raise a child, especially a son, in Fairfield County and keep them from becoming a bit of an asshole. I've seen it done, to be sure, but the bar is raised for sure. But I think most of parenting - once you've crossed the threshold into actively caring about doing what's best for your child - is fluttering your butterfly eings while reading every almanac you can about how that may direct the storm-patterns.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:05 PM on June 26, 2011


I can not fathom having one's parents effectively babysit one's first day at college/university. Choosing courses and scheduling? Wtf?!
posted by five fresh fish at 11:14 PM on June 26, 2011


In all honesty, I'm not sure either is better. I think it'd be very difficult to raise a child, especially a son, in Fairfield County and keep them from becoming a bit of an asshole. I've seen it done, to be sure, but the bar is raised for sure.

What is this supposed to mean? I grew up in Fairfield County. Sure, we had our assholes - Martha Stewart, Don Imus' public persona. But we also had our nice guys - Paul Newman, Don Imus when you actually met him.

Seriously, my family wasn't rich and we lived in Southport. People from Brideport and the poorer areas of Fairfield interacted with the stereotypical rich folks, and in Fairfield High the nerds, geeks, weirdos, and goths all stuck together and supported each other.

She lives in a modest house, but one which overlooks a magnificent and serene vista.

Connecticut isn't exactly ugly. I think over-parenting is more of an issue than geography. My parents, I think, tried to be way too involved in our lives and tried to mold us into what they wanted us to be. But they act the same whether they're in Australia or Connecticut.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:26 PM on June 26, 2011


LiB, I didn't explain myself. Fairfield County is gorgeous, and I've spent a hell of a lot of time there, in different towns, interacting with different families, etc. It's just very sequestered in many ways. More than that, sequestered in upper-class privilege. I've seen a lot of people going through culture-shock upon entering the outside world from there. Sometimes it goes well. Sometimes it... doesn't. That's all I was saying.

And yes, your parents will act the same regardless of environment. That's exactly the point I was making. Your parents aren't the only factor. That was my point.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:40 PM on June 26, 2011


I've seen a lot of people going through culture-shock upon entering the outside world from there.

I've had nothing but culture shock for the past 7 years, and I imagine it would be the same if I went anywhere remotely Southern or Western. But beneath its pretty facade Fairfield County is still suburbia, with all the soul-crushing numbness and heart-rending boredom that entails.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:43 PM on June 26, 2011


Thank you, apocryphon. I was about to say nearly the same thing: first world, white people, existential non-issue. Having nothing else to worry about, you create something to worry about. Fortunately, your village isn't under seige, you have access to clean water, you actually have schools for your children to attend, and the government isn't trying to persecute you for some belief. That's what the hole is inside of you.
posted by unintelligentlydesigned at 12:38 AM on June 27, 2011


How would you even measure something as ephemeral as narcissism?

Sales stats at Mirrors R' Us?
posted by readyfreddy at 1:26 AM on June 27, 2011


People don't need mirrors. They've got webcams. Mirrors are the wrong way round, and you can't upload them to YouTube.
posted by Grangousier at 2:04 AM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Nobody's happy, you fucking idiot.
posted by jonmc at 4:46 PM on June 26 [42 favorites +] [!]


And certainly not in your twenties. Come on, have we really forgotten that's the time to be searching, comparing, evaluating, casting off, trying on? To be of your family, yet not? To be intellectually aware of your gifts, your luck, your genes, your hopes -- and yet emotionally unready to own them? Are kids expected to graduate college and be locked and loaded for adulthood? Give a kid a break.

(Caveat: of course, a nice problem to have.)
posted by thinkpiece at 4:15 AM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


How the fuck do no gravel on playgrounds and bike helmets mean pervasive coddling? I know this was 100 comments ago, but I just can't give this up. What else makes you cringe? Knives that aren't stabby enough? ABS breaks? Fucking seatbelts!

I know that comment struck a nerve. I was trying to make a point. Poorly, apparently. Everyone keeps skipping the sentence in the middle, though:

Not that any of them are bad in and of themselves. They just allude to the pervasive coddling attitude these days.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:19 AM on June 27, 2011


The paragraph about the little kid tripping made me think of my sister's 4-year-old son, who has two sisters. All of a sudden, he's really into 'being a boy,' and hanging around other males, so when I visit he goes apeshit with joy. On Thanksgiving, he was running aeround like a maniac and he tripped and fell, everybody in the house looked at him and braced for the wails to start. I gave him a comical look in the face and said "Ehhh, get up you big wuss!" and he laughed, got up and kept running. FWIW.

Also, to connect with what I said about my Dad before, can you imagine if there was a draft and we had to field a military made up of these kids? God help us.
posted by jonmc at 5:11 AM on June 27, 2011


Also, to connect with what I said about my Dad before, can you imagine if there was a draft and we had to field a military made up of these kids? God help us.
"These kids" are a class phenomenon, and kids like them didn't get drafted to go to Vietnam. If the next draft includes the children of the professional upper-middle class, then American society will have solved far bigger problems than this year's version of the coddled kids moral panic.
posted by craichead at 6:41 AM on June 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


> helicopter parenting is far from the biggest threat to the ability of "kids these days" to succeed.

I don't think this article is talking about monetary or material success but emotional well being.

When someone sees only your positive qualities, it means an absence of intimacy, because idealization only happens at a distance. But the reason you tell someone you only see positive qualities is to imply that they are lovable, desirable or valuable. It's extremely perverse, because it means that the moment you say it, you've essentially withdrawn from intimacy, and that leads to people who feel lovable, but feel no actual love.

Thanks AlsoMike, nicely said. I've never read such a good description of the distancing effect of what I think of as the pedestalizing, idealizing, that narcissistic parents do. Being on the receiving end of idealizing is to experience an absence of intimacy, it's an inauthentic appreciation.

You said: How does never saying no to your child and making them feel like the center of the universe fall under excessive coddling rather than excessive individuation?

Smothering is not intimacy. It may appear to be a type of closeness but it's all about control, it's fear-shame based, not love and intimacy based. But individuation is not about mere distance either. It's separateness as part of a whole. Individuation affirms a sense of trust, healthy independence, respecting differences, individuality and is part of authentic intimacy. The healthy individuation I'm thinking about is part of the object constancy process.
posted by nickyskye at 6:51 AM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Or if you're like me, the constant stream of "faint praise" makes all praise look suspect and unbelievable. Therefore, everything I do must really suck.

Seconded. Or, if you're me, you process the constant stream of "faint praise" as "oh, you're my teacher/mother/father/other authority figure, and that means you have to say that, you don't really mean it."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:58 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I figure it's because the world is really kind of shitty when you look at it.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:58 AM on June 27, 2011


The phenomena in the article are simplifications and as such open to criticisms by from more nuanced perspectives. E.g. for mom to call your principal and complain about unfair punishment could be overprotective from one perspective, and to not call the principal to protect you from the embarrassment could be overprotective from another. All actions are open to criticism in the abstract because actual relationships are unique in the moment. Does (over) protection give a child the message that they can't take care of themselves? Does it signal that the parent takes the (imagined?) needs of the child personally because the child is their narcissistic extension rather than an individual? Similarly, a child who finds fault with what he feels is over protection may feel underprotected had the response been marginally different (or even the same response but the day being different.) What's more, the culture itself informs the criteria by which the actions and responses are judged.
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:12 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, Obscure Reference, does that mean that we can never discuss societal trends?
posted by DMelanogaster at 7:42 AM on June 27, 2011


Your parents aren't the reason that life sucks.

A friend of mine posted this article on Facebook last week and I didn't have time to write anything last night, so I should have clarified.

IF you "love your parents" and had a great childhood," and you've "got a good job!" then your parents aren't the reason that life sucks (IF you don't consider your genes the fault of your parents. ;)

Parents can certainly fuck up your lives, and of most of my fucked up friends, I can actually blame their parents for at least the start of their problems.

the culture itself informs the criteria by which the actions and responses are judged

Too true.

does that mean that we can never discuss societal trends?

No, but I think we should consider the culture of which the trend relates. In this case, it's a pretty small and limited one. From my experience, the problem of overprotective and over-encouraging parents is tiny compared to the problem of neglect. I live near a youth center so I can see the kids who have nothing to do and no one to do it with.

i.e. it's one thing to be depressed about being a middle-class drone, but it's another thing to be drinking hard or prostituting yourself at 15. If those are the extremes, which extreme would you prefer?

...

There are a lot of problems I have with this article, but the main one is the focus on parents worrying about "happiness" - regardless of the culture/region of the parents I know, none of them worry that much about their kids' happiness (maybe they should). Mostly they worry about keeping them safe, educated, healthy, clothed, and fed.

or yeah, what escabeche already said very well. something doesn't jive.

There are so many issues covered here, and many things the article gets right, imo: children need to learn how deal with discomfort and frustration and grief; parents often act in their own interests (duh); the problems of discipline for working parents ("we have 30 minutes before bedtime; do we want to spend it fighting over rules ... actually yes, yes we do" ;); the problems of saying "good job!" (I have beefs with Alfie Kohn but he has good points too), but yeah, it feels really upper-class nichey.

Honestly, I hate to join the haters, but it all sounds like beanplating for parents with too much money and not enough hobbies.

Love your kids; give them good food; turn off the TV (I mean YOU, not your kids --they're online or playing video games anyway); show them art, show them nature, show them beauty; teach them to love themselves as they are.

Happiness is not a natural sustainable state, imo. Contentment is. I'm trying to teach my kids how to eat well, sleep well, and treat themselves and others well, as well as hopefully inspire in them an enthusiasm for learning and creating. There are just SO many external factors (family, friends, neighborhood, schools, health issues, neuroses (my oldest daughter is deathly afraid of curtains blowing in the wind! honestly, it is ridiculous, but she's not faking. when she starts crying do I just tell her to "suck it up"?)) that parents just need to chill out and focus on keeping their kids healthy and alive.

There are so many pieces in the article I want to respond to, but tldr already, so I pick one:

Today, Wendy Mogel says, “every child is either learning-disabled, gifted, or both—there’s no curve left, no average.”

Truth is that every parent thinks their child is gifted until age 11, when they are exposed. That's also about the same time that the "good girls" start underperforming in school because they are afraid to be wrong.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:20 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are several parents who commented in here about their child's college orientation and how OTHER parents were overprotective, embarrassed their child, etc. WHY THE FUCK ARE PARENTS GOING TO COLLEGE ORIENTATION? Seriously, this is the stupidest thing I've ever heard. If you're kid can't be trusted to go to orientation alone, you did a shitty job. The only time parents should visit college campuses is when you are shopping for colleges so you can figure out exactly how much you'll be shelling out for the next 4 years. After that, you go up once a semester to buy dinner and give them some beer money.
posted by Kokopuff at 8:50 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


For an article that, as I read it, basically says "don't chew your childs emotional food for them," there's a lot of thread-shitting and kneejerk bitching in here.

I'm 17, and it's getting to that time where my peers - people I've known and grown up with - are heading for college and so am I. I'm not perfect, I struggle with racing thoughts and social cohesion. But one thing I have going for me is an ownership of my mind, emotions, heartaches, academic failures, occasional successes, and the looming financial abyss that is getting closer.

On the other hand, two of my friends are starting college this fall and rooming together - I asked about their financial situation. "My dad," by this she meant tuition, rent, a monthly stipend, and furniture.

The author of this piece is talking about a certain kind of parent (although like any "breezy" social-trend piece, it's unclear how prevalent this thing really is, and how much of it is mass-diagnosis) That kind of parent, or at least the behavior, does exist. I see it all the time - anxious parents hovering over kids my age, demanding things be acceptable for their kids emotional palate. I never got the anxious hovering, and I genuinely feel at an advantage because of it.
posted by Taft at 8:57 AM on June 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


>> None of this stuff is adhered to like scripture, but as far as I can tell it's in the mainstream of privileged suburban parenting custom in 2011 and it's pretty much the exact opposite of what Gottlieb is complaining about in this article.
Your Suburb May Vary. We are parenting pretty much exactly like escabeche described is the norm in their area, yet we are the exception in our arguably privileged Dallas suburb. There is a slow, steady backlash building here, among the parents who worry that, by raising our kids in this bubble, we are doing them a disservice. Many are taking active steps to overcome the environments of entitlement, the coddling, and so on. But that is still definitely the exception. I wish I lived in escabeche's neighborhood.
>> a tale of two fender benders:

1. my 17 year old nephew recently had his first car accident... he quickly called his mom with his cellphone, and she proceeded to sort of calm him down and walk him through all the details...

2. I had my first accident, also at age 17, I just had to deal with it, made mistakes, got taken advantage of etc.

... Key question: which of these two situations is likely to create a more dependent adult?
Neither. The correct answer is #3: A 17-year-old who gets in a fender bender, and has already been prepared by his parents for what could go wrong as a driver, including how to respond in the case of a car accident.

Somewhere on the spectrum between "Has no answers, gets taken advantage of" and "Has no self-sufficiency, has to call mom for help" lies the option of "Was given all the information, and then in the crisis situation, is enabled to draw on his own knowledge and skills for a good outcome."

What if #1 driver's mom hadn't answered the phone? At that point, he becomes teen driver #2. How do we keep a young person from ever being in the "has no answers, gets taken advantage of" scenario? By teaching them self-sufficiency.
>> “But happiness as a goal is a recipe for disaster.” This was the small diamond I dug out of that article.
Me too, Miko. That statement was a good reality check for me... a reminder that we as adults should strive to "live well" and in that striving comes the happiness.

Of course, it depends on what one's definition of living well is. For my family*, it's health, financial security, time for recreation and fun together along with other family and friends, personal development, and community service, pretty much in that ordr. As we strive toward those things, happiness is our by-product.

(*Of course I get that the ability to achieve these goals is a result of white privilege, to some extent. Although, I would hope that, even if life changed and we were suddenly considered lower-middle-class or poor by income standards, our list would remain exactly the same.)

But I can imagine where, if a family's list for "living well" includes: biggest house on the block, three cars in the garage, most popular kids at school, the envy of our friends and neighbors... I suspect the by-product of striving toward those goals is very different.
posted by pineapple at 9:06 AM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I enjoyed the article; thank you for posting it.
posted by Kwine at 9:15 AM on June 27, 2011


The article seems pretty accurate. The piece never said that this overcoddling phenomenon is a widespread problem. Parenting styles are much more diverse, but it sure gives insight into a certain kind of family/community.
posted by polymodus at 9:46 AM on June 27, 2011


And you know what? This is not really about "us," even though it says it is. It's about parents who, except for the purposes of shaming articles in the Atlantic, may not even exist. I've never met them, at any rate, despite being smack in the middle of the demographic.


The interviews in the article make it pretty clear that they have existed (the patients), and they still do exist (the schools). Perhaps instead your perceived demographic is not the same as the actual demographics.

The article could have been more rigorous, considered other angles, and maybe less verbose, but it's not making things up—there's nothing fundamentally new about oversheltered children.
posted by polymodus at 9:58 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem is not with the folks who are in therapy, it's with the folks who aren't. I'm not saying it should be mandatory, but it should certainly be destigmatized. Therapy is a useful tool, especially for questing 20-somethings. If nothing else, as an outside perspective.
posted by Eideteker at 10:53 AM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


WHY THE FUCK ARE PARENTS GOING TO COLLEGE ORIENTATION?

In our case? At least one of the parents is REQUIRED to attend.

And Orientation is two days long, and the students (not with the parents, but separately) actually register for classes at this time. When I had orientation on the same campus, twenty-mumble years ago, it was 3 hours, I was on my own, and we didn't register until much later.

My spouse and I both went to orientation because we are both alumni and wanted to see the campus, which, wow, has it changed! For instance, we used to love to go to the Student Center and have pizza at the Empty Keg. The origins of the name came for the place came from when the fact that, when they first opened in the 70s, they couldn't get a liquor license. Even after they started serving beer, they kept the name. The Empty Keg was a staple for twenty years. Now the place doesn't even exist.

But I agree that it is crazy to have a parent required to attend orientation and then be upset that parents are too involved with their college-student kids.
posted by misha at 12:37 PM on June 27, 2011


Because in the 1960s? They totally had MAID SERVICE and LAUNDRY PICKUP AND DROP OFF at my dad's all-boys dorm.

We had maid service at our co-ed dorms at a private engineering school in the 90's. Seems like a reasonable idea to me. Who can rely on college students to actually vacuum? I imagine things like bugs would be a bigger problem if students were left to fend for themselves in this area. We did have to do our own laundry though (after all, some students decided bathing was optional, so doing their laundry would probably be pointless).
posted by wildcrdj at 6:27 PM on June 27, 2011


Thank you, apocryphon. I was about to say nearly the same thing: first world, white people, existential non-issue. Having nothing else to worry about, you create something to worry about. Fortunately, your village isn't under seige, you have access to clean water, you actually have schools for your children to attend, and the government isn't trying to persecute you for some belief. That's what the hole is inside of you.

That doesn't change the feeling that there's something wrong and unhappy in you, and you see it in your siblings, and you wonder if your parents tried to help you too much but ended up helping you too little or expected too much or expected too little. It's a morass, a minefield, and while its confusing I think its very real.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:28 PM on June 27, 2011


If parents don't attend the REQUIRED orientation, what happens? The adult (young, but not a kid) is kicked out?
posted by five fresh fish at 6:30 PM on June 27, 2011


And for that matter, I'm in my mid-forties. would my parents have to attend? What if I were 25? 21? 18?
posted by five fresh fish at 6:33 PM on June 27, 2011


If parents don't attend the REQUIRED orientation, what happens? The adult (young, but not a kid) is kicked out?
I'm sure nothing would happen. At my institution, we can work with students who can't attend orientation. And non-traditional students typically attend a separate orientation from the 18-year-olds.

I think part of the issue is that you may be envisioning something different when you hear "orientation." At my undergrad institution, orientation was something that happened right before school started, and the whole class did it together. At some big state schools, there isn't really the personnel to orient everyone at the same time, so there are a bunch of orientation sessions over the summer. Students come in for an orientation session, and then they go back home and come back when school starts. Most students come with their parents, and I think it's partly because their parents aren't going to be comfortable sending them off with the family car for two days.
posted by craichead at 7:18 PM on June 27, 2011


The only time parents should visit college campuses is when you are shopping for colleges so you can figure out exactly how much you'll be shelling out for the next 4 years. After that, you go up once a semester to buy dinner and give them some beer money.

I started college in 1992. I never did any college tours, had never seen the campus before, and I took a 15+ hour Greyhound ride by myself to get there. My parents were poor and most years had an "Expected Family Contribution" of $0. They never visited until my graduation. Most of my college friends thought this was crazy.
posted by candyland at 7:41 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I graduated from High School in Oklahoma and went to college at NYU. My parents didn't move me in. Not because we were poor, mind you, but because they had vacation plans that conflicted. My older sister traveled with me from Dallas to help me move in, and my folks showed up a week later just to see what my dorm room was like, take me out to dinner, a few times, and give me a few hugs goodbye. They didn't show up on campus again until graduation.

Mind you, that might sound cold, but it wasn't, at all. I'm the youngest of four kids, meaning that while my authority in life had been my parents, I was raised by my siblings. My parents have known this for a long, long time, and realize that while I am reflexively secretive around them, I am much more open with my brothers and sister. Emily was the perfect person to guide me into college. And really, whose advice is more valuable there?

As for not showing up on campus, well, I was coming to them a few times per year, on their dime. They felt no need to come invade my space while I was still learning to be an adult there. The funny thing is, though, that my folks LOVE New York. My mom especially gets just ecstatic visiting there. Once my sister moved to Connecticut and I moved into Brooklyn they had more reasons to visit, and I remember at one point, not knowing how to entertain my parents, taking them out onto my rooftop patio with a couple of Brooklyn Lagers just to hang out. I still smile remembering my mother, almost catatonic with bliss, stating for the record, "This is one of the best beers I've ever had, and were here on a Brooklyn rooftop; This is perfect." This was 100% sincere.

I've got my share of problems, but even if they may in some way trace back to my parents, I can't blame them for any of them. Especially because looking back I can't imagine how I would have raised me any better.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:39 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


They never visited until my graduation. Most of my college friends thought this was crazy.

I went to an expensive private college and your situation was not that uncommon. One of my best friends came from a farm and his parents only visited on graduation. My parents only visited twice, after my sophomore year and at graduation, but they also lived across the country.

I've got my share of problems, but even if they may in some way trace back to my parents, I can't blame them for any of them. Especially because looking back I can't imagine how I would have raised me any better.

You know, as much as I say your parents isn't the reason your life sucks and as much as I love my parents (a lot), I can think of a lot of ways in which my parents could have "raised me better," including some very important ways (and I could list them all out, if you had the time. ;) I'm sure my daughters will say the same for me and my wife. That's part of the territory: we are not our parents.

There's so much about life that is depressing and disappointing: We grow old, get sick, watch our friends die, and then we die. In the meanwhile, we work in jobs we don't really like 25% of the time, sleep 33% of the time (and up to half of our dreams are nightmares); and spend far too much time bombarded by sales pitches hawking widgets and ointments we don't need and that we know are probably destroying our planet but we can't stop making.

Your parents are not the reason life sucks.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:11 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Your parents are not the reason life sucks

True. My teachers should also shoulder some of the blame. And Thatcher.
posted by Grangousier at 11:09 AM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


And Thatcher.

Hell, Maggie Thatcher's one of the reasons my life sucks and I'm Canadian.
posted by philip-random at 11:16 AM on June 28, 2011


I started subscribing to The Atlantic a couple of years ago, I forget why. Every time I get a new issue I swear I'm not gonna renew. But then the renewal notice comes, and it's only $19.95!, and I think, maybe I should renew after all.

Psst. Harper's is only $26.97 for two years, and you usually get MetaFilter-quality worldliness without the MetaFilter-quality graritude.

posted by psoas at 12:57 PM on June 29, 2011


Thank you, apocryphon. I was about to say nearly the same thing: first world, white people, existential non-issue. Having nothing else to worry about, you create something to worry about. Fortunately, your village isn't under seige, you have access to clean water, you actually have schools for your children to attend, and the government isn't trying to persecute you for some belief. That's what the hole is inside of you.

I'm sorry, but there's a really important connection to be made here. Yes, there are two realms of competition. But remember the Amy Chua incident? Fundamentally that was about importing developing-world parenting techniques into the developed world. Statistics tell us that the psychological consequences are dire.

Existential problems are not non-issues; they're just at a different level of priority. Moreover I think at some level your argument conflates personal problems with social or microcultural problems.
posted by polymodus at 12:52 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


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