Thursday, March 30, 2023

Good intentions gone wrong

Attending a youth soccer game can be an education in parenting gone wrong. You might see parents demeaning referees, caring too much about the outcome and searching for the next Pele. Then, when it's all over, everybody gets a trophy!

Poor parenting and helicopter parenting have negative ramifications, and Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt explore those in The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure (2018).

The book explores some ideas in American pop culture that are new, compared to 20 years ago. It explores identity politics, cancel culture and "safetyism," which is how important one's physical and emotional safety is. A big point about safetyism is that overprotection of one's emotions can build weak individuals who hardly have resilience or grit.

What I respond to most in The Coddling of the American Mind is the authors' list of cognitive distortions and how they used to infect individuals, but now they have infected the masses. First off, I suggest everybody check out a list of cognitive distortions and see if they have a tendency toward any of them. Knowing what they are helps, and they will save anyone from any possible problem. (Hopefully, that's a joke and an example of magnification.)

It's true that black-and-white thinking affects the masses, especially when we're talking politics. There also is a bunch of catastrophizing and overgeneralizing that I see in media. Our divisive, combative political climate plays a role in this, and it's easy for the masses to be swept away in a cognitive distortion because that's what's happening to the person right next to them.

A lot of the book focuses on the culture of college campuses and how college students are showing up to campuses ill-equipped to function on a reasonable level of a human being. I remember being shocked, reading How to Raise an Adult (2015) about how many parents were inserting themselves in college campuses to help their children with basic things, like schedule changes and grade disputes.

Just like the child is the center of their cookies on the Internet and their iPhone, some kids assume that they are the center of the family and then the center of wherever they are. The phone and social media play a huge role with that skewed perspective.

With Coddling of the American Mind out in 2018, it examines more how overparenting hurt the generation in college. However, I realize that "overparenting" might be a misnomer. In fact, overparenting perhaps could be called "overprotecting" or "overscheduling."

To me, parenting has an important emotional component, and by shielding children from difficult situations, or difficult emotions, that is a disservice. Maybe overparenting shouldn't even be considered parenting. It's just whack.

Lukianoff and Haidt definitely are onto something, that the common "parenting" of a generation has set them up for failure. I understand that helicopter parents may have evolved to bulldozer parents. I want to be optimistic for the future, but it's just so difficult when I see so many kids being raised by their screens or by parents addicted to screens.

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