Junior wimps

Overprotective parents are raising a “nation of wimps,” a Psychology Today article warns.

Although error and experimentation are the true mothers of success, parents are taking pains to remove failure from the equation.

. . . With few challenges all their own, kids are unable to forge their creative adaptations to the normal vicissitudes of life. That not only makes them risk-averse, it makes them psychologically fragile, riddled with anxiety. In the process they’re robbed of identity, meaning and a sense of accomplishment, to say nothing of a shot at real happiness. Forget, too, about perseverance, not simply a moral virtue but a necessary life skill. These turn out to be the spreading psychic fault lines of 21st-century youth. Whether we want to or not, we’re on our way to creating a nation of wimps.

When overprotected kids get to college, they often fall apart.

College, it seems, is where the fragility factor is now making its greatest mark. It’s where intellectual and developmental tracks converge as the emotional training wheels come off. By all accounts, psychological distress is rampant on college campuses. It takes a variety of forms, including anxiety and depression — which are increasingly regarded as two faces of the same coin — binge drinking and substance abuse, self-mutilation and other forms of disconnection.

. . . The severity of student mental health problems has been rising since 1988, according to an annual survey of counseling center directors.

Via Education Gadfly

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  1. Just another ramification of the feminization of America. But not to worry. Dr. Phil and Oprah will be there for them when they crash.

  2. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Hey, life sucks.


  3. This is a form of culture shock. It’s especially bad for black students attending nearly all white schools for the first time. Some people don’t seem to understand why black cafeterias, dorms and student centers are a good idea. But it helps to get away from the source of anxiety for a while.

  4. Afeka–I don’t think the “culture shock” that you reference is addressing the same issue of the affects of an overprotective childhood. Even if it is, having segregated facilities is just another application of overprotectiveness. These overprotected kids and students will have to face reality eventually. Better to get it before they go to the “real” world.

    As to the “culture shock” phenomenom even existing for minorities, I’ll trust you on that one.

    To the point of overprotected children having trouble coping when they get older, I have heard this assertion a number of times before in recent years. It makes sense, as some kids never face adversity or the word “no” until they get into their older teens. A lot of this overprotectiveness is well-meaning, as parents are well aware of the benefits of “good” parenting. I too have occasionally found myself wanting to protect my kids from adverse situations. Fortunately, articles such as the one in topic keep me aware of my shortfalls as a parent.

  5. It makes sense that overprotected kids never learn how to stick up for themselves. However…I saw a study somewhere that said that during WWII, in the worst battles, the soldiers who fell apart were *not* the ones from privileged homes…they were, in general, the ones who had had really rough childhoods.

    There’s probably a nonlinear phenomenon here…with parents who are *not at all* protective, you don’t develop good skills at dealing with things, and ditto if the parents are *too* protective.

  6. Akefa wrote:

    Some people don’t seem to understand why black cafeterias, dorms and student centers are a good idea.

    The irony’s almost unbearable, isn’t it?

  7. A couple of points here: First, a wimped-out society is a terrible danger to a country because it invites attack. People like Hitler, Hirohito, and Osama bin Laden staked everything on the assumption that Americans were too wimped out to fight. They were wrong, but a terrible price had to be paid to correct their missaprehension.

    As to civilized youth making better soldiers than gang critters, this is because the latter are sociopathic personalities incapable of forming the social bonds which are at the heart of all military virtue. The “dirty dozen” types are only good in the movies.

    Please remember that the polarity is not between the wimp and the thug. Each of these is a deviant in his own way, set off against men of honor who are ready to defend themselves and their country.

  8. “Please remember that the polarity is not between the wimp and the thug.”

    Lou, that’s a fantastic point I think we all have to remember, since it’s often this dichotomy that’s played on in the media.

  9. Richard Brandshaft says:

    Will someone with actual military leadership experience come in on the “gang critters” and soldiers question? I’ve heard the opposite from at least one highly educated former soldier.

    A few years ago, I read the professional auto-biography of a former British soldier. She went from a brutal slum upbringing to the army, where she had a successful career. It was a little spooky. She found a home in the army; I got the possibly incorrect feeling it could just as easily have been a criminal gang or, in a different time or place, the SS or a terrorist organization.

  10. The military is just another in a long list of things that can offer a “family” or a “home” to those in need. There are churches, schools, job opportunities, sports, and even cities that serve that need. Those with emotional baggage still have that baggage in their new location or position or uniform. Those that don’t have it are more likely to succeed.

    Weak people who desperately need to belong tend to have trouble in life no matter where they go and what they do. As for the post, I think college anxiety is better than high school ennui. It’s about time they started worrying about the real world.

  11. greeneyeshade says:

    fascinating as the piece was, it could have made a couple more interesting points:
    (1) sounds like these parents are acting out an an american idea dating back at least to the transcendentalists: if you just work hard enough and think the right thoughts you can get rid of evil, and maybe even hardship.
    (2) ralph nader and his followers act out the same delusion, and they’re at least as much as fault as industry is.
    the first time i thought st. ralph’s critics might be on to something was about 30 years ago, when my paper ran one of his columns, about a kid who’d been riding his trike, hit an obstacle, was thrown off and impaled on the tailfin of an old car. what did nader call for? banning car fins … and that does seem to represent his thinking.
    the only trouble is, as the article says, the world isn’t arranged to emerson’s or nader’s liking. saki got the point 100 years ago in his story ‘the toys of peace.’ and i think one reason harry potter, lord of the rings and maybe lemony snicket are so popular is that j.k. rowling, j.r.r. tolkier and daniel handler aren’t afraid to let their characters play for real _ literally life-and-death _ stakes.

  12. Richard B., supra, would like someone with actual military leadership experience to come in on the gang critter issue. Someone has. Y.O.S. was a Marine Corps Major, TBS class 1-76. I wasn’t combat arms, but I professionally studied these mattters, and have spoken to many combat veterans, including the highly decorated, who were unanimous in declaring that the street scum were bad Marines. They tended to be unreliable, dishonest, and selfish. (If you don’t know what a gang critter is you probably don’t teach in a big city.) One of the achievements of the post Vietnam military, one I am proud to have had a part in, for all that I did not serve in combat, was the elimination of back-of-the-courtroom recruiting whereby gang critters and street scum were given the choice of the Marine Corps or jail.

    The error of confusing warriors with thugs is a common mistake made by wimps, and is related to the insulting condescension which holds that being poor makes you bad: of course it does not, being bad makes you bad. Having been poor at some point in your life does not stop you from being, as the Doggies say, “all you can be.” You could even be a Marine Corps Major or a schoolteacher.