Monday, June 23, 2008

Book Review: A Nation of Wimps (courtesy of goodreads)

A Nation of Wimps: The High Cost of Invasive Parenting A Nation of Wimps: The High Cost of Invasive Parenting by Hara Estroff Marano

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book will have a profound effect on how I parent and it already has me re-thinking and changing my ways.

Basically, the book is about how the growing trend of "helicopter" or "death-grip" or "intrusive" parenting is not only weakening and harming our kids, but will also ultimately limit our country's prospects in the new global economy. I have friends in higher ed and they have told me stories about 18 year-olds unable to decide for themselves what size t-shirt they need and don't know how to solve a simple roommate conflict without calling mom and dad in for advice or assistance. I really didn't believe that things were so bad, until I read this book.

The book outlines the innumerable ways that parenting from a place of fear and anxiety is hurting kids. Kids are more anxious, more depressed, more stressed and more lonely thanks to parents who never allow them to face a challenge or experience a loss on their own. And the irony of this trend is that the parents' actions cause more harm to their children than the perceived risks could. Kids are hesitant or uninterested in trying something new, speaking out, questioning authority, and generally taking chances. They are raised to think there is always some hidden danger and that success is only measured in grades and the college you attend. It's perfectionism at its worse.

Along with anecdotal evidence and scientific evidence of this trend and its damage, the book also includes explanations of the psychological and biological processes of child development and the effects of death-grip parenting.

Kids need to experience failure (it's how we learn) and feel pain. They need to find out what they are best at, what they enjoy and who they want to be. We are hurting our kids when we plan their whole days, their whole lives, for them. They need a chance and time to explore. They need to be loved not for what they achieve, but for who they are. They also need space and time away from their loving parents so they can develop their own coping mechanisms and their identities, even at young ages.

Before reading this book, I was parenting from a place of anxiety a lot of the time, but now I realize that we do the best we can to provide a safe and loving place for our son. It's our job to free him and expose him to the many challenges and beauties of this world, not to shield him and groom him to be some ideal child. He already is an ideal child, himself.

And by the way, kids aren't getting abused and abducted more than they used to. It's actually happening much less, and really, it is most often done by someone the kid knows or is related to. So let the kid play outside for goodness sake.

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