“A Nation of Wimps” by Hara Estroff Marano
I just finished reading “A Nation of Wimps” this weekend, and while high school students are not its target audience, it is about people like you—what helps you succeed and what makes you fail. The information, case studies, and statistics discussed can be useful for a psychology class research project. For a more ingenious use of the book, you can read it, and then blame your parents for anything that you don’t achieve in your life.
This book, written by an editor of “Psychology Today” magazine, blames American parents for being so invasive in their modern parenting styles that they are raising kids who can’t help but fail—a nation of wimps. I had heard the term ‘helicopter parenting’ before, and Marano uses it in describing the popular style of parenting in which mom and dads ‘hover’ over their kids, in an attempt to make sure nothing ever happens to them. Unfortunately for the kids, when nothing happens, they never learn to have coping skills. This infantilizes them—they’ll never be adults who deal with the stresses of everyday life. Marano also uses the term ‘snow plough’ parenting, one I hadn’t heard before, to describe this style. Her metaphor is that parents clear all blocks from their children’s roads in life, but they also leave high piles of ‘snow’ on the sides that prevent young adults (that’s you) from taking new paths.
This matters very much as kids become adults and move onto college. (Again, that’s you!) Once there, they often cannot handle being somewhat on their own. They are still tied to their parents, in a way that earlier generations never were, through cell phones. Parents on speed dial still tell their over-eighteen kids what to do and how to solve every problem. In the meanwhile, college counseling centers are seeing a huge rise in student need for psychological services as normal life issues with relationships and university life send them over the edge.
Marano tells parents that they should allow their kids to fail—and fail early—so that they can develop the life skills needed to simply get over it and move on. Children are not trophies and their achievements do not belong to their parents. Use this book as an argument for your parents to allow you that post-graduation road trip across the country with your friends. And if you get a flat tire, make sure you know how to change it yourself—or have had the forethought to join the auto club. Your parents won’t be there to smooth the way to happiness, but the happiness will come because you’ll be facing meaningful challenge.