Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Overparenting Parents are Lazy and Selfish

 Let's say you're the parent of a high schooler. They overshot their procrastination and now they have a 5 page paper due tomorrow morning. In a panic, they tell you about it. And although you're furious at your child's complete lack of preparation, you tell them you'll write it for them. You burn the midnight oil and come up with a decent enough essay that gets them a 90+ on the paper.

An article came out in The Atlantic about a teacher's war stories about parents who do stupid things for their kids. But the writer talked about the psychological phenomenon of parents "overparenting". But let's set the record straight: when parents do things for their kids that the kids are supposed to do themselves, it's straight up selfishness and laziness.

 It's lazy and selfish to do the work meant for your kids. Not only does it rob them of valuable life lessons and skills (dealing with hardship, learning to procrastinate effectively, etc), but it also reflects poorly on you as a parent. If you did your job well as a parent, you shouldn't even have to contemplate doing your kid's work for them. But you're caught between a rock and a hard place:
  1. You failed in raising your kid properly.
  2. You don't want to jeopardize their future prospects.
The second point is why it's so hard for upper middle class parents to resist cheating on behalf of their kids because every parent wants to their kids to succeed in life. But upper middle class parents already have the decoder rings and know all the secret handshakes required for accessing and staying in the upper middle class.

They remember the agony of maintaining a certain GPA, and that means getting a certain number of As and Bs in their classes and also being aware of how a single bad grade on an important test or paper can make it so difficult to claw back into the A range or stay in the B range. And because they were too busy building their career or doing other things rather than staying at home with their kids and helping them the proper way, they decide to take a shortcut.

So what do they do? They take the easiest way out of their current predicament and do their kids work for them. They "know" their kid is good at heart and is intelligent enough to succeed, because their kids are their own flesh and blood, and they were good enough to make it. So they lie to themselves and say "just this once" and then enable their kids' laziness. Except "just this once" is just the start of a relatively slippery slope that ends up with the parents shielding their kids from every bad break and hardship in their life. And that ultimately ruins the child by not letting them grow as human beings.

This is why so many millenials are suffering from a sort of prolonged adolescence. Because their parents never taught them to become adults. Because part of becoming an adult is making mistakes and learning from them. The current generation of parents can't bear to see their kids struggle for an instant, but they never gave them the real tools and confidence they need to see them succeed.

Two years ago, an essay entitled "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior" ignited a furor across the country. The only reason why it garnered so much attention is because her parenting style was so vastly different from accepted American norms while it also seemed to be getting the exact results that upper middle class parents dream about. Here's an excerpt:

Western parents try to respect their children's individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment. By contrast, the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they're capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.

The writer, Amy Chua, was relentlessly criticized by many in the media. But she got the last laugh. Her older daughter played at Carnegie Hall at the age of 14 and currently goes to Harvard University.

No comments:

Post a Comment