“Over-parenting” as Narcissism

Saw an old but still interesting article on Time.com today: The Growing Backlash Against Overparenting about how children are being overly coddled by “helicopter parents.”

FTA: “in the 1990s something dramatic happened, and the needle went way past the red line.”

In my opinion, the metastasizing illness of narcissism that emerged with the “Greatest Generation,” instilled from birth into the baby boomers, passed on to their “Gen X” offspring, has now reached beyond absurd proportions in how children are parented today by the “Gen-Xers.” It is beyond “over-parenting” – it is this grotesque narcissistic attitude that “MY child DESERVES an entirely risk-free childhood.” Parents for many generations have, to degrees, lived through their children but for too many parents today children are just status symbols like the SUV or the McMansion. Every thing that happens to a child is a reflection on them. We are raising a damaged generation of children who have limited abilities to feel or think for themselves. Their children are supposed to succeed, the parents say, and that success should not be threatened by anyone or anything.

The article asks “can these parents be saved.” I think the better question is can their children be saved. I look at some of my students today, especially the younger ones, and seriously wonder. College students already have the apathy that seems natural to that age (I had it too; admit it, so did you) but add to that an instillation of risk aversion and privilege from their parents and too many college students today are almost incapable of doing college-level work. They have been trained by their parents that all they have to do is show up and they get a ribbon. They have been further encouraged in this by school systems which have been bullied by parents to never harm their children through anything so mean as to actually try to challenge them. After all, if you try to challenge them, they just might fail and that would reflect poorly on the parent – same exact logic as to why jungle gyms have to be removed to avoid harming children.

If there is one comment I hear more than any other from my college colleagues, both faculty and staff, it is that a growing number of students come to school with an attitude of entitlement. Actually, “attitude” can be an understatement -it is at times a demand for entitlement. I see this entitlement attitude primarily in how students feel virtually insulted whenever asked to do anything more than the absolute minimum. They think that it is your job to move heaven and earth to make sure they don’t have to do more than the absolute minimum. And what gave them this attitude? Their parents, because it is their attitude about their children. The general apathy of youth inclines them to take the easy way out but when the over-parenting narcissism is instilled in them, that apathy becomes entitlement.

What can be done? Teachers at all levels have to stick to their principles and demand that students do their work and fulfill the standards of the curriculum. Administrators have to resist pressure to lower the standards and keep demanding that the curriculum challenge students. Society as a whole has to realize that we are “way past the red line” and support a healthier approach to raising children and training young adults. If we don’t, we will just raise a generation of slackers – and whiny ones at that.

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