Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Nation of Wimps: The High Cost of Invasive Parenting

This book is a fascinating complement to Last Child in the Woods. Its premise is that everyone under 20 years old in 2008 has been messed up by over-parenting, rendering them unable to cope with the real world because they don't know how to deal with anxiety, problem-solving, and other real life skills. The book blames celphones (too easy to access Mom and Dad), and parents who see that the world is changing fast, and they better hyper-prepare their kids. This book has one of the best scientific descriptions of why kids need free time play that I have ever encountered. Apparently, all mammals, if denied free playtime at an early age, engage in play behavior when older. So, paradoxically, by keeping children from playing, you keep them as children longer. I'm fascinated by this idea, and want to learn more about it.

One thing I was surprised the book missed: the CNN effect. I have come to believe that the big shift in irrational fear (predators around every corner) was a direct result of 24 hour news networks. Before that, we generally heard only about local bad things... not every bad thing that ever happened everywhere. It is human nature to get scared when you hear about bad things, and I think this is why parents have gotten so overprotective of children, even though the world is safer now (fewer criminals, etc) than it was 20 years ago. I wonder if we'll adapt to this, and get a more realistic understanding of safety, or is fear of unlikely distant events here to stay?

The book is full of fascinating ideas and science to back (most of) them up. I wonder what it means for the future?

1 comment:

  1. Hmmmm. I think there's something to be said about the pervasiveness (is that a word?) of world news. THere's a lot of people out there that use the pervert cities and countries over as the reason to keep their children cocooned. There's research being done about the concept of playdates (this week's Newsweek, I think) and those children's inability to meet and accept children who do not come, for lack of a better word, recommended.