Are You Turning Your Child Into A Wimp?

This is the title of an interview by Andrea Sachs in Time magazine with the author of a new book called A Nation of Wimps: The High Cost of Invasive Parenting. Hara Estroff Marano is the author in question and she is editor-at-large at Psychology Today magazine.

Marano believes firmly that there are now a generation of children that are growing up unable to cope with disappointment and failure.

“these kids lack coping skills because they’ve not been allowed to fully function. They are the products of parental anxiety and all the lumps and bumps have been taken out of life for them, so they have no idea how to manage the normal vicissitudes of life.”

Marano’s voice is adding to a number of social commentators who all have concerns over the resilience of the current and coming generations.

In the interview Sachs asks Marano about the importance of play and how it is currently valued by society and I thought her answer was impressive:

“Play builds brains and gives children the ability to impose self-control and creates within brain circuitry the ability to pay attention. When you look at kids playing, adults see it as a waste of time. They have no clue what play does. Vigorous social play stimulates the growth of brain cells in the executive portion of the brain in the frontal cortex, and that lays the foundation for the circuitry of self-regulation, which is what you need to pay attention when you’re at school.”

The more I read about modern parenting, the more I see “experts” encouraging parents with what seems to be a back to basics approach. Such an approach was articulated in the advice that Marano gives in her last answer in her interview with Sachs:

“One, back off and give kids some credit and some leeway to demonstrate their competence. Two, let kids play freely without monitoring. Three, eat dinner together at least five nights a week: aside from the sense of cohesiveness, it gives all that security that is the breeding ground for success. No matter where you are on the socioeconomic spectrum, it is more correlated with school adjustment and achievement than any other single thing that parents can do.”

So is this approach the new “fad” in parenting or are we just seeing a correction back from parenting that went to the extreme?