There is much that I agree with in this article - A Nation of Wimps from Psychology Today.
The central argument: that parental hyper-concern for children is inhibiting children's development. Other related themes: that this parental hyper-concern and attendant scrutiny is borne of parental perception of the competitive nature of the world out there, that children must be assisted by their parents to win in this race, that children know about and are diminished by this assistance and that unstructured play is an important means towards developing the qualities that lead to an unneurotic adulthood.
I don't have any complaints here. I agree with all this but there are some problems with the extent of the arguments. For example, I don't think hyper-scrutiny is solely the fault of parents; it comes from schools too. The pressure/hyper-scrutiny that is applied to kids in schools means that children realise that significant weight is given to success in various forms, so that they feel devastated when they cannot achieve. School assessments can be almost entirely responsible for this kind of self-appraisal and damage, leading children to develop the paradigm that the world is indeed relentlessly competitive, that co-operation is not an option, that they must always strive to be on top and yet are forever unlikely to get there. All of which doesn't look like a recipe for terrific mental health.
This does undoubtedly all go on, so what is the answer. Of course I am going to say HOME EDUCATION, but then one of the common criticisms of home education is that the children are over-protected by their parents, therefore giving their child the impression that the world is a dangerous place out there, and generally turning their kids into neurotic messess that way. These claims, though, are usually a load of old hogwash, particularly if children are educated autonomously. Not only are they not clossetted away in a classroom, having a better chance of actually seeing how the real world actually works, but they also have choices over their own life right from the beginning. They can be assisted to make rational decisions when they need the help, but they only rely on their own appraisals to test the success of their own ambitions, which means that very little terrifying weight is given to the idea of success and failure. The autonomously educated child can fail at things and it is only by his own assessment that this failure matters. He knows that he is still safe to carry on, that failure doesn't risk the loss of love, attention, or in anyway compromise his survival.
Because his successes or failures are only measured in his own terms, he doesn't introject the lesson that is implied by the school system, that the whole of life is relentlessly competitive, and that meaningful co-operation is a non-starter. Nor does he have to face the issue of where he comes in the pecking order, since he simply will not know most of the time, nor will it matter. What matters instead is that he solves the problems that he considers important to solve, which is surely as much as one could ask.
Parenting children to facilitate their autonomy is not a matter of being hyper-involved. It means being available to be asked for help, which is a different thing. Also, the play that is mentioned in the article as being beneficial to development is an integral part of learning for the autonomously educated child, there being almost no distinction between play and the work of learning.
HT: Karen at The Thomas Institute,