A blog post at Gen X Files ponders if parents today are ditching their tendency to over-parent. A short CNN clip and a sudden tide of blogs and books of the “bad-mom-confession” type suggest that the helicopter parents are beginning to slow down their propellers a bit. A Times article from 2009 strongly suggests that the backlash to over-parenting is underway under names like simplicity parenting, slow parenting and free-range parenting.
Personally I speculate that we will not see the full effects of this backlash until parents regain some sense of social and economic security. This security can only rebuild when people feel that recovery is within sight. But children will probably be less busy with other activities than school work. For one thing, there simply isn’t enough money to pay for daily lessons in soccer, piano, ballett, martial arts and yoga anymore. Children might have to spend more of their time at home again, maybe even become a little bored (gasp) or use their imagination (double gasp)! So whereas I think we might see a reduction in over-scheduling of at least extra curricular activities and stress I’m not sure if we’re willing to let our reigns very loose – yet.
Judging from a new documentary called Race to Nowhere, there is little idle time waiting even for the recently de-scheduled student. School expectations are now so rigorous that high school students have to abandon their favorite extracurricular activities and still sit up past mid-night to complete their homework. School administrators and teachers claim the demand for rigorous homework comes from parents themselves, confirming my earlier suspicion that ‘tiger mothers’ are offshoots of the ‘helicopter parenting’ trend.
The hyper parenting trend which started off with zealous Boomer parents turning child rearing into a parental guilt trip during the 1980s could not stave off atrocities in the environments their Millennial kids grew up in. We banned offensive language from kids’ entertainment, BPA from our tupperware and bubble wrapped them figuratively and literally, but realized that the sources of fear are moving targets. Parenting has been a fear business for quite some time; first with the Columbine massacre, then the 9/11 attacks, and now with the growing sense that the future is riddled with unemployment and financial insecurity. The fear that academic inadequacy may fail to carry us into a new economic paradigm and thus fail to bring us a much needed new economic platform deprives parents of trust in the educational system, in their own children, and even in themselves as parents. This is why the crisis era is not only about external forces, but a child rearing crisis as well. The Gen X Files article concludes that if we continue to raise our kids in ridiculously cloistered environments, “the result will be a very challenging time for schools (and eventually companies) as these stifled, conformist and compliant kids move up through the years”.
I think the quoted sentence above captures the meme that will change parenting philosophies, namely the idea that you can’t succeed if you haven’t failed. And you can’t create if all you have learned is to emulate. But even these ideas will not diffuse en masse until they translate into credible parenting advice supported by well documented evidence because few parents want to turn their own children into Guinea pigs, especially not in a time of crisis.