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You really don't need to hold my hand when I cross the street; I'm 15.

I love having a former hippy for a dad.
I was hanging out with one of my friends recently when the topic of her mom came up (again).
We’d made a simple change of plans: instead of staying downtown, we were going to head to Broadway for a while.
“Wait a minute,” she said, whipping out her phone. “I have to tell my mom.” I rolled my eyes at her mom’s irrational protectiveness. There was really no point in her knowing her daughter’s exact location at every second. Whenever this happens, I take a moment to appreciate the fact that my dad is a former hippy radical and trusts me to take care of myself, and that my mom still believes in fifties gender roles and expects the man to make the important decisions. I’m unbelievably happy with my parents when I see what many of my friends have to deal with: early curfews, terror of getting grounded or yelled at, not being able to ride the metro until they reached high school. It’s pathetic how so many parents try to hobble their kids and don’t trust them enough to make their own decisions.
Over-parenting is a trend characterized by “unnecessary corrective, cautionary or disciplinary” behavior. It means telling your 10-year-old to be sure and look both ways before crossing the street, or not letting your 13-year old take the city bus even though their phone has a GPS on it (a GPS that they might not know about). It started when the baby-boomers started having kids because they had fewer kids than previous generations, and had them later in life. As the laws of supply and demand dictate, when the number of kids fell, their importance to adults grew. This is around the time companies started marketing to parents who wanted to raise over-achieving kids with Baby Einstein or Your Baby Can Read. Things like elbow and knee pads or super-disinfectant Lysol were marketed towards paranoid parents, and all play structures suddenly became three feet tall and made of Jell-O – which is another problem, ironically, because by aiming the playgrounds at babies, the slightly older kids avoid them and start acting like the older kids and acting mature before they know what mature means.
This may sound like the whining of a typical angst-ridden teenager- “my parents don’t get it, man, they just like, wanna hold me back, you know?” but it’s definitely a problem.
Take pageant babies. Nobody really cares whether Ashley or Becky wins and gets to wear the super-glittery tiara and hold the bouquet of roses that’s bigger than she is. It’s a guilty pleasure that you watch with a carton of Ben and Jerry’s when your kids are asleep. You can say to yourself, “Okay, maybe I’m not totally sure about what I’m doing, but my daughter didn’t throw a raging fit because her hair wasn’t curly enough. Maybe I’m on the right track.” And the kids do throw raging fits, because all day they’re being told what to do, where to go, how to stand, how to smile. How could they not be frustrated? Furthermore, they never have time to be bored and make up their own games and stories; they have no time to create. Anger and lack of ability to think for yourself is a frequent short-term effect of over-parenting, but any psychologist would be happy to tell you that the long-term effects are worse.
For one thing, every time you tell a child to be careful and safe when they already know how, you’re insulting and demeaning them. You might think that you’re saying “I love you, be careful, I care for you” but what your child thinks you’re saying is “I don’t trust you not to die because you’re too stupid, dumbass.” At the same time, at schools, they’re being told about the importance of self-responsibility. It leads to long term low self-esteem and self-confidence. It also makes the child feel unloved- how can your parents love you if they make you feel like an moron?
Sheltered kids are stopped from being able to learn how to make good decisions or take any responsibility, so kids who grow up being this sheltered have more unsatisfactory relationships than kids who were raised to actually grow up. They expect their partner to love them no matter what and have trouble dealing with arguments. It’s also easy to see when new students enter college: they have higher levels of stress and buckle easily. They also have issues dealing with course work because, as I said before, they don’t really know how to take care of themselves.
We live in a culture which puts a lot of emphasis on its children; we like to talk about how our children are our future; we must take care of them. And we should. Parents should be a safety net that their children can trust to fall back on. But when mothers are staying with their daughters in their dorm rooms for the first week of college, or encouraging the city to cut down the walnut trees for fear a walnut might fall into the pool where their allergic child sometimes swims, we are not taking the right course of action. We should be trying to raise our children to be good adults, not good children.




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