EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


July 3, 2014

Column: Finding a balance between coddling and exposing kids to life's hard knocks

Jim Cain

Some psychologists now believe that “adolescence” refers to a developmental stage that endures into the mid-20s for many. In my advancing years, I seem to be bumping into more and more testimonials to this belief.

Allow me a disclaimer. What follows is not a categorical predicate, an indictment of all parents and their offspring. It is, however, something that I find concerning for both the individual and society. I leave open the possibility that it is more my perception than reality. I can offer no empirical basis for what I describe. It may be an observation many in the older generation helplessly succumb to as they cast envious glances toward youth they encounter as their own slips away.

Echoing through my adolescent years was an oft heard refrain from my father -- “when I was your age…”. This was his reflexive response when observing something in me that didn’t replicate his experience. It was followed by a recounting of the gold standard, the way things were done during his growing years, which he offered as a universal template. Whether stated or inferred, it was his belief that kids today are coddled. It bothered me that I suffered by comparison. With the luxury now of contemplating the world surrounding me, I am overtaken by the thought that I have become my father.

Of late, I am encountering more and more of the outcomes of parenting that essentially buffer kids from life. There are various terms of reference for them including entitled, spoiled, inconsiderate, overprotected, sheltered etc. Examples of their behavior and the parenting that spawned it abound.

“Helicopter parent” has become a common term in the lexicon of teachers. They seem unable to resist the inclination to inject themselves into the space between their child and what should be the unfiltered consequences of their decisions. From conversations with teachers, I could be persuaded that some parents have them on speed dial. This phenomenon has seeped into the lives of college professors who are challenged by parents to justify a grade. It is not uncommon for professors to contend with students who express bewilderment over a grade because they worked hard on a paper and got good grades in high school.

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