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By Diana Diamond

Are parents coddling their kids too much?

Uploaded: Jan 1, 2019

Consider the following: Teens, the past couple of years, are complaining more and more that they are stressed out, overworked, and feel bad whenever they are criticized in any way. At the same time, many of them, especially those in college, object to listening to people they disagree with because what they hear “hurts” them.

Schools and parents are responding to these complaints. For example, some professors are told that they should warn students before a lecture if it may contain topics that students may feel uncomfortable hearing about, and if so, can skip that class. “Stressed” students can spend time in “safe” rooms, with snuggly couches and with cuddly toys – in high schools and in colleges.

More significant, according to a Wall Street Journal Dec. 12 article, “School districts across the country are banning homework, forbidding it on certain days or just not grading it, in response to parents who complain both of overload and some experts who say too much can be detrimental.” A new policy in Ridgefield Public Schools in Ridgefield, Conn., place nightly time limits on homework for most students.” The average number of hours a week spent on homework by highs schoolers in 2016 was 7.5; the K-8 level was 4.7. Is this enough? Too much?

Lafayette Parish School System in Louisiana told teachers not to grade homework for grades 2-12, starting this school year. “The goal of the changes is to give students more time to read, sleep and spend time with family,” superintendents say. Indeed, in Palo Alto we have two school board members who worry about students being overstressed.

The big questions: Will our kids be better and more well-rounded if they don’t do their homework? Or has our society changed so much that we now have a culture of coddling our kids? Is this due to the decades-long practice of helicoptering kids? Is this good or bad?

On Michael Krasny’s NPR show Tuesday, there was a discussion on the oversensitivity some kids claim they are experiencing. They resent being asked where they come from because that makes them uncomfortable like they don’t belong. I asked a 12-year-old boy originally from the Middle East but living for a decade in Menlo Park if this was true, and he said yes. “It tells me they think I am different.” Yale protestors formally demanded the removal of two professors because they were upset by an email one of them wrote. Berkeley students strongly objected to one conservative speaker so school authorities then decided to cancel, fearing a riot. What is happening to free speech in our universities?

There was a fascinating story in The New York Times recently on “The Relentlessness of Modern Parenting.” It was the second most-read article of the week. While it described so well the anxieties many kids today face in growing up, it also stated that because of peer pressure or the need to have one’s kids succeed, parents today spend considerably more time being around their children day in and day out, 24x7, since the time they are born until beyond college graduation -- much more than stay-at-home mothers did in the 1970s.

I truly feel sorry for the tremendous self-imposed task parents do have today to try to make sure their kids are growing up the right way. It's hard. Yet the article concludes there’s no data on whether being with one’s kids all the time, and hovering over them as good helicopter parents do, is better or worse for kids. That’s the sad part about the article. No data. So is the hovering parental approach all wrong?

My generation did things differently. We got babysitters to go out on weekend nights, never thought of bringing our kids to a party except on Thanksgiving and Christmas. We let our kids go out and play whenever. “Just be home by 5 o’clock,” were their instructions. I always thought my role was to love and correct my children; today’s parents are made to feel that something is wrong with them if they’re not with their children all the time, according to the NYT article.

Today the peer pressure parents experience is overwhelming. One of my neighbors told me that one day she let her 7-year-old walk a half block alone from the nearby park to her home. A woman across the street called to criticize her asking, “What kind of parent are you letting your child walk home alone?” Another parent said she allowed her 9-year-old daughter to take the dog for a walk down the block and she got two calls from her neighbors complaining about the danger she was putting her child in.

I wonder and worry what will happen when these teens get into their thirties. Will they be able to handle the complexities and requirements of their jobs as well as everyday life? Will they be hurt over any criticism about their work or what they are doing? Will they be so self-centered that all that matters are their feelings, not anyone else’s?

I certainly hope not.