I Won't Grow Up / I Don't Wanna Wear a Tie

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About a year back, I wrote about the Millennial generation, worrying that the growing parental micromanagement of childrens' lives might produce a cohort with an attenuated appreciation of autonomy. An editor at Psychology Today weighs in in a similar vein. Interestingly, she taps the cell phone as one culprit. In part, of course, the cell phone expands tween and teen autonomy because parents are likely to be more willing to let their kids go out and do things when they know they're still reachable. But it also means the watchful parental eye is always there.

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  1. Maybe I’m being needlessly pessimistic, but it seems to me that the typical result of allowing children to escape direct parental supervision is that the parents expect all the *rest* of us to watch their fuckin’ kids and shield them from harmful influences.

  2. It’s quite simple: We treat adults like children, and children like babies. We then pretend to be surprised when they continue to act that way for the rest of their lives.

  3. That article was very long, perhaps needlessly so.

    Although damaged justice did a good job of summarizing it, here’s my interpretation:

    Many parents are turning their children into the same needy pussies that they are. Let your kids be kids and they won’t grow up to be as f***ed up as you.

  4. I’ve seen first hand the micromanaging of children, and it isn’t a pretty sight, via a distant relative.

    They have no idea what to do with themselves when they manage to slip outside of their parents total control. Or how most of society and free will operates.

  5. “But it also means the watchful parental eye is always there.”

    That would be “the watchful ear”, for now. Most cellular telephones don’t have video — yet.

    We can look forward to a generation of kids who know how lie at least as well as their parents did. Let me be of assistance with some simple excuses for any youngsters out there who want a little freedom:

    1) I forgot to bring the cell-phone with me.
    2) The battery went out.
    3) We were stuck in a traffic jam under a tunnel.
    4) I was in the church praying.

  6. This article has been the subject of much discussion at my university. I administer an academic program for first-year students and work closely with our Student Life staff. Let me tell you, these ARE the kids we are getting, and with increasing frequency. The pose all kinds of new challenges for faculty and staff, not the least of which is their inability to cope with failure and their being completely unready to accept the consequences of their actions.

  7. Oh Christ. Anyone have any suggestions on how to improve this?

  8. Mr. Horwitz,

    Have you considered a disclaimer on the first day of the course saying roughly:

    “Much like the real world, your success or failure depends on YOU alone, and if you don’t like it, you can go back home and let your mommy take care of your every need and whim again, you worthless, pathetic crybaby piece of @*%#”?

  9. Why is this a bad thing? So you have a large portion of a population which is in need of constant and strict management.

    Just raise your kids to think for themselves and manage others. Your kids will do very well.

    It reminds me a bit of ants stealing eggs from other ant species and raising them as their own.

  10. Andy-

    Oh we’ve considered that and more. But being a tuition-driven private liberal arts college, the truth is tough. 😉

    My new line of reply is directed toward the parents, who WANT us to act in loco parentis with these kids. I am tempted to say “Fine, you want us to be their parents, we will. And will do it better than you did by actually teaching them that their actions have consquences and that given them some breathing space actually works. Just don’t bitch at us when they actually become adults, if a few years too late.”

  11. “Oh we’ve considered that and more. But being a tuition-driven private liberal arts college, the truth is tough”

    Well, I see where you’re coming from, but if EVERY college stopped coddling these spoiled little brats then they’d have no choice but to face the real world. Of course that’s about as likely as all these parents teaching their kids responsibility and self-reliability. 😮

  12. Nothing new here, this trend has been going on for at least three generations but probably can be traced back to the early 20th Century.

    By the mid 1970’s Psychology had already invented a “new” sub group of humanity that encompasses 18-25 year olds (I forget what its called right now because I have CRS).

    Each generation tries harder than the one before it to keep the kiddies from growing up and the trend began to seriously escalate with the parents of baby boomers. As Mrs. TWC says, some of that is a function of extended lifespans and some is a function of wealth and plenitude.

    Other than that, the rest of you are exactly right. 🙂

  13. How did we get to this?? This (parents watching their kid’s every move) is the exact *opposite* of the way I (and just about everyone else I knew) was raised, and that was only about twenty years ago. My theory: kids are being raised in increasingly isolated suburbs where even riding a bike is unsafe because the streets are designed for the maximum safety of speeding cars. The kids have nothing to do so they wind up in planned, supervised activities during all their free time. I tell people who are raising their own kids now that I grew up in the city, where I could wander around by myself, meet friends, whatever – and they look at me like I’m an alien.

  14. I think it has a lot more to do with decreasing family size. If you have 4 or 5 kids, you simply can’t micromanage their lives–it’s physically impossible. With only 1 or 2 kids, it becomes manageable.

    My experience growing up was that the first-born child was watched closely by the parents. The next one was given more space, generally, and after that there was less and less active supervision. My best friend was the youngest of four rowdy brothers: as long as he stayed out of jail, he was pretty much off mom and dad’s radar screen. My younger sister easily got permission to do stuff that triggered a double-secret review when I asked for the same permission.

  15. Interesting point, Chuck.

    They should do a study where they’d compare the parenting styles of parents with 1 or 2 kids vs. the parenting styles of those with a lot of kids. Birth order probably’s got a lot to do with it too. It’d be interesting to see how many of these coddled helpless kids were among the last children of a large family.

  16. Yeah Chuck, that’s probably another factor among many… and yes, I am the youngest of four sons 🙂

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