Campus Free Speech

Psychiatrist: Overprotective Parents Are Creating Easily-Offended College Students

Kids needs a dose of reality, not protection from it.



Experts worry that overprotective parenting has its own drawbacks: it creates kids who can't handle failure, being alone, or making friends. But what if it also has something to do with the phenomenon of hyper-offended college students?  

My colleague Lenore Skenazy and I have previously expressed concerns that helicoptered kids turn into helpless teenagers. When college students demand protection from everything that bothers them, they are in a sense demanding a continuation of the coddling so many of them have received throughout their entire lives. 

Dr. Abilash Gopal, a psychiatrist and author, agrees. In a terrific article for The Huffington Post, he writes

Overparenting is widely recognized as a problematic approach to raising kids. For nearly a decade, studies have shown how the rise of the "helicopter parent" has been worsening children's anxiety and school performance in the K-12 years. Now we're witnessing what happens when the overparented child grows up, and it's a trainwreck that is painful to watch, but impossible to ignore. … 

It seems likely that many of the students at elite and liberal colleges who are complaining about the ways in which the world is keeping them down were once children raised by helicopter parents. The coddled child becomes the entitled teenager. The teen who expects his parents to fix his problems becomes the college student who demands that professors and administrators remove his obstacles. 

If we continue to walk on eggshells to avoid offending these hypersensitive young adults, we are empowering their victimhood status. If we continue to indulge their irrational demands, we are robbing them of the opportunity to learn how to function independently in the real world. If we continue to overparent our kids, we are in danger of raising further generations of adolescents that are missing three key virtues of character: self-reliance, self-confidence, and resilience. 

Gopal isn't just theorizing: he's handled cases where kids used their perceived victimhood status as a crutch, thwarting healthy emotional growth. 

His article echoes the claims made by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt in their groundbreaking piece for The Atlantic"The Coddling of the American Mind." We do young people no favors when our efforts to shield them from reality leave them incapable of coping with it.