Where have all the grown-ups gone?

February 22, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

It would seem that many are watching cartoons, wearing weird T shirts and generally attempting to imitate Peter Pan. They hesitate to make commitments or assume responsibilities. Traditional values of loyalty and forbearance are not their scene. The important things are self and instant gratification within a self indulgent culture, one defined by the things it buys, and an unwillingness to take any culpability for its actions.

It is estimated that around one third of those watching Sponge Bob Square Pants are aged between eighteen and forty nine. Similarly, more people of the same age range watch the Cartoon Network than watch CNN. Oxbridge Double Firsts with subsequent doctorates take one or both parents with them to job interviews - almost certainly parents who have been overprotective from birth.

‘Helicopter parents’ are so-called, because of their ‘hovering’ and their willingness, or even insistence, on doing tasks their off-spring could and should do for themselves. It first becomes evident in a childhood which is closely directed, to the extent of not only providing disproportionate assistance in homework and school projects, but also in the choice of their children’s friends and activities. The ‘hovering’ then continues into their teenage years, throughout secondary and even tertiary education.  It has been described as ‘being involved in a child’s life in a way that is overcontrolling, overprotecting and overperfecting, in a way that is in excess of responsible parenting.’

It is almost certainly true that parents such as these believe that they are doing what they consider best for their children. They don’t want them to be hurt. They want to do their utmost to soften every blow and cushion every fall. But how, in such circumstances, can these children ever learn to deal with life’s inevitable failures and disappointments?

How are they going to learn how to resolve difficulties and conflicts with their peers - whether at school or work or play? Problems are solved by trial and error, making mistakes, learning and trying again. Everyone, but especially those starting out in life, need this process to develop confidence, competence and self worth. Without it, they become unable to think or act for themselves.

There are other consequences of such a guided - or misguided - upbringing. A major one of these is a sense of entitlement, as children and young people whose lives have been adjusted by their parents to best fit their needs often become accustomed to always having their own way. In any job interview, for example, a prospective employer will be put off by any overly entitled attitude. Associated with this is an extremely low frustration tolerance - an inability to deal with obstacles and stressful feelings.

As a result of these strictures placed on many, mainly millennials but some Xers as well, they have been unable to fit into much of the day-to-day rigours of life, and have retreated into a seemingly perpetual adolescence where, currently, 35 is the new 15. 


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