Thursday, February 04, 2010

"Hyper Parents & Coddled Kids"

CBC aired this documentary today. The underlying message in this documentary is that there is a growing breed called "Generation Y" that grows out of a hyper-protective parenting. As a result, the children (called coddled kids) are stressed at childhood, stretched in their junior years, squeezed into the best institutions, and with parents even negotiating salaries on behalf of their kids. Granted, the parents interviewed in the documentary represent an extreme example. Yet, from my interactions with various parents and their hyper-anxiety over their children, I cannot help notice that this is a Middle-Class syndrome where high achieving parents transfer their competitiveness to their children and project their insecurities in the name of protective parenting. The Montreal Gazette uses this documentary to call parents to stop micromanaging their kids.

Problems of Gen Y: Expecting Handouts from Home to Society
Hyper parenting and coddled kids together form a whole new generation called Generation Y. One of the main characteristics of Generation Y people is a sense of entitlement. Children who are given adult responsibilities and expectations too early too much develop deficiencies and the inability to handle life on their own. They are easily bored. They can face an identity crisis when trying to solve a problem on their own, without their parents. Of course psychologically, there are much more. This is a result of parents micro-managing their children. In the CBC documentary, experts generally agree that hyper-parenting not only harms the child, but impacts society in general when they bring their attitudes and expect society to revolve around their needs, just like their parents did for them.

Personally, I have encountered many friends who send their children to all kinds of after-school activities. When I speak to their kids, I notice a lack of joy in many of them. I feel sad. Even in Vancouver, many immigrant Asian families continue to stress out their children the same way they did when in Asia. My question, has education or the children unconsciously become an idol in the parents' eye?

My Thoughts
Biblically, as parents, we ought to teach the children by not doing things for them, but by equipping them. In Proverbs, it is written:

"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." (Prov 22:6)

In this verse, there is present and a future aspect. For the present, parents are to train the child in a particular way. The action lies in the training of the child, not the draining of their energies with activities, until they cannot enjoy what it means to be a child. The activities that hyper parents subject their kids to, often do not demonstrate this biblical aspect. How do we know it? Maybe the following questions can help
  • Is the activity something the child needs, or something that parents want?
  • Do parents spend enough time discovering who their child is?
  • Are parents trying to cover their own insecurity, and projecting them onto their children?
  • What criteria do parents use when deciding upon the activities for their children? How much did they discuss or talk with them first?
There is a second aspect in Prov 22:6, the future aspect. The way that they should be trained is that they can discern wisely what to do in the future, and not turn from it. Ephesians 6:4 expresses it very well.
"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4)

If I were to paraphrase the verse above with regards to the CBC documentary, I will be reading it as: "Parents, do not subject your children and frustrate their growth in personal identity. Instead, let the biblical wisdom of the LORD guide them, and trust God to give them a heart to walk faithfully in obedience to the Word of God." The MESSAGE gives an alternate translation.
"Fathers, don't exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master." (Eph 6:4, MSG)
We have a lot to learn in terms of parenting. May we practice humble parenting, not by forcing our kids to do things that they are not meant to do, but to guide them by encouraging them. Children is a special gift from the LORD. Treat them gently and lovingly.


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