Today’s parents have created a generation of self-obsessed children and young adults. At least, that’s the view of a writer and principal of two alternative schools, who’s published a biting new book called The Art of Growing Up.
In an exclusive interview with The Weekend Australian, John Marsden says the number of people reaching adulthood in a state of being “20 going on 6” is one of the biggest scandals in the Western world, and it’s all down to parents who don’t just love their children but are in love with them.
“[Parents] minimise their child’s transgressions, have no regard for those hurt by their child’s narcissism … and blame others for their child’s aberrant behaviour. They are doing irreparable damage to their kids,” he explained.
In short, Marsden’s argument is that many parents won’t allow their children to be bored or scared and fail to say no to their children frequently enough, if at all – instead hovering over them in their school and social lives and providing all of the material goods they could possibly require, allowing the child to effectively be a passenger in their own life.
It’s a far cry from just 30 or 40 years ago, when kids were expected to endure tough times with other kids and hard discipline at school, earn pocket money or get a part-time job to fund their activities and make their own fun out of whatever they could find in the backyard.
Marsden’s points are likely to find agreement from plenty of teachers, many of whom have complained – often anonymously, because disagreeing with an obsessive parent can be dangerous in the modern education system – that teaching has been constrained by the demands of parents that their child never be allowed to fail or even be discomfited at having to try harder, all the while insisting that the school rules should not apply to them and their child.
A 2018 story in Today’s Parent listed how parents interfered with their child’s learning in ways that appeared loving but were in fact damaging: by being excessively interested in the minutiae of the classroom, while ignoring rules meant for the efficient operation of the entire school.
A kindergarten teacher gave an example of what she encountered when she sent parents a list of supplies to buy before their littlies started the school year.
“One mother responded with a slew of urgent emails bordering on the neurotic: ‘I’m at the drugstore. There are lots of different sizes of glue. Which one exactly do you want? Big or small? I’m so nervous, what if I get the wrong one?’. She bombarded me with emails … I’m a mother myself, and so I get it, but this woman showed up with three different types of glue”.