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Three Huge Mistakes We Make Leading Kids…and How to Correct Them

Recently, I read about a father, Paul Wallich, who built a camera-mounted drone helicopter to follow his grade-school-aged son to the bus stop. He wants to make sure his son arrives at the bus stop safe and sound. There’s no doubt the gizmo provides an awesome show-and-tell contribution. In my mind, Paul Wallich gives new meaning to the term “helicopter parent.”

While I applaud the engagement of this generation of parents and teachers, it’s important to recognize the unintended consequences of our engagement. We want the best for our students, but research now shows that our “over-protection, over-connection” style has damaged them. Let me suggest three huge mistakes we’ve made leading this generation of kids and how we must correct them.


1. We Risk Too Little

We live in a world that warns us of danger at every turn. Toxic. High voltage. Flammable. Slippery when wet. Steep curve ahead. Don’t walk. Hazard. This “safety first” preoccupation emerged over thirty years ago with the Tylenol scare and with children’s faces appearing on milk cartons. We became fearful of losing our kids. So we put knee-pads, safety belts and helmets on them…at the dinner table. (Actually I’m just kidding on that one). But, it’s true. We’ve insulated our kids from risk.

Author Gever Tulley suggests, “If you’re over 30, you probably walked to school, played on the monkey bars, and learned to high-dive at the public pool. If you’re younger, it’s unlikely you did any of these things. Yet, has the world become that much more dangerous? Statistically, no. But our society has created pervasive fears about letting kids be independent—and the consequences for our kids are serious.”

Unfortunately, over-protecting our young people has had an adverse effect on them.

“Children of risk-averse parents have lower test scores and are slightly less likely to attend college than offspring of parents with more tolerant attitudes toward risk,” says a team led by Sarah Brown of the University of Sheffield in the UK. Aversion to risk may prevent parents from making inherently uncertain investments in their children’s human capital; it’s also possible that risk attitudes reflect cognitive ability, researchers say.” Sadly, this Scottish Journal of Political Economy report won’t help us unless we do something about it. Adults continue to vote to remove playground equipment from parks so kids won’t have accidents; to request teachers stop using red ink as they grade papers and even cease from using the word “no” in class. It’s all too negative. I’m sorry—but while I understand the intent to protect students, we are failing miserably at preparing them for a world that will not be risk-free.

Psychologists in Europe have discovered that if a child doesn’t play outside and is never allowed to experience a skinned knee or a broken bone, they frequently have phobias as adults. Interviews with young adults who never played on jungle gyms reveal they’re fearful of normal risks and commitment. The truth is, kids need to fall a few times to learn it is normal; teens likely need to break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend to appreciate the emotional maturity that lasting relationships require. Pain is actually a necessary teacher. Consider your body for a moment. If you didn’t feel pain, you could burn yourself or step on a nail and never do something about the damage and infection until it was too late. Pain is a part of health and maturity.

Similarly, taking calculated risks is all a part of growing up. In fact, it plays a huge role. Childhood may be about safety and self-esteem, but as a student matures, risk and achievement are necessities in forming their identity and confidence. Because parents have removed “risk” from children’s lives, psychologists are discovering a syndrome as they counsel teens: High Arrogance, Low Self-Esteem. They’re cocky, but deep down their confidence is hollow, because it’s built off of watching YouTube videos, and perhaps not achieving something meaningful.

According to a study by University College London, risk-taking behavior peeks during adolescence. Teens are apt to take more risks than any other age group. Their brain programs them to do so. It’s part of growing up. They must test boundaries, values and find their identity during these years. This is when they must learn, via experience, the consequences of certain behaviors. Our failure to let them risk may explain why so many young adults, between the ages of 22 and 35 still live at home or haven’t started their careers, or had a serious relationship. Normal risk taking at fourteen or fifteen would have prepared them for such decisions and the risks of moving away from home, launching a career or getting married.

2. We Rescue Too Quickly

This generation of young people has not developed some of the life skills kids did thirty years ago because adults swoop in and take care of problems for them. We remove the need for them to navigate hardships. May I illustrate?

Staff from four universities recently told me they encountered students who had never filled out a form or an application in their life. Desiring to care for their kids, and not disadvantage them, parents or teachers had always done it for them.

One freshman received a C- on her project and immediately called her mother, right in the middle of her class. After interrupting the class discussion with her complaint about her poor grade, she handed the cell phone to her professor and said, “She wants to talk to you.” Evidently, mom wanted to negotiate the grade.

A Harvard Admissions Counselor reported a prospective student looked him in the eye and answered every question he was asked. The counselor felt the boy’s mother must have coached him on eye-contact because he tended to look down after each response. Later, the counselor learned the boy’s mom was texting him the answers every time a question came in.

A college president said a mother of one of his students called him, saying she’d seen that the weather would be cold that day and wondered if he would make sure her son was wearing his sweater as he went to class. She wasn’t joking.

This may sound harsh, but rescuing and over-indulging our children is one of the most insidious forms of child abuse. It’s “parenting for the short-term” and it sorely misses the point of leadership—to equip our young people to do it without help. Just like muscles atrophy inside of a cast due to disuse, their social, emotional, spiritual and intellectual muscles can shrink because they’re not exercised. For example, I remember when and where I learned the art of conflict resolution. I was eleven years old, and everyday about fifteen boys would gather after school to play baseball. We would choose sides and umpire our games. Through that consistent exercise, I learned to resolve conflict. I had to. Today, if the kids are outside at all, there are likely four mothers present doing the conflict resolution for them.

The fact is, as students experience adults doing so much for them, they like it at first. Who wouldn’t? They learn to play parents against each other, they learn to negotiate with faculty for more time, lenient rules, extra credit and easier grades. This actually confirms that these kids are not stupid. They learn to play the game. Sooner or later, they know “someone will rescue me.” If I fail or “act out,” an adult will smooth things over and remove any consequences for my misconduct. Once again, this isn’t even remotely close to how the world works. It actually disables our kids.

3. We Rave Too Easily

The self-esteem movement has been around since Baby Boomers were kids, but it took root in our school systems in the 1980s. We determined every kid would feel special, regardless of what they did, which meant they began hearing remarks like:

  • “You’re awesome!”
  • “You’re smart.”
  • “You’re gifted.”
  • “You’re super!”

Attend a little league awards ceremony and you soon learn: everyone’s a winner. Everyone gets a trophy. They all get ribbons. We meant well—but research is now indicating this method has unintended consequences. Dr. Carol Dweck wrote a landmark book called, Mindset. In it she reports findings about the adverse affects of praise. She tells of two groups of fifth grade students who took a test. Afterward, one group was told, “You must be smart.” The other group was told, “You must have worked hard.” When a second test was offered to the students, they were told that it would be harder and that they didn’t have to take it. Ninety percent of the kids who heard “you must be smart” opted not to take it. Why? They feared proving that the affirmation may be false. Of the second group, most of the kids chose to take the test, and while they didn’t do well, Dweck’s researchers heard them whispering under their breath, “This is my favorite test.” They loved the challenge. Finally, a third test was given, equally as hard as the first one. The result? The first group of students who were told they were smart, did worse. The second group did 30% better. Dweck concludes that our affirmation of kids must target factors in their control. When we say “you must have worked hard,” we are praising effort, which they have full control over. It tends to elicit more effort. When we praise smarts, it may provide a little confidence at first but ultimately causes a child to work less. They say to themselves, “If it doesn’t come easy, I don’t want to do it.”

What’s more, kids eventually observe that “mom” is the only one who thinks they’re “awesome.” No one else is saying it. They begin to doubt the objectivity of their own mother; it feels good in the moment, but it’s not connected to reality.

Further, Dr. Robert Cloninger, at Washington University in St. Louis has done brain research on the prefrontal cortex, which monitors the reward center of the brain. He says the brain has to learn that frustrating spells can be worked through. The reward center of our brains learns to say: Don’t give up. Don’t stop trying. “A person who grows up getting too frequent rewards,” Cloninger says, “will not have persistence, because they’ll quit when the rewards disappear.”

When we rave too easily, kids eventually learn to cheat, to exaggerate and lie and to avoid difficult reality. They have not been conditioned to face it. A helpful metaphor when considering this challenge is: inoculation. When you get inoculated, a nurse injects a vaccine, which actually exposes you to a dose of the very disease your body must learn to overcome. It’s a good thing. Only then do we develop an immunity to it. Similarly, our kids must be inoculated with doses of hardship, delay, challenges and inconvenience to build the strength to stand in them.

Eight Steps Toward Healthy Leadership

Obviously, negative risk taking should be discouraged, such as smoking, alcohol, illegal drugs, etc. In addition, there will be times our young people do need our help, or affirmation. But—healthy teens are going to want to spread their wings. They’ll need to try things on their own. And we, the adults, must let them. Here are some simple ideas you can employ as you navigate these waters:

  1. Help them take calculated risks. Talk it over with them, but let them do it. Your primary job is to prepare your child for how the world really works.
  2. Discuss how they must learn to make choices. They must prepare to both win and lose, not get all they want and to face the consequences of their decisions.
  3. Share your own “risky” experiences from your teen years. Interpret them. Because we’re not the only influence on these kids, we must be the best influence.
  4. Instead of tangible rewards, how about spending some time together? Be careful you aren’t teaching them that emotions can be healed by a trip to the mall.
  5. Choose a positive risk taking option and launch kids into it (i.e. sports, jobs, etc). It may take a push but get them used to trying out new opportunities.
  6. Don’t let your guilt get in the way of leading well. Your job is not to make yourself feel good by giving kids what makes them or you feel better when you give it.
  7. Don’t reward basics that life requires. If your relationship is based on material rewards, kids will experience neither intrinsic motivation nor unconditional love.
  8. Affirm smart risk-taking and hard work wisely. Help them see the advantage of both of these, and that stepping out a comfort zone usually pays off.

Bottom line? Your child does not have to love you every minute. He’ll get over the disappointment of failure but he won’t get over the effects of being spoiled. So let them fail, let them fall, and let them fight for what they really value. If we treat our kids as fragile, they will surely grow up to be fragile adults. We must prepare them for the world that awaits them. Our world needs resilient adults not fragile ones.

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  • Bill

    Tim’s words are articulate, clearly born out of his experience with college students. Young adults are the ‘score cards’ for current parenting patterns. We are creating a generation of cocky, scared, frozen, self-absorbed young adults who are concerned primarily about protecting themselves and are afraid to step out and change the world. This must be changed, but it can only begin in the home. Moms and Dads – It’s essential to parent with the long term view in mind. It is not our task to raise happy children. It is our job to rear healthy adults!

    • Great point Bill – healthy adults not happy children is the highest goal. Thanks for taking time to comment!

      • Max Nichols

        We should not equate “happy children” with the mistakes you’re describing in your article, Tim!

        I firmly believe that a kid with strong self-esteem, actual accomplishments, and a willingness to take risks is going to be a happier child AND a healthier adult. These are not mutually exclusive, or even divergent, goals – they’re the same thing.

  • Great message, Tim. Reminds me of a time when there was a small man-hunt near my home for a suspected criminal. I was 10-12 at the time and asked my dad if I could go ride my bike around the country block (I could see the Sheriff’s cars traveling slowly down the country roads I would travel). When I got back, he realized he probably should not have let me go, but did not seem too concerned.

    Your eight steps are great suggestions that lead to maturity rather than cowardice. Thanks!

    • Thanks, Nick. Great example of something that would rarely happen with kids today – for better or worse?

      I do agree we want to produce maturity, not cowardice in our kids.

  • Thank you for not stopping at the list of 3 generational gaps – the 8 tips at the end were so useful. Some of these we are doing great at as parents, but others need attention. I like the advice about risk-taking and encouraging calculated departures from the comfort zone. Looks like my toddler will be skydiving this summer (kidding).

    • Haha! Thanks for the feedback, Amy! I do try to offer not just analysis of problems but also solutions. Glad you found it helpful.

  • Gary Zulinski

    Tim You are right on! I see what your saying everyday in my college students. We have become a nation of babing our kids at our own expense! When they are no way shape or form ready to become the leaders we need.

    • I know you see this firsthand, Gary. I hope it’s encouraging to know that there are many who are dedicated to turning this trend around.

  • Sharah Frierson

    Thank you, Tim. My college leadership experiences were invaluable, but as my kids are getting older, I, even more so, appreciate your insight on leadership with students/children.

    • Thanks, Sharah! So glad to hear that you are finding it helpful.

  • Connie

    I agree wholeheartedly with this article. My parents were so wise in raising my four brothers and me. They let us fail, and we had to suffer the consequences of our bad choices. We came from hard working parents who didn’t have much money, but all of us have been successful in our work. I hope that this trend with today’s parents turns around soon, for the sake of future generations.

    • Your parents set an example all of us can learn from. Thanks for sharing!

  • carl

    as a high school assistant principal I seem to always be talking about the same things, responsibility for your own actions and telling kids that failing at things is actually a great learning tool – they are so fearful of making a mistake that much of their life is not lived…they seem to miss out on a genuine journey….great points to use when working with students, thank you…

    • Thanks, Carl. Appreciate you taking time to comment.

  • Tiffany Hammond Christian

    So true! I only hope the parents that need this most will read it. As with other commenters, I see the results of making these mistakes in my college classroom. It’s not an exaggeration at all! As a parent that tries to implement this, it is amazing how many elementary/middle school teachers don’t understand. I have often had to explain why I don’t check to see if a 10 year old or 12 year old has done their homework completely. I want them to experience the consequences of their work ethic when it doesn’t have lifelong consequences! So, what’s an F in 4th grade, compared to 11th grade,or college. Or worse, not meeting a work deadline.

    I will be sharing this with some many of my friends and with my own teenage children. As a parent, if I can help them understand why I do what I do, it works for us.

    • That’s a great point, Tiffany – allowing students to fail early and learn from those mistakes when there are not lifelong consequences involved is great. Those teaching moments will build resilience that lasts a lifetime.

  • Absolutely agree – the one caveat I’d mention (since there are many teachers in the comments) is that I’d like to see primary school teachers help by not rewarding parent-made projects with higher grades. My kids are young but some of my friends have shared pictures if the excellent (age-graded) work their kids do looking terrible in a sea of homework projects obviously done by parents. If that doesn’t stop, we will continue to see it.

    I especially love advice #3 although it’ll take some deep breaths. I’d guess we’ve all made plenty of shareable mistakes. And if we hold back so as not to feel stupid in front of the kids, how will they feel when they inevitably make similar mistakes “when we didn’t”?

    • Parent-made projects are a great example of one of the mistakes parents make too often today. Thanks for sharing!

      • Luna

        I made the last project for my second grader when a friend told me how I was damaging her(my daughter). I was upset at my friend initially but grateful later on because I was very happily surprised when the next project came around, and although I helped her a little, her project was incredibly imaginative. She is now in college, has lived on her own in two different countries, speaks three languages, plays the violin and the cello and pays for her own college.

        • Luna

          All of this before the age of 20.

  • I am a mother of 2 grown sons and gma of 8, this was such a good read and on target for this generation of kids/parents. I wish all would read for those that apply, but, as we all know, this will not happen. Somehow, along the way we as parents have lost so many skills to pitying our kids, doing for them, buying love, and the list goes on, what are they doing? Ruining our children and the next generation of responsible adults.

    • Thanks, Joy. I know that for many this drift has been small steps over a long time but I hope to sound a wake-up call for parents everywhere. We must lead our kids better.

  • Great article! Have to say I enjoyed the fact that you explained everything in a warm non judgemental way. I am extremely familiar with seeing the results of children who live a life of instant gratification. I understand that most parents would like to give their children everything they did not have. In the long run though it causes the parent financial hardships and the children no work ethic with little to no appretiation. Truth of the matter your 7 year old does not need a $500 tablet to make them happy. Teaching them that they have to work and save to buy elaborate things is more beneficial to them. One day they will have to pay bills teach, them about money now and they won’t be bankrupting your retirement. Also it is OK to say no to them sometimes just to say no. Let your children understand that they can not always get what they want, and that there is not always a reason they can’t have it. If your child is yelling or throwing a fit because they want something you are the problem. Thank you so much for shedding light on some of the largest issues of parenting!

    • Great points, Robin! Thanks for adding to the conversation.

  • Jerry DiPalma

    You are right on. I am 81 years old and I am a substitute math teacher at the local high school. It is so differcult to get most of the students to get out of their comfort zones and work with me in developing a solution to a problem. But, it’s not their fault. they’ve been taught to never take a chance just in case they may look bad. (or perceived stupid. Although most of the other students don’t know how to solve the problem either.) But, there is a silver lining. If you are able to convince the students that you have their best interest at heart and that you are not there to judge them but to help them learn (i.e. gain their trust). They will open up and then the educational process begins. I’ve had this happen and it makes it all worth while… Jerry

    • That’s encouraging, Jerry! Gaining trust is such a critical part of the educational process. It’s exciting to hear that you are able to connect with your students – that truly does make it all worthwhile!

  • mary

    Amen Tim! These are exactly the same principles we use to raise our boys. I am so SICK of this completely paranoid, coddling culture our kids are living in right now. My 8 year old son admonished me for throwing a snowball at him on school grounds, as apparently they aren’t allowed to throw snow-balls!!! WTF?! We are denying our children the rights of passage they need and deserve. Thank you for your article. Every parent should read it.

    • That is an amazing example of over-protecting our kids. Thanks for sharing. Glad to hear that you are using these principles to raise your boys.

    • maestracarrie

      As an educator, I understand the logic behind the “rule” about snowball throwing at school; and while I tell my students it isn’t allowed on school grounds, I also tell them I hope they have a great snowball fight at home with their neighbors and siblings.

      • I also understand the logic behind why this rule would exist. With a culture that is quick to take legal action, it’s unfortunate that we create rules that protect the school system from lawsuits but remove opportunities for our kids to grow up.

  • Excellent article. I was a parent that believed in “tough love”. My child admitted later that even though he didn’t like it at the time, he knew I did what was best for him.

    When I was just a kid and very poor, sadly, I stole from a collection plate at a kids club in church. Instead of my father smoothing it over with the leadership, He literally took me by the hand and took me to the leader’s home to confess. Was I embarrassed? Yes, but it was a lesson well learned about the consequences of stealing. I never wanted to steal again.

    I think every parent and I will add every couple needs to read the book by Dr. Henry Cloud entitled “Boundaries”. Both kids and couples need boundaries. Statistics show that kids without boundaries are usually the ones who get into serious trouble.

    Thanks for writing this informative article. As a former teacher, I certainly saw the affects when parents started unrealistically “fighting” for their kids instead of allowing them to stand up for themselves.

    • That’s a powerful example and I’m sure it left a lasting impression. Thanks for sharing!

  • Lu Warren

    Kudos to the author of this article. I’m a veteran teacher and year after year, I see parents hovering over our middle school kids, completing their children’s homework or complaining about the amount of homework (which is only school work not completed even though amply time is given). I spend more time suggesting to parents that they need to stop fighting their children’s battles, and no, not everyone can be first or the winner. We are creating a generation of entitlement without having any sweat equility……heaven help our country if we don’t get this mindset changed.

    • That’s a great example, Lu. We need more teachers who are willing to stand their ground and guide both the students and the parents when necessary.

    • Agreed. As a teacher myself, I see the same thing. It’s frustrating and kids know exactly how to work the system to their advantage. My parents sided with the teacher and made me do my own homework and I am thankful for it.

  • maestracarrie

    AMEN . . .

  • CBenson

    Your article was spot on! I only wish it was required reading for all parents! I know I ‘shock’ a lot of casual friends. I don’t give my kids rides to school, if we live close, they walk, if not, my taxes pay for the bus. If they call because they have forgotten something, I feel bad for them, but I don’t fix it. Surprise, surprise, my kids somehow always remember their homework, instrument etc! I also make my kids do chore, because they are a member of the household, not for pay! They are also responsible for the grades they bring home. I firmly believe if your kids have never hated you, you are doing something wrong! My older kids have thanked me after having to deal with roommates who were in no way prepared for the real world. When our children are young we need to prepare hem for life! We can be their friends when they grow up!

    • Well said! Sounds like you are raising mature adults. Great examples of small ways that we can build responsibility in our kids that generate great results long-term.

  • Loved this article. It reinforces our parenting style. Example – my 11 year old recently interviewed for a trip abroad through CISV. When I shared my pride in his performance at a solo interview with 2 adults (they told me afterward) with a small group of parents their collective gasp and questions about ‘Would you really let him go?!’ were a perfect example of this article. Sadly, he wasn’t selected but his willingness to go through the interview process – and (as 2 other parents recently pointed out) – to even want to go on the trip- makes me the proudest Mom.
    I give credit to my parents who allowed me to major in Spanish & take 2 significant trips abroad during college that completely influenced my development.

    • Great example, Jill. I believe in the power of travel – both domestic and international – to broaden the horizons of our kids like nothing out. Is it without danger? Of course not. But the risks far outweigh the benefits. Kudos to you for leading your children to take appropriate risks and reap the benefits.

    • Kathy

      At ten, my mom put me on a plane to Germany with a friend (also ten) so we could stay with the family of our after-school German instructor for a month, learning more language and experiencing the culture. We met kids our own age in the neighborhood and played, went to museums, etc. It never really occurred to me that this was unusual, then or now (I’m in my 40s now).

  • Shea

    Great article! I am a preschool teacher and let me tell you I see this stuff even at this young age. Parents going to the director because of a tiny scratch wondering what horrible went wrong and why it wasn’t prevented. Myself standing back and watching two children arguing over something and a parent questioning why I
    ‘m not stepping in and stopping them. Parents doing things for their kids that they are 100% capable of doing on their own. It makes me crazy!! I try to teach the parents the best way to handle these situations with the best outcome but they all tell me I wouldn’t understand because I don’t have my own kids. Trust me…I know kids better than you do and I know what these kids are going to end up being…lazy, selfish, spoiled. Good luck!

    • I know it can get frustrating at times. Keep going – you’re on the right track!

  • Veronica

    I totally agree with this article. I am a mom of 4 teenagers, 13 to 19. The other day my 13 year old said “Mom, how come you are not that happy that I raised my grade from D to C?” A simple answer; there was no effort on your side to do that, I know you could easily have an A if you just made an effort. Kids now a days want praise for everything, even for eating a vegetable in their plate, that is totally absurd. Some things they just have to do because they are part of a family, part of society. Chores without pay, help others, volunteer etc… Also kids have to take responsability for their actions, not parents backing up every little detail in there life!
    Great article

    • Thanks for taking time to comment, Veronica. Keep leading your kids, well. They may not thank you now but they will appreciate it one day!

  • Sarah

    I loved this. As a young mom with two young boys, I want to implement this right now. I couldn’t help but think, through my various experiences with this and other parents who make these same mistakes, that this happens because we as parents are selfish. I think we want our kids to succeed because it makes us look great. Look how hard we work at raising them, we think. Therefore, we get the glory. If our kids “fail”, we fail. Also, some parents who struggle with their self-esteem or whatever, give in, over-indulge, things like that so that their children are happy and like them, even if it’s fleeting. We as parents need to put on our big-boy pants and have some backbone so we can work through challenges such as raising kids (and we already knew it wasn’t going to be an easy thing) and not let them off easily just so that we can feel better about ourselves.

    • Well-said, Sarah! I do believe that the “needs” of parents are sometimes put above what is truly best for the child. It is a subtle temptation that parents must be on the lookout for.

  • Janice

    I am a director of a daycare center. I am a no non-sense person. The children are told like it is and I am consitant and firm with the rules and their behaviors. I see it when the children get picked up. They are listening and behaving for the teachers,but when Mom or Dad comes in, they turn into demanding, screaming, crying, whining little you know what. I am going to post this link on the school’s FB page for our parents. I agree with every comment mentioned already. And the parents that need to read this, won’t or even recongize themselves in the article.

    • Sounds like you are laying a great foundation for these students. I know it can be frustrating when you see your work undone by forces beyond your control. Keep up the good work!

  • Karen

    Excellent thoughts and good advice. However, one thing I would add is that people have different levels of comfort with risk-taking and there are different areas of life where people feel free to take risks. One of my children finds it easy to take risks in physical situations (interacting with the physical world), but not in social situations (interacting with people). So, yes, we need to encourage our children to take risks and not avoid making mistakes, but we need to know our children individually and help them in the way that best suits their personality.

    • Great point, Karen – I believe these principle apply to both types of risk. Recognizing the temperament of your child definitely helps you pick which type of risks they may need encouragement to take and which ones come more naturally to them.

  • Yolo

    Let’s see some data, dude. Any actual data that children are being overparented? Or are you playing really, really fast and loose by integrating research findings from a number of different levels that don’t really cohere in the way you assert?

    • I think the comments on here is enough proof, enough “data” to confirm what the author is saying. Anecdotal data is still data.

      • There is a great deal of data to support these points, both anecdotal and research-based. Both are certainly important!

    • The studies are linked above. For further data, pick up a copy of Generation iY. Fully annotating every finding is beyond the scope of a single blog post. Feel free to dig as deep as you like and reach your own conclusions. I believe the data is conclusive on these issues.

  • Thank you so much for this article! This is the way that we parent our 6 children. Sadly, it is a shock when we show up at a school to make a child apologize to a teacher for their behavior/words or stand next to them as they explain to a teacher or principal about a behavior choice; and during Parent/Teacher conferences, when a teacher asks me why things aren’t being turned in/up to effort levels/or other problem, I will turn to my child and ask them to answer the question instead of giving an answer myself. I want my children to know that I support them in making good decisions so I will stand next to them, and even hold their hand if necessary, as they face the consequences of their choices. I will not, however, negate those consequences for them. We believe in manners and well-thought-out apologies (“Sorry” does NOT cut it).We believe in respect and honesty, and that you have to earn and exhibit both. I am really frustrated though when I take my child to a store manager to have them return a purloined item and apologize for stealing it and the store manager (or manager on duty) looks at them and says, “Oh, it’s ok.” I usually vocalize that it was not ok for them to steal, even a little, and that they need to learn that now rather than winding up in the juvenile court system. (One manager actually asked me what they should say instead and I told them “Thank you for your apology” is better than “It’s ok.”) I am regularly accused of being the Meanest Mom in the World becuase I make my kids do chores and their own homework. I get frustrated with parents that do the homework for their kids either manually or purchased. These are the same parents that will be complaining about their children still living at home in their 20’s and 30’s and still not doing any chores. These children simply adult parasites instead of mature, contributing adults. Truthfully, I like being the Meanest Mom in the World. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one out there. And my oldest (19 yrs) just texted me the other day and told me, “Thanks.” When I asked her what I did she simply texted back, “For teaching me everything.” Tada! You are very welcome!

    • I am sorry, but you are NOT NOT NOT the worst mom in the world! Ask MY kids!

      Glad to have you in the club!

    • Thanks for sharing Merianne. I know it’s not always easy being “The Meanest Mom in the World,” but it’s certainly worth it when you’re kids mature and realize how well you’ve prepared them for real life. Well-done!

    • I also raised my six children this way. I am very proud of the well mannered, responsible adults they have become. I too, have received thanks from all of them for their upbringing but the greatest thank you is watching them raise their own children in the same manner. I was proud to be known as the “meanest Mom on the block”!

  • Inga

    Really enjoyed this article and the parts about mothers interrupting classes and kids complaining ….priceless…had a good laugh about that …spot on. The part about feedback is excellent as specific feedback whether negative or positive must be said in the right way with suitable body languag – a hug or even a look…its the package of feedback which makes parenting and teaching so rewarding …. thanks for the article

    • Thanks for taking time to read and comment. Glad to hear that you enjoyed it!

  • Johnny_Drama

    This is so spot on it’s silly. I was having a conversation with friends a few weeks about this very thing, but more in the context of how it hurts the country as a whole. As long as we keep raising generations of kids that are both afraid to take risks and expect to have things handed to them, this country will not get back to its former status as a world leader in a lot of areas. Someone in our discussion said it short but sweet, “We need to stop raising a bunch of wussies.”

    We used to play football in the park…no parents to watch us or play umpire. If someone made a penalty we worked it out amongst ourselves…if we got pissed at each other we worked it out, and by the end of the game we all walked home happy even though one team won and one team lost.

    • So true. In my book, Generation iY, I warned that this is our last chance to save their future. I don’t mean to overstate the problem but there are serious consequences for not leading students to authentic maturity.

      I, too, grew up playing sports with guys in my neighborhood. There’s no greater lesson in conflict resolution than a game you have to umpire yourself!

  • Rob

    Ok, here’s a question… what should someone in their 20’s do, who grew up as a spoiled child, and who already HAS these negative effects? Is it up to that person to kick himself in the ass and, in essence, re-teach himself how to live in the real world? Or is there help to be sought? This article denotes some excellent ways to prevent making these mistakes… but what to do when the damage is already done?

    • Great question, Rob. For someone in their 20’s who has already experienced the damage of these mistakes, I think awareness is the first step. Realizing that one is not prepared for adulthood can be shocking but it leads to action. The next step would be to start making conscious decisions to move toward independence. This may not happen overnight but enough steps in that direction will add up. Finally, I would recommend that a young person surrounds themself with other mature adults – finding a mentor to give guidance and perspective on this journey is incredibly valuable.

  • From a “kid’s” point of view (as I am no longer a child…) this article is completely spot on. I am SO glad my parents cared enough to let me fail when I needed to and they had zero interest in being my friend. Growing up I remember the kids with “cool” parents who let them do whatever they wanted and I always thought they were lucky until I got a bit older and realized that those parents let their kid do whatever they wanted because they didn’t care. They had McDonalds for lunch because their parents forgot to make them a healthy lunch. They had every toy they wanted because their parents felt bad for not spending time with them.
    I’m glad my parents were “strict”. They taught me about choices, privileges, consequences and rewards. They taught me about right and wrong and policed me as a child so by the time I hit junior high, I could police myself. My parents trusted me – I never had a curfew in high school because I knew that 17 year olds didn’t need to be out at 3 in the morning. My parents knew my friends and everyone was welcome in our house. They taught me manners. They made me do my homework and there were consequences when I behaved badly. They let me skin my knees, fall of monkey bars, trip over my own feet and they cleaned me up, stuck a bandaid on what needed it and sent me off to go play some more. They laughed when I asked for an allowance and taught me about responsibility. I drank from a garden hose, caught frogs, ran barefoot, ate veggies straight from the garden, dirt and all, and I survived. Imagine that!

    • Wow! Sounds like you had an incredible childhood that prepared you well – something that is increasingly rare for today’s students. Thanks for sharing!

  • Gina Bernard

    This article clearly outlines what mistakes have been made by parents and teachers, why they have been made, and how parents can solve the problems they have created. I appreciate your candor and matter-of-fact tone. It does much to recommend your solutions. I am the mother of two adult children (25 and 23) who navigate the world fairly successfully. And I am a veteran (17 years) teacher who has taught both college and high school. My current position teaching 11th and 12th graders is challenging only because my students will not take responsibility for themselves and theri work, neither will they weather the difficulties of learning. If they do not master it the moment they hear it, they will not put in the effort because they consider it beneath their notice. The fault, they figure, is mine because I did not explain it clearly enough. Have you any advice or maybe a book about how teachers can begin to turn the ship against the tide of parents, administrators, and district personnel determined to coddle and hand-hold these students until they are 30? I’d be very interested in a book like that. Thank you for your work.

    • Hi Gina – thanks for taking time to comment. My two recent books deal with this problem and provide solutions. Check out Generation iY and Artificial Maturity – both are available at They are filled with analysis of today’s parents and practical solutions. Hope you find them helpful.

  • Sis

    I just read your article and agree with you 100%. My 3 girls are in their 30’s and have families of their own. My children grew up with no cell phones, ipods etc. and for 5 years we did not have tv. They went outside to play, read books, rode their bikes and used their imagination. Rode the bus to school so they had to make sure they got up in the morning to catch. They were in figure skating and hockey. Learned how to get along with other kids and adults. They did their own homework; when they needed help wed would help not do it. they had chores to do around the house. Some parents need their kids to be kids. Lots of time to growup. I worried about my girls(i still do and my grandchldren) like every parent should but you have to let them accept responsibility, learn from their mistakes and guide them along the way. Great article. Should be sent to all the schools and copies given to each child. Thank You.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience! Sounds like you raised some great girls!

  • My son became very angry with me one day. I worked part-time as a Media Aide at his school and he had come to me to sign a paper he had neglected to show me the night before. I wouldn’t sign it. “I love you no matter where we are, but this was to be signed by your mom. I am your librarian right now. If you bring it home to your mom tonight, I’m sure she’ll be happy to sign it for you.”

    Unless or until you find the “Fountain of Youth” and are prepared to spend your life as babysitter, your job is to prepare your kids for the tough world out there. They are not yours to keep under your wing forever. They are a gift which you nurture, love, guide and educate until they can stand on their own as a thriving, contributing and loving independent being.

    “It is too bad,” I tell my kids, “that there are so many adults these days and so very, very few GROWNUPS!”

    • That is a great, practical example of how to lead students to maturity. Thanks for adding to the conversation!

  • LaurenV

    Wonderful. This puts everything I intuitively know about parenting into words. My mother shielded me from hurtful things, like her arguments with my father after their divorce, but never from regular life lessons. I was so afraid to disappoint her, not that she would necessarily yell or punish me, but just that look of “you could have done so much better” was enough to keep me on my toes. I have three kids less than three years apart and I think that prevents me from ‘helicoptering’, not that I would, because I don’t have time. I think this is a difference in today’s parents too, families used to be bigger and closer together and there are a lot more ‘only’ children now, some parents have too much time to parent!

    • Great points, Lauren. I do believe parents have a responsibility to protect their kids from certain things – like the details of a divorce – but expose them to appropriate risks. It’s true that family life looked much different 100 years ago than today!

  • Roadee

    I love this!!! There are too many parents at the primary school collecting their senior school kids from their classrooms(!!) when the child would be perfectly able to carry their own schoolbag 100 metres down the street to the car.

    I call my parenting style ‘survival of the fittest’. If you can reach it you can eat it, if you are thirsty you can help yourself from the tap. If you break it you clean it up and then don’t have it anymore. We have a trampoline and gymset outside and the kids (even the 4 year old) regularly play out in the cul de sac on bikes and scooters. If we run out of milk or bread the 9 year old gets on her bike and rides to the shop to buy more.

    The result of requiring my kids to ‘do it for themselves’ – my 9 year old can cook a meal for the entire family by herself. My 4 year old knows to wear sneakers so he doesn’t rip apart another toe when riding on the bikes. He can walk himself to the gate to meet me after school and walk himself into school in the mornings. My teen has a part time job that she juggles around her study and still manages decent grades. They know their limits and are willing to have a crack at anything, even when they feel it could be a little dangerous. I would rather they learn these lessons BEFORE they learn to drive, so they might be less likely to wrap themselves around a power pole at speed.

    Keep up the great articles! 🙂

    • Thanks for sharing these practical examples of how you are raising your kids to be self-reliant. Each of these small steps are moving your kids to maturity daily.

  • BOOM!!! Over-parenting ..the syndrome that destroys our children’s ability to take responsibility and bear the natural consequences of their actions. Parents should understand that when their child fails or make mistakes, the consequences that take place are life’s gift of learning, and not a let down of their duties as a parent. I am an Occupational Therapist and yes, I have seen it a lot in our therapies..this also holds true to children with special needs….the best and happiest kids are the ones that failed, gotten mad at me, held responsible for their actions and challenged to be the best in face of their mistakes…oh, and they will try to do the easy way..they will manipulate, throw a tantrum, lie, cheat or even try to convince their parents to quit…..but those who transcend and elevate themselves through these hardships learn that life is a matter of choice…..they chose not to become victims of life but move forward and learn from their mistakes and be the successful somebody that they will be in the future. If you are a parent and don’t believe it??? Then I guess I’ll see your child in therapy sometime in the future.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Marwyn!

  • Great article! Spot on! Definitely should be required reading for parents & teachers!

  • vtmom

    Great article! I recently read Free Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self – Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry) by Lenore Skenazy. What a refreshing departure from the countless fear-mongering books and articles that parents are bombarded with. Thank you for being another kind and sane voice. It’s highly appreciated.

  • Bcochrane

    Love it! I am often told by helicopter parents that I should be at the park, get my kid out of the tree or off of the top bar of the swing set. I am told I should fix their problems, and that I shouldn’t let them have such freedoms. It is nice to read an article that says to let my kids have these freedoms and risks. I love my kids but lets be real my job is to equip them for adulthood and then release them on the world, not to hold their hand and do everything for them. I read an article when my 11 yr old was 2 that said we are abusing our Children by over protecting them and I agreed. But I have not seen anything as direct or pointed towards letting go as htis article since then. THanks.

    • Thanks for taking time to comment. It sounds like exaggeration but I would agree that over-protecting is a form child abuse. It may not be as obvious as other forms but it certainly produces long-term effects that are anything but positive.

  • uberlynn

    I have often said that my job as a parent is to make myself obsolete. Not that they won’t need me as adults, but that they will be able to get along without me. My oldest is preparing to move overseas, alone, when she finishes high school this spring. I’ll miss her, but am so proud of her courage and commitment. I’m also confident that we will continue to have a close relationship — maybe closer because we’ve trusted her to become who she wants to be.

    • Great point! The earlier we can recognize and accept this reality, the better off our kids will be – both now and in the future.

  • Jenifer

    This article is everything I see with parents now adays, and it frustrates me. These kids are never gonna grow up to be productive citizens because they can hardly function and make decisions on their own.

    • I hope articles like this and the parents/teachers who have commented on this post wil continue to encourage others to parent with the end result in mind.

  • EJ

    This article is dead on. Thank you so much for validating what I know in my gut and what the newer generation of parents refuses to accept or believe: that kids NEED to get dirty, get hurt, and suffer disappointments to become functioning adults!

    • Thanks EJ! Seems like common sense but we need to keep reminding parents.

  • kim z.

    Share Share Share. I want so badly for other parents to “get it.” I’ve started to be an advocate for this kind of philosophy. I’m tired of my children having to live with others’ ideas of coddling and protection. It’s hard for me to fight for them when the coddling& over protective parents have been the loudest. No running, playing on the ice, no this, no that at every turn. Prizes for everyone. No losers. No failed tests. My 12 year old daughter’s soccer team STILL has scoreless games?? Grade 8 graduation has turned into the likes of grade 12 prom. It’s excessive. It’s ridiculous. It’s hard to stay grounded when EVERYONE else is doing it. My girls are growing older and noticing their “spoiled” other friends. Kids that don’t know how to actually do anything like laundry, cut the lawn or cook. We are raising adults, preparing them for the real world since they were little, making our job obsolete. That IS the goal of parenting.

    • Thanks for sharing, Kim! Your efforts will pay off. Keep up the great job!

  • ForThe Earthy

    I would add a ninth point to your list. Be honest and teach your children critical thinking.

    • Great point – thanks for the addition!

  • I am a substitute teacher and I am often encouraged to use the teacher’s/school’s reward system for behavior. I am supposed to give out tickets for kids who help, kids who are polite, kids who walk quietly in line, kids who do their work in class. I even was at a school recently where they awarded the kids points all day, every day for things like “Good Class Participation”, “Good Following Work Expectations”, “Good Entering Classroom Expectations”, etc. There was a computer program to handle all the data. I am uncomfortable rewarding behaviors that should be simply expected and I sometimes ignore the rewards systems. Is there a better way to handle this?

    • This is similar to parents who reward students or give allowance based on just being a member of the family. I think it is far more helpful to establish baseline expectations that everyone will be held accountable for. Then establish rewards for going beyond these baselines.

  • I agree with most of what you said, but have a few issues with the third point. While we should be praising hard work, there are children that excel because of intelligence and not hard work. I was one. To say “You must have worked hard!” to me would have been a lie. There is a great John Wooden quote: “Don’t
    measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have
    accomplished with your ability.” Sometimes parents or teachers need to speak hard truths and say “I know you aced this on ability, but to be really successful in life you will need to work hard too.” I had far too few teachers say that to me, but it is a life lesson that I very much needed.

    I do tell my children they are smart and gifted because they are. They need to understand that what comes easy to them may be hard for a friend and they cannot look down on that friend or have unreasonable pride because of abilities given to them. We strongly need education that gives each child an equal opportunity to struggle, fail, and succeed through hard work. As a nation, we aren’t there.

    • Great point, Joshua. We must remember to praise kids for things they have control over (like effort), not things they have no control over (like intelligence). I think appropriate praise guides students to rise to the best of their ability by realizing where they need to focus their efforts.

  • Diane

    I used to tell my kids, “the best help I can give you is NO help”. I’m raising adults, not kids. I agree with letting them tumble, fall, forget things, etc. That’s reality. Great article!

  • Bumpy

    I couldn’t stand how my father always made me help him. Every time he had to fix the car or do a project around the house I had to be his helper. I can’t think of a single friend of mine that had to do anything like this with their parents. It’s now 20 years from that time and I’m stunned that my friends can’t do anything for themselves. Somehow I know how to take care of my house and cars and they are lost. Looking back, my parents were not hard on me. They just didn’t let me sit around and do nothing all day. Now that I have a son of my own I realize that it’s actually harder to do these tasks with him because of the complaining, patience and coaching needed. Where I thought my father was being lazy he was actually doing additional parenting during his to do list.

    • Wow – that’s a great realization. Thanks for sharing!

  • sammi

    more teachers and parents should read your article, it speaks volumes of truth in todays society

  • mn_test347

    Is the author’s point that we should let survival-of-the-fittest run it’s course in order that the surviving children are better adapted? Wouldn’t that get me arrested?

    “Unfortunately, over-protecting our young people has had an adverse effect on them.”

    Really? Where’s the proof? ….

    “Children of risk-averse parents have lower test scores and are slightly
    less likely to attend college than offspring of parents with more
    tolerant attitudes toward risk,”

    Did having risk-averse parents *cause* the lower test scores? Or perhaps people that aren’t so bright are more cautious? The next sentence in the article says it could be either.

    • LogicalHuman

      The author is clearly not advocating survival of the fittest. There is a huge difference between survival of the fittest and living with the consequences of relatively safe behaviors that could cause some harm. Breaking a bone or spraining and ankle is not the end of the world. It’s not as though he is encouraging you to let your kids do whatever they want to.

      As a child/teenager I broke a few bones and got some black eyes from doing things like playing on monkey bars, climbing trees, and playing unsupervised neighborhood ‘pickup’ sports. The result of these consequences is that I learned from my actions. I still wanted to do these things, but figured out how to do them in a way that would not hurt me. Just like the real world that you will eventually experience as an adult.

      As to the the assertion that people that aren’t as smart are more risk averse: in my experience the dumber a person is the BIGGER risks that person will take. Probably due to the fact that they are less likely to make realistic risk assessments.

      Sounds to me like you are a helicopter parent yourself and don’t want to admit that the course of action you are taking in the raising your children will result in them being 30 year old adolescents.

      • mn_test347

        “Psychologists in Europe have discovered that if a child doesn’t play outside and is never allowed to experience a skinned knee or a broken bone, they frequently have phobias as adults. ”

        The study in the link “Psychologists in Europe” was done in a period of five weeks. The study never mentions later effects as adults.

        The “Scottish Journal of Political Economy report ” report says that risk avoidance could have caused the lower test scores *or* lower test scores could be the reason behind risk avoidance.

        “According to a study by University College London, risk-taking behavior peeks during adolescence. ”

        Showing that risk-taking behavior peaks during adolescence (14.38 years, males only in this study) does not give any evidence that risk-taking in adolescence improves judgment in adulthood.

        My point is that the anecdotes and studies, however amusing – don’t add weight to the argument.

        My kid plays hockey and has had several trips to the ER – not a helicopter parent.

  • mn_test347

    “The first group of students who were told they were smart, did worse. The second group did 30% better.”

    Sure they did. They had twice the test-writing practice (two tests) as the first group (one test).

  • Just Wondering…

    good article.. but wonder why the need to give a father’s name and then make fun of him?

  • Oh my god finally!!!!!!! Unfortunately it will take generations to fix the damage done by “bubble wrapping” our kids for 20 years….

  • Jng

    Thank you for writing this. As a junior high teacher, what you have written here succinctly sums up the problems we face trying to teach kids to be smart, well adjusted, independent people. You nailed the issue right on it’s head. I wish every parent could read this as I know no one intentionally wants to set their child back but this is what is happening. If the small changes you suggest were implemented it would do a world of wonder for students and parents alike.

  • There are so many kids coming out of high school these days with a sense of entitlement but no work ethic to back it up. I have chosen certain, age appropriate things for my 3-year-old daughter to have to do each day: put her dirty clothes in her basket, put her dirty dishes in the kitchen, and generally help tidy up toys etc. There are times that I choose my battles (if dinner is late one night and she is tired, I won’t force the dirty dishes chore) but as a general rule, it is followed through. She already knows that if I tell her something is her “responsibility”, not to argue as she won’t get anywhere with it. That being said, I will help her to accomplish things, such as cleaning up toys together while singing the “clean up” song :). I also try not to give empty praise too much (though I know I still do!), but also to reinforce HER feelings of accomplishment; “You look really proud to have finished that puzzle all by yourself, do you feel happy and proud right now?” rather MY feelings. Still a work in progress though… 🙂

  • Julie O.

    It is so important to begin to teach independence early on. I am a first grade teacher. When a child says, ” My mommy forgot to put my homework in my folder,” I say, “Who forgot to put the homework in the folder?” They quickly rephrase their comment and say, “I forgot to put it in my folder.”

  • Cheree

    I am lucky enough to teach in a Gifted Education program that does not attach GPA-meddling grades to cross-curricular projects. We encourage risk. We promote effort as reward. We try to put the love of learning back into education. After a general reaction of confusion or disbelief, the students’ faces light up when they realize that they truly have control over their products.

    It is an ideal environment to illustrate your point — Kids who don’t put forth effort usually have parents who make excuses such as, “My child is bored.” or (my favorite) “Well, this work doesn’t matter if my child isn’t being graded.”

    Without the big gold star, nothing is valued. How do parents expect to develop hard-working, productive, HONEST children when effort is presented as unnecessary?

  • I’ve seen this type of blog before, basically stating the same thing, yet people aren’t getting it. (Sorry teachers as many have posted) I have faced the opposite in the school system, teachers giving my daughter high marks for what I thought was poor effort. I was told that to “help” her she didn’t have to follow the standards set for the rest of the class. Ie. she only had to write a word (spelling not counted) where the others had to write a paragraph (with spelling). – note: she has no disability – I was the parent that was sickened that in grade 7 every student got a reward for attending. Not perfect attendance, just a reward for showing up. So while parents may be bubble wrapping I have fought school systems that are worse (dominantly pre-high school). At 18 years old the law declares a person to be an adult, I strive to make my child(ren) law abiding, responsible, aware and independent adults by that time.

    • Jeannette

      I agree with you and as a teacher I did that because I had been yelled at by the principal/administrator for failing students. And in a state where there is no job security (especially for teachers) you want to keep your job. A right-to-work state does not have to give a reason for firing you. Also, many school districts (especially in the state in which I worked) would not allow a teacher to give a grade below 50% and that includes the students who did nothing. So, a student could do no work and still receive a 50%. We were told that it is still a failing grade. I have problems with this as do most teachers, but what do you do when you are told to do this or yelled at and run the risk of losing your job. The problem – feelings (as stated in the article self-esteem concerns of the 80’s). My response – deal with it – get over it- and learn from it. I did as well as my friends and fellow students. At the school I just left, the principal told the faculty to give students multiple times to take a test and multiple times to turn in missing assignments or poorly completed assignments. The faculty all thought this was a bad idea, because it does not properly train students for life in the real world (to be productive citizens), just like not earning a grade below 50%, receiving an award for doing what you should be doing, and being praised or rewarded for poor and mediocre work/sports etc… It is disconcerting. But as a teacher, we cannot change it. People/society do not listen to teachers – we are looked upon as overpaid babysitters. If you want things to change – respect teachers and give them the authority to do what is in the best interest of the students, to not get fired because a student fails his/her class, to be able to discipline students without having to cow-tow to parents who say “my child didn’t do it,” and most importantly for parents to parent, which is not being done. Also, to get things to change you must complain to “the powers that be” as they will listen to parents not teachers.

  • shchristy

    As a retired teacher of 33 years, I have definitely seen the “changes” occur! I have seen the elementary age years go from confident to fearful children. The three reasons stated above are key. Very important for all parents to know…
    Thank you for writing it!

  • SDMomma

    Fabulous article – well received on Facebook too … within ten minutes of sharing it, three others had shared it. Favourite part: “Your child does not have to love you every minute. He’ll get over the disappointment of failure but he won’t get over the effects of being spoiled. So let them fail, let them fall, and let them fight for what they really value. If we treat our kids as fragile, they will surely grow up to be fragile adults. We must prepare them for the world that awaits them. Our world needs resilient adults not fragile ones”.

  • Justine

    My parents were the meanest parents in the world and they taught me to be the same. I can’t thank them enough.

  • Cranky

    Awesome. Common sense really but i think the glut of 24 hour news and fear based advertising hasn’t helped. I taught for 15 years in Canada, Japan, and Taiwan and i can guarantee the “tiger mom” approach is brutal. I had mothers complain when their darlings got 97% on tests. It meant that i must surely be a bad teacher. Now i am in business and i see the results. Workers with no teamwork ability or problem solving skills at all. (Still living in Taiwan )

  • MJ


  • PTBOReader

    I spend more time with parents saying, “Your grade is unfair. He doesn’t like to talk so he shouldn’t be judged by it in your DEBATING CLASS.” My response that they need public speaking, which is why they’re studying it, for college, the job, etc. seems not to move them. The desire to run in and ‘fix everything’ is ill advised. Unless there is systemic abuse where a student is singled out, the kid needs to be more on their own. If there are concerns they should be addressed between teacher and parent without letting the kid know that the parent disagrees with the teacher (less there is systemic abuse once again). What’s at risk? Whether or not your kids can stand on their own two feet.

  • Shelley Hudspath

    Thank you for writing this article. I had heard the story of Dr. Carol Dweck’s research and had applied it successfully with my children, but I had never heard or maybe remembered the source and just hated telling teachers and friends about my “You worked hard” miracle without properly sourcing it.

  • Proud dad

    People miss the point of praise for self esteem. You don’t praise a child for what he/she IS but for what they DO. A catchphrase is “what you praise is what you get”. My son was a great athlete and a so-so student. I learned that kudos for sports triumphs were not necessary, he did that stuff anyway. Praise for good test marks or good work in school transformed him. Teachers asked what happened at home to make the change, it was so apparent a turnabout.

    Today he is teaching university and grousing about the students’ attitudes to life and work. He sees the stuff you discuss here and shudders at how unprepared for life the students are.

  • slane

    Sooo true…I believe a lot of it started with Children having hurt feelings over not winning one of the typical three awards when joining a sport…the end result was everyone got a medal for participating. I do not think it should be that way. We stopped making our children strive for advancement, because parents would make sure they got there. Children need to know that when they get older, they have to be the ones to go out there and become someone..mommy and daddy are not going to get it for them.

  • LCDelaney

    Yes, yes, yes! I teach high school and I see these detrimental effects every single day. Teenagers who cannot (read: are afraid to) think for themselves. So many are not able to think for themselves because they have never been encouraged/allowed to do so before. So they struggle in my English class where I tell them, “it is always okay to answer ‘I don’t know’; it is never okay to stay there.” As for the correcting/marking thing – a number of years I had a student tell me I had “just damaged her self-esteem” for giving her correction and critique about her writing. Grade 10. I just stared at her and finally said something like, “sorry, but you still need to make the changes.” My theme as a teacher every year now is “Trust and Courage.” I tell them we are going to work on learning to trust themselves and me and having the courage to fail, to be wrong, to say the stupid thing in order to find what they really think but don’t have the words for yet. I know I sort of ranted here, but I am pretty passionate about this stuff. Children and teens need to be allowed to grow up and Jen, you have nailed this! Thank you so very much for saying this so well and backing it up so thoroughly. There will be children and parents somewhere who eventually will be very thankful for the difference you made in their lives!

  • EB

    Excellent article!!! SO TRUE! I guess I must be doing something right because my soon to be 5 yr old daughter already hates me! Of course it’s only when she hasn’t gotten what she wanted or is told to do this before getting that, etc. I strongly believe in discipline, manners, responsability, letting them make choices and dealing with consequences! I have my daughter and 3.5yr old twins and we often get comments for restaurant waiters, or staff in other places about how well behaved they are. It’s simple, we have a responsability as parents to teach our children how to behave in social situations, how to contribute to society, how to be responsible for their actions…. mind you some parents could use a little teaching themselves (kids mimic and if we don’t say please and thank you, hold the doors for others, put trash in the bin, etc then we’ll always have “those” people that treat others like dog poo!).

  • kimberly

    My aunt once told me “if you are bored, it’s because you are boring.” 🙂 One of the best lines I’ve ever been told….

  • mama4

    I love this article!! I see way too many parents who believe they need to fill their kids full of esteem so no one can knock them down…. but really a child who can’t make a single move without looking for praise is horrible! I see this all too often. My children are learning to do things for themselves, no matter what it is. I was raised the old way, my children will be also. No way will I have snotty back talking, rude, selfish, immature children running around who believe it is my job to get them through the day. I am a mother, I am not looking to make friends, I’m not looking to have “happy” children, I am looking to have my children grow up into happy, prepared adults, who I’ll be able to talk to and be around, and not bailing them out of trouble. I love my kids too much to allow them to go down the smae path many parents are following.

  • djfins4

    This really sums up what has been happening to our world. Not allowing children to experience life while in parents care greatly reduces their ability to react in a responsible accountable manner. They just don’t have the tools.

  • towmom92

    My philosophy as a mom has always been that if my kids are taking risks when they’re little, they are usually smaller risks with less potential harm. I’d rather my child try to be a hot dog on the monkey bars and fall (maybe chip a tooth or fracture something), than have them start being a daredevil behind the wheel of a car where they can kill themselves and others. I hated having little critters, because they frequently die–and nobody wants to tell their little one that “Fluffy” has gone to pet heaven. But allowing them to learn what a heartache is simply teaches them that it’s survivable, and normal. So many of life’s lessons are critical to learn at an early age, and by insulating and rescuing the next generation we never let them grow.

  • Pat Mansfield

    I made soooo many mistakes when raising my four children. However, with the older ones especially, they learned so much about crossing the street, when to and when not to talk to others, etc. etc. Our youngest was just at the beginning of all of these new and modern ways of treating our children. They article was superb. Always felt like I stood alone in my thoughts about it. One of my children, praises/praised her children so much that we not only got/get tired of hearing it, but could see what it was doing to the children. Sad. Great articile. Hope many will read it over and over and think about these three things. The real world awaits and all must know how to function in it and survive.

  • Pauline

    According to a study by University College London, risk-taking behavior peeks during adolescence.

    That would be ‘peaks’, not ‘peeks’.

  • Dr. Elmore, I would like to thank you for writing this article. I am so glad that I stumbled upon it. I have one 16 year old daughter and another 20 year old daughter, both of whom have recently begun to display a horrible sense of entitlement!
    I have recognized some of the mistakes that I have been making; however, I don’t do everything for them! Is it too late to change all of our ways, and help them to become better adjusted adults? Thanks again. L. Hammond

  • T

    Good article, but you mean ‘peaks’ here: “…risk-taking behavior peeks during adolescence.”

  • Lars Mars

    This kid:

    “One freshman received a C- on her project and immediately called her
    mother, right in the middle of her class. After interrupting the class
    discussion with her complaint about her poor grade, she handed the cell
    phone to her professor and said, “She wants to talk to you.” Evidently,
    mom wanted to negotiate the grade.”

    These are the sorts that need a kick in their spoiled, privileged arses.

  • JEns

    I enjoyed this article! One of our mantras to our kids is “Our job is to raise you to be adults who can function in the REAL world!”. My experience of this shift that has happened since the 80’s is in the world of music festivals. I grew up learning piano and saxophone and performing in music festivals every year. It was challenging and I had moments that I HATED (such as the time I had a complete memory lapse while playing a Mozart Sonata and had to make the long walk to the adjudicator’s table to pick up the music to try again…) and moments of great success (in both instances I learned valuable lessons). There was first, second and third places given in each class. Nowadays music festivals (at least where we are from) have watered down the competition. In fact, there is NO competition because someone decided it ‘hurts’ kid’s feelings if they don’t win. They no longer give firsts, seconds, or thirds, everyone gets a medal and certificate just for playing and, in some cases, there is not even a mark given at all! Kids are not stupid. They know who performs better and who failed. This system certainly doesn’t motivate kids to work hard and do better, in my opinion. Thanks for a great article!

  • Rose Moreno

    This article should be printed and given to every mother and father when they leave the hospital after their child’s birth. Parents need to learn to let their children grow and learn by their own experiences, with their parents support and guidance. Also, parents need to be on the same level with teachers, not take authority away from them; there are teachers who are being kicked and insulted by some of their students and a lot of parents always find some ridiculous excuses for their children’s behavior. When the parents show respect for the teacher and consistency in way they discipline the child, only then will the students learn to respect and appreciate their teachers. Let them fail a test if that is what they deserve, let them fail a grade if that is what they need, maybe the only thing they might need is a little more time to mature. Get them extra help in the areas they are lacking. Make sure they do their home work, this is a parent’s responsibility, and above all make sure they do it themselves! with your input and support, yes, but it must be “their” homework. Children need to learn to fall but also they need to learn to get up. Excellent article!

  • colleen sullivan

    I’ve experienced all of these examples and have seen and heard i might add the most spoiled adult kids . Their decision making skills are non-existent, coping skills nil, have no sense of money or finances, common sense is out the door, and seem to just stumble through life calling Mommy or Daddy after every mistake which are endless. It scares me for the future…..this is what we are leaving to RUN the plantet!!!!????

  • Tiara

    Funny what can turn into a pandemic these days. My daughter is only 9 months, not only do I notice her extended family ‘swooping in’ for falls and spills, they glare at me and my husband for not being first on scene. I have seen too many kids playing one parent against another, or crying just for the attention, drove me crazy. When my daughter bonks her head on the wall, I always tell her ‘that’s not the worse hit you’ll take in life, honey’. We want to protect them, but we need to let them learn to protect themselves too.

  • Amanda_56

    I agree with most of this article. Kids need to play and take risks, and learn responsibilty,and consequences. My 2 year old helps clean her room, she puts her wrappers in the garbage and dishes in the sink when she’s done. When we go to the park she climbs everything she can reach. I want her to explore, and have fun. I want her to have responsibility and consequences. However, we don’t live in a world where children can go out and play by themselves like they used to. Predators are everywhere. It’s a scary world out there, and I completely understand why a parent would want to have a helicopter follow their child. There are sick people ready to do horrible things to sweet children, and I for one don’t care what the consequences are for me protecting my child.

  • nikita couturier

    i love this!!! and it is very much true!!!! the other day i guy asked if there was a teenager out theres that wanted to make $40 and hual some wood with him!! a boy called and ask some questiona dn said i have to ask my mom!!! and then a few mins later his mom called and demanded that he pay him for 3.5 hours and $10 an hour is not enough and ask what he got hurt how he was going to get wcb or insurance!! when i was a kid i would help the neihbours no money!!! it was a good deed!!! little to say the mother stepped in and said her son wasnt doing the work! 🙁 really sad!! the boy could have made $40 for an hour or two of work!!

    i am posting this link to the pag when i got this story from!!!!

  • SnoSugar

    Thank you for putting into words what I have been thinking since I became a parent 4 years ago!!!

  • Irina Keller

    Parents rave easily? No one else is saying something positive – very true – AND even worse also not the mother and especially the father. Did your father rave
    ? Perfect 🙂

  • Monique

    I completely agree with this article, unfortunately since the majority of parents now hover over their children, it makes it even more difficult for parents who want to teach their kids some independence to do so. You mention going to the park and playing a game of baseball. Well it’s very difficult for a child to do that now since there are no other kids at the park to play a game with. All the other kids in the neighbourhood are busy with other scheduled activities. (hockey, piano, gymnastics, etc) Parents now want to make sure that their children learn so much that their entire life is being scheduled for them, they never have time to go and plan something for themselves. When I was a kid, you could go to the park, meet new kids, have a tree climbing competition, leave the house with a hand full of nails and a hammer and build a fort somewhere. Kids now would not even know what to do with a hammer, specially without being supervised by a parent. We would have a bunch of kids, the older ones leading the younger ones. No parents needed. When I was a kids, during the summer, the neighbourhood would have children playing outside until the street lights came on, then we would check in with our parents, and likely keep playing outside longer, just a little closer to home. Now in the summer, the neighbourhoods are empty and quiet. All the kids are sent away to daycare or camp. It’s difficult to send a kids out to play when there is nobody to play with. I am happy my daughter’s have siblings, but sometimes playing with other kids and learnings to deal with different personalities would be nice. I find that I hear alot of kids say that they are bored and there is nothing to do. They have never learned how to find something to do for themselves. The only time they have ever played was when a “play-date” was arranged or they were part of a team that their parents signed them up for. I do, on occasion, take my kids to a park that is further from home, since I know there will be other kids there. I sit back and let them play and interact with the other kids and watch them figure out what they can and can’t do. But since other parents are hovering over their kids, it makes it difficult for much kid to kid interaction, and I also get the looks from the other parents wondering why I’m not more involved. I have often been told that I am mean by my kids because I will not give in to their every desire. I just hope more parents learn to not schedule their child’s life and to sit back and let them figure things out for themselves.

  • Tracy

    Hallelujah! As someone who teaches college students, I see the negative effects of over-parenting all the time. It does these great kids no good, and they suffer.

  • Chris

    I try to follow the suggestions you have outlined in this article. I try to let my five year old navigate the playground dynamics on his own. I try to let him figure out how to avoid dangerous situations. But more often than not, I’m helicoptering around him, helping him in social situations, making sure he doesn’t walk in front of a car. My son is autistic, and while most people probably wouldn’t notice his autism in public, they would notice me hovering around him. My son also responds really well to material rewards in his behavioral plan. Again, not something I set out to do, but it’s what works best for him; it’s what motivates him. I can assure you, we still have plenty of unconditional love, and my son gets that. I know you wrote this with “typical” kids in mind, but all kids are different, and so the ways in which we must parent are different too. I just wanted to include this comment as a reminder that we must not judge everyone, or if we do, we must be open to the idea that our judgements are wrong.

  • Tammy

    Finally. Someone with the guts to say- we cant shelter our children. Im tired of feeling like a bad parent bc I allow my 6th grade son to walk with his 9 year old brother and 5 year old brother to school (it is literally one street over.) After kidnappings all over the news people are outraged that how dare we let kids walk to school without an adult. They are outraged. Even though I had my eye on my 5 year old nephew in the store the ENTIRE time, some lady came up and told me You need to keep your child closer to you! (He was never even an arms width away.) As with all things, there needs to be a balance. Am I going to leave my 5 year old home alone? No. But will I allow my 12 year old to babysit for an hour to teach him responsibility? YES. Balance and common sense. Good to know I am not the only parent out there not willing to shelter my kids and disable them. I do however always tell my children they are accepted even if they fail, and I praise them often. I dont think too often, and I think they know the balance. Something to watch out though for. Im not sure how I feel about that, I think it depends on what you are saying to praise them vs encourage them.

  • Ginnie

    What a wonderful article, I have tried to impress upon my peers that in order for their kids to grow up they have to fail a time or two. It amazes me when I listen to parents who rush to defend their child for the most insignificant things and then complain that their child takes no responsibility. My boys have pitched in at home since they were old enough to put their laundry in a hamper, now they are the first ones to offer help, we had no catastrophes in high school as some of our friends did. I believe you must allow your children to suffer the consequences of their actions from an early age because if you don’t you have a generation of entitled kids who don’t understand the meaning of the word no.

  • sassy

    Nice to see their is someone sane in this world….loved it. Oh, by the way I am 72 and raised mine that way…

  • Selina Alfred

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  • Plazzy

    Well, considering the examples provided I guess my kids should be praising me! Ya know… just sayin..

    That’s absurd for a mom to call a university official to make sure her son wears a sweater…?? Wow. That isn’t hardly the college staffs responsibility.
    I wouldve lmao if I wouldve been asked that.

  • I like the tips you share, It will an addition to my knowledge as an educator, it very important you have skills and you know to teach the student to right track..!

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