Thursday, June 28, 2018

Why Are So Many Kids So Fragile? (The Collapse of Parenting: Chapter 5)

In the last of the chapters discussing the "problems" today, Sax looks at something that I hear more and more from teachers and professors:
"Many college faculty and staff report a noticeable fragility among today's students. Some describe them as "teacups"-- beautiful, but liable to break with the slightest drop" -- Jean, Twenge, San Diego State University (Sax 93).
  • Fragility has become a characteristic of American children and teenagers to an extent unknown 25 years ago (Sax 99).
    • Unwillingness to work on something they are weak at, in order improve. Instead, they will avoid such situations where they may fail or look weak.
    • Self definitions of greatness resulting in complete breakdowns at the slightest blow to their ego.
"...something inside seems to be missing: some inner strength that we took for granted in young people a few decades back..." (Sax 100).
"I have seen the same process in young adults--more often young men than young women--who come home from college, or drop out of college, to retreat into the bedroom with a computer screen or a video game. That's often the final common pathway which I have observed in twenty-somethings: young people whose dreams don't come true, who then give up, retreat, and return to live with their parents or (if their parents have the means) live separately from their parents but remain supported by their parents." (Sax 100)
  • Phenomenon of fragile young Americans who quit easily and have little ambition has huge economic consequences, but the cause isn't economic it is American parenting.
    • Weak parent-child relationship.
      • Kids need to value their parents opinion first, not that of their peers.
        • A good parent-child relationship is robust and unconditional.
        • Peer relationships are by nature fragile. This is why if emphasis and value is placed on peer opinions, the child will easily break because the relationship of value is inherently weak.
"That's one reason there has  been an explosion in the prevalence of anxiety and depression among American teenagers, as they frantically try to secure their attachment to other teens, as they try to gain unconditional love and acceptance from sources that are unable to provide it." (Sax 105)
  • In other places, people aren't look at as "generations" that creates a gap beween ages. They just do things together as a family.
  • Need for commitment to children in public places -- play areas, highchairs, milk/food, nursing rooms, diaper change stations.
  • Emphasize primacy of parent-child relationship over peers, academics, and other activities.
    • Family only vacations!
  • Connecting with adults should be a higher priority than connecting with peers, academics or activities.
    • Prioritize extended family and close adult friends in the life of the children.
"Part of your job as a parent is to educate desire. To teach your child to go beyond "whatever floats your boat." To enjoy, and to want to enjoy, pleasures higher and deeper than video games and social media can provide. Those pleasure may be found perhaps in conversation with wise adults; or in meditation, prayer, or reflection; or in music, dance, or the arts." (Sax 109).
  •  Educate desire! Teach your values so they don't adopt the values of popular culture!
  • Technology and devices further divide generations and undermine parental authority because then peers/friends know more about "important" things than you.
The Upshot
  • Fight for time with your child even if it means forgoing extra curricular activities so that meals can be had as a family! Attachment is vital and cannot happen if kids don't see parents and spend time with them! Primary attachments should be to parents not peers!
  • Decline in parental authority is directly related to weakening attachments to parents/adults.
  • "Failure comes to us all. The willingness to fail, and then to move on with no loss of enthusiasm, is a mark of character. The opposite of the willingness to fail. When kids are secure in the unconditional acceptance of their parents, they can find the courage to venture and to fail. When kids value the good regard of their peers or their own self-concept above the good regard of their parents, they lose the willingness to fail. They become fragile." (Sax 113)

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