Joan Acocella of The New Yorker has written an outstanding reflection on one of my favorite subjects, the phenomenon of “helicopter parenting.” I was a little disappointed by the fashionable skepticism of her final paragraphs, but the piece is still well worth reading:
UPDATE: A friend writes in: “You are dead right in your interest in / fear of helicopter parents. My very favorite example are the parents who dispute their children’s class grade . . . when their children are college sophomores. This really happened to a friend of mine.” Take that, skeptics!
Finally, Honoré takes on domestic psychology, in particular the “self-esteem movement” born of the nineteen-seventies. To him, as to other writers on overparenting, this is a matter of disgust. “Every doodle ends up on the fridge door,” he says. According to the research he’s read, such ego-pumping confers no benefit. A review of thousands of studies found that high self-esteem in children did not boost grades or career prospects, or even resistance to adult alcoholism. If I am not mistaken, however, there is something about the self-esteem movement that strikes Honoré at a level deeper than the question of our children’s competence. Marano, as the title of her book tells us, is worried that we are producing a nation of wimps, people who won’t “make it.” Honoré is worried that the Stepford children produced by overparenting will make it, and turn the world into a rude, heartless, boring place.