The kids these days

Via a few separate Facebook shares, I ran across a Quartz article titled "How American parenting is killing the American marriage":

The origins of the parenthood religion are obscure, but one of its first manifestations may have been the “baby on board” placards that became popular in the mid-1980s. Nobody would have placed such a sign on a car if it were not already understood by society that the life of a human achieves its peak value at birth and declines thereafter. A toddler is almost as precious as a baby, but a teenager less so, and by the time that baby turns fifty, it seems that nobody cares much anymore if someone crashes into her car. You don’t see a lot of vehicles with placards that read, “Middle-aged accountant on board.”

Another sign of the parenthood religion is that it has become totally unacceptable in our culture to say anything bad about our children, let alone admit that we don’t like them all of the time. We are allowed to say bad things about our spouses, our parents, our aunts and uncles, but try saying, “My kid doesn’t have a lot of friends because she’s not a super likable person,” and see how fast you get dropped from the PTA.

I don't want to spend much time arguing about the article itself. It is basically click-bait, as well as a textbook example of the Hasty Generalization Fallacy. Mostly, I will happily file it in the "Someone on the Internet is wrong" bucket and move on.

What is interesting to me is the fact that every time I saw the article shared, there was at least one comment/response that 1) agreed vehemently with the author's characterization of "American parenting", and 2) issued a broad claim about how kids today have it too easy and we are raising an entire generation of shiftless layabouts.

Some of this response may be the human tendency to assert that everything in the past was better, while everything now is terrible and only getting worse. However, I wonder if there isn't more to it than that.

It reminds me to some degree of the discussion around the Adrian Peterson case a few weeks back. The guy beats his four-year-old kid, and there are a ton of responses along the lines of "My parents spanked/hit me, and I turned out okay, so…" It's a more extreme example, for sure, but these responses are of a similar tone–you can't mollycoddle these kids, they have to understand that life is tough sometime, you don't always get what you want, etc.

At the risk of stating the obvious, parenting is a very personal thing. It works differently for everyone, and I like to think most people do the best they can with the time and tools that they have. Of course kids will learn at some point that life isn't always easy and that they won't always get what they want, but it has never been clear to me why so many people insist so fervently that they have to learn that as early as possible.

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