With children being exposed to numerous influences affecting their development, parents today are highly alert and more attentive to their child’s needs. Most of them monitor their children’s activities constantly, finding justification for their behaviour in any impending threat posed by such factors to their kids’ lives.
John Marsden, author of Tomorrow, When the World Began, however, feels this overanxious, overprotective “epidemic” in contemporary parents is actually “damaging”.
In The Art of Growing Up, billed as a manifesto, Marsden talks about how parents need to stop playing eternal advocates for their children. Calling out parents for “toxic parenting” he says, “It’s mostly the middle class that I’m referring to. It’s not that people are setting out to act destructively, but their common sense and instincts seem to have been overridden by other considerations. The emotional damage is coming from an anxiety which often approaches panic.”
The author points out that while these children may outperform previous generations in terms of academic achievement, he is apprehensive about the kind of emotional and mental health they have.
Most parents today are battling constant fear of their children being harmed in some way or the other, which only makes them overprotective. “Part of that is a fear, in particular, of physical injury,” Marsden says. “Of course, all reasonable parents are concerned about physical injury to a child, but if that overrides everything else then what you have instead is a kind of slow death by emotional damage which is so awful to witness,” he explains.
Not many children today have the time or space to play outside or explore things around them, owing to safety issues to their busy schedules, and is substituted by screen time. And the impact of excess of screen time is not unknown.
By making choices for their child in every little aspect to fighting their battles, parents, in a way, are limiting a child’s adulting and the ability to develop resilience and independence, Marsden warns. Children, on the other hand, are infantalised, making parents fret over them more and more. Whether this form of parenting is “toxic” or not can be argued, many experts have actually backed this observation.
“We’re failing them in different ways,” Marsden says. Do you agree?
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