What’s happening above? Why did it used to be the student’s fault for bringing home a poor grade? Why today is it the teacher’s fault if the student brings home an F? One way to understand this shift is to consider the idea that many children today are coddled by their parents. Oxford Dictionaries defines coddle as “treat in an indulgent or overprotective way”. So, the question is, what constitutes “indulgent” or “overprotective”? What are the consequences of coddling?
Parenting is tricky, we know this. Often it is a challenging task to find the balance between pushing our children to realize their full potential, and providing them with a caring, nurturing environment so they can experience unconditional acceptance and love. The ways parents raise their children is closely connected to the parent’s culturally-embedded goals for childrearing. In the United States, goals of autonomy and independence are generally highly valued.
What are the Effects of Coddling?
As children develop from infants to preschoolers, to young children, and then adolescents, they continuously acquire and refine their abilities to meet life’s challenges. Because of this, the amount of support or “protection” needed from parents also evolves. If parents provide too much instrumental support by not allowing their children to fall, or avoiding challenging tasks all together, they are implicitly sending a message that their child is unable to handle difficulties. While I’m certain that even these parents are well-intended, creating such an invalidating environment may be accomplishing the opposite of their intended goals (according to, Hardy Power and Jaedicke et al. (as cited in DeHart et al., 2004)).
In general, parenting characterized by warmth, support and a reasoning approach to discipline is consistently associated with such positive child characteristics as cooperativeness, effective coping, low levels of behavioral problems, strongly internalized norms and values, a sense of personal responsibility and high levels of moral reasoning. (p. 428)
As readers are already well aware, disappointments, frustrations, and discomforts in life cannot be avoided. The trick when it comes to raising children is not to sidestep such experiences all together, but rather to help our young ones learn to manage these upsets effectively. Remember, there is no one right way to support, encourage, and nurture your children. My hope is that after reading this, you are armed with additional considerations to guard against coddling your little ones.
Sources: DeHart, G. B., Sroufe, L.A., & Cooper, R.G. (2004). Child Development: Its nature and
course (5th ed., p 411-441). New York: McGraw-Hill