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Over-protective parenting a growing worldwide problem

December 12th, 2010 Posted in Arts and Life

By Jakob Asplund

LOGAN—The term varies—“helicopter parent” or “soccer mom” or “curling parents”—but no matter the label, the phenomenon remains the same and can be found worldwide. Is Logan any exception?

The American “soccer mom” is refers to an overly protective parent who spoils kids to a point where the children do not learn to take care of themselves. “Helicopter parents” hover, and won’t let their kids develop independence and self-reliance.

It begins innocently enough with a mother taking her children to soccer or dance practice every day, but soon may be blown out of proportion.

It is a trend that sweeps the industrialized globe in the same way that Scandinavian “curling parents” sweep obstacles out of the way for their children. In predominately LDS Utah, are spoiled children more or less common?

Many countries are now addressing the question in their news media. The topic has been discussed in Scandinavian reality shows and in newspapers, in British documentaries, and now in books on parenting released all over the world.

Logan has not yet been affected by the media scrutiny of over-protective parenting yet, at least not to the same extent as in other places.

“I woke my son up three times every day to make him get out of bed,” says Anne Reuterstrand, a Swedish “curling mom.” “I washed his clothes, cooked all his meals, I felt like I was needed and that was nice—to feel important.”

Reuterstrand is a mother of two who has been spoiling her kids for years. Some of her friends used to make comments on how she was “crazy” the way she spoiled her children when they were younger.

She thinks spoiling kids can happen in many different ways. In rich families, she said, parents are often so focused on their own lives that their children are treated with expensive presents instead of time or care. In comparison, Reuterstrand said, children of families with less financial security have to help with chores at home more often.

“There is a change in trends going on right now where the standard of living is increasing in many countries,” Reuterstrand said. “In China, there has been a drastic shift in standard of living and now 5-year-olds get expensive cellphones and computers.”

In Logan, just like everywhere else, there are people on both sides of the issue—“soccer moms” and parents who try not to pamper their children.

France, where curling is a popular sport and soccer has taken a downturn since the World Cup fiasco, may be a model for Logan. UnderstandFrance.org, a website on French education facts, says most French children wave goodbye to their parents at age 3 to take part in the elitist educational machine, intended to make them into miniature adults.

Just like the French, Utahns believe in setting a much tougher climate for their children. Even though Utah children are older when they are thrown into a completely foreign world, they often live sheltered lives before they get the opportunity to get out, making it a tough transition.

Kathleen Thatcher, a mother of 13 living in Utah has gone through this several times as 11 of her children have served or are serving LDS missions. She said she knows what it’s like to let go of her children and see´s the potential damage of pampering her children.

“It’s easy to spoil your children, giving them things, but in the end it’s not healthy for them,” Thatcher said. “Letting them experience things on their own is a gift that material things cannot give them.”

Thatcher said she think the LDS church, with its strong focus on family, is similar to the Catholic Church in that way—where family and the values taught to the children are important.

Culture helps shape parenting, but even though parenting cultures differ all over the world, the effects of coddling on children can be damaging is not culture-specific. The New York Times recently reported on a case in Italy where the mother and grandparents of a 12-year-old boy were charged with child abuse for pampering.

This is pampering taken to the extreme, resulting in children being hindered in their development. Rising media coverage is making more people aware that this is not just a trendy topic for gossip, but something that can become an actual issue.

The extreme version of “helicopter parenting” is “The Black Hawk parent,” named after the military helicopter. These are the parents who write essays for their college children to make sure they get high grades, talk to their kids’ teachers for them, and make their children stay at home where they are safe, instead of letting them explore the world on their own.

The expression itself has many origins. For almost every country where pampering parents can be found, there is a judgmental term for such behavior. In some countries, however, the terms focus more on the children then the parents.

“In Russia, we have ‘The Golden Generation’—they are children who get everything they point at and then some,” said USU student Nikita Ryaschenko about pampering parents in his home country.

In Italy, gender inequality is as strong as ever, according to a 2010 world economic forum report on gender equality. In a country where Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi seems to have conquered the feminists, the sons are called mammomis, the Italian version of “mama’s boy,” as they live at home with their mothers until they turn 30.

It is up every parent to decide what is best for their children, but regardless of their choices, the children will be affected by their decisions.

“I think if it is possible, it’s better for children to live at home for a little longer and become moderately spoiled,” Reuterstrand said. “It is easier to support yourself through school by living with your parents and if that’s not a good enough reason, it’s always nice to get to make their beds for them.”

Whether this issue will infect Logan is difficult to predict, but books and TV shows following mothers and their spoiled children are increasingly common, and “soccer moms” will stop at nothing to make their children satisfied.


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