One chapter of my dissertation focused on the writings of R. Albert Mohler Jr. During the two years of studying these writings, I found many surprising, wonderful, and challenging things.
One of the challenging things is found in is his small work, Culture Shift. The chapter I have in mind is entitled, “Are we raising a Nation of Wimps?: A Coddled Generation Cannot Cope.”
Mohler begins this chapter by summarizing a 2004 article that appeared in Psychology Today called “A Nation of Wimps” by Estroff Marano.
Marano’s article begins by sketching a portrait of “cyclist in the park, trim under his sleek metallic blue helmet, cruising along the dirt path . . . at three miles an hour. On his tricycle.” From there the child moves to an “all-rubber-cushioned surface where kids used to skin their knees.” Now, she says, kids experience a “wholly sanitized childhood without skinned knees or the occasional C in history.”
What is the effect of this? Mohler gives his own conclusion when he writes, “Our kids are growing up to be a nation of pampered wimps who are incapable of assuming adult responsibility and have no idea how to handle the routine of life” (82). This is true because, “Kids are not allowed to play because they might get hurt. In today’s highly competitive environment, kids have to excel at everything, even if parents have to actually do the work or negotiate an assisted success” (82-82).
Colleges seem to experience the brunt of this on two fronts. One is what Marano calls the “fragility factor.” When students are no longer under the overprotective watch of their parents, they often experience an extreme amount of psychological distress, “evident in the mild forms of anxiety and, in other cases, in binge drinking, self-mutilation, and even suicide” (83). When kids are, “Smothered by parental attention and decision making during childhood and adolescence, these young people arrive on college campuses without the ability to make their own decisions, live with their choices, learn from their experience, and grapple with the issues of adult life” (84).
The second front is the problem of grade inflation which, “Now means that, in terms of an actual measure of academic excellence, grades are now virtually useless” (85). For example, A. Lawrence Summers, the former president of Harvard University, discovered when he assumed the university presidency in 2001 that 94 percent of the college’s graduates were graduating with honors.
When we as parents insulate our children to such a degree that they never experience significant challenges, we not only rob them of the opportunity to learn from failure, but also weaken their resolve and leave them unprepared for the realities of life. And Christians are by no means immune to this. Mohler astutely says,
Christian parents can fall into this same game, pushing our children as if worldly markers of success are to be our greatest goals and hallmarks of achievement. We must push our children toward excellence, but we must define excellence in biblical terms consistent with the Christian gospel. Our concern should be that our children are raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and are pointed to God’s purpose for their life. A life spent in sacrificial service, on the mission field, or devoted to the cause of the gospel will not win the plaudits of the world (87).
God, give us the grace to help our children grow strong in their faith and grant us the courage to give them the freedom to live out that faith, even—or perhaps especially—when they have to learn from their mistakes.