Helicopter parents who put their children on ‘a pedestal’ are to blame for them still living at home at 25, according to anthropologist David Lancy, member of ICDI’s Recommendation Committee.
David Lancy has warned that mothers and fathers praise their children too readily, which does not adequately prepare them for modern life. Young people believe they can continue doing ‘what’s exciting and wonderful’ and end up only ‘patchily employed’ and reliant on their parents by their mid-twenties.
The emeritus professor of anthropology at Utah State University, United States, said this results in their ‘failure to launch’. He has examined different childcare models across the world for his book, Raising Children: Surprising Insights from Other Cultures.
In an interview with the Times Educational Supplement (TES), the anthropologist outlined ‘our’ society’s ‘WEIRD’ way, which stands for Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich and Democratic.
This has worrying characteristics including ‘raising each child as special and unique and patting them on the back for every achievement, to protect their self-esteem’.
Referring to ‘WEIRD’, Professor Lancy told the TES: ‘I think one of the drivers (of this) is this underlying notion that children should never be unhappy and that if they are, that’s a problem that the parent is maybe responsible for and certainly has an obligation to remediate.’
Parents are ‘totally wrapped up and centred on their children’ – an approach that is problematic.
‘You can relate all sorts of things to that, including the spectacular rise of psychotropic medication being given to children,’ he said.
‘I take the idea that putting kids on a pedestal is not a good thing – and from that, I develop an essay in the book on ‘failure to launch’.
‘When you put a child on a pedestal and say, “The horizons are limitless for you, my child, you can do anything you want to do, there’s no hurry, you can take your time,” that creates a situation that you say to your kids, “You don’t have to conform to society’s expectations or expectations of the workplace, you can continue to do what’s exciting and wonderful for you,” and we end up with kids still living at home at 25 and only patchily employed.’
David Lancy: “In other cultures children have to earn their specialness”
Professor Lancy believes the West should look at other cultures and their more ‘natural’ ways of rearing children.
He said: “I think one of the greatest things that we’ve lost, which you become aware of in a village in somewhere like Papua New Guinea, is that children have learned from watching other people do stuff.
I mean building things, making things, working out of doors, watching adults work on the farm. You have no idea of what a rich and exciting palette (that is), TV or video games can’t touch it.
Even before children’s attention was captured 24/7 by social media and video games, play had moved indoors. Partly for safety concerns, the overprotection issue.
If I were a parent (or teacher) of children now, I would make sure that they had opportunities to watch. Then even better, to pitch in, help out.
The way parents and teachers use praise needs to change too, as in other cultures ‘children have to earn their specialness’.
They have an enormous amount of autonomy to search out and pursue their interests,’ he said.
But they’re not given a credit for achievements until they actually have a big achievement and have actually killed the antelope and brought it home.
Then, maybe you’ll get credit and some congratulations.
Professor Lancy believes teachers should also be braver in telling parents to stop trying to do their job for them.
He said: “There’s a significant part of our population who think that everyone knows how to teach, and that (leads to parents finding) fault with teachers or (as a society we) inadequately pay them, or we are just not appreciating what they can do.
We’ve got helicopter parents, which allows parents to look over the teacher’s shoulder. The teacher gets moved around with all these restrictions and injunctions. Teachers need the authority to do as they’ve been trained.
Professor Lancy’s views are based on extensive research, beginning with a study in Liberia at the start of his career.