Takeaways from Coddling the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure
At Camp Kupugani, our overnight Midwest summer camp (located two hours west of Chicago), we empower our campers to be independent both at camp and home. While reading a book called Coddling Of the American Mind, camp director Kevin Gordon came across some interesting excerpts. Read below for some ways we as parents inhibit our children’s ability to fend for themselves. Check out the book’s website for more details by clicking here.
We should allow our kids to struggle on their own and avoid trying to “fix” or “manage” everything for them.
- “So many teens have lost the ability to tolerate distress and uncertainty, and a big reason for that is the way we parent them.” – p. 163 (quoting Kevin Ashworth, clinical director, NW Anxiety Institute in Portland, Oregon.)
We should provide children the tools and knowledge to safely experiment with risk.
- “We should all take reasonable precautions to protect our children’s physical safety—for example, by owning a fire extinguisher—but we should not submit to the pull of safetyism (overestimating danger, fetishizing safety, and not accepting any risk), which deprives kids of some of the most valuable experiences in childhood.” – p. 164
- “By placing a protective shield over our children, we inadvertently stunt their growth and deprive them of the experiences they need to become successful and functional adults.” – p. 170
Challenges, confrontation, mistakes, and risk are good for children’s development.
- “Although kids are naturally antifragile…to damage their development…over-monitor and overprotect them, denying them the thousands of small challenges, risks, and adversities that they need to face on their own in order to become strong and resilient adults.” – p. 176
Differing opinions should be welcomed, even when it feels challenging…perhaps especially when challenging. We don’t need to personalize conflict and can instead practice useful conflict resolution.
- “In an optimally functioning dignity culture, people are assumed to have dignity and worth regardless of what others think of them, so they are not expected to react too strongly to minor slights…In a dignity culture…people are expected to have enough self-control to shrug off irritations, slights, and minor conflicts as they pursue their own projects…Perspective is a key element of a dignity culture; people don’t view disagreements, unintentional slights, or even direct insults as threats to their dignity that must always be met with a response.” – p.209-210
To effect social change, we need to be mindful of others’ perception of justice.
- “Intuitive justice involves perceptions of distributive justice (as given by equity theory) and procedural justice. If you want to motivate people to support a new policy or join a movement in the name of justice, you need to activate in them a clear perception, or intuition, that someone didn’t get what they deserve (distributive injustice) or that someone was a victim of an unfair process (procedural injustice). If you can’t elicit at least one of those feelings, then people are much more likely to be content with the status quo, even if it is one in which some people or groups end up with more resources or more status than others.” -p. 220
Justice means equality of opportunity, not necessarily equality of outcomes.
- If activists embrace the equal-outcomes form of social justice—if they interpret all deviations from population norms as evidence of systemic bias—then they will get drawn into endless and counterproductive campaigns, even against people who share their goals. – p. 230