Help! My Bubble Wrap Kid Just turned 40

by Kerry Cue

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‘My eldest daughter is 32 this year. So this is the one raised in the early 80s when Penelope Leach was the guru. Anyway, excuse me!

Bloody Penelope Leach where you had to be breast-feeding continually and everything was baby centered and child focused and you always had to stimulate the baby and raise their self-esteem.’

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     ………………………..Virginia, NSW, RN, Life Matters, ABC Talkback,28 MAR 2014

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Does Helicopter Parenting Harm Kids?

your-baby-and-child Penelope LeachOnce parents felt their role was to feed and clothe their children, and wash behind their ears (for some reason). In the 1970s, however, a Parenting Revolution emerged. Suddenly, every stage of a child’s development (when they goo, poo, smile, sit etc) demanded parental supervision and emotional support. The new era of Helicopter Parenting had begun. UK psychologist, Penelope Leach, was a flag bearer of this revolution.

Her book, Your Baby and Child: From Birth to Age Five (1977), became the child-rearing bible for many parents, myself included. She provided useful information about snivels and rashes, but constantly boosting a child’s self esteem demands extreme vigilance. Children will fall over. They will come second in a race. They will get B in a test. So a parent had to stay vigilant and always cheer their child’s efforts (even the most lame pasta art effort).

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Now it is time to ask: Does Helicopter Parenting Harm Kids? It can. In his book, How Not to Talk to Your Kids (2007), American journalist Po Bronson warned that constantly praising kids means ‘they never learn strategies to deal with failure’. Bubble Warp kids can become ‘risk adverse’ simply because they can’t deal with the emotional impact of failing.

We Sibyls were the first, if fairly moderate, Helicopter Parents. Our children are now adults so we can comment on some of the long-term outcomes as we observe the first ‘Bubble Wrap kids’ as they turn 40.

Bubble Wrap kids never have to share, never have to wait and never hear the word ‘No’. What would that look like when those kids are 40 years old. Ugly! Very ugly. Who would want to live with a Me-centric 40 year old who won’t share, wait, doesn’t take ‘No’ for an answer yet also needs constant emotional support? This isn’t just narcissism, it is needy, clingy narcissism. They will suck the emotional life out of any partner or mother (See Why are Feminist Daughters Angry with their Mothers.)

And one more thing. Will Bubble Wrap kids want to have children of their own? Maybe not. Firstly, children raised Helicopter-style have seen their parents hovering first hand. It looks like hard work.

And, secondly, having children involves risk. For ‘Bubble Wrap Kids’ the idea is terrifying. What if something goes wrong? What if the child is hideous? What if I can’t handle being a parent? Why do it? Having children is way, way too risky!

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Photo Source: Klein Letter Archives

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