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A Nation of Wimps: The High Cost of Invasive Parenting reviewed by Melissa Maskulka, Class of 2007

August 20th, 2010 · 4 Comments · Education, Non-fiction

Hara Estroff Marano’s A Nation of Wimps: The High Cost of Invasive Parenting (2008, Broadway Books) takes a critical look at the costs of “over-parenting” one’s child. Perfect for all involved in high education including parents, students, administrators and professors, this well-researched book offers case studies and longitudinal results which provide an in-depth explanation of the negative consequences of the “helicopter parent.”

A parent tries to do the best for their child, but does a parent ever do too much? If so, “hovering” occurs, thus, making one a helicopter parent, a phrased coined when Baby Boomers’ kids entered adolescence. Taking a developmental perspective from elementary age through college, Marano pinpoints several critical years in a student’s development and the consequences, often times unintended, of overly invasive parenting. With pressure to have the “perfect child,” this book argues that parents create a stressful environment from birth, leaving a child conditioned to believe one must never fail, and as having never failed – either through the fear of risk-taking or constant rescuing from a parent – the child never learns resilience necessary for the real world. Even a benign request in middle school such as “Mom, I forgot my gym shoes, can you bring them” can give off a message that mom will always be there to rescue you, even though not having your gym shoes for one day may result in a few points off your grade, but certainly life will go on. This book points out that more and more, parents are calling colleges to request schedule changes, inquire about why a course is offered during a time where a potential assistantship exists, or tell the coach their kid deserves more playing time, causing stress for all involved. Even at an appropriate developmental time-point to address issues such as roommates, dining hall plans, or parking spaces, parents are the ones stepping in and fixing it for their young adult child, further perpetuating the notion that “parents will fix it for you.”

Morano explains that more serious consequences may evolve over time, including chronic anxiety, depression, and lack of confidence in one’s ability to solve their own problems. These byproducts become especially apparent in the college years and post-grad life, as there has been a huge increase in students being seen in college mental health centers for issues greater than “my boyfriend dumped me.” Additionally, a student may be plagued with a fear of taking chances, or even of disappointing a parent with choice of job, location, or further graduate school plans.As a result, critical problem solving skills and independence may never have been fostered through high school and even into college.

While the content of this book may be difficult for parents to accept, it is a necessary read for anyone with a college-bound student. The delivery of this topic is informative, not critical, and provides perspective from leading higher education and psychological professionals, as well as students who have experienced these issues, with helpful suggestions for fostering adaptive ability in any stage of a child’s development. This creates an open dialogue with parents as opposed to an attack, which may have unwanted negative backlash. Students, too, can learn a lot from this book, as an adult child also has the responsibility to create a healthy set of boundaries and express their needs without being concerned about being feeling shame or selfishness (a typical byproduct when a child grows up attempting to fill the expectations of the parent and not themselves). A quick read with useful information and a fantastic index, this book should serve as a reference for those in the field of higher education for years to come.

Find this book at a library near you.

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Rating: 5.4/10 (19 votes cast)
A Nation of Wimps: The High Cost of Invasive Parenting reviewed by Melissa Maskulka, Class of 2007, 5.4 out of 10 based on 19 ratings


4 Comments so far ↓

  • Eric Riedel

    Bravo, Melissa! Can’t wait to add this to my library. The contents sound like they validate my personal anecdotal experiences with students and parents.

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  • Book review posted at Hiram Reads! « 25 Lessons Learned in my 25th Year

    [...] A Nation of Wimps: Book Review Filed under Uncategorized ← Adventures: Free yourself by fleeing [...]

  • bob

    this is a very interesting article. I have 2 successful daughters who both went to private liberal arts undergraduate schools and completed in 4 years with honors which I am proud of.

    It is a tough balance being a concerned parent versus a hovering parent. I can say I seldom got involved with my daughters grades in HS and never got involved with college grades DId I get involved at times with my children’s lives when I shouldn’t. Yes I admit it . Would I do things differently if I had to do it over again. Sure I would. But I did what I thought was right. A child can fail and still succeed. I now recognize that. Todays world is tough and some situations need parental guidance. Insurance, rent, IRA etc Others such as resume writing, job search and other growing up activities must be done by the child and the child alone. What the child needs to realize the balance of including the parent in their lives. All parents want a better life for their child than they did and are just trying to help them get there

    Interested to know what the young adults think ?

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  • Misty Davis


    You did a fine job reviewing this book. It definitely will be placed in my ‘To-read’ pile! You seriously should consider a job as a book reviewer. The world could use a few more like you!!

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