Do American parents cosset their children? Or, do they coddle their children? They might try to protect their children, even to coddle them, but cosseting… the word has not entered the parental lexicon on this side of the pond.
In England, overly protective parents are said to cosset their children. And a British neuroscientist has just discovered that cosseting children is a bad thing.
A child who is too protected will, upon confronting a trauma or a failure or a loss, not know what to do. He will be overcome with anguish and will retreat into a fictional world where he will see himself as having been subjected to an injustice.
Children ought to be allowed to make some independent judgments, to take certain risks and even to fail. In that way they will develop resilience and grit.
Ideally, this occurs with parental supervision.
So explains this story from The Daily Mail:
Parents who deny their children independence are creating a generation incapable of dealing with failure, a leading neuroscientist has warned.
A trend over the past two decades towards ‘wrapping children in cotton wool’ is leaving them struggling to cope with setbacks in their teenage years and adult life.
Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, an expert in cognitive neuroscience at University College London, said it was important for children to embrace a degree of risk and learn from mistakes.
But she warned youngsters nowadays were ‘not allowed to be independent’ as they were when she was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s. Professor Blakemore, an expert in the teenage brain, said risk-taking was an ‘important developmental behaviour’ for teenagers as they began to negotiate independence.
Prof. Blakemore added:
When they suddenly do have independence as an adolescent, how are they expected to exert their independence if they’ve never had any practice? My view is that risk-taking and failing and things going wrong are really important skills for a child and an adolescent to learn... if you don’t allow an adolescent to fail or take risks then what kind of adult will they be when they go out and live on their own and have to deal with their own lives?
One British headmaster issued the following warning, accompanied by a recommendation for overcoming the problem. In his eyes children could learn how to take risks and to deal with failure by playing competitive sports:
Is this the way we do things in America?
In some places we do. In others, regrettably, we prefer to coddle our children by giving them all a trophy. Since children are traumatized by a loss or a failure we try to brainwash them into thinking that they never fail. Or else, that they deserve as much respect for failing as they would receive for succeeding.
In a more contemporary manifestation, some people are now arguing that law students should be excused from exams if they are traumatized by a grand jury decision.
Others believe that college students should receive what are called trigger warnings if a potentially uncomfortable topic is about to be discussed in class.
Are they being coddled? Are they being cosseted?
Whatever your word choice they are being prevented from becoming moral beings. For all I know, in some corners of the culture that is considered to be a desirable outcome.