Life’s no beach for children nowadays

Hands-off parenting is out in North America, at least among educated and rich families, and demanding mothers and fathers want their youngsters to be social alphas and go to Harvard

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 October, 2018, 6:14pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 October, 2018, 10:06pm

Something struck me as a parent while watching the melodramatic Senate confirmation hearings of US Supreme Court judge nominee Brett Kavanaugh. That was the moment when he presented his weekly calendar during his senior high school year before university.

There was “Beach Week”, during which there were many parties, but in the middle of that were back-to-back admission interviews for Brown and Yale universities. I surmise he aced them. We all know he went to Yale.

I will sidestep the #MeToo debate. I don’t know if he was or was not a sex pest. But as a teenager, he knew how to party and still excelled academically. As a self-confessed C student, fellow Yale alumnus George W. Bush was good at partying only. That was, and probably still is, the gold standard for teenagers, at least those lucky enough to be surrounded by privilege and affluence in North America.

If you are just a jock, you may be popular and still be looked down on. If you are a nerd, you can be ignored socially. It’s hard to excel in both partying and academics. In fact, peer pressure and the drive to succeed make life hell for many children of well-off families.

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Studies conducted by Arizona State University psychologist Suniya Luthar and in Norway find that children of rich families have a higher incidence of depression, anxiety and substance abuse. In the popular Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, about the suicide of a teenage girl, peer pressure makes Jean-Paul Sartre’s famous saying, “hell is other people”, a living nightmare.

Hands-off parenting is out in North America, at least among educated and rich families. It’s now precision parenting. Popular software now enables parents to track the cyber-activities of their children, down to individual computer keystrokes. Demanding parents want their children to be social alphas and go to Harvard.

Asian tiger-parenting doesn’t hold a candle to contemporary American parenting. Speaking of the infamous Amy Chua, a Yale law professor, she is now under internal investigation for allegedly advising several female students who wanted to work as law clerks to Kavanaugh to dress like attractive models and at least one male student against applying.

Both Chua and Kavanaugh were made to work hard and excelled as students. As documented in her bestseller, she made sure her two daughters had no social life. Her daughters might have had it easy.