These kids are fragile like Teacups

Teacups: lovely, fragile things to be handled with care. The word is also used to describe toy dog breeds of the Paris Hilton handbag variety—presumably because they’re almost small enough to fit in one. More recently, it’s being applied to people of the current generation of adolescents and young people who may be growing up a little too fragile—too sensitive, for their own good.

Of course, every grown generation criticizes the next one, just as every younger generation criticizes its parents and tries to rebel and break free. Well, they did until now.

Part of the teacup kid problem may stem from the fact that their understanding, reasonable, best-friend parents have never given them anything to criticize or rebel against. These parents are the self-esteem worriers for their children with every finger painting exactly like the last one deserves a “Oh my god! It’s a work of art! Great job!”.

Team sports, now every kid gets a trophy. I didn’t even get a ribbon until I earned it winning 1st, 2nd or 3rd at the annual school sports carnival. Do these children realise they are being praised for just turning up, being present and not how good they actually play the game. Turning up doesn’t win grand finals, it’s not going to get them a High Distinction at their high school graduation. Putting in the hard yards and a bit of determination should win a trophy and a high grade.

It seems that these always-above-average teacup children may be the offspring of another relatively recent trend, “helicopter parents”—those intense mums and dads who hover over their children, never letting them slip out of sight or make a decision, however tiny, on their own, intervening on their behalf with teachers, coaches, bullies, other children’s parents and anyone else who the kids might have to interact with. Protecting, nurturing, prodding and overseeing their children is their second job. And the result, apparently, can be the teacup child, perfect—but oh, so fragile.

All around them the world is changing and they simply don’t want to deal with it. How will they deal when push comes to shove and these teacup kids are in charge one day. Who’s going stop the world going into war. Who is going to run for the elections if everyone shares the same ‘turn up and be praised’ mentality.

Essentially, a life that’s too cushioned, literally or metaphorically, doesn’t prepare kids for difficulty. If you’ve never seen any kind of problem before, you don’t know how to go about solving one. And if you aren’t able to tackle and control problems you encounter, you feel powerless and anxious.

If kids can’t experience painful feelings, they won’t develop psychological immunity. It’s like the way our body’s immune system develops. You have to be exposed to pathogens, or your body won’t know how to respond to an attack. Kids also need exposure to discomfort, failure and struggle. Kids need to know the emotional feelings of not getting into the school play or making the cut for the footy team.

Most of my thoughts fall in the morally grey territory, most might define as cruel. But they are necessary. I’m comfortable with grey.

Mars on Life.