Unprepared and Vulnerable
What a time to be alive. Never before in history have our needs and desires been satisfied with such ease. We can hail taxis with a few clicks of our phones and purchase products without leaving our beds. These modern luxuries, though, have made many of their beneficiaries unprepared for disastrous events. The number of potential disasters is growing, as background risks like geopolitical tensions and climate change move increasingly into the foreground. Unfortunately, the survival skills needed to escape or endure a disaster are in short supply. This leaves the next generation both unprepared and vulnerable.
In a previous post, I reviewed The Coddling of the American Mind. The authors of the book explain how parents are effectively hurting their children by eliminating any risks they may encounter in their lives. Supervised play and helicopter parenting are now the main child-rearing practices. This trend has resulted in soaring rates of depression and anxiety among children. Children who aren’t exposed to stress, discomfort, or risk grow into vulnerable adults. To put it bluntly: the next generation is becoming soft.
How to Toughen Up Our Tots
Fortunately, some parents are choosing to raise their kids in ways that better prepare them for adulthood. Leonore Skenazy founded Free Range Kids, which seeks to overthrow the culture of overprotection. In 2008, Lenore let her child ride on the New York City subway by himself. She gave him a map, a MetroCard, and some money in case of an emergency. She didn’t leave her 9 year old boy unprepared, as he was coached beforehand about what to do if he gets lost or runs into trouble. He made it home without issue. Skenazy wrote about his experience and was soon dubbed “America’s Worst Mom.” In response, she created the Free Range Kids blog, which has since expanded into a full fledged movement.
We should take a page out of Skenzay’s book (she has literally written one) and give our kids more freedom. The constant supervision isn’t just leaving them unprepared for SHTF events. It’s preventing them from handling the some of the most basic tasks adults need to perform. Below are three prescriptions we could make to better prepare the next generation:
- Strategic suffering may sound extreme, but bear with me. Kids should not always get what they want when they want it. It’s important to make your kids earn the the things they ask for. Your son wants that new toy that’s been advertised on TV? Great, tell him he can have it if he first mows the lawn. Your daughter wants a ride to her friend’s house? No problem, take her after she cleans her room. Kids need to learn that life doesn’t simply hand them gifts. We need to work for the things we want. This form of suffering is of course very mild. Few kids today, though, are required to endure any suffering. A lesson in suffering can lead to a lifetime of preparedness. The stoics found beauty in suffering and so can we.
- Disagreements are bound to happen. Unfortunately, these disagreements are being handled in increasingly worse ways. College students are protesting guest speakers that have different viewpoints than them. Claims about microaggressions are being injected into the mainstream. Trigger warnings are posted outside auditoriums. These trends are replacing reasoned arguments. We need to ensure our kids can handle disagreements without getting emotional.
- Teach your kids how to develop logic-based arguments, so they can make smart decisions as adults. They can’t run away from disagreements. They can’t protest them. And they definitely can’t be triggered by them. Instead, they need to engage in disagreements with well-constructed support for their viewpoints.
- Kids need to learn how to do things themselves. Lenore Skenazy’s son could ride the subway alone at 9 years old. How many other parents can claim the same for their children? We should give our kids instructional projects, so they can learn important skills. Kids should learn hunting, foraging, and other important survival skills. They should become self-reliant at a young age. This will make them more mature and capable adults. It will also better prepare them for SHTF events.
What other lessons do you think we should impart on the next generation? Leave a comment below or contact me directly.