“If you’re raising young men, you’ve got to learn to say no.”
That was LeVonna Anderson, the founder of a private school Ethan Couch attended, talking to D Magazine earlier this year. Couch has been more commonly known as “affluenza boy” since a shrink testified that he could not be held responsible for the 2013 killing of four people because he’s a spoiled brat.
Couch was drunk when he drove 70 miles per hour in a 45 zone, ending the lives of four young men and women who had stopped to help a woman in a disabled car on the side of the road in Texas. The psychiatrist testified that he couldn’t comprehend the consequences of his actions because, essentially, there had never been any consequences for his actions before.
His millionaire parents, Fred and Tonya, had given him everything he wanted for his entire childhood and never punished any wrongdoing. As if to prove the point, his mother let him skip a court mandated meeting with his probation officer last week, after he was seen on video violating his probation by drinking, and took him to Mexico.
We can lament the poor decision of the judge who let Ethan off scot-free, but this is less a story about our judicial system than it is about modern parenting. Ethan is a symbol of an era when parents lost their backbone.
As early as 2006, according to divorce proceedings, Tonya apparently called Ethan her “protector” and had moved his bed into her room. The notion that your child is your friend or your equal, let alone your protector, is something only a parent in the past few decades would believe. No amount of loneliness should make you want to sacrifice your son or daughter’s childhood. You are the protector.
And, though it may be exhausting, you are also their disciplinarian. It’s clear that Ethan Couch’s parents are the extreme example, but it doesn’t take much time hanging out with moms to realize that many of us have lost control. I know mothers who cannot have a three-minute conversation because their 5-year-olds are hanging on them, demanding attention, even hitting them. There aren’t many parents these days who believe children should be seen and not heard. But maybe they could be heard a little less.
If it were ever going to be clear what spineless helicopter parenting has wrought, this year should do it. The college-campus protests have comprised people who are supposed to be young adults — people old enough to serve in the military — withering over Halloween costumes, running to safe rooms when a dissident speaker appears on campus, demanding the purging of professors, books and even dining-hall food that irritates their sensibilities.
Christina Hoff Sommers calls this trend “fainting-couch feminism.” And there’s really no better comparison than a group of too-tightly corseted 19th century ladies who dropped at the slightest deviation from accepted speech and behavior.
What’s particularly galling, though, is that their parents, those wild-and crazy Gen-Xers, are so intent on protecting their children’s delicate sensibilities that they are willing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars while their children protest the free exchange of ideas. That these kids are ill-prepared for the real world is obvious to anyone with eyes to see.
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