The state of how children are being raised, rewarded, and prepared for a successful future is a hot topic. In the studio environment,we interact with children similarly to an academic classroom, observing patterns of behavior, reactions, and interactions over certain periods of time and in a variety of circumstances. In today’s society, I have encountered situations that would have never been mentioned, addressed, or discussed during my dance training. The teacher guided the child’s training, the child had a certain level of autonomy, and the parent trusted the teacher.

We have briefly touched on this topic via our posts The Question of Quitting? and Competition Levels: Necessary or Not?, but an article in Psychology Today, entitled A Nation of Wimps by Hara Estroff Marano (originally published in 2004 and reviewed in Feb. 2013), really addresses the underlying issues of the emergent “wimp culture”.

(As a side note, I strongly dislike the word “wimp”, but, by definition, it is a ‘weak, cowardly, or unadventurous person’, which works appropriately in context with the discussed article.)

The full article should be read, but here are some highlights and discussion points that are pertinent to our roles in the dance studio environment:

  • “But taking all the discomfort, disappointment and even the play out of development, especially while increasing pressure for success, turns out to be misguided by just about 180 degrees. With few challenges all their own, kids are unable to forge their creative adaptations to the normal vicissitudes of life. That not only makes them risk-averse, it makes them psychologically fragile, riddled with anxiety. In the process they’re robbed of identity, meaning and a sense of accomplishment, to say nothing of a shot at real happiness. Forget, too, about perseverance, not simply a moral virtue but a necessary life skill…Whether we want to or not, we’re on our way to creating a nation of wimps.”
  • “‘Parents have told their kids from day one that there’s no end to what they are capable of doing,’ says Virginia’s Portmann…’American parents today expect their children to be perfect—the smartest, fastest, most charming people in the universe. And if they can’t get the children to prove it on their own, they’ll turn to doctors to make their kids into the people that parents want to believe their kids are’…What they’re really doing, he stresses, is ‘showing kids how to work the system for their own benefit’.”
  • “‘I wish my parents had some hobby other than me,’ one young patient told David Anderegg, a child psychologist in Lenox, Massachusetts, and professor of psychology at Bennington College. Anderegg finds that anxious parents are hyperattentive to their kids, reactive to every blip of their child’s day, eager to solve every problem for their child—and believe that’s good parenting.”
  • “Kids are losing their leadership skills.”
  • “The perpetual access to parents infantilizes the young, keeping them in a permanent state of dependency. Whenever the slightest difficulty arises, ‘they’re constantly referring to their parents for guidance,’ reports Kramer. They’re not learning how to manage for themselves.”
  • “Parents need to abandon the idea of perfection and give up some of the invasive control they’ve maintained over their children. The goal of parenting, Portmann reminds, is to raise an independent human being. Sooner or later, he says, most kids will be forced to confront their own mediocrity. Parents may find it easier to give up some control if they recognize they have exaggerated many of the dangers of childhood—although they have steadfastly ignored others, namely the removal of recess from schools and the ubiquity of video games that encourage aggression.”

What is happening, and how will it impact our society in 10, 20, and 30 years (and beyond)? Is this a trend we want to continue? How can we make a change? Are you noticing similar trends in your studio?

A few years ago, this graphic was published in a newspaper, and it left a memorable impact:

teacher comic


This is another example of the shift in our culture as detailed in the Nation of Wimps article.

As dance instructors and studio owners, we want to empower strong, confident, independent, and resilient dancers, performers, and citizens. There is so much to be gained from the dance studio environment, but in order to for our students to fully reap the benefits of such life skills, parents have to support a similar environment at home , at school, and via extracurricular activities. How are you addressing such challenges in your studio? Does the Nation of Wimps article resonate with your experiences?


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