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The Curse of Great Parents

Truly horrible parents are the ones who usually make the news. The most recent evidence is America's hopscotchpuzzling fixation with the current murder trial of Casey Anthony, who is accused of killing her toddler.

But what I'm more interested in is whether the moms and dads, who strive to be perfect parents, are harming their children. Could they be inadvertently setting their kids up for a lifetime of angst and therapy?

According to the cover story in the current issue of The Atlantic, perfect parenting is driving young adults into therapy. Curiously, these twenty and thirtysomethings aren't complaining to their therapists about their parents. Rather they are gushing that their parents are wonderful. Some say that their moms and dads are their best friends.

The parents of these young adults typically gave their children the freedom to find themselves and encouraged them to pursue whatever would make them feel happy in life. Sound familiar?

What's Wrong? Children Who Adore Their Parents

It's no wonder that these grown children adore their parents, but nonetheless they complain of feeling adrift and unfulfilled even if they lead amazing lives. Lori Gottlieb, a therapist and the author of the magazine piece, who has counseled many of these adults, concluded that their parents could be guilty of being too good.

Children who experience an amazing childhood aren't necessarily ready for the hard knocks of real life when they leave the nest. Parents, and I'm as guilty as anybody, have raised their kids during a time when everyone gets high-fives and praise for non-accomplishments. It's no wonder that surveys show that American college students are off the charts in self confidence.

Leaving the Nest

Problems materialize when coddled children leave home. Gottlieb interviewed Jean Twenge, a San Diego State professor and the author of The Narcissim Epidemic, who summed up the problem:

When my 22-year-old daughter was a baby, a friend of mine, who is a therapist, told me that I only had to be a "good enough" mother. I didn't believe her, but I think she was probably right.

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Lynn O'Shaughnessy is author of The College Solution, an Amazon bestseller, and she also writes her own college blog at The College Solution.
Perfect parenting image by Only Alice.