Changing Parenting Styles a Cause for Concern?


March 25th, 2016


Nicholas Christakis (Left) speaks with a Yale student following his wife’s email response to Yale Administrators.

Angry protests on college campuses are nothing new. The message coming from some college protesters, however, is. KVNO’s Brandon McDermott reports on changing attitudes on college campuses, and how those attitudes could be a result of bad parenting. 

Omaha, NE -  Last fall just before Halloween, administrators at Yale University sent an email out to students discouraging them from wearing costumes that could be viewed as culturally insensitive.

A Professor at Yale University, Ericka Christakis responded to the message with an email of her own. In it, she said: ‘American universities were once a safe space not only for maturation but also for a certain regressive, or even transgressive, experience…’ Essentially, Christakis was saying students should be allowed to wear whatever costume for Halloween they wanted.

In response, some, but not all, students called the Christakis email “racist” and the administration’s response to it “unacceptable.”

When hundreds of students protested the incident, Nicholas Christakis, Ericka’s husband and Master of Yale’s Silliman College, tried to speak with them and address their concerns. And because we live in the 21st century, the scene was posted to YouTube.

Later in the video, Christakis responds to the students, echoing sentiment first told by the French Enlightenment philosopher, Franciose Voltaire.

In the end Erika Christakis, who wrote the email, stepped down from her post at Yale. Her husband, Nicholas Christakis, is still the Master of Silliman College.

But were the students right? Should the right to free speech be suspended if that speech is deemed offensive?

Paul Landow, professor of Political Science at the University of Nebraska at Omaha says this isn’t the first time the issue has been raised, and it’s precisely why the Yale students, were wrong.

“Free speech is about give and take,” Landow said. “It’s about listening to the views of others even though you may disagree and trying to find some common ground. By the way, that’s also what going to college is all about.”

Some say because of the way Americans have been raising their kids the past 10-15 years, college campuses are now full of students who’ve never really faced adversity on their own.

“I will say that parenthood today is so much more of a coddling of children,” that’s Olu Oyinlade. He’s a Sociology Professor at UNO. He says when it comes to millennials, people born between the early 1980s to the early 2000s, their parents’ desire to protect them, may have actually hurt them.

“Essentially in the interests of loving our children, we tend to grant them too much of this coddling effect as if we have to do everything for them.”

Oyinlade says the primary change in parenting over the last 15 years has been how we teach kids to deal with adversity – like listening to an opposing view they don’t like.

“We train children and have educated them to become so good at seeking external protection. Then they lose the ability for self-protection.”

Oyinlade says when children rely too heavily on external protections, it can become a driving force in their lives.

“Then they’re going to become dependent on that force. They’re going to be sick in that force. So at the end of the day I think we’re going to have a future generation of children who will become adults and will still look forward to somebody protecting them all the time.”

Daniel Hawkins, also a sociology professor at UNO, agrees with Professor Oyinlade that parenting styles are changing, but he says it’s for different reasons.

“Culture has changed and I think parents take their cues from other parents as well not only from the way they were raised but also ‘How is Johnny being raised down the street?’ or ‘How is my nephew or niece being raised,’ and things like that,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins says parents need to let kids solve problems themselves, but balance that “tough love” with actual love.

“Lots of warmth lots of affection lots of love, combined with setting down some rules that kids know they need to follow.”

With a healthy dose of hard knocks and hugs, Hawkins says kids will grow to be successful adults able to deal with adversity.

And when more healthy adults are dealing with adversity in a healthy way, perhaps scenes like this, won’t grab so many headlines.


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