A One Man Dam
The Rise of the Helicopter Generation

There is one key reason our generation (and, I’d argue, the generation before us) have become helicopter parents—fear. And there are two key drivers to the pervasiveness of fear in this generation—our inability to accurately judge risk and having kids later in life. To break it down a bit further …


Remember how our parents would leave us in the car when they ran into the drug store to get something? Or how they would send us out of the house unsupervised to go ride our bikes without knee and elbow pads? Remember how if we got a bad grade our parents would confront us rather than the teacher? Yeah, so do I.

Well as we all know, the helicopter generation would never perpetrate this sort of “neglect.” Why not? Because our parents thought nothing bad would really happen to us, and in fact, a few bumps and bruises (physical and emotional) would turn us into better adults. Whereas helicopter parents are terrified that their children will be kidnapped from the car, will fall off their bikes and kill themselves, or will have their self-esteem destroyed by a bad grade. This extreme fear then causes them to over-parent or hover over nearly every aspect of their children’s lives to ensure nothing bad ever happens to them (thus the term “helicopter parent”).

(And the mass media’s constant coverage of negative events, making them seem commonplace, acts as an accelerant to this natural behavior by helicopter parents.)

Risk Assessment

If the helicopter generation was actually protecting their kids from previously underappreciated dangers, then this increased level of fear would be justified, and we could explain the emergence of this generation of parents by saying that their ability to accurately identify risk had improved over previous generations’. The problem is that helicopter parents’ ability to judge risk is not superior. In fact, humans have been and continue to be incredibly poor risk assessors. 

Some evidence? Helicopter parents would never leave their children alone in the car, yet will drive them all over town to school, soccer practice, and birthday parties. The problem is, they should be more worried about putting them in the car in the first place as a child is ten times more likely to die in a car accident than be kidnapped by a stranger (and 1,500 times more likely to be injured in a car accident)*. Parents nowadays will ask if their children’s friends have guns in their homes. Although not an imprudent question, they should be far more worried about if their friends have a pool since a child is ten times more likely to die from drowning than from accidental shooting**. And there are dozens of additional everyday examples of modern parents fearing low probability events.

And the problem is that once you begin irrationally fearing things, there is no line that can reasonably be drawn between those things that should be feared and those that should not. Thus fear creeps into every single aspect of parents’ thinking.

Older Parents

So the million-dollar question, then, is why are helicopter parents more fearful than generations past?

Put simply, it’s because the helicopter generation of parents are having children much later in life than previous generations. And as we age from young adulthood (previous parenting generations) into mature adulthood (the helicopter parent generation), meaningful hormonal changes take place in our bodies. These changes result in us being less brazen and more risk averse because we have a greater sense of our mortality and are therefore more fearful of the world around us (regardless of whether it is actually more dangerous). Oftentimes this new perspective results in positive behaviors. Most adults don’t graffiti public property, don’t get into bar fights every Thursday night, and don’t have a car pull them at 30 MPH on their skateboards. However, one of the negative consequences to this “prudent” behavior, is a change in how we raise children.
So it wasn’t that previous parental generations had a better sense of risk than the helicopter generation, it was simply that most of our parents were too young and “foolish” to even consider the risks of many of their behaviors. They didn’t stop to think about how we could have been kidnapped when they left us in the car or how we could have hurt ourselves while riding our bikes. And it turns out that this disregard for things commonly considered dangerous today was a good thing because they never should have feared those things in the first place.

However, the helicopter generation is far more fearful because their hormonal levels are those of parents older than our parents when they first had us. Combine this fear with our inability to judge risk, and you get helicopter parents.


* According to the CDC, more than 1,200 children ages 14 years and younger died as occupants in motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. in 2010, and approximately 171,000 were injured. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 115 children were the victims of “stereotypical kidnappings.” Stereotypical kidnapping is defined as involving someone the child does not know or a slight acquaintance who holds the child overnight, transports the child 50 miles or more, kills the child, demands ransom, or intends to keep the child permanently (Page on Missingkids.com, page 7).

** According to the CDC, there were an average of 3,533 fatal unintentional drownings (non-boating related) annually in the United State from 2005-2009, and approximately 20% of those were children 14 and younger. According to the CDC, there were 62 unintentional deaths from firearms in 2010.

There are Only Two Graduations

For those who haven’t seen it in the news, the pro golfer Phil Mickelson travelled across the country this week to attend his daughter’s 8th grade graduation less than 24 hours before his tee time at the U.S. Open.

Let’s start with this declaration:

There are only two graduations - highschool and college. Everything else is bull$#!%.

Okay, maybe Phil gets a pass because he is an omni-travelling athlete who probably doesn’t see his kids much, but every other parent in attendance at that graduation is going to hell.

Why? Because the Modern Parents are creating a generation of narcissists.


Over the last 20 years, it has become a sign of great parenting if you continually put your child on a pedestal. Praise your child’s every word, every action, every bowel movement. It’s critical.

If you don’t, then clearly you don’t love your child (at least not as much as the parents who subscribe to this child worship). Consequently, it is no longer sufficient for a child to simply pass the third grade and move on to the fourth. It must be treated as a grand accomplishment and celebrated. So we now see pre-school graduations, kindergarten graduations, 3rd grade graduations, 8th grade graduations, high school graduations, and college graduations (and I’ll guarantee there are communities that have graduation ceremonies for every grade).

What do you think this continual idolization does to the mind of a child?

It warps it. Child worship turns your sweet little precious into a narcissistic #$%hole adult who thinks the world revolves around him (or her). When all of your life’s actions revolve around revolving around your child, you send a very powerful message that your child picks up on - I am the most important person, the only important person, in this world. So important that my parents will drop everything to attend the umpteenth celebration of my greatness. Work, shmork. Get your ass to my middle-of-the-day 4th grade art show to see how I glued macaroni to a rock.

And if you are a manager at your job, you know exactly what I’m talking about because you’ve experienced the consequences of this sort of child rearing, and you are experiencing it at an ever-increasing rate. The first-year employee who can’t believe he wasn’t consulted about your company’s major strategic shift. The analyst who can’t comprehend how she isn’t being promoted after only two years on the job. The junior employee whose mom calls because he has been mistreated in some way.

And I’m not talking about self-involved teenagers. All teenagers throughout human history have been self-involved. I’m talking about 24-year-old adults. You know, people who are supposed to have moved out of the “me, me, me” egotism that defines early childhood. These self-entitled narcissists, who did not exist 50 years ago, are entering the workforce in droves because they have been raised in a culture that treats them as number one and everyone else as a distant number six.

Remember, we have one job on this earth as parents - turn our children into the next generation of adults that is at least as good as ours. Part of doing this is showing them that there are other people on this planet whose needs are greater than theirs, and that only the best of what they do (or try to do) is worthy of praise.

It’s the least we can do for our children.

Speak Ill of the Dead

I was very encouraged to see something in a USAToday article from a few months back. Dean Cain, ex-fiancé of the recently deceased country star Mindy McCready, was quoted as saying a number of things about her and her suicide:

  • "I’m saddened, but I’m not surprised."
  • "Everything she did was a manipulation of sorts."
  • "I can’t paint too pretty a picture. She would start arguments, start drama. Things weren’t allowed to be good."
  • "She was kind of poisonous and not somebody I was going to have in my life anymore."

Good for him.

We have a nonsensical tradition in this country (although not exclusively in this country) of saying only good things about people when they die, regardless of what pricks they were when they were alive. I’ve always had a very keen sense of justice - people getting what they deserve (good and bad). And when someone is a bad person while they are living, they deserve to be remembered as a bad person.

Now I’m not saying to walk up to the person’s mother in the middle of the funeral and start cursing out her daughter. All I’m saying is we should accurately represent people in life and in death. If they were good people, let’s celebrate and glorify them for making their small slice of the world a better place. They deserve as much. And if people were destructive forces, then let’s make sure everyone remembers that. They deserve it too.

Original Article: http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/people/2013/02/21/dean-cain-not-surprised-by-ex-mindy-mcready-suicide/1935261/

The french fry fell on the floor, and it’s funny. I like funny.
My son
What questions should (and shouldn’t) parents ask themselves when deciding how they will raise their child?

This is a really important question because I believe “modern parents” continually ask Permissive-Strict Parentingthemselves the wrong question, and it is leading to generations of children who are growing up to be incompetent narcissists.

This wrong question is “how will this [event, action, outcome, etc.] make my child feel?”. Given that the ideal feeling is happiness, modern parents’ actions and inactions are all directed towards making their children happy. The problem with this mindset is that there are many things in life that evoke negative emotions that are beneficial to the development of a child and many things that result in positive emotions but adversely affect childhood development. But when parents’ worldviews see happiness as the end-all-be-all, their actions will almost never permit them to allow their child to experience these “negative-emotion-positive-outcome” events, and they will often tolerate or encourage “positive-emotion-negative-outcome” events.

The correct question for all parents to ask is “will this [event, action, outcome, etc.] make my child into a better adult?”. (I define a good adult as one who is a humble, caring, productive, happy member of society.) Children’s feelings are of secondary importance relative to how an experience will affect their development as an adult. So if something will make a child a better adult, it’s okay that they experience negative emotions. If something will make them a worse adult, then it does not matter if it makes them feel good, that experience should be avoided.

Here are some scenarios that show how these distinct worldviews can lead to dramatically different parenting styles and consequences. (Note: the consequences highlighted below presume a continual behavior pattern consistent with the one illustrated in the scenario, not simply a single instance of the scenario.)

SCENARIO 1: Child gets cut from their sports team

How a Feelings-Based Parents React

Child is devastated so the parents either argue with the coach to get their child reinstated, create another league for the cut children, or create a school policy that children cannot be cut from teams.

CONSEQUENCE: The child never improves the necessary skillsets to make the team because he no longer needs to. Additionally, you create an adult without the drive to improve themselves because he expects the world to adjust to him and not penalize him for his weaknesses.

How an Outcome-Based Parents React

Parent explains to the child that he either needs to get better and try again next year or move on to another endeavor for which be is better suited.

CONSEQUENCE: The child is forced to improve his skillset or find something that fits his strengths. Either way, he develops a sense of tenacity, becomes better at something, and understands he needs to improve in order to succeed rather than having the world adjust to his weaknesses.

SCENARIO 2: Child gets verbally disciplined by an adult who is not their parent

How a Feelings-Based Parents React

Child is sad, embarrassed, and possibly frightened, so his parents confront the disciplining adult and tell them not to speak to their child.

CONSEQUENCE: Child’s respect for authority is weakened and turns into an adult who does not believe they do anything wrong and is unable to accept criticism.

How an Outcome-Based Parents React

Child was in the wrong, so the parent either takes no action or reinforces the message of the disciplining adult.

CONSEQUENCE: An adult who has a respect for authority, understands that they are fallible, and has the ability to receive criticism and make themselves better as a result of it.

SCENARIO 3: Child  wants an expensive care for their 16th b-day

How a Feelings-Based Parents React

Child gets the car because it will make him happy.

CONSEQUENCE: A spoiled child who expects that the best life has to offer be handed to him. He feels a tremendous sense of entitlement and, as an adult, becomes unhappy with a world that does not hand him everything on a silver platter.

How an Outcome-Based Parents React

Child gets a reasonably priced car because receiving extravagant gifts as a teenager can lead him to become spoiled.

CONSEQUENCE: Turns into an adult who understands that he has a supportive family unit behind him, but he will need to earn the finer things in life.

SCENARIO 4: Child gets a bad grade

How a Feelings-Based Parents React

Child feels bad, so parents take the path that will make the child happy without making him/her feel worse in the interim. They approach the teacher, defend their child’s work, and demand that the grade be improved.

CONSEQUENCE: The child believes he can do no wrong, his respect for authority is weakened (as parents attack teacher), and his skill set is not improved because he did not need to do anything to improve his grade.

How an Outcome-Based Parents React

Parents know that a competent adult needs to understand this particular academic subject, so they explain to the child he needs to shape up and improve the grade.

CONSEQUENCE: the child  learns that he has underperformed, develops a respect for authority (parent and teacher), and he is forced to do what it takes to improve himself in order to achieve the better grade.

Extreme Makeover: Spoiled Brat Edition

I recently ran across this article in USAToday … and I threw up all over my dinner plate.

Feel free to read the article, but the gist of it is that a number of college students are now getting their dorm rooms decorated by interior designers.

F#%*! me.

Now look, I don’t mind parents giving their kids some nice bedding and decorations for their dorm rooms. It’s okay to provide for your children and send them off to college with a nice proverbial pat on the butt, but hiring interior designers for your Freshman and then buying thousands and thousands of dollars worth of furnishings is ridiculous. Two reasons.

Your child should not be the center of your universe. By enabling your child to avail themselves of such expensive and indulgent services as an interior designer, you are putting your child on a pedestal, which is incredibly unhealthy for their development. Don’t believe me? Let me quote from one of the brats in this article. “I would probably be jealous if somebody had a cuter room, but nobody does,” Griffin Knight says. “I am quite spoiled, and I am well aware.” … Holy s#*?balls!

Your child needs to learn independence. One of the most important things (if not the most important thing) that college can instill in a teenager is a sense of independence. You must let them do for themselves so that they can become well-adjusted, self-sufficient, competent adult. Hiring an interior designer to design what is likely your child’s first thing that is truly their own is a complete subversion of weaning your children from your teat. How selfish can you be?

Unfortunately, in the Age of Modern Parenting, this sort of s#*! is par for the course.

P.S. Given my subject line, I feel I should have made some sort of Extreme Makeover pun, but nothing seemed organic. So … Move that bus!!

Quora Question: Is it legal for my ex to force our 12-year-old to take public transportation?

I am not being flippant when I say this - statistically speaking (which, frankly, is what truly matters) it is more irresponsible for you to take your child places in your car than it is for your ex to put him on public transportation. The odds of you getting into a car accident (whether your fault or the other driver’s) is incredibly more likely to happen than a kidnapping or any other conceivable mishap via public transportation.

People’s perception of the unsafeness of public transportation is driven largely by (i) the fact that public transportation was less safe decades ago and (ii) the media’s unrelenting coverage of incredibly rare events like kidnappings by strangers (which is one of the key fears parents have when it comes to their children and public transportation).

Further, not only is your son’s use of public transportation safe, but it is also good for him and for you. It will instill a sense of independence, confidence, and competence in your child as well as put your fears into perspective and make you a less worrisome person.

(The one caveat here is if either end of your son’s commute is in a high crime area, then public transportation may not be a good idea. But there are several indicators here that lead me to believe that this is not the case.)

Aly Raisman’s Parents: Please God, Let’s Just Enjoy this for What it Is

A few nights ago, my wife and I were watching Aly Raisman’s amazing uneven bar routine.Aly Raisman Parents Then the cameras replayed her parents’ reactions as she was executing said routine. It was organic, genuine, and hysterical. It was a perfect visual and auditory encapsulation of what it is to be a parent.

My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed it, and when I woke up the next morning, I saw that the rest of the country was equally captivated by the moment.

And so I ask one favor of this child-obsessed, hyper-competitive, me-first generation that are modern parents — let’s appreciate that moment for what it was and move on. In a world where parents now think they are as much a part of their child’s sport as their child is and where parents are obsessively measuring themselves against one another, I can see the Raismans’ wonderful, spontaneous moment being bastardized and turned into a litmus test for who loves their child more.

Not gyrating your body wildly as your son swings at that pitch? Well you clearly don’t love him as much as you should. My daughter’s returning a serve at her high school’s tennis semi-finals, so I better mutter nervously under my breath or else people will think I don’t care enough. Time to manufacture a scream of pure joy so fellow parents will clearly see my love for my little ballerina.

Let’s understand that love is displayed and measured in many different ways, and most of them don’t need to be (in fact, shouldn’t be) at the in-your-face level. So just because the Raisman’s act the way they do (perfectly fine for them), does not mean that it is now the standard by which all parents’ love should be judged. Silent observation or (god forbid) not even going to your child’s sporting events are 100% acceptable behaviors.

One last request. Although this one is for the media. Please don’t ruin this. I don’t want to see all of sport littered with “parent cams.” I don’t want to see how Maria Sharapova’s parents react to her serve, and I don’t care if Alex Rodriguez’s mom bounces her knee or screams expletives when he’s up at bat. I watch sports for the world-class athletes, not their parents. Moreover, if you do institute ubiquitous parent cams, you will accelerate and beget the exact type of deplorable competitive-loving scenarios that I am praying don’t happen. So although I know you have no idea what the words “special”, “self-restraint”, and “moment” mean, I beg you not to ruin what is truly a memorable Olympic snapshot by turning it into a played-out cliché that has negative societal consequences.

Is polygamy an attack on the institution of marriage?

The answer is yes, polygamy is an attack on (traditional) marriage. However, this then Polygamybegs the question - is that a bad thing? My answer would be “not necessarily.”

There are four potential “marriage structures” that are worthy of discussion - monogamy, polyamory, bigamy, and polygamy. I think a society that permits and accepts the first three will see much greater success in permanent, happy bondings. And I believe permanent, happy bondings are the key to a moral, productive, and happy society.

MONOGAMY: Traditional marriage falls into this bucket. Inherently, human beings are not monogamous animals. Therefore, forcing this structure universally across our species is not wise and, not surprisingly, this reality manifests itself in the form of incredibly high (>50%) divorce rates in the U.S. (and that doesn’t even account for the portion of the intact marriages that are unhappy). Having said that, invariably there is a portion of the population who desires complete monogamy, so this social construct works for that group of people, just not everyone. (For the record, I fall into this bucket.)

POLYAMORY: For the purposes of this answer, I will define polyamory as a marriage between two people where one or both partners openly have discrete “affairs” (meaning each partner knows that the other is having affairs (i.e., open), but neither flaunts it within the relationship or publicly (i.e., discrete)). I think polyamory is probably the most natural social construct for people. It provides both the stability and emotional satisfaction of a permanent relationship while providing the excitement and variety of new encounters. And these affairs will actually act to strengthen the permanent relationship since they act as an outlet. They provide the variety that humans’ natural non-monogamy requires so that people can sustain the long-term “monogamous” relationship without feeling the need to leave permanently (i.e., divorce).

BIGAMY: For the purposes of this answer, I will define bigamy as one person being married to two other people (e.g., a heterosexual man married to two heterosexual women) or three people all being married to each other (e.g., a heterosexual man married to two bi-sexual women who are married to each other as well). The benefit of this structure is that the variety provided to one or more partners can, as with a polyamorous relationship, help sustain the permanent bonding structure. It may not be as varied as polyamory, but it still may be enough variety for some people to help them sustain a long-lasting relationship. Additionally, each partner can fulfill roles and needs that one of the other partners cannot or does not want to.

Take a hypothetical situation in which a wife loves to shop and the husband hates to. In a traditional marriage, one of the partners is going to be put in an unsatisfactory situation (the husband will have to go shopping with the wife, or the wife will have to shop alone). However, in a bigamous marriage, the two wives can go shopping together (permitted they both like shopping) and the man can go do something he would rather do. Also, bigamy permits a family that has both a dual-income AND a stay-at-home parent structure.

POLYGAMY: For the purposes of this answer, I will define polygamy as one person married to three or more people (e.g., a heterosexual man married to five heterosexual women). Put simply, polygamy should continue to be permanently outlawed. Once a “marriage” has extended beyond three people in total, the motivations for bonding are no longer rooted in love and/or wanting to create a healthy family structure. Instead it becomes solely about the power. Why exactly that is the case is probably the topic of a different post, but history has born out the fact that once a man takes a large number of wives, the situation devolves into a cult-like territorial atmosphere in which the patriarch’s goal is to exercise extreme control over the clan, increase the size of the clan, and possibly confront other clans.

An important note. I’m not saying that there are not downsides to polyamory or bigamy. There absolutely are. Negative forces such as jealousy, complicated logistics, and initial societal taboos will most definitely exist. However, over time, as people acclimate to these new structures, they would learn how to deal with them just as monogamous people learn to deal with the issues that come along with a traditional marriage. On that note, it’s not as if monogamy doesn’t have it’s own issues (50%+ divorce rates, unhappiness, non-consenting affairs). So the point is not to find the perfect solution for everyone. The point is to make a number of viable social constructs available in our society so that each person can pick the one that best suits their disposition in order to maximize the odds of a successful (i.e., permanent) relationship.

If I had to guess what the best societal distribution of the three viable relationship structures is (and this is based on absolutely nothing but a gut feel), I would say: + 20% of relationships should be monogamous + 70% should be polyamorous + 10% should be bigamous

Quora Question: Is being fiscally conservative and socially liberal the most enlightened ideological stance for a US citizen?

Conservatives are idiots. Liberals are idiots. Centrists are idiots. If your ideology doesn’t span the entire political spectrum, you’re not thinking.

Anyone who subscribes to a broad ideology is, by definition, not enlightened. The enlightened stance is the one that simply seeks the correct answers in order to arrive at the optimal solution. Given that the world is a complex place, it is highly unlikely that a homogenous position such as “social liberal” or “fiscal conservative” would enable a citizen to arrive at the correct conclusion the majority of the time.

So the most enlightened stance is the one that embraces radical, liberal, centrist, conservative, and reactionary positions. Only with the ability to employ and accept positions from across the entire political spectrum can someone arrive at the right answers and therefore claim enlightenment.