Mothers Are Raising A Generation Of WimpsMothers are raising a generation of wimps
By SONIA POULTON
Last updated at 00:35 05 July 2007
Enjoying a glass of early evening wine at a friend's house the other day, we were rudely interrupted by the wailing tones of her 12-year-old son. His plaintive yelp of hunger was swiftly attended to by his mother, who instructed him to "raid the fruit bowl".
He would, he said, but could she "peel an apple" for him. Embarrassed by my hearing this, she attempted to ignore him. He continued, repeating Dalek-fashion: "Mum, I'm hungry, Mum I'm hungry."
Finally, exasperated, she crashed her glass down on the table, stomped through to the kitchen, bashed a couple of doors about and returned with a face as a red as a tomato.
"Why couldn't he do that for himself?" I asked her.
"He doesn't know how to," was her snappy reply.
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My friend's son is a wimp. Not in the traditional sense. He is not physically scrawny or the target of bullies (he plays junior rugby for our Gloucestershire town, and is popular with his peers) but he lacks backbone, gumption.
Sadly, he is not alone. Many boys, studies show, reach their 20s unable to make a cup of tea, iron, cook or even use a washing machine. Small wonder, then, that a third of all men aged 20 to 35 still live with their parents.
The feminist literature of the 1960s, which demonstrated how girls were illserved by education and society, has emerged rebranded and repackaged into the new century - except now it pertains to boys.
According to the academics, boys are the "new endangered and victimised group". They suffer more learning disabilities than girls, more school suspensions, more teen suicide and more violence, both as the receiver and giver.
This crisis was foreseen as long ago as the 19th century, by littleknown author William Byron Forbush. He warned of "the boy problem", envisaging male generations that would lack "necessary civilising influences, discipline, and character".
In 2007, we have a crisis far beyond his theories, prophetic as they were. There now exists a significant demographic of unfathered, untutored and undisciplined boys. In short, they are wimps.
So who is responsible for this unenviable state of affairs? For more than 30 years, and heightened in intensity over the past decade, the women of Britain - as primary carers either with a husband or partner, or as a single parent - have systematically mollycoddled their sons to within an inch of their lives.
Psychologists have long accepted that boys and girls are treated differently by their parents. For while girls are encouraged to be independent, boys are not.
Four years ago, as part of a psychology degree, I studied independence in primary school children. During the week-long observation a number of gender differences emerged.
One example was how mothers with boys are more likely to carry the school bags of their offspring than mothers with girls.
One mother in the study had a son and daughter at the school. The daughter was eight and the son ten. The daughter carried her own books, lunch bag, musical instrument and sports equipment into school - sometimes all at once in a gangling, tripping-over-herself fashion. The son, meanwhile, bounded along the pavement relieved of carrying his own school items; his mother did that for him.
When I queried this disparity, she told me it was "easier this way" and, besides, her daughter was "more helpful". That may be, but shouldn't her son have been encouraged to develop such behaviour?
While this may appear to be a trivial observation, it is indicative of the whole sorry arrangement between mothers and their sons.
Girls are still more likely than boys to be shown how to load the dishwasher and sort laundry into piles. Boys are treated with such a reverence around the house that they end up with the most cursory knowledge of dirty crockery.
Linda Hamlin, a child psychologist says: "Parents project their own attitudes and values onto their children. If a son doesn't have to help with housework but his sister does, that impacts on him by feeding him a false sense of power."
In light of recent research that claimed women are still doing the lion's share of housework despite holding down their own jobs, it would make sense, surely, if these very women nurtured their own sons' domestic abilities.
Not a bit of it. Mothers encourage this behaviour - it makes them feel needed - and the boys are only too happy to go along with it.
Most mothers I know love to make their sons a nice sandwich and a glass of milk - even if they are 25! Perhaps, for the mother concerned, it recaptures the innate sense of nurturing they felt so powerfully when their sons were small.
So who benefits from this codependency? Certainly not any hapless female who may chance across the path of these overgrown babies.
The term "Mummy's Boy" first surfaced in the British comic Monster Fun in 1975. It was about a teenage boy whose mum treated him like a baby. Thirty years on, it's no laughing matter.
Mothers are raising wimpy sons to believe that life is smooth and flawless. It is a rude awakening for them to discover it also contains its (un)fair share of danger, disappointment and failure.
Mummy's boys are shielded from discomfort, which is unfortunate, because almost all of life's important lessons are usually accompanied by a degree of pain.
A friend of mine, with a particularly irreverent sense of humour, has little time for child wimpery. Whenever her ten-year-old son complains about anything she deems silly, she will tell him: "You'll live. If not, you'll die. Either way, problem solved."
She said it recently in a supermarket queue and she was glared at and tut-tutted, quietly, by other customers.
But I support her. It's time to call a halt to this shoddy and damaging practice of emasculating our young boys. Permissive, liberal parenting, with its lack of challenges to the child, has served merely to create boys incapable of "just getting on with it".
Cultural snobs and selfappointed "child experts", naturally, will disagree. Sensitivity to the feelings of young boys makes for a more tolerant and cohesive society, they say.
Yes, but ultimately civilisation will crumble if boys continue to progress along the hopeless, whinging course they have been set on.
It seems clear to me that a world where young men grow in physical maturity but little else is to be avoided at all costs. And unless this decades-old pattern is reversed, we face a future dominated by boys who never grow up to be men. Only wimps.
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