The furore over Brock Turner, the Stanford University student who was imprisoned for 6 months after sexually assaulting a woman who was too drunk to know what she was doing, has not only raised the issue of leniency for sports stars (sentenced by a judge with sports credentials) but also the influence of parents.
His father wrote the court arguing that a prison sentence was “a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action“.
A former dean at the university, Julie Lythcott-Haims, said that it was consistent with a phenomenon she had witnesses developing at the university: helicopter parents.
During her tenure she said parents e-mailed professors to complain about their children’s grades, intervened in dormitory disputes, and refused to let their children grow up and take respocibility for their lives.
“The father’s statement seems to me to be siding with his son at all costs, unable to see that his son has committed a horrendous wrong” she said when speaking at the Times Cheltenham Science Festival.
“He must always love his son but the most loving thing to do is to let the son know that you are loved but your behaviour was reprehensible and you need to accept the consequences of your actions”
Lythcott-Haims has written a book based on her ten year’s experience as dean of freshmen at the university: “How to Raise an Adult – break free of the over-parenting trap and prepare your kid for success”
She writes about the trend for students to be rendered “existentially impotent” by the over involvement off their parents. She says “Over the years I saw more and more students who didn’t seem terribly familiar with their own selves.
What’s to become of a generation that’s been mollycoddled, overprotected, and had their hands held for too long? Will they ever be able to seize the mantle of adulthood? Will they ever become that next generation of leaders we’re going to need them to be? Linguistically parents say “we’re on the football team. We’re going to university”. Their sense of ego is now intertwined with the student”
This father defending his son over a sex crime was just an extreme example of the same trend she thought. She went on to say: “The father rising to the defence as if that is the job of the parents is misguided. The job of the parent is to make sure our children know how to behave properly in the world”.
This is the most sensible thing I’ve heard coming from someone from the university sector for a long time. At the moment it all seems to be about safeguarding, safe spaces and no-platform policies.
Is this because of parents defending their kids rights to be pampered? Is it because young people are more narcissistic than ever with their pre-occupation with social media and lack empathy, a key part of emotional intelligence?