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Bad therapy is stunting our kids Abigail Shrier's book paints a devastating picture


February 27, 2024   7 mins

The vast majority of therapists today are women. So, too, are the vast majority of their clients. But the earliest ones were almost all men. And, whatever we think of him now, Sigmund Freud’s ideas on infant development were more fully elaborated for boys than girls.

Back then, the father was a central figure both in culture and children’s development. He stood for authority, hierarchy, boundaries and individuation. He was both exemplar and competitor for a developing boy. This view underlies Freud’s theory of the Oedipus complex, and was also central to complex civilisations: in Moses and Monotheism, Freud argued that a hero “is a man who stands up manfully against his father and in the end victoriously overcomes him” and that this is a keystone of Judeo-Christian culture.

Today, though, psychoanalytic theory is more likely to view the symbolic father as a reactionary holdout to be dismantled. Meanwhile, as I discovered when I took a four-year psychotherapy training course a decade ago, men have retreated almost entirely from talking therapies, whether as clients or practitioners.

Does this disappearance matter? A new book by Wall Street Journal writer Abigail Shrier suggests that it may have far-reaching ramifications. Bad Therapy: Why The Kids Aren’t Growing Up is an uncompromising study of therapeutic child-rearing across individual therapy, pedagogy, governmental data-gathering and the culture as a whole. Bad Therapy argues that far from helping, these practices make everything worse. The children and young people raised by boundary-negotiating, feeling-validating, trauma-exploring, “talk it out” parents and educators, marinaded in the therapeutic worldview are not, as hoped, happier, more confident, and more emotionally literate. They’re neurotic, anxious, and self-absorbed; alternately fearful of the outside world and adept at exploiting soft-authoritarian therapeutic institutions for personal advantage; above all, they are profoundly unhappy.

Shrier doesn’t suggest a causal relationship between the retreat of men from therapy, and the emergence of therapeutic parenting. But both are clearly aspects of the same wider trend, toward a symbolically fatherless world. And this has left the field to a monolithically maternal style of child-rearing: one of nurture, understanding, care, and boundless empathy. Paradoxically, though, this has not empowered mothers but stripped them of agency too. For as Bad Therapy shows, the turn away from authority has not resulted in greater emotional literacy or even more kindness, but anxious, uncontained young people, and a ballooning field of increasingly intrusive therapeutic professionals.

Bad Therapy takes a sledgehammer to every article of therapeutic parenting and pedagogical faith. No, setting boundaries and punishing does not traumatise children. And even early difficulties usually produce not “trauma” but “resilience”. No, “trauma” is not “stored in the body”. Validating children’s feelings does not make them feel safer. No, asking children how they are feeling all the time does not produce more capable, confident children. Making allowances for “Adverse Childhood Experiences” does not produce better results for children who genuinely need to overcome adversity; nor does giving children endless meaningless choices while constraining their options to the sanitised and risk-free.

But these beliefs have become holy writ for liberal America — and, by extension, wherever American culture propagates. Shrier documents the mushrooming body of school counsellors, psychologists, social workers and other auxiliaries who have proliferated in response, dedicated to helping children according to their precepts. Among wealthier Americans, therapists are routinely hired to help a child “work through” losing a pet, or kept on retainer as backup for every emotional glitch. For those unable to afford a private on-call therapist, the same worldview produces batteries of semi-trained educators delivering a “trauma-informed” pedagogy.

Shrier shows that this culture encourages children to forsake resilience for introspection at every turn. Emotional “check-ins” at the beginning of school days seem designed to yank children from an “action” mindset to a helpless, introspective one. Maths lessons have to crowbar in “social-emotional learning”. And kids barely into puberty are routinely subjected to questionnaires that invite criticism of their parents, encourage them to self-identify as mentally ill, and in some cases provide so much information about methods of self-harming or attempted suicide in the course of enquiry that, to a suggestible child, they might easily be confused for instructions. And lest anyone suggest that a shortage of therapists will curb this all-out push to make everything therapeutic, relax; Tech startups are proliferating, promising “Therapy For Every Child” delivered by AI or text message.

“Our culture encourages children to forsake resilience for introspection at every turn’

Is this producing a nation of happy, well-adjusted kids? Not so much. Shrier argues that far from encouraging resilience and emotional literacy, it’s incentivising under-performance among the genuinely disadvantaged, by encouraging teachers to bend the rules for the very pupils who benefit most from clear boundaries and high expectations. And among the well-off, it’s creating a generation of young adults who need a therapist to make a phone call, or to prepare them for trying to make friends in high school or college. Reports today that British workers under 40 are considerably more likely to take time off for mental health difficulties suggests that something similar has already spread as far as younger adults in the UK.

Bad Therapy argues further that therapeutic parenting has coincided with an explosion of psychic distress at home and bad behaviour in schools: “Kids having utter meltdowns, tantrums, screaming, yelling, throwing things, crying, threatening to kill themselves” in “a school regime that demands no self-discipline from students, believing such expectation unreasonable if not unevolved”. In this authority-free regime, playground violence goes unpunished save through “restorative justice”, in which attacker and victim sit in a circle and talk about their feelings. The result, in extremis, is violent young people left at large, until sometimes — as in the case of the “Parkland shooter” — they kill.

Even the ones who aren’t violent are learning to be “mean as hell” — by weaponising institutional empathy. From girls ostracised at expensive private high schools for causing “harm” with a careless social media post, to the adolescents screenshotting their peers’ “problematic” online utterances as ammunition for future interpersonal conflicts, Shrier describes this superficially cuddly culture with cold anger, as “corruption of character” and “sustained flirtation with evil”.

Bad Therapy paints a grim picture of young people simultaneously under- and over-parented. Of adults who both want to be involved in every detail of their children’s lives but who shrink from being seen as authority figures while they do so, preferring to be their child’s “best friend”. Why is this happening? Why are we Gen X “latchkey kids”, left to fend for ourselves while both parents worked, so fearful either of taking an authoritative stance with our own children, or of seeing them experience the slightest discomfort or obstacle?

“Why are we Gen X latchkey kids so fearful with our own children?”

Bad Therapy is a work of cultural criticism, not social history. But in Shrier’s view, close to the heart of the so-called “youth mental health crisis” is Gen X and Millennial parents’ aversion to being the symbolic — and literal— Father for their children. Instead, she argues, anxious “gentle parents” hover with platitudes about “big feelings” while their toddlers screech and bite, or defer to experts when their teenagers are struggling. These parents reject the “more masculine style of parenting” Shrier characterises as “knock it off, shake it off” — an approach that rebuked misbehaviour briskly, and expected minor setbacks to be dismissed. Instead “all traces of tough love and rule-bound parenting have been supplanted by a more empathetic style, the one once associated with moms.”

Less explicitly spelled out is the way the same dynamic has also outsourced mothering — and opened the door to its replacement by what Jordan Peterson calls the “dark mother” or “devouring mother”. For Freud, this “Oedipal mother” stood in contrast with the “good mother” who, for Freud, “necessarily fails” at nurturing, thus setting the child on a path to independence. Instead of setting her children free, though, the devouring Oedipal mother keeps them tightly enmeshed forever.

The plot twist, in the therapeutic childrearing and educational cultures excoriated by Shrier in Bad Therapy, is that today this dark mother is not an individual but a set of institutions, norms, and practices. For, as Bad Therapy argues, it’s less that these unhappy children are tied to their literal mothers’ apron strings, than that they’re enveloped by the devouring mother of institutional “care”. Over time, it can end up displacing literal and symbolic parents of both sexes.

Shrier doesn’t speculate as to why or how. But somewhere along the way, Gen X and Millennial parents allowed themselves to be persuaded that the way forward was deferring to paid parenting “experts” — and, in return for ceding authority, hoped their kids would like them. Except, as it turns out, it’s had the opposite effect: children don’t like their parents more for being needy and permissive. Nor are they even freer, but — often — simply more radical. Shrier draws a straight line from the loss of authority in parenting to political extremism, noting that extremist movements from BLM to the far-Right often attract young people from homes where authoritative guidance is lacking. She quotes Myrieme Nadri-Churchill of the deradicalisation nonprofit Parents for Peace, who puts it starkly: “It’s almost like extremist groups have replaced parenting.”

What, then, is to be done? The book’s central message could perhaps be summed up as: less tech, more agency, better boundaries. In her view, the first course of action is to remove the factors obviously making adolescents’ lives worse: the therapy-speak, the climate alarmism, the “hunt for repressed trauma”, the suffocating micromanagement, and the anxious reluctance to allow children to develop independence. Crucially, she argues that the most obvious intervention of all for improved youth mental health is not more institutional devouring Mother, but an authoritative “no” by the symbolic Father: specifically, banning smartphones from schools.

But this would mean employing the very authority that makes Gen X wince. “Teens manage fine with flip phones. They aren’t weaker than you — unless you make them so.” She leaves the question implicit: are you Father enough to hold the line? We can perhaps infer from Bad Therapy that if anyone needs (good) therapy it’s not the kids but their parents — most centrally, in making peace with the symbolic Father. For if Shrier is correct, my generation has killed him — only to turn away from being the hero who takes his place. In his stead, we’ve enthroned a faceless, institutional devouring mother.

And perhaps, again, the only way to escape this dark, smothering pseudo-mother is to make peace with the necessity, as Freud put it, of failing as real mothers. In any case, grappling with our own anxieties and disappointments as adults and parents is easier said than done, as Shrier acknowledges. She describes how effortful she finds it to grant her own children increasing access to independence.

Nonetheless, she argues, it’s on parents to do battle with our own deep-seated fears: about harm to children, about failing as nurturers, about being hated for saying “no”. What is preventing Gen X from doing so? Perhaps the “latchkey generation” carries more childhood wounds than we realise.


Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.

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joshua liu
joshua liu
2 months ago

Excellent article. Psychology has become much too focused on “trauma prevention” and “affirmation”. It pretends all people are infants that can’t handle unpleasant experiences or information (even those experiences or information need to grow and mature). Maturation and understanding (especially for males) comes from overcoming difficulties — not from quiet introspection.

David Morley
David Morley
2 months ago
Reply to  joshua liu

It pretends all people are infants that can’t handle unpleasant experiences or information

I think it’s worse that that. I think an increasing number of adults are in fact infantile in their behaviour. It’s not a pretence anymore. Not only that, such behaviour is often reframed positively. Being able to manage your own emotions is seen as being out of touch with them. While all sorts of meltdowns, temper tantrums and crying when you don’t get your own way gets sympathy or even approval.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Rubbish.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  joshua liu

It’s not either or it’s both.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
2 months ago

The best advice I got from my master teacher when I was a student teacher was that I was the adult in the classroom, not their friend. I set up boundaries was the most important tool I used, and I believe kids want them. Many of my students were from single parent and often chaotic households, and I think they appreciated my chaotic free classroom. Yeah, some students pushed the boundaries, but I would pull them back. I had one rule in my classes: All students were expected to behave in a civil manner and respect their peers and teacher. That was it, and it worked. I had very few discipline problems, and I handled them myself rather than send them to the office. Finally, lest you think my classes were dull , we had a lot of fun. Teenagers crack me up. On another note, Shrier mentions the symbolic father several times. Where is the real father? The book seems to focus on the mother and how she is failing her kids, yet again, where is the real father? Doesn’t he have any say in how the kids are being raised?

Max Price
Max Price
2 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Absent, has bought into to this nonsense as wellor is cowering to the newly unrestrained power of the Dark Mother.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
2 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

” … where is the real father?” The father was been exiled from the family in the hope that this would give the mother more authority.  

Roddy Campbell
Roddy Campbell
2 months ago

More likely the ‘father’ has buggered off to find a new conquest, what with his partner becoming pregnant and unavailable and less up for it.

Deb Grant
Deb Grant
2 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Firm but fair – and fun. That’s what we want from teachers. I was lucky to have a couple of such teachers. They did make a difference.

There simply aren’t enough real fathers nowadays.

Many Milennials send their children to childcare from 1. We’re yet to see the long term results of this. Some good, some bad, I expect.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  Deb Grant

A friend’s millennial, married daughter and husband are sending their child to daycare full-time, at age 6 months, because she wants to continue her career, from home. I’m horrified. We will, indeed, eventually see the long-term results of this.

Karl Juhnke
Karl Juhnke
2 months ago
Reply to  Deb Grant

I have seen the long term results. Not pretty.

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
2 months ago

Over a century ago, sociologist Georg Simmel noted women entering the public square. He said they would transform it “to suit a more feminine sensibility.”
More and more, I think that the public square is a “suck it in” environment, and the feminine sensibility does not work in the public square.
Freud asked: “What do women want?”
I say, Siegi pal, you got it wrong, as usual. It is not what women want, but what they expect. And what women expect is: “Women expect to be protected.”

N Satori
N Satori
2 months ago

More than merely protected. Increasingly women expect to be indulged – in all areas of life.

David Morley
David Morley
2 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Not all women, fortunately, but it is a trend. There is no shortage of entitled women, some of whom bizarrely seem to think that living off men is an aspect of feminism.

Matt M
Matt M
2 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

What’s wrong with women living off men? My wife does. In fact it seems to me that one of the things that got us to this sorry point is mothers going out to work. Their guilt leads to them overindulging their kids when they are with them. The husband’s authority is also shot by not being the sole breadwinner.

David Morley
David Morley
2 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

Would you describe her as living off you, or are you a partnership raising children, in which she contributes her share? Not necessarily financially. That’s not being entitled.

Matt M
Matt M
2 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Ah I see what you mean. Sorry for misinterpreting you.

David Morley
David Morley
2 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

No problem. I expected it was misinterpretation.

Btw I’ve seen plenty of couples where he is the main or sole breadwinner but she still calls the shots. Partly personality, but partly perhaps because he knows that if there is a divorce she’s pretty much got him over a barrel.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
2 months ago

Because the world was superbly well run when Dark Fathers had more sway, as in the 1914-1918 and 1939-1945 periods, and in almost every pocket of the globe throughout recorded history?
If I had to choose one or the other, I’d choose a manly sensibility to prevail in the public square too. But there’s just a chance this reflects a self-serving bias on our parts, not some demonstrated, stand-alone superiority. Also, we don’t have to choose one or the other in some bullshit war of the sexes, or exercise in selective nostalgia.

David Morley
David Morley
2 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I think the point is that periods you point to did not masquerade as some sort of utopia – it was wartime. The problems the book and article point to are different. We’ve tried utopian experimentation, and ended up with a bit of a mess. A third of young people with mental health problems, real or perceived, is not a great outcome. And it’s absolutely not what was promised.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
2 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Fair enough. Perhaps we can agree that utopian claims and time-specific predictions of certain doom tend to be…oversold.

David Morley
David Morley
2 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Agreed. I recently watched some of Masters of the Air. Truly horrific for anyone to go through something like that. Young lives simply thrown away. We face nothing like that.

Perhaps we could say that we’ve made a bit of a hash of the future they were fighting for. It’s not the end of the world – but really, could we not have done better?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
2 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

For them to have help saved the world for this version of freedom and democracy seems pretty shabby, I admit. Better than the alternative though.

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
2 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

…In Mary Harrington’s writing, here, on her substack, and elsewhere, quite rightly in my view, she is not inclined to blame particular generations, policies or even ideologies, (e.g. feminism). Her interesting take is that it’s all about technological evolution. Not least in how 19th/20th century industrialization initiated the dissolution of old assignments of economic and social roles for men and women, and medical advances, (the Pill in particular) finished it off. The current level of dimorphic chaos, (Yin ascendent over Yang from an Eastern perspective) is being accelerated by the new wave of digital tech, leading us who knows where.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  Bernard Hill

Well said.

Eileen Krol
Eileen Krol
2 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Yes, that is the key: We don’t have to choose one sex or the other…we are complimentary not at war. As another comment stated, we are almost “self colonizing” a new frontier. Perhaps all of our earthly needs have been met, and as life increasingly holds less purpose we must create meaning?

Zirrus VanDevere
Zirrus VanDevere
2 months ago
Reply to  Eileen Krol

Exactly, the healthy balance is with the male/female paradigm tension utilized for best effect. Whether we can ever near this balance is the question
 but it must be strived for

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago

The yin/ yang balance applied to the culture as a whole, is absolutely desirable. Parenting is another matter. One size does not fit all. Personality type is a consideration – introvert and extrovert for instance. An extroverted parent with a sensitive, introverted child, and vice versa is a considerable challenge.

Zirrus VanDevere
Zirrus VanDevere
2 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Yes, my points exactly (see responses above)

Karl Juhnke
Karl Juhnke
2 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

All part of removing males from the family which started with the industrial revolution.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
2 months ago

Excellent essay. Shrier nails it again.

Raluca
Raluca
2 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

And the reviewer of the book nails it too, I’d say.

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
2 months ago

Seeing Jordan Peterson’s name in print without a trigger warning has left me traumatised.

I’m going to have to miss work today so I can heal. Hopefully I’ll be able to bring my whole self back into the office in a week or so.

Simon Boudewijn
Simon Boudewijn
2 months ago

Soo – What the gist of the article is is basically ‘Andrew Tate was right all along’.

The second point is one most of us rational ones know – that if you wanted to not mess people up – take your copy of Sigmund Freud and fling it off the seawall into the waves.

Lastly is Get Woken, Get Broken.(a Parents guide to family life)

Zirrus VanDevere
Zirrus VanDevere
2 months ago

I don’t think this excellent article excuses influencers like Andrew Tate. He’s the kind of character women rebelled against in the first place. It is, however, declaring that Jordan Peterson was right all along, which is an important distinction. If men respond to this mess by trying to coercively put women “back into their place”, it will be as disandventageous as the overkill momentum of second and especially third wave feminism. The answer is, and always has been, to blend the particular strengths of both sex archetypes to achieve a healthy balance. My parents were liberal hippies in the 60s, but they were older and so I was fortunately raised with more conservative methods, and also fortunately did not helicopter my own kids in the 90s, letting them be free range and make their own mistakes while still having clear boundaries and high expectations. (I certainly saw many parents at the time falling into the traps dilineated in this article, and took some cultural heat for it at the time.) And lo and behold, my millenians turned out to be not entitled brats, but rather conscientious and helpful adults. The key is shunning the toxic out of both the male AND the female paradigm, not swinging back and forth between the two.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
2 months ago

You advocate a sensible balance. I’d note that we should strengthen and honor what is salutary, not just shun what is truly toxic.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

What does that even mean?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
2 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

That masculinity or femininity itself oughtn’t be conceived as toxic (more common with the former) or suspect (more common with the latter)
Too many among those who acknowledge average differences between men and women want to call those statistical tendencies, better–like female and agreeableness or male bluntness–or worse–like female-led “cancellation” attempts or male aggression. Instead, there can be complementary, non-hierarchical cooperation that keeps in mind that these are only sweeping generalizations anyway. That’s what I meant.
Celebrate female unconditional nurturing and male physical strength used for good, for example–whether these qualities are manifested by a man or woman. But we can’t throw out the biological baby with the societal bathwater.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Thank you for explaining. It would be delightful if all female nurturing was unconditional.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
2 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Good point. Or if all male strength was used to help people.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Exactly.

Karl Juhnke
Karl Juhnke
2 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Unconditional nurturing is what the therapists are doing. Boundaries are needed.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  Karl Juhnke

It’s not unconditional you have to pay for it!

Elizabeth Hamilton
Elizabeth Hamilton
16 days ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

It’s a kind of emotional whoring.

David Morley
David Morley
2 months ago

I don’t think this excellent article excuses influencers like Andrew Tate.

I don’t either, but we may see more lost boys turning to Andrew Tait and the likes for answers.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago

Exactly. Moderation in all things, particularly parenting.

joshua liu
joshua liu
2 months ago

Andrew Tate is just feminism but for males. His philosophy is tied to self-serving gratification and professional achievement — the same as feminism. He doesn’t advocate guys take responsibility for their nation or to be faithful to one partner. Mary Harrington has pointed this out in another article I think.

Roddy Campbell
Roddy Campbell
2 months ago

The trouble with discussions today is that there is no nuance, no spectrum, no grey.

It’s all become a Manichean contest between utterly good and utterly evil. Do I like Jordan Peterson? I must be in Team Tate. Do I think that some consequences of US materialistic society are unhealthy? Team Marx. We’ve lost the nuance. More importantly, we’ve lost the ability to see things as variegated.

We’re all doves or hawks. We could do with a few more owls.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  Roddy Campbell

“We’re all doves or hawks”. Speak for yourself, please. Don’t do that “we” thing just to make yourself feel better. It’s a cop-out.

Robert Thiesen
Robert Thiesen
2 months ago
Reply to  Roddy Campbell

Yes! More hoo hooing and less poo pooing.

john d rockemella
john d rockemella
2 months ago

It say these weak leftist liberal parents are pathetic and we all know this.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago

No “we” don’t. Speak for yourself.

Skink
Skink
2 months ago

LOL! And did you notice how the author ends the article, in which she rightly pillories endless introspection over shrugging it off, trapping the readers in yet another introspection: “Perhaps the “latchkey generation” carries more childhood wounds than we realise.” Oh boo-hoo. Take out the tiny violin.

David Morley
David Morley
2 months ago

What, then, is to be done? The book’s central message could perhaps be summed up as: less tech, more agency, better boundaries.

But, is any of this possible until we stop, as a culture, denigrating the masculine style of being? And that is going to take an awful lot of work, and an awful lot of honesty. Perhaps one could go farther and say that facing up to difficult truths, rather than believing what makes you feel best, and doing something about it, is itself part of the masculine style.

David Morley
David Morley
2 months ago

You can actually see much of this in the Netflix series Sex Education (aka Los Angeles on Wye). Absent or useless fathers and father figures (the original head), controlling and manipulative female surrogates (the new head), therapy as proper parenting, licence as liberation and a bunch of confused kids leading chaotic lives. With Jakob acting as the counterpoint, and giving some idea of what a father should be like – sticking by his dying wife even though she’d cheated on him, setting boundaries in his relationships and not constantly putting himself and his emotions first

R Wright
R Wright
2 months ago

“He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him”

David Morley
David Morley
2 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

I realise you probably don’t mean this literally – but we need to be careful not to associate good parenting with practices like child beating.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
2 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

In Chinese families, the beatings don’t stop at childhood.

The Other Half returned from an argument with father last year with a slightly swollen cheek.

David Morley
David Morley
2 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

So how did you feel about that?

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
2 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

We had a laugh. The Other Half is solid, like a brick. The father is birdlike, sulky, ineffectual physically & philosophically.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
2 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

We also need to be careful not to associate a swat on the butt with abuse. There is a wide gap between the occasional spanking and violence. I can count on one hand the number of times my two boys were spanked. That such an outcome was possible helped regulate their behavior.

Offon Boondoggle
Offon Boondoggle
2 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

I can still remember the “thwack” of my father’s belt as it exited his belt loops but he always gave me time to find the latest Time magazine to stuff down my pants. Many a time with both of us leaving the room with little smirks on our faces
point made. Twice in Jr High School I was made to “bend over and grab your ankles” as the Vice Principal unloaded on me with a solid oak paddle I had previously made for him in shop class. It only took two times and I straightened up my act for the remaining 3 years of my education. Your point is absolutely valid; let’s not mistake a disciplinary swat on the backside for child abuse. There is a vast difference that has been lost in the “western world” today.

David Morley
David Morley
2 months ago

as the Vice Principal unloaded on me

Am I alone in detecting a disturbingly pornographic tone here.

Roddy Campbell
Roddy Campbell
2 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Can I suggest you steer well clear of Rorschach tests.

Elizabeth Hamilton
Elizabeth Hamilton
16 days ago
Reply to  David Morley

No, you’re not alone. When I read that, the image that came unbidden to mind was sperm shooting out onto the kid’s buttocks.

David Morley
David Morley
2 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Which is why I chose the term “child beating”. The original quote refers specifically to “the rod”.

On physical punishment generally I’m less sure, though I think it should be rare. I’m far from sure that it is more damaging than alternatives which some parents use – exclusion or shaming of various kinds, for example. I question the idea that, in mild form, it traumatises children – children show signs of trauma on a daily basis over the most trivial things, even over another child playing with a toy they want. It looks like PTSD, but is gone in minutes.

As a society we seem especially averse to physical hurt. Most people seem to take the view that it would be completely unacceptable for a wife to slap a husband if he cheated. Yet the hurt of being cheated on is beyond anything a slap could cause. Never mind the fallout which might follow.

I’m not condoning it – but it does stand examination.

David Morley
David Morley
2 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Just to be clear here, and in light of some of the comments here by people reflecting nostalgically on their own humiliation – I do not believe that a child should ever be hit with an implement of any kind!

Sylvia Volk
Sylvia Volk
2 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Hi, David. I remember being spanked by my mom. I absolutely don’t remember ever feeling humiliated by it. I’d guess when we’re spanked as children, we mostly don’t feel that; we feel fear, upset, temporary pain. It’s only because we look back at it as adults that we figure we should have felt humiliated as well.

Zirrus VanDevere
Zirrus VanDevere
2 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Absolutely agreed

Anton Getzlaf
Anton Getzlaf
2 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

I think it’s important to note that context matters here. There’s a difference between a kid who knows “If I do xyz I’m going to get a spanking” and a kid who only knows that when his dad gets mad enough he might get hit.

Roddy Campbell
Roddy Campbell
2 months ago
Reply to  Anton Getzlaf

Spot on.

philip kern
philip kern
2 months ago
Reply to  Anton Getzlaf

Important distinction. I lived in a community where some fathers practised very laid-back parenting. Then, when they had been pushed too far, they exploded. It would have been much better if they took action–maybe even showing a bit of anger–before they were pushed beyond their limit.

R Wright
R Wright
2 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Reasonable chastisement when required is good parenting.

philip kern
philip kern
2 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

My parents used a hand, belt, or (in my mother’s case) the sole of her Birkenstock. We got three meals a day: they probably figured three smacks per day provided a healthy balance. But they never beat us. If one can’t distinguish between beating and corporal punishment…
Now that my kids are grown, I am reassessing my tendency toward no physical discipline. I’m not sure it did me and my brothers any harm to get the occasional spank, and am not sure it did my children any good to be raised without.
In my current multicultural environment, I know a lot of non-western families use corporal punishment. And I can generally tell by their children’s behaviour which families do and which don’t. While I see no diminution of love and affection in those families that do, I see a lot of disrespect and insecurity in the children of families that don’t. Of course, every parent also needs to account for the unique qualities of their own child/parent relationship.

Elizabeth Hamilton
Elizabeth Hamilton
16 days ago
Reply to  philip kern

Philip, Maybe girls and boys react differently to physical punishment? It should at least be examined. I know nothing about that as I am from an almost all female family, no uncles but plenty of aunts, no brothers, only sisters, only a mother, only daughters and granddaughters. I have got one son-in-law who I dearly love and I also loved my father though, for many reasons, he was not around much.

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
2 months ago

Excellent article, it’s so refreshing to hear someone prepared to come out against the outsourcing of parenting.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
2 months ago

Children will have many friends; they’ll only ever have one mother and one father.
“Teens manage fine with flip phones. They aren’t weaker than you — unless you make them so.”
Why do kids need phones at all? I managed fine without one, and so did my whole generation, and every preceding generation. I didn’t get my first cell phone until I was twenty.

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
2 months ago

If my teenage children are representative of their whole generation, then the main reason they need phones is so they can ignore calls and messages from their parents.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
2 months ago

Unless they need money or a lift!

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
2 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

Bingo!

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
2 months ago

I don’t disagree, but that’s largely to do to my age, about a decade older than the 40-ish you once mentioned.
The smart phone wasn’t invented until you were about 25; 35 for me. Though our great-grandparents “managed fine” without automobiles for much of their lives (mine at least, born in the 1870s and 1880s), that doesn’t say much about the value of cars, or lack thereof.
Back to qualified agreement: An actual child has no proper need for a so-called smartphone. A flip phone may be warranted for emergencies, or certain occasions, especially if briefly alone in a big city (“arrest the parents!!”) or in a wilderness environment (camp? lions & tigers & bears–oh my!). It could have minimal minutes and remain turned off most of the time. Perhaps adolescents of 14-16 could have computers in their pockets like most of us do, but with real limits and conditions. Never younger and as a revocable privilege, I’d say.

Caty Gonzales
Caty Gonzales
2 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Agreed. Our 15 year old has a smartphone. He has had it for a year. Does he ‘need’ a phone? Well, where we live, he’d be pretty cut off from a lot of school life and activities if he didn’t. The school system uses a variety of apps to store and edit work – a lot of this is done through school computers, but other resources can be accessed via apps on his phone. The sports team he plays for keeps its schedule, its assignments and notes from the coach on an app. If he doesn’t have access to the app, he is reliant on someone who does in order to maintain contact with his team. He will also find if he goes out to eat with his friends, that a lot of the menus are now accessed via a QR code on the table rather than a paper menu. In terms of contacting his friends, well, they chat via apps.
So, does a teenager ‘need’ a phone? Well, maybe they do these days.

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
2 months ago
Reply to  Caty Gonzales

I’ve always felt the best argument for kids being introduced to tech is that it isn’t going away. For better or worse it is going to be a huge part of their whole lives (assuming the zombie apocalypse doesn’t happen). In my view they are probably better off in the long run learning early about the benefits and the risks of technology in a supported manner.
That’s not to say they should have unfettered access to their phones. Like anything else, I think kids benefit from boundaries, supervision and clearly expressed expectations. But people who think we can simply take all this technology off kids and revert to some kind of prelapsarian idyll are only kidding themselves.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
2 months ago

“ people who think we can simply take all this technology off kids and revert to some kind of prelapsarian idyll are only kidding themselves.”

Yep, I read it and think “I look forward to seeing you enforce it!”.
I wish the climate activists would target all the internet servers. Surely they are using vast amounts of energy!

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago

Exactly.

Eileen Krol
Eileen Krol
2 months ago
Reply to  Caty Gonzales

We just need to go back to notepads. Reading that is depressing! I hope this virtual world in the quest for optimization and productivity gets banned before my toddlers enter high school.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  Eileen Krol

Good luck with that wish.

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
2 months ago
Reply to  Caty Gonzales

Our oldest two – 12 and 14 – have smartphones. But no browser, no YouTube. Only WhatsApp for messaging and both a time limit as well as downtime from evening til morning.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  Derek Smith

Well done.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  Caty Gonzales

OMG, QR codes for restaurant menus?!! Even seniors are getting left out of society if they’re not able to use a smartphone or laptop

Duane M
Duane M
2 months ago

When I was a kid, there were public pay-phones all around. I only needed to carry some dimes or quarters. But try to find a pay phone in America today — they are almost extinct. You can still find some in the UK, though, if you look a while. In an emergency, you need a cell phone nowadays.

Gerry Quinn
Gerry Quinn
2 months ago
Reply to  Duane M

They are getting rid of the few remaining payphones in Ireland this year.

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
2 months ago

I’ve found that increasingly, public and landline phones aren’t available. Many of my kid’s friends have no house phone, and instead each family member has a phone that goes where they go. And in fact their friends only seem to be able to be contacted by some messaging app or another.
They also seem to need them for their schoolwork, which I find particularly bad.

Betsy Arehart
Betsy Arehart
2 months ago

I didn’t get my first cell phone until I was 50(ish). I managed OK in spite of not having one.

N Satori
N Satori
2 months ago

The elephant in the room (to wheel out that hackneyed phrase) is feminism which has done plenty of deep and lasting damage to our social structures. Not that you’d get that impression from this lengthy book review: woman discusses ideas put forward by another woman on how nurturing and over-feminine parenting is undermining our children’s development.

Note that masculinity and men are still kept at arm’s length with ideas such as: “making peace with the symbolic Father” and “an authoritative ‘no’ by the symbolic Father”.

What might this symbolic Father actually look like? My guess would be institutions dominated by women taking on authoritative (yet still nurturing) quasi-masculine attitudes. Actual men are just too toxic in a culture where feminism is now a major component of the established order.

David Morley
David Morley
2 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

I’ve upvoted, though I think you are being a little hard on the author.

And to some extent these are unintended consequences of feminism. Precisely the kind of behaviours that now get lauded – excessive emotionality, for example – were things that earlier feminists saw either as inaccurate stereotypes, or as socially produced limits on women.

Eleanor Barlow
Eleanor Barlow
2 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

I’m one of those earlier feminists and I despise excessive emotionality – always have, always will. I’ve noticed that women who display this character trait often have feelings that are shallow and don’t even go skin-deep, I call it emotional diarrhoea. Earlier feminists like me felt it was important to show we could stand on our own two feet and not be dependent on or beholden to anyone.
I think there’s a lot to be said for the stiff upper lip that used to be typical behaviour for Brits, but has now been disparaged in favour of hysteria.

David Morley
David Morley
2 months ago
Reply to  Eleanor Barlow

Yes, I found feminists of your generation excessively puritanical at times, and liable to form self reinforcing cliques – but that aside it was easy to see where they were coming from. There was a spirit of let’s go out there and show the world we are equal to men. Perhaps it was more combative than necessary, but a lot of men got it.

But it’s given birth to some pretty frightful offspring. More self entitled than self reliant – and as you note, shallow, immature women actually being lauded for what is simply narcissism.

Karl Juhnke
Karl Juhnke
2 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Feminism and family law. So obvious for 40 plus years. It is the self colonisation of the west.

Duane M
Duane M
2 months ago
Reply to  Karl Juhnke

Yes, self-colonization. When successful, colonization destroys the cultural history of a society and replaces the old language with a foreign one in order to replace traditional thinking with the new, imposed attitudes. We still speak American English here but the language has morphed. America has colonized itself and I think feminism is a big part of it. That, and the movement against historical traditions of authority, which are of course linked to the so-called patriarchy. Robert Bly wrote about this in The Sibling Society some years back. And the process has propagated itself from America to the rest of the industrial world. What a mess.

David Morley
David Morley
2 months ago

Masculine flaws are still seen as flaws, most masculine virtues are now also seen as flaws. Feminine virtues are still seen as virtues, most feminine flaws are now also seen as virtues.

Not a great environment for fathers, symbolic or otherwise.

William Shaw
William Shaw
2 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

The Times today ran an article describing how the Labour Party plans to “educate” school boys about “toxic masculinity”.
All boys are automatically assumed to be guilty and need reeducating because they are boys.
If that doesn’t scare parents I don’t know what will.

David Morley
David Morley
2 months ago
Reply to  William Shaw

I’m going to drew flak for saying it, but the biggest worry with the Labour Party is ideological capture by feminists, not ideological capture by the trans lobby. The majority of Labour MPs are women, pretty much all of them feminists. Can Starmer control them? I’ll probably vote Labour, and certainly not Tory – but I worry that instead of dealing with real issues the Labour Party gets dragged off into more of this nonsense.

Zirrus VanDevere
Zirrus VanDevere
2 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

You seem not to realize that the infiltration of the T into the LGB “community” was enacted mostly by misogynistic trans-women (especially prominant once gayness was finally ligitimized in Western culture and that train had reached its station
 only to blast past the last stop and go completely off the rails!), though your other points are salient. It’s a bloody mess that needs to get addressed, or the Western culture will truly crumble (if it’s not too late). Unfortunately, the misogynistic aspects in a culture help create the toxic femininity, which can tend to bring out the actual widespread toxic masculinity. Let’s get off this stupid see-saw merry-go-round and walk on solid ground, please!

Deb Grant
Deb Grant
2 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Really? Are any female MP’s not feminists? If not why not?

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  Deb Grant

Exactly!

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
2 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Good luck with that.

Elizabeth Hamilton
Elizabeth Hamilton
16 days ago
Reply to  David Morley

David, consider voting for one of the newer parties, the SDP (more left) or Reform (more right).

Skink
Skink
2 months ago
Reply to  William Shaw

Boyhood has been turned into a mental disease. I am so disgusted with the culture at large… I can barely stand it.

James Twigg
James Twigg
2 months ago
Reply to  William Shaw

In the scools the muslim boys will just continue to ignore all this BS and continue to get all the anglo girls by acting like real men.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 months ago
Reply to  James Twigg

This is my experience of teaching classes filled predominantly with muslim boys. They care less than nothing for Western feminist values and, in all honesty, they seem a lot happier for it.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Of course, they do that’s the whole point!

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  William Shaw

It certainly won’t hurt them to know about this. Domestic violence is rampant.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
2 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Until we can find some good things about masculinity, boys will continue to flounder. We cannot reflexively condemn masculinity as toxic without finding the intrinsic good. It leaves young men no where to go but fascism which will celebrate the worst of masculine impulses.

William Shaw
William Shaw
2 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Women are enjoying getting their revenge on men and celebrating tearing them apart at every opportunity.
They don’t seem to realise (or care) about just how badly it’s going to end for them.
When young men are no longer guided by morality or social constraints they will be running in wild packs.
If women think their not safe now, just wait.

Deb Grant
Deb Grant
2 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Delinquency is where it leads.

William Shaw
William Shaw
2 months ago
Reply to  Deb Grant

Oh it’ll be a lot worse than that.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
2 months ago

Ahhh social and emotional aspects of learning or SEAL. Despite not being mandatory, it was welcomed into the British school curriculum with zeal. There was a white paper written about it that made it clear, it would lead to increased narcissism in young people who would spend so long looking inside themselves, it would hurt to think of anyone else. It said that the children who would benefit, were likely to pay no attention to it and the children that didn’t need it would , and be ruined by it.
I think the white paper nailed it.
i also believe that a lot of parents are lazy and think that as long as they buy their kids stuff, they too can give all their attention to their phones rather than their kids. By this, I mean that kids are largely raising themselves and these parents have zero involvement until their 12 year olds are hanging out till 5am with some shady dealer/traffiker and suddenly the penny drops.

Caty Gonzales
Caty Gonzales
2 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

This is a great point: “they too can give all their attention to their phones rather than their kids.” We pay a lot of attention to whether or not children and teenagers ought to have phones, but maybe we should focus more on getting parents to put theirs away first. Partly because it helps you to focus on the child or children themselves, but also because it sets a good standard of phone usage for them.
This is something I am working on myself.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
2 months ago
Reply to  Caty Gonzales

One thing I have noticed working with looked after children is how many just want someone to listen to them, not even the big stuff but the mundane. If you give them some attention to talk at you about what interests them, they tend to be more inclined to listen to you later, as they acknowledge that you have time for them. You care enough to listen. It’s not always easy, shared interests help. I struggle with inane gossip and reality tv shows.

Eleanor Barlow
Eleanor Barlow
2 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

I once worked with children in the care system. I observed that they seemed to have the most productive relationships with those who weren’t paid to look after them, but were adults in routine humdrum jobs such as cleaners and gardeners. I think it must have given them some inkling of what normal life was all about.

David Morley
David Morley
2 months ago
Reply to  Caty Gonzales

Sometimes it borders on the bizarre. Recently I saw a woman scrolling through baby pictures on Instagram (presumably) while totally ignoring her own child who was desperately trying to get her attention. WTF.

Dennis Roberts
Dennis Roberts
2 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

There was Korean couple a few years ago that allowed their own child to die from neglect because they were spending all their time on some virtual ‘baby’.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

That’s a huge generalization! But if parents aren’t mentally healthy themselves they certainly won’t be able to raise mentally healthy kids.

Karl Juhnke
Karl Juhnke
2 months ago

Family Law and feminism. The self colonisation of the west.

Dominic English
Dominic English
2 months ago

Yes but surely we can’t blame the parents, society or ourselves. It’s all TikTok’s fault! Well maybe. But our kids didn’t buy those phones themselves. https://open.substack.com/pub/lowstatus/p/phoney-war?r=evzeq&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web

David Colquhoun
David Colquhoun
2 months ago

“In her view, the first course of action is to remove the factors obviously making adolescents’ lives worse: the therapy-speak, the climate alarmism, . . .”
The fact that climate alarmism is listed as something to be removed shows the profoundly anti-science nature of the author’s thinking. That she feels qualified to disagree with 99%+ of the world’s scientists on climate shows a degree of conspiratorial thinking which is really quite alarming.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
2 months ago

Even if climate alarmism is justified (Hint: it isn’t), children should not be made to feel fearful about it. Crossing the road is dangerous but we manage to teach children how to do it safely without making them too afraid to go out.

David Colquhoun
David Colquhoun
2 months ago

Are you one of the 0.1% of climate scientists who don’t believe that it’s real and serious? Or are you just another saloon bar person who thinks they know the answer without doing any of the work?
I’m genuinely curious about what influenced your opinion, and how you came to have such confidence in it.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
2 months ago

Note that the term “alarmism” does not equate to pretending that there is no such thing as potentially catastrophic climate change that has an anthropogenic dimension. It might intersect with that kind of “denialism”, but not always.
Panic rarely leads to a sustained and wholesome large-scale response. I wish fewer people would listen to either the ostriches (“I like it warm, and it’s cold here this morning”) or the doomsayers (“it’s too late already, but transform your habits to delay the climatic apocalypse”).

David Colquhoun
David Colquhoun
2 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

That’s a perfectly sensible response, I don’t think that anyone is making children “Too afraid to go out”. But it’s surely the job of a parent to introduce kids to scientific ideas, and that should include climate change because it’s the children who’ll have to bear the brunt of it (in our case, floods and fires -even, heaven forbid, switching off the gulf stream).

Saul D
Saul D
2 months ago

Climate change is with us, but there are groups on the extreme climate change panic who are as far away from the science as individuals who say climate change does not exist. Often these are in the more campaigning arms who are reading the 99.9% possibilities as the most likely cases (eg framing outcomes from RCP8.5 for dramatic effect and fund raising – scare people into action). Alarmism is the over-egging of the pudding. We have no evidence of a gulf stream switching off, just theoretical calculations that it might be possible. Climate scientists find a lot of things are possible, that doesn’t make them likely. Good science is read with a sceptical eye.

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
2 months ago

I think a great many children and adolescents are being affected by the constant talk about horrific problems they can do nothing about.

B Davis
B Davis
2 months ago

A parent’s job to introduce kids to science? Sure, absolutely…as in teaching them something of VERY elementary chemistry, physics, biology, botany, zoology, astronomy, mathematics, etc.
Once they get a little older, then the particularly astute parent might go on to overview the scientific method, meaning teaching children the importance of careful observation coupled with an uncompromising scepticism. (because cognitive assumptions can distort the interpretation of the observation). They can then proceed to a review of scientific inquiry including hypothesis creation through inductive reasoning, and how all that might be tested through experiments and rigorous statistical analysis.
And before they leave the home forever, those same parents might also add that science is never done. That what is felt to be certain now must be continually tested & questioned because we nothing in this world is ever absolutely certain forever.
And if, what they learn after all that, is to read with significant skepticism what passes for ‘fact’ in social media…or is proclaimed as truth by political talking heads at Davos….well then the parents have done one heck of a great job.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
2 months ago

Strongly disagree. The theory of anthropogenic climate warming, the alarmist details (cities inundated, people dropping dead from the heat, etc) and especially the primacy of CO2 as a cause are just that, theories. Not facts.
These grim predictions, plus those of the Trumpian end of democracy, and now the looming wars with China and Russia must (theoretically!) be having a profound negative affect on our kids.

David Colquhoun
David Colquhoun
2 months ago

May I ask you about your qualifications for expressing a view about climate change?
London would have already been inundated if it were not for the Thames barrier. That has to be shut increasingly often as sea levels gradually rise. At some point we’ll need a bigger one, at heaven knows what cost. And the Thames is the only river in the UK that has a barrier.

I appreciate that it’s become mandatory for anyone on the right of politics to be opposed to science. That seems to me to be rather dangerous in a world where making a living depends increasingly on science-based industries.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
2 months ago

Sea level rise in London (Tower Pier, 1929-2013, NOAA) is significantly less than in NY harbor (the Battery, 1856-2023, same). But London was built on a flood plane. It’s been a known problem since before the Romans. The Thames Barrier was built to deal with that natural and predictable flooding, after it was decided (before climate warming was an issue) that the Barrier would be cheaper than raising the banks.
It is undeniably cool. As you said they’ve used it some 200 times since it came on line in ’82(?)! Lots of cool videos on YouTube.
Wouldn’t it be better to tell the kids about that?
https://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends/

Elizabeth Hamilton
Elizabeth Hamilton
16 days ago

May I ask you about your qualifications for civil discourse?

Duane M
Duane M
2 months ago

She’s not saying that climate change is not happening. Only that there is no good reason to alarm your children about it. They can’t do anything about it, so alarming them can only create anxiety.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
2 months ago
Reply to  Duane M

I think if people are being alarmed by climate change predictions then it’s the kids who are doing the alarming, as it were…

B Davis
B Davis
2 months ago
Reply to  Duane M

I don’t think that’s quite true. She uses the phrase, ‘removing….climate alarmism’ from the list of factors making adolescents’ lives worse. Alarmism is defined as excessive or exaggerated alarm of a real or imagined threat.’ From that we can probably safely infer that the author feels the current and ongoing climate hysteria to be overblown. I would agree.

B Davis
B Davis
2 months ago

No, not in the least.
Alarmism is defined as excessive or exaggerated alarm about a real or imagined threat…what might in other contexts be called ‘Chicken Littleism’ (running about yelling that the sky is falling when, in reality, it was but an acorn which bounced on Chicken Little’s head!). The author simply characterizes our current and ongoing climate hysteria as being overblown.
She does not dismiss climate change. No one does, actually. Climate change, as a matter of fact, is a constant. In the ongoing history of the planet, climates change regularly. What she ‘dismisses’ is the blind panic coupled with calls for the immediate deconstruction of carbon-generation systems (like 80% of the power grid…or 99% of vehicular traffic)….because of dubious outputs spit out by dubious climate models, built on small mounds of dubious data.
This is not ‘profoundly anti-science’, this is anti-hysteria & significantly pro-science, as in demonstrating the willingness to question & test so-called consensus ‘facts’.
As for the ‘99% of all scientists’ (a chicken-little kind of number if ever there was one)…heck 99% of all scientists believed the sun revolved around the earth…99% of all doctors used to recommend Lucky Strikes….99% used to believe in Phlogiston, Cold Fusion, Phrenology, the 4 Basic Humors in the body, Bloodletting, and Electroshock therapy. Group Think, as the saying goes, don’t impress me much. Neither does the shrill assertion that anyone that doesn’t agree with “X” must be ‘profoundly anti-science’ and a conspirator to boot.
Let me assure you. No one, quite literally, no one is profoundly anti-science. No one. But there are, however, many people who continue to ask questions of those who insist they have all the answers.

Michael Whan
Michael Whan
2 months ago

When ‘Emotions are God’–‘You have hurt me’, ‘That offends me’–we can use those feelings of ‘vulnerability’ and ‘trauma’ to deflect ourselves and others from seeing the truth about ourselves or others. Empathy weaponized. Truth about ourselves can often be painful. But truth should come before any emotional affect it produces. When emotion is prioritized over truth, we block honest, truthful self-reflection. That is good therapy, seeing truth (as difficult as that may be at all levels) as the aim in life and in therapy. Therapy, too, has its Shadowy, destructive side, metastatically growing beyond its reach and limits.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
2 months ago
Reply to  Michael Whan

Interestingly, I was a bullied child and the bullying didn’t stop until I realised that I could mock myself better than the bullies. In acknowledging and accepting my flaws I took power away from the bullies. Self acceptance is part of resilience.

Mary Bruels
Mary Bruels
2 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

Ditto. In high school I desperately wanted to belong to the “cool kids” but I was much too independent to fit in. I didn’t realize it until I was in college. The “cool girls” in my small dorm virtually ignored me until the night I returned from a date with my boyfriend with an engagement ring on my finger. Then they swarmed about me, twittering with excitement. It was at that exact moment that I found out I didn’t really care about them. Independence suited just fine.

David Morley
David Morley
2 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

I punched him on the nose. Equally effective!

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

You learned to be self-deprecating as a way to deflect the bullying. You developed a coping mechanism that served you well. However, it sounds like you believed what you were being bullied for, which may not have been true, and certainly may not have been a “flaw”.

Paula Dufort
Paula Dufort
2 months ago
Reply to  Michael Whan

There is too little emphasis on personal responsibility in today’s world, including therapy. And that includes emotional accountability, which means being an emotionally mature person with a thick enough skin to successfully engage in the rough and tumble adult world. Being emotionally responsible enables a person to appropriately evaluate situations and then respond effectively, rather than having an ineffective response, such as bursting into tears if called by the wrong name.

It’s best to always keep in mind several simple, mundane truths:

1. It’s not always about you.

2. The world doesn’t revolve around you.

3. Life is unfair.

4. Most people don’t care because they’re too involved in their lives and not yours.

Thinking about how to deal with a situation is usually more successful than having an emotional outburst. Despite the increasing prevalence of people who automatically express what they feel, I still see thoughtful, level headed persons receiving higher regard than the “babies.” After all, most adults would rather deal with adults than emotionally fragile faux children.

David Morley
David Morley
2 months ago
Reply to  Paula Dufort

I’d only add that sometimes we need to purge emotion (through crying, for example, or talking ourselves out) before we are able to move on to dealing with things. Totally different to emotion as a means to get your own way. Even Achilles cried.

Paula Dufort
Paula Dufort
2 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

It’s reassuring that you have mentioned appropriate emotional expression. There’s a time and place for everything. That’s called emotional maturity, not manipulation.

We all cry, but there’s a difference between crying on receiving some corrective input on poor job performance versus
being fired, especially unfairly.

One example from my past worklife is a clear example of this. On one job I worked, the project manager had hired his absolutely incompetent idiot of an ex-wife instead of paying her alimony (this was against University policy – if revealed to the University Administration they both would have been fired). If she didn’t get her way, right then and there, she would bawl like an infant needing a diaper change and feeding. The entire office would grind to a halt until her needs were met. This went on for about eighteen months until her ex’s political enemies (and he had many) were able to run him off by threatening to turn him in for many policy violations, including nepotism.

Her new boss was her ex’s worst enemy. She was allowed to work out her contract but had to behave professionally and have a competent job performance. She couldn’t do any of the jobs in our study (none of the other employees were forced to correct her mistakes anymore), so she simply was removed from each successive task until there was nothing left. She just sat around web surfing while receiving a higher salary than her co-workers. We were all relieved when she left.

It was very difficult to work while her ex was in charge, since she might disturb you in the middle of a job on a tight deadline and demand you had to stop in the middle of a of it to help her with a simple Excel spreadsheet. If you didn’t, she’d burst into tears which is even more disrupting when you have to concentrate on the task at hand.

She was the manipulative one. I controlled myself while my supervisor went to help her. That way I could get the the very crucial task completed on time so we all had jobs and pay.

One other point, if you cry, or become angry, or have other types of outburst behavior, you won’t be taken seriously when there’s a real reason to have an outburst, such as dealing with a bully or losing your beloved pet.

We all need to get along which means some self control from everyone from time to time. It’s better to be civil and work things out rather than fighting all the time. It’s encouraging that the Unherd readers understand this.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  Paula Dufort

Oh dear Paula, that’s more than we needed to know, and pointless. The woman had mental health issues that are not relevant to the topic of child-rearing.

Paula Dufort
Paula Dufort
2 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Yes, but some readers (not you) need examples. Plus, we all had to suffer while her ex-husband was there. At some point, no one cared about her issues. We wanted to do our jobs, not hers. Her worst behavior disappeared with her new, non-enabling boss. We could all get our work done.

David Morley
David Morley
2 months ago
Reply to  Paula Dufort

Ignore Clare – she’s become addicted to silly put downs and “trite” is her latest word. She’s becoming a charmless bore I’m afraid, which is a shame. On occasion she has made some reasonable comments in the past. Maybe one of her cats died.

Paula Dufort
Paula Dufort
2 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Thanks.

I think Clare does make very good points from time to time, but she didn’t work with this person and her enabling ex for 18 months. A lot of this person’s drama was squelched once she had a no-nonsense boss who wanted an opportunity to legally fire her.

One important part of child development is learning how to get along with people. This has a lot of different manifestations, from dealing with bullies to working as part of a team. This means learning emotional control. It is the antithesis of “Your feelings always come first and to hell with everyone else” all the time (there’s a time for that, but that’s dealing with pushy controlling people). The “Me” decades still have too much influence in modern US life in many areas, including therapy for children and adults. It makes one yearn for the cooperative spirit of the past.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

No, It was the dog.

David Morley
David Morley
2 months ago
Reply to  Paula Dufort

the project manager had hired his absolutely incompetent idiot of an ex-wife

Talk about not learning your lesson!

But agree, I’m not talking about public histrionics or manipulative crying. Sometimes things get too much for the best of us, and crying can help.

Paula Dufort
Paula Dufort
2 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

I agree. I still secretly cry almost seven years after my husband’s death. Other widows I have met did the same thing.

Crocodile tears, on the other hand, aren’t acceptable!

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

“Purge emotion” yikes!!

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  Paula Dufort

Unsolicited trite advice.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  Michael Whan

In therapy you learn to say”I feel hurt” not “You hurt me” Therefore you take responsibility for your feelings, not project them onto others. That’s such a big difference and important for everyone to learn.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
2 months ago

Contemporary, ‘pop-therapy’, simply reflects how the decadent West now governs itself, politically and culturally, with a failure to sufficiently challenge what are deemed ‘the oppressed’ (whether these are, for example, Islamists, third-world values), as to do so might smack of ‘oppressor’ behaviour. Similarly, this guilt-ridden Western sensibility, embraces ‘degrowth’/ deindustrialisation and a levelling down to ensure the luxury beliefs, virtue-signalling of ‘equality of outcomes’. Nietsche appears to have at least got this prediction correct about the downward, depraved and self-destructive destination of the judeo-christian mindset.

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
2 months ago

There is a UK state school, almost Victorian in its rules and boundary setting. It draws from a multi ethnic community and has about 25% of its kids on free school meals. Not only are its academic results completely amazing, but the kids are happy, well adjusted and going to be highly productive members of British society.
Obviously it has made many enemies amongst progressives and has been taken to court (still awaiting the outcome) by a Muslim using Legal Aid:
https://unherd.com/newsroom/britains-strictest-head-teacher-my-case-to-ban-prayer-in-school/

Nancy G
Nancy G
2 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

I was hoping someone would mention the Michaela School.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

Yes, ban prayer in school for god’s sake!

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
2 months ago

Brilliant and true, and fits in nicely with the fact that fathers (usually of the tie-wearing, white variety) are routinely portrayed in entertainment and commercials as hapless fools in need of control and guidance from their wives and even their preternaturally wise children/

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  Daniel Lee

Yes, I think this is all about middle-class white parenting, only.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
2 months ago

I think the problem with a lot of us Gen Xers is that we grew up without fathers in the home.
My own experience of divorce and family breakdown as a lad has however made me into more of a traditional dad becase I know how rubbish it is not to have any male presence in the family and I don’t want that for my own children.
I also take care to ensure my kids are made wary of anything spoken by any educational authority figure who has green or blue hair.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
2 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

I think that too many parents have been too happy to relinquish their parenting rights to schools and the system without realising that schools and the state system are actually powerless to enforce anything! Nor are they in a position to replace effective parenting. Schools and state institutions are poor child minders at best.
Dads do need to be more involved and mums need to allow dads to have a positive presence without undermining it. It’s not a competition, it’s parental responsibility/duty.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
2 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

Yes! There is a dynamic male/female tension but it can be much more complementary and cooperative than it appears in some anti-nuclear-family stereotype.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
2 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

You’re right it’s not a competition but is in many ways complimentary – different in ways that are mutually beneficial.
I also don’t think the largely female teaching establishment understands how much young boys in particular hunger for male role models to look up to.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
2 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

Can relate. My dad remained a weekend parent after the split when I was 7, and my younger brother and I always knew both parents loved us, but discipline and a sense of security were lacking. My dad is one of ten children, my mom of seven. I have no children and my brother has 1 child.
Do I feel cheated by life or draw a direct causal line from the broken home to these things? No, but I think it factors in.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Catholic?

Dennis Roberts
Dennis Roberts
2 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

My parents stayed together (in their 80s now and still together) but my dad didn’t really interact with me in the home as far as I can remember. Except as an authority figure. Perhaps that’s why I’m more of an interactive dad, but most likely it was just the expectations of the respective times.

Drew Gibson
Drew Gibson
2 months ago

I’ve said it before in reply to another article. The one principe for parenting is ‘Mummy/daddy always wins.’ Children who are led to believe that they are the centre of the life of the family who must always get what they want, simply are not equipped to make wise decisions. To allow, we might even say, ‘force’ them to do this is to ask them to do something beyond their ability and thus to introduce the spectre of failure. This is compounded by recalibrating everything so that even their failures become successes and they never learn how to fail.
The setting of sensible boundaries is crucial not least because it teaches children to experience not getting what they want and thus to experience ‘failure’. Also, as they grow, they realise that these ‘failures’ were actually good for them.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
2 months ago
Reply to  Drew Gibson

Quite – one of the things I always like to remind my kids is that it’s not a democracy

Point of Information
Point of Information
2 months ago

The “maternal style of child-rearing: one of nurture, understanding, care, and boundless empathy” is not reality and never has been.

Not only have poor to middle income women worked for most of history, whether as peasants or prostitites, miners (banned in the UK the same time as children), mill and factory workers, weavers, brewers (“of small ale”), washerwomen, dairy maids, domestic servants, cleaners, nurses, and in the middle classes as teachers, farmers and housekeepers (the latter two effectively management roles).

Further, the role of housewife was not, prior to its sentimentalisation by ad men, one of unbounded softness and empathy. One of my grandmothers (born 1920s in a farming community) fitted into this category (after serving in hospitals in WWII). Her routine included plucking poultry, gutting game and fish, growing veg, assisting with lambing, training and raising dogs and children. Urban housewives (and their descendants) of the interwar generation tell similar tales of sending their kids out to play in the morning and telling them not to come home before tea, which may or may not be made up of one of the bunnies raised in the back yard, dispatched by the same housewife.

Will both UnHerd journalists and their readers (both the purportedly male “my wife gave up her job in banking to look after our kids full-time and now her life is bliss” conservatives and the “women are kinder and more empathetic and generally lovely while men are incapable of understanding how other people feel despite 3000 years of literature suggesting otherwise” feminists) please stop inferring that to be female is to be physically floppy, politically fluffy and philosophically fuzzy-minded. This is just ahistorical nonsense.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
2 months ago

A lot of valid claims, somewhat buried under your absolutist tone that uses a caricature of your opponents, which would be justly applied to only (an unfortunately numerous) few even at UnHerd, in my opinion.
Several generations ago, I don’t think it was typical for a factory worker or schoolteacher to become a mother on purpose. When that happened, they would often stop working, or sometimes have to leave town in unjust disgrace because the biological father wouldn’t step up. I’m not saying you’re framing is entirely “ahistorical”, but very one-sided.
I think there’s plenty of hard data as well as common-sense indication that women tend to be more nurturing, especially with their own children. Of course this doesn’t equate to pure softness or indulgence, nor a lack of hard work in and around (or far away from ) the home–far from it. Who claimed it does? And some women lack the motherly temperament altogether, even if they have children. Though not that rare, this is neither the norm, nor a good luck of the draw for her kids.
The stoic father and the nurturing mother are common types that are influenced by biology and based in statistical reality. Plenty of non-rare exceptions exist, and can even work for individual couples and families. I hope that more social conservatives and social “innovationists” alike can learn to see more pathways to family, without discarding the likeliest good model we’ve found so far: a nuclear family in which one parent doesn’t work while the children are young. This can’t always happen, but it’s not a bad model.
Amen to your defense of women’s hard work and toughness throughout the ages. They have not received and do not get enough collective credit.

David Morley
David Morley
2 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Amen to your defense of women’s hard work and toughness throughout the ages. They have not received and do not get enough collective credit.

And to your refusal to see men as emotional cripples.

David Morley
David Morley
2 months ago

Good post!

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
2 months ago

Well, isn’t tearing down the traditional structure, the traditional family, part of this new societal order that is being envisioned? With each passing day, I consider myself extremely fortunate for the timing of my birth and growing up in a pre-Internet era when most moms greeted their kids after school with two things: how was your day?, followed by a snack and being told to go outside and play until dinner time. Anyone who missed out on the glory of being a free-range child has no idea what he/she missed and that’s too bad.
In the scenario captured here, the father – and perhaps both parents – are being replaced by the state. In the US, we’ve had numerous incidents of parents being treated like terrorists for daring to question what was happening in public schools; there are stories of one’s kids being taken away for not bowing down to the gender cult. And that’s without counting the parents who want to be their kids’ friends, which is a disaster.

Helen Nevitt
Helen Nevitt
2 months ago

Reading the article is like having someone read my mind out loud.

Phillip F
Phillip F
2 months ago

I’ve been in the mental health biz since the 1970’s and I fear many of Ms. Shrier’s arguments ring all too true.
I wish I could say it was a problem of the Gen x or z ( I never get that right) but the abdication of authority in the endless pursuit of being liked is rampant, in my experience, among therapists of all disciplines (hah!) in all training centers where every rule is enforced unless someone doesn’t want to observe it, teachers cower before their students, and trainees rule supreme.
One brief anecdote: at a San Francisco meeting of the International Psychoanalytic Association some years ago, a plenary address was repeatedly interrupted by the clamor of workers setting up tables at the back of the room. Presumably fearful of being seen as unsympathetic to workers, nobody did anything about the noise. After several minutes I heard one French analyst say to his colleague, “Of course they do nothing. It is America. They have no Father!”

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  Phillip F

That’s about fear-based personality types which tend to dominate in every culture. It drives me nuts. My life experience has been that I’m the only one who dares to speak up in a group. I would not have sat there and done nothing about that situation. Cowardice isn’t learned it’s innate.

David Morley
David Morley
2 months ago

I take the point that we have got ourselves into a mess through poor parenting and a therapeutic approach to normal life. But now we’ve got there, how do we fix the damaged people if not through more, perhaps different, therapy.
If your wife is a raging narcissist, for example, what do you do apart from bemoan your poor decision.
And if your children have grown up flaky and anxious, how do they now develop the resilience they need.
I’m not recommending therapy, but just wondering – now we are in this mess how do we fix things?

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
2 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

I know a chap who was kicked out of home at 17. Life was very hard for him but he persevered and grew from the experience. He has a better relationship with his parents now but has never forgiven them. His own son is now proving to be disrespectful towards his parents (chap and wife) and would arguably benefit from the reality shock of being kicked out but they won’t because of his experience of being kicked out. He can’t see that out of his own hardships, he grew and his son might actually do the same.
I think many parents look at their own childhood and think I’ll do it differently and therefore better, rather than accepting that their parents might have actually done these things for a good reason.

David Morley
David Morley
2 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

That’s a hard lesson though – and not very scalable.

Peter F. Lee
Peter F. Lee
2 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

I suspect you meant ‘absence of parenting’ not ‘poor parenting’. It will never be resolved until children are ‘parented’ by their parents and not by teachers/schools.

H W
H W
2 months ago

Re “dark mothers” – see instructive video of 2 Canadian women professors who see themselves as not-women railing against parental rights – which they see as dangerous and non-existant – talking about school students as children “in our care” instead of “in our classrooms”, and the job of a teacher being “to keep kids safe”, not “to teach”. They see kids as having “agency” but insist that these kids need lot of “$upport” from…agencie$.
https://www.sfu.ca/publicsquare/events/2024/sogi-parental-rights.html#video

Steve Crowther
Steve Crowther
2 months ago

A pleasant little TV drama I watched yesterday, based on a novel by a female author, included an exchange between a male detective and a young woman. “Did you feel threatened?”. “I’m a woman. I always feel threatened.”

James Kirk
James Kirk
2 months ago

Stereotypes and clichĂ©s like ‘Wait till your father gets home’ spring to mind. Women are the gentle side of the partnership traditionally. I think they can over compensate in the workplace by being harsh not hard in a strange man’s world where teasing and banter can be misinterpreted. Aggression vs assertion is a problem for many. Not all men prosper. In days gone by kids feared the Police and the cane. Where are they now?

Matthew Mullins
Matthew Mullins
2 months ago

I don’t wish to be hyperbolic, but I consider what is going on with kids and mental health therapy culture to be a form of abuse. I work in many different schools and the sheer behavioural chaos, dark words uttered by children far too young, lack of resilience, and ubiquitous saccharine corporate speak that seemingly is having the opposite effect is maddening. It is clearly widespread.
My personal feeling is that while some therapy is vital for people with acute suffering, the hyper-therapisation of public life in our time has been largely manufactured to paper over the cracks of obvious modern decay.
And yes, that women constitute the majority of school staff in many places is a factor, whether anyone likes it or not. The amount of times female staff have said of a male pupil, ‘he doesn’t like women’ only for it to seem to me, after some investigation, that the child doesn’t want to be nagged by 15 different mother hens every single day. Not to mention many female staff behave motherly to some children to a degree I consider inappropriate. To be honest even I sometimes grow tired of being surrounded by women in the places I work. It’s not dislike by any means, just a difference of temperament. Anyway I’m rambling.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 months ago

This is a really good comment and echoes exactly my reasons for leaving education.

Ex Nihilo
Ex Nihilo
2 months ago

My contempt for psychology began in medical school where the rigorous scientific standards of the disciplines founded upon biochemistry, physiology, and physics stood in stark contrast to the mushy pseudoscience of psychiatry. The billions of hours and assets diverted to this stunningly useless scam has never translated into broad therapeutic success. The neurotic, sociopathic, and schizophrenic continue to proliferate, defying treatment. How can anyone justify the peculiar confidence society maintains in psychology?

The other source of my skepticism derived from observing my mother. She grew up in Hanau, Germany, during WW II, which was 90% destroyed by multiple massive Allied bombings. She lived in a succession of three homes as each was successively reduced to rubble. She saw graphic death as a child. Her town was quarantined for Typhus in 1945. That winter they nearly froze and starved to death. She lost all of her teeth due to poor nutrition and wore dentures from age 19. At 16 she was raped by an American soldier and by 17 was a single mother with a 6th grade education. She later married another American soldier who brought her to the US at age 21 where, one tear later, he was murdered. She lived with two children and no extended family on public assistance until remarrying an abusive and unambitious man who was a poor provider. She was an immigrant in a time when it was perfectly acceptable for natives to make fun of her accent or disparage her heritage. She was also an insulin-dependent diabetic. The most remarkable thing about her was that she was also the happiest human being I have ever known, always ready to laugh, delighted by life’s small pleasures, and a joy to be around. She never took an antidepressant nor sought solace for the tragedies of her life in talk therapy.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 months ago
Reply to  Ex Nihilo

She was grateful for life.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  Ex Nihilo

And your point is?

Ex Nihilo
Ex Nihilo
2 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

How incredibly dim-witted. The point is that human beings can overcome incredible tragedy and find deep wells of happiness without the assistance of useless psychological therapy, moron.

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
2 months ago

My father, born in the 1930s was told, rather brutally, as a nine year old that he had a heart condition and if he didn’t take a year of school he would probably die.

Well, that doctor got it wrong. He’s still going. But how cruel, how thoughtless.

I’ve just been listening to Shrier talk to Bari Weiss. She related how she took her son (12) to hospital for stomach pains. No big problem, drink more water. Then they wanted to do a mental health survey (!). With the boy on his own (!). The survey asked questions like “are you suicidal?”, “do you think your family would be better off without you?”…
Imagine. A twelve year old.
The medical profession is out of flipping (I don’t meaning flipping) control. Their desire for more prestige and more money over rides any care they have for the patient. They are as bad now as they were in the 30s and they sell themselves as saviours.
Of course there are decent men and women working in medicine who try hard to help people. They deserve our gratitude. But, so many as charlatans. So many a cruel. So many are on the make.
I don’t mind the last one but stop pretending to be bloody saints.

john d rockemella
john d rockemella
2 months ago

On the money! To the point and wholly agree! But the new communists taking over have bred this mentality for years! This is how MAO and the red army brought in communism through the weakness of the youth armies. They became narcissistic, i think the plot on what is being done is far more sinister.

Katalin Kish
Katalin Kish
2 months ago

Not the whole world, not even the whole Western world.
Katharine Birbalsingh isn’t the only one who understands and attempts to put into practice what the role of schools need to be. How the court case against her pan out will be a harbinger of things to come.

James P
James P
2 months ago

This article hits two (and maybe three) of the three “untruths” that Haidt and Lukianoff describe in “The Coddling of the American Mind: 1) kids are fragile; 2) always trust your feelings. It also points out the damage from climate alarmism (and it ain’t bad weather). In addition to these lies, kids are being shovelled drivel about “gender” (which properly speaking is a characteristic of the French and Spanish languages) and taught outright lies about biology. Good work MH, but wow is there ever a lot more to do. I went to see a social worker to take a cognitive test (I’m a 225 pound bald old man). She (!) asked me what gender I am. Now let me ask: who needs the cognitive test?

Matt Sylvestre
Matt Sylvestre
2 months ago

Today one hopes that the mother (the woman) in traditional heterosexual contexts is the authoritative one, the stricter one as she can choose to raise her children with self discipline and independence while the father is the more empathetic as this is the only arrangement the larger society will tolerate that leads to well adjusted self possessed young adults
 Reverse the gender roles and look out as society hates even evolved traditional men and fathers
.

Rick Frazier
Rick Frazier
2 months ago

“Virtually every major social pathology,” political scientist Stephen Baskerville writes, “has been linked to fatherless children: violent crime, drug and alcohol abuse, truancy, unwed pregnancy, suicide, and psychological disorders—all correlating more strongly with fatherlessness than with any other single factor, surpassing even race and poverty.”

William Amos
William Amos
2 months ago

A challenging and disquieting read.
I made a decision when the first smart phones came out to wait and see what effect carrying a computer around in palm all day might have on people.
I’ve never been persuaded to have one since. Hopefully it will make it easier to say to my children, when the time comes, that they should resist the lure of the de-witting time thief in your pocket.
It should be made easier for us all to choose not to have smartphones, not just children. They are an unnecessary mediator between us and lived life that noone but the corporations ever asked for. ‘Tech Literacy’ is a rent-seeking scam.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
2 months ago
Reply to  William Amos

Impressive that you’ve stuck to your guns, or muskets so to speak. I only held out until 2013.
I agree that opting out should be an easier and more widely available option. But I don’t think smartphones are only “an unnecessary mediator between us and lived life that no one but the corporations ever asked for”. One may need an Uber in the middle of the night or receive an urgent email on the go (“Phone stolen. Can’t function. Please visit!”). Yet I’m just cooking up exceptions to the fundamentally sound point you dished out–a persistent tendency of mine.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

To get an Uber you need to have an account, nothing is easy!

John Frater
John Frater
2 months ago

Gen X myself I’ve often wondered about this. Boomers were ok about freedom but the ‘father’ could be terrifying to say the least. Freedom to roam and take risks etc is a good thing but the strong authoritarian approach killed a lot of the joy of childhood and probably did generate traumas. As gen x become parents there is perhaps a simple over compensation going on. As always the middle way is elusive. As the article hints at, the way masculinity itself has been problematised must also be a factor. And at the same time gen x must accept the idealism around the rugged individual has been very naive
 stupid even. Conversely Peter Pan isn’t who you want for a dad either. In the end such musings always bring me back to Philip Larkin.. he nailed it – each generation gets a different set of issues and problems. There was no golden age pre smart phone etc.

Peter F. Lee
Peter F. Lee
2 months ago

Do parents intuitively know how to grow and nurture their children to maturity? Are all these self-help books and programs and the plethora of social-scientists all with conflicting views really helping ?
Not from my observations. Children need to be brought up in the real world. If not they need ‘safe spaces’.

Emmanuel MARTIN
Emmanuel MARTIN
2 months ago

The vast majority of therapists today are women.
The vast majority of the rapists today are still men though
A single space matters.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
2 months ago

This is not an article at all, it is a book review and rather uncritical one at that. Ie it’s not contrasting this book with any other books, nor confirming using any other books… basically, believe what you want! So, Read the book and make your own decision – or do some research, using multiple sources I would suggest. The observation that the sex gender balance of psychotherapists has changed over the years is an interesting one, but not much is said about it in this article.

B Davis
B Davis
2 months ago

Brilliant essay.
Exactly on target.
And of course the entire concept of ‘bad therapy’ is perfectly aligned with what is elsewhere called: ‘moralistic therapeutic deism’ which essentially preaches that the central goal of life is to be happy & feel good.
That means, of course, that not feeling good & not being perpetually happy (in one’s dream job, in one’s dream house, with a dream spouse, and perfectly gleaming dream children) requires therapeutic intervention by any number of experts and pills in order to let the good feelings flow. At least it does if you’re a True Believer who’s a member of the Cult of Expertology, there is no other way.
Life is hard. It’s true. It’s always been hard and always will be. But life, actually, today, is better by almost every measure (of the tangible) than it’s ever been before. We live longer; we’re healthier; we’re more connected; we’re air-conditioned; we can travel; we can fly; we can explore; and we’re surrounded by entertainment. We don’t have to hunt our own food or pump our own water. Orgasms per capita are way up. All bodies are beautiful. And when we’re sick, a simple pill does wonders. What’s not to like?
All that leads to the obvious question: why, why, why, why are 40% of our youth in the depths of so-called mental health problems when life itself (at least its infrastructure) is so obviously good?
Because we’ve failed at Anti-Fragility. Because we’ve failed at being Robust, Vibrant, Strong, & Tough. Essentially because we’ve failed at growing-up and helping our children to grow-up, too.
in the depths of what would otherwise be a deep and existential despair, Viktor Frankl, speaking of his time in the Camps, put the issue this way: “…everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way… Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance.”
We can’t control what happens to us, he said, but we can control how we feel about it.
Unless, of course, it’s just too darned hard and pushes us just too darned much for each of us to be the heroes of our own lives… In which case we look to Expert Therapeutics (preferably in pill form)…state intervention (to protect & nurture our tender, eggshell self)….and turn off our minds, relax, and float downstream. THAT is not living. It never will be.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
2 months ago
Reply to  B Davis

The self-reliance and rugged individualism you espouse would benefit most and really work for some, but we are not purely autonomous little islands. Hence the level often of desperate willingness to find human connection at nearly any cost, even with twisted or very challenging people, even online. Even as part of a thought tribe of aggrieved populists, on the Left or Right.
More to the point–at least the one I want to emphasize–is a widespread deficit in real purpose and meaning. Hence the English title of Frankl’s powerful and inspiring book: Man’s Search For Meaning. And of his earlier, lesser-known work: Yes to Life: Despite Everything, written when he’d been out of the death camp for about a year. Improvements in material conditions alone cannot silence existential yearning, the spiritual void in superficially led lives.
To quiet the chattering voice within that keeps telling stories about itself in kind of narrative loop needn’t be the sort of Brave New World cop out you connect to a lyric from the Beatles song “Tomorrow Never Knows”. But even the dumb version you frame might constitute greater freedom than bondage to possessions, or a life examined by material metrics alone. The quality of life in not easily quantified, either in comfort or number of days.

B Davis
B Davis
2 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I love the fact that individualism always seems to be accompanied by the word ‘rugged’…as though ‘individualism’ (as in being self-reliant) requires ruggedness). In fact most full-grown adults are extraordinarily self-reliant and very few are what I’d call, ‘rugged’. Toddlers are neither. And the process of maturing should take us from the utter dependence of babyhood to a level of significant independence/self-reliance, assuming that parents, teachers, et al. encourage & require same while steadily reducing the ‘kiss it & make it better’ behaviors which stunt it. Ruggedness remains an entirely separate issue.
But neither Viktor nor I are advocating ‘autonomous little islands’. (Not sure, actually, where you got that idea.) As adults, certainly we are responsible for our lives, our behaviors, the choices we make (and refuse to make) and the consequences which accrue… but equally as self-reliant, independent, individuals living within a cross-connected culture/society, we are significantly interdependent upon an entire web of other individuals & associations.
I expect gas to be available for purchase at gas stations. Bread should be on the shelves at the grocery store. When I’m sick, I expect access to doctors and medicine. When I want to become a surgeon, I expect to find medical schools and teachers. As people living in a civilized, 21st century world, in the midst of an infinite series of markets driving supply, demand, and distribution, all of us are dependent upon the Other (millions of others, in fact) to help make our lives what they are.
Beyond that material dependency, we are also emotionally dependent upon friends and family… neighbors, acquaintances….all of whom help us grow & flourish.
No one is advocating materialism as a solution for existential yearning….but turning off one’s mind, relaxing, and floating downstream…on a bed of anti-depressants, mood-elevators, and serotonin reuptake inhibitors solves nothing either. Neither does an endless looping trip to a small army of therapists & counselors for a constant series of feeling-adjustments (like some sort of psych chiropractors).
And of course I’d believe all of us would agree: the quality of life is not easily quantified. I’d probably go further and say it can’t be quantified at all, once you get beyond accounting for the minimum necessities.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
2 months ago
Reply to  B Davis

“No one is advocating materialism as a solution for existential yearning
.but turning off one’s mind, relaxing, and floating downstream
on a bed of anti-depressants, mood-elevators, and serotonin reuptake inhibitors solves nothing either”
I’m in primary agreement with you there, except to quibble that some do advocate it, at least in effect, by making human life into something transactional, even largely a process of “getting and spending” whereby “we lay waste our powers” in the natural and spiritual sense (Wordsworth). I’m not saying this accurately reflects your views, but such ideas are out there in the cultural ether (if you will), and far from rare.
You have a tendency to say “no one is saying” or “everyone knows” way too easily*. At times such responses almost seem like your substitute for “I agree”, “I admit that”, or at least “let me clarify”.
Amen to your comments on checking out of embodied life via chemicals, prescribed or not, booze included.

“No man is an island, entire of itself;
Every man is a piece of the continent, 
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less,
As well as if a promontory were:
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were.
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee”
–John Donne (1572-1631)
*Granted, I have a talent for stating the obvious as if it’s some groundbreaking insight

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Yes, you do, well-intentioned as you are! SSRIs can be a lifesaver for people with anxiety and depression, which is often genetic and can’t be willed away.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
2 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

I understand that, Clare. In fact, I’ve just erased a briefly- posted comment that I judged to be too personal, hinting at why I have both sympathy and empathy for those who suffer from mental instability. I’ll just say it runs along branches of my family tree.
I was agreeing with B Davis that checking out via any chemical means isn’t great, nor does it get at the underlying problem. Those who are severely or chronically depressed, manic, etc. may well benefit, a lot even (to a point) from SSRIs, mood stabilizers, and even good old fashioned booze and weed. For a while but hopefully not with too heavy or lifelong reliance (obviously–there I go again!).
*Punctilious follow-up: For some few, indefinite and even lifelong medication may be warranted

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

That made me chuckle! However, it could well be a lifelong need to take medication for those with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety, and/or depression. And thanks to science for creating medication that gives these folk some quality of life that they wouldn’t have otherwise had.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
2 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Fair enough. I take your point.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  B Davis

I hope you don’t have children.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  B Davis

Unless, of course, if you’re bipolar or schizophrenic in which case you may need that pill. That’s all a tad sanctimonious, B Davis.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
2 months ago

Much of this was covered in Blankenhorns 1990s book Fatherless in America. Since then, we are certainly in worse shape 30 years later. One in three children grow up in America without a father physically present, and many more with an ineffective father in terms of setting boundaries. The number of fatherless children varies enormously across ethnic and racisl groups. 64% of black children grow up fatherless, 49% of Latino children, 24% of whites and 16% of Asians. Interestingly, this mimics the income distribution in America in reverse, with Asians earning the most, blacks earning the least.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
2 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

As a girl one would want to feel one had a protective father, I wonder how many of us had that?

Jenny Caneen
Jenny Caneen
2 months ago

I began teaching in 97, mostly freshman at a state u known for partying. The kids were not always good students, but I hardly ever dealt with behavioral issues. And how I miss those good-natured students!! By 2015 I’m at a different uni and I started noticing my students were fearful of so many things: speaking up in class; making critical remarks about anything; people with strong opinions, but they were also chomping at the bit to be offended!!! And they started acting as if I were their friend instead of their professor: individually that could be charming, but it’s not a good classroom dynamic. We’ve really failed in teaching and setting boundaries and done a terrible disservice to our young people in the process.

Mark epperson
Mark epperson
2 months ago

It is hard to argue with the “truth’ when you know you have heard or read it, even if you don’t wholly agree, The only thing left is the will and fortitude to see it through. My son and daughter-in-law are Xer’s and my grandchildren are lucky that they were “traditional parents’ nurturing with both mother and father attributes. They set boundaries, managed the conflict, and were role models. However, there was some limited helicopter-parent interaction, but they decided that was not the way to go.
They had the guts and determination to have my grandchildren hate them for saying no, setting goals, and demanding accountability for personal actions.
Excellent article! What are the odds that anything will really change?