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The risks of raising 'perfect children'

Control-freak parents who pour all their energy into child-rearing, says Katie Roiphe in the Financial Times, may well regret the consequences of their sacrifices

Today's parents seem to be hell-bent on protecting their children from all harm and discomfort, says New York University professor Katie Roiphe in the Financial Times. But not only is this "new ethos of control" doomed to fail, it's also "in its own enlightened way as exclusive and conformist as anything in the 1950s." And even if we could somehow raise the perfect children, Roiphe says, wouldn't those children, and their parents, be "unbearable"? Here's an excerpt:

Just last month came the well-publicized British study that suggested that a little drinking during pregnancy is healthy, and that children whose parents drank a little bit were in fact, if anything, slightly more intelligent than children whose mothers refrained entirely. One might think this new evidence would challenge the absolutism of our attitudes about drinking and pregnancy, the near-religious zeal with which we approach the subject, but it's equally possible that it won't actually have much effect. Our righteousness and morally charged suspicion that drinking even the tiniest bit will harm an unborn child runs deeper than rational discussion or science...

Our exaggerated vision of risk and sensitivity to the impossible idea of control may also be damaging to a child... If you drink a little, the popular logic goes, your child might be a little dumber. He won't be damaged per se, but he'll be a little dumber. Behind this calculation is the mystical idea of engineering the perfect child. But perhaps the question we should be asking ourselves is, even if we can engineer him, will he grow up to be unbearable?

Read the entire article at the Financial Times.

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