Australian Author John Marsden Discusses ‘Toxic’ Parenting Pandemic In New Book ‘The Art Of Growing Up’

Fourth-grade students read books in the classroom.
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John Marsden is an author and a school principal in Victoria, Australia. After years spent teaching and founding schools, Marsden has become increasingly worried about what he refers to as the “epidemic of damaging parenting,” which he writes about in his new book, The Art of Growing Up, per The Guardian.

Also known for his Tomorrow, When The World Began series, the author explains that contemporary parenting is damaging children. The book, which has been hailed as a manifesto, goes into detail about the effects of parenting that is aimed to clear all paths for children and remove any and all potential hazards. Marsden claims that parents do not just love their children, but are in love with them, causing them to become blind to their children’s needs and flaws.

Marsden makes it clear that the “toxic parenting” he talks about is not typically intentional on the part of the parents, nor is it equivalent to abuse, but instead is an “ill-conceived and misguided” way of understanding and raising children.

“It’s mostly the middle class that I’m referring to. It’s not that people are setting out to act destructively, but their common sense and instincts seem to have been overridden by other considerations. The emotional damage is coming from an anxiety which often approaches panic.”

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As a principal and founder of two schools, the author declares that it has become increasingly hard to run schools and manage the consequences of this new wave of parenting, pointing to emotional and mental health as the main areas in which children are harmed.

“The scale of the problem is massive. The issue of emotional damage is pandemic. The level of anxiety is something I’ve never seen before, and I don’t know how it can be improved.”

Marsden explains that the anxiety he mentions comes from an infantilization of children that views them as helpless creatures that need to be heavily protected and fretted over.

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“By limiting children’s exposure to danger, to fear, we are limiting their ability to mature, develop resilience and independence,” the school principal explains.

The author acknowledges that some children grow up in very damaging environments, such as in those with addiction and domestic violence, but adds that contemporary parenting that aims to smother children and prevent their natural growth is no less toxic or damaging. He says the only difference is that children are being failed in different ways.

The Art of Growing Up by John Marsden hits stores on July 23.