Those other parents

You know those other parents?  The ones who drive their kid the four blocks to school in their SUV?  The ones who sued the school district because their kid wasn’t labeled gifted?  The ones whose children are scheduled every minute of every day?  The ones who don’t let their kids watch Star Wars because they might find the violence upsetting?  The ones who insist that school snacks are free of gluten, genetically modified organisms, and genetically modified gluten?

How are their kids going to turn out?

As emotionally able, as complex, as kind, as outgoing, as open to experience as our kids.  That’s how.


10 thoughts on “Those other parents

  1. Leila says:

    Uh, but what if they turn out like their parents?

  2. Kevin says:

    [citation needed]

  3. Omdg says:

    You’re probably right, but self righteousness is so much more satisfying.

  4. lin says:

    You know, everything Lythcott-Haims says sounds reasonable in the abstract, but then I remember that I graduated from Stanford recently and I didn’t meet anyone even a little bit like the students she described. There were certainly people with somewhat hovery parents, but they all made their family situations work for them; none of them became helpless as a result. Or is it that I’m a fish who doesn’t know she’s wet?

  5. lin says:

    You know, what Lythcott-Haims says sounds reasonable in the abstract, but then I remember that I graduated from Stanford recently and didn’t meet anyone even a little like the students she describes. There were certainly people with somewhat hovery parents, but they all made their family situations work for them; none became helpless as a result. Or is it that I’m a fish who doesn’t know she’s wet?

  6. JSE says:

    That’s my take too. I’ve been teaching college for a while and no difference between students now and students when I was in college is visible to me. In 15 years, the only time a parent has ever contacted me is when I gave an F to a kid who cheated in my class, and the parent called to yell at me, hotly denying that their kid cheated. You know what? I’m not gonna blame a dad for believing his kid. But the kid cheated.

    As for parents who are overly controlling about their kid being in a “good” major, that’s real, but not new.

    PS I am perfectly willing to entertain the idea that there are statistically detectable trends in college students’ outlooks and their relationship with their parents. But it’s hard to square with my experience the idea that there’s a big, important, dramatic recent shift.

  7. Kevin says:

    Well to add another anecdote, my father has had undergraduate advisees whose mother came to their meetings and organized their class schedule for the semester while the advisee passively nodded along. I think there may be a difference between students who attend (implicitly, whose parents let attend) a large university and those who opt to attend a “safer” small private college.

  8. D says:

    I think you’re right that articles about overparenting are generally just dramatic fluff that has almost nothing to do with reality. But I also think over-worrying about children is bad for them (and for the parents), even if it is nothing new. Below is some parenting advice from Rousseau that is equally pertinent today in light of the examples you gave. It was good advice in the 18th century, and it’s good advice today, which I try to follow as best I can (with appropriate modifications of course) with my own daughter. Maybe you think it makes no difference in the long run, but I think it does — I learned a lot of courage from my parents, and I hope to pass it on.

    “Should he fall or bump his head, or make his nose bleed, or cut his fingers, I shall show no alarm, nor shall I make any fuss over him; I shall take no notice, at any rate at first. The harm is done; he must bear it; all my zeal could only frighten him more and make him more nervous. Indeed it is not the blow but the fear of it which distresses us when we are hurt. I shall spare him this suffering at least, for he will certainly regard the injury as he sees me regard it; if he finds that I hasten anxiously to him, if I pity him or comfort him, he will think he is badly hurt. If he finds I take no notice, he will soon recover himself, and will think the wound is healed when it ceases to hurt. This is the time for his first lesson in courage, and by bearing slight ills without fear we gradually learn to bear greater.

    I shall not take pains to prevent Emile hurting himself; far from it, I should be vexed if he never hurt himself, if he grew up unacquainted with pain. To bear pain is his first and most useful lesson. It seems as if children were small and weak on purpose to teach them these valuable lessons without danger. The child has such a little way to fall he will not break his leg; if he knocks himself with a stick he will not break his arm; if he seizes a sharp knife he will not grasp it tight enough to make a deep wound. So far as I know, no child, left to himself, has ever been known to kill or maim itself, or even to do itself any serious harm, unless it has been foolishly left on a high place, or alone near the fire, or within reach of dangerous weapons. What is there to be said for all the paraphernalia with which the child is surrounded to shield him on every side so that he grows up at the mercy of pain, with neither courage nor experience, so that he thinks he is killed by a pin-prick and faints at the sight of blood?

    With our foolish and pedantic methods we are always preventing children from learning what they could learn much better by themselves, while we neglect what we alone can teach them. Can anything be sillier than the pains taken to teach them to walk, as if there were any one who was unable to walk when he grows up through his nurse’s neglect? How many we see walking badly all their life because they were ill taught?

    Emile shall have no head-pads, no go-carts, no leading-strings; or at least as soon as he can put one foot before another he shall only be supported along pavements, and he shall be taken quickly across them. [Footnote: There is nothing so absurd and hesitating as the gait of those who have been kept too long in leading-strings when they were little. This is one of the observations which are considered trivial because they are true.] Instead of keeping him mewed up in a stuffy room, take him out into a meadow every day; let him run about, let him struggle and fall again and again, the oftener the better; he will learn all the sooner to pick himself up. The delights of liberty will make up for many bruises. My pupil will hurt himself oftener than yours, but he will always be merry; your pupils may receive fewer injuries, but they are always thwarted, constrained, and sad. I doubt whether they are any better off.”

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