Want to Raise Successful Kids?

03/16/2016
Bill Murphy Jr.contact.billmurphyjr.com

DAN BARNES VIA GETTY IMAGES

If there’s one thing many parents want more than to lead happy, successful lives, it’s to make sure their kids lead happy, successful lives.

Now a former dean of Stanford University freshmen, Julie Lythcott-Haims, says many parents’ hearts may be in the right place—but they’re screwing things up big-time nonetheless.

In her New York Times bestseller How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success, Lythcott-Haims says the problem is a phenomenon we’ve been hearing about since the 1990s—one that’s now crashing hard into American society: helicopter parenting.

She summed up her experience in an interview with the Los Angeles Times:

“Working with the quote-unquote best and brightest, I was seeing more and more [students] who seemed less and less capable of doing the stuff of life. They were incredibly accomplished in the transcript and GPA sense but less with their own selves, evidenced by how frequently they communicated with a parent, texting multiple times a day, needing a parent to tell them what to do.

“I’d been scolding other people for five or six years. One night I started cutting my 10-year-old son’s meat and realized I was enabling dependence on me. I could see the link between parenting and why my college students, though very accomplished academically, were rather existentially impotent.”

“Existentially impotent.”
Ouch! That may be the most original and cutting insult I’ve ever heard.

What’s more, Lythcott-Haims said it applies largely to some of the most privileged kids in our society. Students from less affluent families—who statistically speaking might be more likely to join the military or work while attending community college—seemed to her to be at least as self-sufficient as their predecessors.

But the students she was dealing with as dean of freshmen students, who were attending one of the most elite universities in the world, and who were more likely to graduate and have amazing opportunities, were overwhelmed and unable to function as real adults.

No phone calls?
For example, Lythcott-Haims cited the idea that many Millennials—using her own daughters as examples—seem “paralyzed” by the idea of having to make a simple phone call, because they never had to do so while growing up.

(Her solution with her daughters was to give them tasks that could be resolved only by making phone calls—“because you need to know how to talk to a stranger on a phone and ask a question.”)

So what do we do about this? Her advice for parents, she said in a speech reported by the Chicago Tribune, is to “put ourselves out of a job” by doing a few specific things:

Remember the difference between “I” and “we.”
“If you say ‘we’ when you mean your son or your daughter—as in, ‘We’re on the travel soccer team’—it’s a hint to yourself that you are intertwined in a way that is unhealthy.”

Be your kids’ advocate, not their lawyer.
“If you’re arguing with teachers and principals and coaches and umpires all the time, it’s a sign you’re a little too invested. When we’re doing all the arguing, we are not teaching our kids to advocate for themselves.”

Remember that their work is their work.
Don’t do their homework, she said. “Teach them the skills they’ll need in real life, and give them enough leash to practice those skills on their own. … Chores build a sense of accountability.”

Bottom line, let them try things—and fail.
“We want so badly to help them by shepherding them from milestone to milestone and by shielding them from failure and pain. But overhelping causes harm,” Lythcott-Haimes wrote in How to Raise an Adult. “It can leave young adults without the strengths of skill, will and character that are needed to know themselves and to craft a life.”

Brutally Honest: Is it OK to let your child fail?

By Kelly Wallace, CNN
January 20, 2015

In ‘Brutally Honest’ series, Kelly Wallace tackles provocative parenting questions
An article on why parents should let their children fail went viral in January 2013
Studies: Helicopter parenting can lead to more depressed and less confident adults

Kelly Wallace is CNN’s digital correspondent and editor-at-large covering family, career and life. Read her other columns and follow her reports at CNN Parents and on Twitter.

(CNN)Recently, my younger daughter left her class project, a time capsule, at the door so I would see it the minute I got home.

Her project wasn’t due for a month, and she took it upon herself to start it and finish it. I beamed at her great work ethic.

If the story ended here, I would proudly say I am one of those parents who is totally comfortable with the whole “letting my kids fail” concept, but alas, there is more.

You see, even though my daughter worked hard to create a unique time capsule — complete with a slipper, miniature soccer and basketball, chess set, Pokemon cards and cordless phone — I worried that the other kids, probably with help from their parents, would have much more elaborate and highly constructed time capsules. Plus, I thought my daughter didn’t quite complete the assignment.

She wanted to bring the project in the following morning. “I put my heart into it,” she told me.

No-brainer, right? But no, I was torn between not wanting to crush her spirit and making sure her project was viewed positively by her teacher and peers.
I think you can probably guess which feeling won out. She brought the project in after the weekend — and only after I had her re-read the assignment and add decorations and information.

There is no doubt in my mind she was prouder of her work before I meddled. Why on earth did I do such a thing?

Many of us good, well-meaning parents are scared of our children “not being right all the time” and are motivated by a desire to buck up our kids’ self-esteem when we’re actually doing more harm than good, according to Jessica Lahey, author of the upcoming book “The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed,” which will be released in August.

Lahey, who has spent more than a decade teaching middle and high school students, has become somewhat of an expert in this area, after her article “Why Parents Need to Let Their Children Fail” in The Atlantic back in January 2013 went viral.

The article included an unforgettable anecdote: Lahey called a parent to inform her that her child would be punished for plagiarism only to learn from the mother that she, not her daughter, wrote the entire paper.

Sure, an extreme case, but an example of what many parents do, thinking they are actually helping their children.

“Every single time we turn around and say, ‘I’ll just do that for you’ or ‘Here let me help you with that,’ we are saying to them, ‘I don’t think you can do that for yourself,’ ” said Lahey, who is also a columnist for The New York Times and a contributor to The Atlantic and Vermont Public Radio.
“And that is really damaging over time. We create a really helpless culture of kids so that now when I talk to college professors, they say these kids show up to college unable to handle anything on their own.”

The research backs up just how dangerous our inability to let our children stumble and figure things out on their own can be for them as young adults.

A 2013 study in the Journal of Child and Family Studies found that helicopter parenting can lead to anxiety and depression in college students, and decreased feelings of autonomy and competence.

Another investigation, this one led by the University of Arizona, found that adults who were overparented have an exaggerated sense of entitlement, and more doubt about their ability to overcome challenges.

The study also found that helicopter parents have dependent and neurotic kids.

Why do we do it?

Part of the reason we step in, says Lahey, is because we want our kids to love us.

“We want to feel needed and so when we take that homework assignment to school for them and rescue them, we feel we get to check that box off today. ‘I was a good parent,'” said Lahey.
She writes in the book about her own struggles, how one morning, her younger child, who is now 11, worked really hard on his homework assignment and then left it on the coffee table.

“And I took to Facebook (and wrote) ‘Just for those of you who think this is easy for me, that homework assignment is sitting there on the table.'”

She did not take the homework to school, as at least one member of her Facebook community suggested she do, and was on “tenterhooks” all day, she said.

“But he came home at the end of the day and he’s like, ‘It’s fine. I talked to my teacher,'” said Lahey. “Giving kids the opportunity to problem solve when something goes wrong, there’s nothing better than that and when we take that away from them, it’s a real tragedy.”
In conversations with parents across the country, there was definite disagreement over just what letting a child fail means and just how far a parent can take it.

“I think when you use the word ‘fail’ you alienate a lot of people,” said the children’s television host Miss Lori, a mom of three. “I believe in allowing my children to stumble.”

Teaching them how to get up again is enormously important, said the social media strategist and Babble.com contributor. “But fail, not so much, especially in school. Our education system is already failing them in most cities. Their school resume is too important and they have too few years to amass it.”

Allowing kids to “fail” has different meanings to parents, says Vicki Hoefle, author of “Duct Tape Parenting: A Less is More Approach to Raising Respectful, Responsible, and Resilient Kids.”

“And this is where some of the confusion comes in. Allowing your first-grader to fail a spelling test because they did study is much easier for a parent to deal with than allowing your eight-grader to fail science because he chose not to study and will have to repeat the class over the summer,” said Hoefle, whose newest book, “The Straight Talk on Parenting,” will be released in April.
Balance is key, says Avital Norman Nathman, a mom of an 8-year-old in Northhampton, Massachusetts, who blogs at The Mamafesto. We shouldn’t always let our kids “hang out to dry,” but we also need to realize part of our desire to see our kids succeed is our own ego.

“We see our successes in our own children so when we allow them to fail, that also kind of reflects on us … and so it’s uncomfortable but we need to get there because otherwise we’re going to have these helpless kids who either feel incredibly entitled and who would want that, or helpless, they don’t know how to do things for themselves,” said Norman Nathman, editor of the motherhood anthology “The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood to Fit Reality.”

If we’re hurting our kids, how do we stop doing it?

In many ways, it’s so much easier not to let our kids fail, parents say.

Cecily Kellogg of Philadelphia remembers when her 8-year-old joined their local Junior Roller Derby team. In the middle of the first practice, she skated over to her mom shaking and crying because she felt she was slower than everyone and didn’t know the moves. She wanted to leave immediately, but her mom refused to take her home.

Her daughter was clinging to her, but Kellogg pried herself away and left her to her coaches.

The next practice her daughter still felt embarrassed and ashamed she wasn’t an expert but agreed to go inside the rink only after her mother left.

“Boy oh boy, did I want her to quit. Both times I walked away from her, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” said Kellogg. “Now? She’s absolutely crazy about roller derby and loves it. Can’t wait to go each week.”

Kellogg says the experience was not just about allowing her daughter to “fail” and learning the “hard way she wasn’t going to be the very best at what she did without practice.” It was also about “pushing her to keep going without letting her quit.”

Lahey says her biggest piece of advice for parents is to move away from any focus on the end results, namely grades and test scores.

Let your kids make up their short-term goals, she suggests, which could include everything from making more friends at school to cleaning their room seven days in a row to making the roller derby team.

“If … they don’t achieve them, that’s OK, yes, they failed at something. They failed to achieve their goals, but what are the consequences? It’s nothing.”

Kids of Helicopter Parents Are Sputtering Out

Slate

Recent studies suggests that kids with overinvolved parents and rigidly structured childhoods suffer psychological blowback in college.

Stressed out student in hallway of school building.
What helicopter parenting hath wrought.

Photo by Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Thinkstock

Excerpted from How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims, out now from Henry Holt and Co.

Academically overbearing parents are doing great harm. So says Bill Deresiewicz in his groundbreaking 2014 manifesto Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life. “[For students] haunted their whole lives by a fear of failure—often, in the first instance, by their parents’ fear of failure,” writes Deresiewicz, “the cost of falling short, even temporarily, becomes not merely practical, but existential.”

Those whom Deresiewicz calls “excellent sheep” I call the “existentially impotent.” From 2006 to 2008, I served on Stanford University’s mental health task force, which examined the problem of student depression and proposed ways to teach faculty, staff, and students to better understand, notice, and respond to mental health issues. As dean, I saw a lack of intellectual and emotional freedom—this existential impotence—behind closed doors. The “excellent sheep” were in my office. Often brilliant, always accomplished, these students would sit on my couch holding their fragile, brittle parts together, resigned to the fact that these outwardly successful situations were their miserable lives.

In my years as dean, I heard plenty of stories from college students who believed theyhad to study science (or medicine, or engineering), just as they’d had to play piano,and do community service for Africa, and, and, and. I talked with kids completely uninterested in the items on their own résumés. Some shrugged off any right to be bothered by their own lack of interest in what they were working on, saying, “My parents know what’s best for me.”

One kid’s father threatened to divorce her mother if the daughter didn’t major in economics. It took this student seven years to finish instead of the usual four, and along the way the father micromanaged his daughter’s every move, including requiring her to study off campus at her uncle’s every weekend. At her father’s insistence, the daughter went to see one of her econ professors during office hours one weekday. She forgot to call her father to report on how that went, and when she returned to her dorm later that evening her uncle was in the dorm lobby looking visibly uncomfortable about having to “force” her to call her dad to update him. Later this student told me, “I pretty much had a panic attack from the lack of control in my life.” But an economics major she was indeed. And the parents got divorced anyway.

In 2013 the news was filled with worrisome statistics about the mental health crisis on college campuses, particularly the number of students medicated for depression. Charlie Gofen, the retired chairman of the board at the Latin School of Chicago, a private school serving about 1,100 students, emailed the statistics off to a colleague at another school and asked, “Do you think parents at your school would rather their kid be depressed at Yale or happy at University of Arizona?” The colleague quickly replied, “My guess is 75 percent of the parents would rather see their kids depressed at Yale. They figure that the kid can straighten the emotional stuff out in his/her 20’s, but no one can go back and get the Yale undergrad degree.”

Here are the statistics to which Charlie Gofen was likely alluding:

In a 2013 survey of college counseling center directors, 95 percent said the number of students with significant psychological problems is a growing concern on their campus, 70 percent said that the number of students on their campus with severe psychological problems has increased in the past year, and they reported that 24.5 percent of their student clients were taking psychotropic drugs.

In 2013 the American College Health Association surveyed close to 100,000 college students from 153 different campuses about their health. When asked about their experiences, at some point over the past 12 months:

  • 84.3 percent felt overwhelmed by all they had to do
  • 60.5 percent felt very sad
  • 57.0 percent felt very lonely
  • 51.3 percent felt overwhelming anxiety
  • 8.0 percent seriously considered suicide

The 153 schools surveyed included campuses in all 50 states, small liberal arts colleges and large research universities, religious institutions and nonreligious, from the small to medium-sized to the very the large. The mental health crisis is not a Yale (or Stanford or Harvard) problem; these poor mental health outcomes are occurring in kids everywhere. The increase in mental health problems among college students may reflect the lengths to which we push kids toward academic achievement, but since they are happening to kids who end up at hundreds of schools in every tier, they appear to stem not from what it takes to get into the most elite schools but from some facet of American childhood itself.

As parents, our intentions are sound—more than sound: We love our kids fiercely and want only the very best for them. Yet, having succumbed to a combination of safety fears, a college admissions arms race, and perhaps our own needy ego, our sense of what is “best” for our kids is completely out of whack. We don’t want our kids to bonk their heads or have hurt feelings, but we’re willing to take real chances with their mental health?

You’re right to be thinking Yes, but do we know whether overparenting causes this rise in mental health problems? The answer is that we don’t have studies proving causation, but a number of recent studies show correlation.

In 2010, psychology professor Neil Montgomery of Keene State College in New Hampshire surveyed 300 college freshmen nationwide and found that students with helicopter parents were less open to new ideas and actions and more vulnerable, anxious, and self-conscious. “[S]tudents who were given responsibility and not constantly monitored by their parents—so-called ‘free rangers’—the effects were reversed,” Montgomery’s study found. A 2011 study by Terri LeMoyne and Tom Buchanan at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga looking at more than 300 students found that students with “hovering” or “helicopter” parents are more likely to be medicated for anxiety and/or depression.

A 2012 study of 438 college students reported in the Journal of Adolescence found “initial evidence for this form of intrusive parenting being linked to problematic development in emerging adulthood … by limiting opportunities for emerging adults to practice and develop important skills needed for becoming self-reliant adults.” A 2013 study of 297 college students reported in the Journal of Child and Family Studies found that college students with helicopter parents reported significantly higher levels of depression and less satisfaction in life and attributed this diminishment in well-being to a violation of the students’ “basic psychological needs for autonomy and competence.” And a 2014 study from researchers at the University of Colorado–Boulder is the first to correlate a highly structured childhood with less executive function capabilities. Executive function is our ability to determine which goal-directed actions to carry out and when and is a skill set lacking in many kids with attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

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The data emerging about the mental health of our kids only confirms the harm done by asking so little of them when it comes to life skills yet so much of them when it comes to adhering to the academic plans we’ve made for them.

Karen Able is a staff psychologist at a large public university in the Midwest. (Her name has been changed here because of the sensitive nature of her work.) Based on her clinical experience, Able says, “Overinvolved parenting is taking a serious toll on the psychological well-being of college students who can’t negotiate a balance between consulting with parents and independent decision-making.”

When parents have tended to do the stuff of life for kids—the waking up, the transporting, the reminding about deadlines and obligations, the bill-paying, the question-asking, the decision-making, the responsibility-taking, the talking to strangers, and the confronting of authorities, kids may be in for quite a shock when parents turn them loose in the world of college or work. They will experience setbacks, which will feel to them like failure. Lurking beneath the problem of whatever thing needs to be handled is the student’s inability to differentiate the self from the parent.

When seemingly perfectly healthy but overparented kids get to college and have trouble coping with the various new situations they might encounter—a roommate who has a different sense of “clean,” a professor who wants a revision to the paper but won’t say specifically what is “wrong,” a friend who isn’t being so friendly anymore, a choice between doing a summer seminar or service project but not both—they can have real difficulty knowing how to handle the disagreement, the uncertainty, the hurt feelings, or the decision-making process. This inability to cope—to sit with some discomfort, think about options, talk it through with someone, make a decision—can become a problem unto itself.

Madeline Levine, psychologist and author of The Price of Privilege, says that there are three ways we might be overparenting and unwittingly causing psychological harm:
  1. When we do for our kids what they can already do for themselves;
  2. When we do for our kids what they can almost do for themselves; and
  3. When our parenting behavior is motivated by our own egos.

Levine said that when we parent this way we deprive our kids of the opportunity to be creative, to problem solve, to develop coping skills, to build resilience, to figure out what makes them happy, to figure out who they are. In short, it deprives them of the chance to be, well, human. Although we overinvolve ourselves to protect our kids and it may in fact lead to short-term gains, our behavior actually delivers the rather soul-crushing news: Kid, you can’t actually do any of this without me.

As Able told me:

When children aren’t given the space to struggle through things on their own, they don’t learn to problem solve very well. They don’t learn to be confident in their own abilities, and it can affect their self-esteem. The other problem with never having to struggle is that you never experience failure and can develop an overwhelming fear of failure and of disappointing others. Both the low self-confidence and the fear of failure can lead to depression or anxiety.

Neither Karen Able nor I is suggesting that grown kids should never call their parents. The devil is in the details of the conversation. If they call with a problem or a decision to be made, do we tell them what to do? Or do we listen thoughtfully, ask some questions based on our own sense of the situation, then say, “OK. So how do you think you’re going to handle that?”

Knowing what could unfold for our kids when they’re out of our sight can make us parents feel like we’re in straitjackets. What else are we supposed to do? If we’re not there for our kids when they are away from home and bewildered, confused, frightened, or hurting, then who will be?

Here’s the point—and this is so much more important than I realized until rather recently when the data started coming in: The research shows that figuring out for themselves is a critical element to people’s mental health. Your kids have to be there for themselves. That’s a harder truth to swallow when your kid is in the midst of a problem or worse, a crisis, but taking the long view, it’s the best medicine for them.

Excerpted from How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims, published by Henry Holt and Company, LLC. Copyright © 2015 by Julie Lythcott- Haims. All rights reserved.

Coddled kids paying high price: expert

Illawarra Mercury

By KATE McILWAIN March 9, 2013

A generation of “snowplough” parents have pampered their children so much that they are driving a mental health epidemic among today’s teenagers, a leading Australian child psychologist says.

Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, a high-profile parenting expert who spoke to teachers and parents at The Illawarra Grammar School this week, said many Generation X parents had made their children’s lives so easy that the kids were left with no way to handle problems or overcome obstacles on their own.

“This generation of parents just push all the obstacles out of the way and try to make life as simple and as easy as possible for their kids,” he said.

“On the face of it, that’s admirable because we all want the best for our kids, but it teaches them absolutely nothing about resilience and creates immense vulnerability when they leave home and go into the big wide world.”

A snowplough parent drives their child right to the school gate instead of making them catch a bus or walk to school.

They buy their children all the latest gadgets and toys, wash, clean, cook and iron without making kids pitch in, and they make sure their sons and daughters only hand in meticulous homework and assignments.

Dr Carr-Gregg blames this increasingly common parenting approach on guilt, caused by mothers and fathers not spending enough time with their children.

“Part of it is that you’ve got parents with much smaller sized families, [who are] less connected to extended families so there is less support,” he said.

“The parents are time poor, they are guilty and they tend to indulge their kids too much.”
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This was not only creating a generation of spoilt and overindulged children, he said, but was contributing to an unprecedented mental health crisis by leaving young people ill-equipped to deal with their own problems.

He said the rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse and suicide were higher in regional areas like Wollongong than in major capital cities.

“About one in four young people will have a major psychological problem before leaving school … so arguably this is the most vulnerable generation in the history of the Illawarra,” he said.

“It’s ironic because we’ve seen the First and Second World Wars and Vietnam but in fact, from a psychological point of view, these kids are less resilient than their parents or grandparents.”

Dr Carr-Gregg said it was up to parents to help avert a bigger mental health crisis by making their children do the hard work.

“I have a rule of thumb, ‘never do for your children what they can do for themselves’,” he said.

He said this meant putting children on a bus or bike, or showing them how to use public transport to get to school.

They should also have regular chores, strict rules about using technology and, when they are old enough, a part-time job to teach them the value of money.

“We just have to stop pampering them – it’s reached epidemic proportions,” he said.

“Many of the kids I talk to have never actually cooked for themselves, they’ve never actually made their own bed or tidied their own room, washed their clothes or ironed their shirts.

“Kids aren’t made of glass and they are not going to shatter.”

How to care for your kids without being a snowplough

• Make sure your kids get enough sleep

Sleep is the single most important study tool because kids who don’t get enough sleep are ‘‘crabby and unpleasant and can’t learn properly’’.

• Make sure they eat a healthy breakfast

Research suggests 10per cent of schoolchildren don’t eat breakfast and another 15per cent eat unhealthy food – they are neurologically unteachable.

• Zero tolerance of alcohol

Alcohol is toxic to the developing brain, so children should not drink anything at all until at least 16.

• Moderate and limit technology use

Dr Carr-Gregg says most parents are unaware of tools that allow them to block or moderate their children’s internet and video game use. Parents need to use programs to allow kids to access the internet for homework but block social media that will distract them.

• Talk to your kids. Eat at the table

Parents don’t spend enough time talking one-on-one with their kids when they are young.

Eating at the dinner table leads to better academic results, language development and protection against alcohol and drug abuse.

Nurturing Resilience: Reminding Ourselves What Kids Need

The Independent School Magazine Blog

We all agree resilience is a good thing. Essentially a synonym for pluck, grit, stick-to-itiveness, the ability to dust off one’s knees and get back on the horse or the bike or whatever threw you, resilience suggests positive adaptation, coming through a tough time, coping.

There are communities we point to as being particularly resilient — Sandy Hook, Connecticut, for example — and that’s the rub. To be resilient means a child has endured something horrific or, to a lesser degree, difficult. But there are opportunities that do not require suffering or loss or exquisite pain, and practicing the habit of resilience helps children learn to weather the storms that are an inevitable part of growing up.
The path can’t always be smooth; bumps and boulders help us remember that we are stronger than we know, more capable than we imagined. It’s hard to watch children struggle without jumping in to solve the problem.  But when we can avoid making that jump, we help them thrive. Here’s my own list of reminders to encourage resilience in our kids and in myself!
  1. Believe kids are capable and can manage without swooping in to “save” them. Communicate that you believe in her ability to solve a problem.  Answer when asked for help; don’t offer advice for what hasn’t been asked.
  2. Shut up and listen. Then ask: Do you want me to do something? If the answer is no, don’t do anything. Invoke the 24-hour rule before reacting. (As my mother used to say, things often really do look better in the morning.)
  3. In books and movies that you and your children or students share, talk about resilience — how did that character cope?  What would you do?  Invite problem solving about practical dilemmas into daily conversations.
  4. Let consequences run their course. As a parent, don’t try to soften the penalty for a daughter’s late assignment. As a teacher, be firm, fair, friendly and consistent applying consequences. Never shame a child for work left incomplete or some other task left undone.
  5. Take lots of opportunities to talk about empathy, saying, “How would you feel if?”
  6. Make the adage that there are at least two sides to every story a mantra in your home and classroom.
  7. Consistently remind children in your care that even grown-ups make mistakes: we can learn from things that didn’t go so well — learn what to do the next time, learn about ourselves, learn that the sun doesn’t fall out of the sky when we mess up. Model making mistakes so that your students or progeny can see your swift, un-martyr-like recovery.
  8. Kids need to dump: A college child calls, miserable; the parents are frantic — the next night Mom calls, worried, fretful — the child is fine. The storm has passed everywhere but at home as the parents nursed their distress. It is hard to remember that late at night.
  9. Things do blow over if we let them — it’s an art to know when to intervene and when not to.
  10. It’s painful for us to bear witness — we don’t like the feeling of “not doing anything,” but by allowing a child to take the time to work things out on her own, we are doing plenty.
  11. Champion risk taking as long as failure/consequences are neither life-threatening nor permanent.
  12. Kids feel good about what they can DO — chores, taking responsibility at home. They feel competent and needed doing laundry, walking the dog, cooking. Don’t let them off the hook.
  13. As much as I want to swoop in and make my son practice his math facts, I must remind myself that HE is the one who must do the work.  It doesn’t help him develop resilience if I am more concerned about his homework than he is.  When I step back, I help him take charge.  If I do things for him, I cut him off at the knees.
  14. We can’t stand by our children’s side and give them everything — it encourages helplessness, at best, and entitlement, at worst. Our superb schools abound in opportunity. Encourage, suggest, wonder, but allow the student to select what activities to pursue. Resist prescribing. Some things will not go well or be enjoyable — make a contract ahead of time about how long a commitment must be sustained.
  15. From time to time, when the stakes are not enormously high, we must allow students to falter while we stay quiet, watching and listening and breathing — we can’t save them from themselves or their actions; they need to find out how consequences work for themselves — we can’t give them a heads-up about every possibility.
  16. Limitations (like those found in music, poetry) can offer opportunities for stretching boundaries and overcoming obstacles. In structure, there is often freedom — limitations encourage problem-solving and creativity. Remind students that the struggle itself has value
  17. You can’t be a hero unless you go beyond yourself.
  18. Creativity, growth mindset, self-care, purpose, relationship are all components that help children cultivate resilience.  For more about this, check out Laurel School’s Center for Research on Girls.
Resilience isn’t a race; we all make progress over the course of our lives.  When we cultivate resilience in ourselves, we help our students and children do the same.  Celebrate success but do not fear failure. It’s not the mistake that matters; it’s what we learn from it as we move forward that counts.

Ann V. Klotz is head of Laurel School in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and the founder of Laurel’s Center for Research on Girls.  You can read her blog on the Huffington Post or follow her on Twitter, @AnnKlotz.

The Case for Nagging Kids About Their Homework

The Atlantic

The backlash against “helicopter parenting” may have gone too far.
A fifth-grade student at California’s Halecrest Elementary School holds his head as a teacher goes over his test scores with his parents. (Denis Poroy/AP Photo)

The helicopter parent has crashed and burned.  With millennials reaching adulthood it has become clear that this hovering style of parenting results in overly dependent young adults, plagued by depression or less satisfaction with their lives and anxiety, who cannot even face the workplace without the handholding their parents have led them to expect.  The literature is now replete with indictments of over parenting and the havoc it creates. In her bookSlouching Toward Adulthood, Sally Koslow documented a generation so cosseted that they have lost the impetus to grow up or leave home.  The over-involved parent has gone from paragon of caring to a figure of fun.

The pendulum has swung, and as is so often the case, it may have over reached its mark.  Parenting pundits now argue for the benefits of natural consequences, for letting the world take it toll on kids as method of teaching them grit and life’s necessary coping skills.  Failure has become the new success.

Time captured this zeitgeist with a cover story in which editor-in-chief Nancy Gibbs explained:

Less is more; hovering is dangerous; failure is fruitful. You really want your children to succeed? Learn when to leave them alone. When you lighten up, they’ll fly higher. We’re often the ones who hold them down.

This thinking was a reaction to a generation of hovering parents who cleared the way and smoothed over life’s bumps, who metaphorically swaddled their children in bubble wrap.  But the reaction to this unfortunate method of parenting has perhaps been an over-reaction.

The antidote to heavy-handed parenting is not hands-off parenting. There is not a stark choice between doing things for our children and thereby disabling them, and leaving them to tackle challenges on their own.  The middle ground, hands-on parenting, involves neither spoiling a child by clearing their path for them, nor stepping away and watching them fail.

Even as the parenting tide was turning away from helicopter moms and dads, there was a problem with the newfound orthodoxy.  Less engaged parenting isn’t always better, and in the realm of education, an involved parent leads to better outcomes.  As Gibbs noted in her Time story,

Many educators have been searching for ways to tell parents when to back off. It’s a tricky line to walk, since studies link parents’ engagement in a child’s education to better grades, higher test scores, less substance abuse and better college outcomes.

In a recent New York Times post, educators were asked how parents should cope with an underperforming teen, one who has previously shown ability but has become unmotivated and indifferent. Jessica Lahey, the teacher/author (andregular Atlantic contributor) who wrote the piece, acknowledges that this is the most frequent and difficult question that parents pose to educators. In this case the student in question is in ninth grade and struggling through the difficult transition to the increased demands of high school.

Making students care about school enough to give their best effort is an intractable problem for both parents and teachers. Research shows that many diligent, good students find a sharp fall off in motivation in the middle-school years.

Part of this is a decline in their desire to please their parents and teachers, and part is an increase in the distractions in their lives.  For some students the step up to high school from middle school is a tough adjustment requiring study and organizational skills the student does not yet possess. For others, dating, the freedom that comes with driving, and their expanded social life simply prove too difficult to balance with schoolwork. Teachers and parents can find themselves at a loss when trying to reengage otherwise capable students who are underperforming in the classroom.

The educators who weighed in on the New York Times piece were unanimous in their advice.  Back off, they urged: Despite a decline in attitude and performance in a student, increased parental involvement is not what was called for. One teacher argued for keeping positive and focusing praise on what effort is evident rather than what is not being accomplished. A professor suggested that parents find out where their student’s interests lay and that they should otherwise not get involved. The sensible argument was made that teens need to find their own motivation and that parents should back off because there will be consequences at school for poor academic performance.

This measured, considered advice is very much in keeping with the times, a reaction to the over-involvement that was recommended a decade earlier.  The experts argue convincingly that parents should not smooth over their child’s failures, that they should not make what is wrong right.

This all presumes, however, that the consequences of performing poorly in school will be adequate, timely, and effective in convincing a child to change his or her behavior.  It presumes that parental involvement will decrease a teen’s sense of personal responsibility, rather than heightening it. And finally it presumes that schools are teaching all the skills needed to succeed in the classroom, alongside the substance of the curriculum.

If the fallout from doing poorly in school were not so long-lasting, then letting teens find their way would set them up for adulthood.  But that is not the case. If in the face of underperformance, parents focus on our children’s successes, seek out their passions, reward them with life’s luxuries, and allow the school to deal with the consequences, we have let our children down.

There are few lives that are not enhanced by doing as well as possible in high school.  For kids headed on an academic path, doing well creates more post-secondary school options.  For teens headed into the workplace, a degree opens more doors.

Some kids find true passion in the classroom, but for many the prescribed course load is filled with subjects that are uninteresting at best. It does not matter.  As parents it is our job to teach our children that liking something or not liking something is an unacceptable excuse for doing poorly.  Adulthood is filled with responsibilities we would all prefer to shed, but performing at a substandard level is rarely the best option. A parent’s job is to show our kids how sometimes you work hard at something that does not call to you because that is the right thing to do.

There is, I believe, a tacit understanding between parents and their teens that may need to be made explicit. Parents are willing to work hard, to sacrifice for our kids, and to give them opportunities in life. We will drive them to baseball; we will rent them musical instruments and invest in the technology they so crave. We will give them love and encouragement, and to the best of our abilities, a stable environment in which to grow.  In exchange, children are expected to do their best. Not necessarily top of the class or best on the team…but their best. If teens don’t feel like living up to this deal, there are consequences.

Teens want phones and TV, friends to come over, and to be driven to dances. They want their favorite foods from the grocery store. They want new cleats or skates. They want to go to the movies with friends. The single worst thing that we could teach them is that they can have any of these things if they do not make good on their half of the bargain. So while it may be tempting to attribute a poor performance in school to the vagaries of adolescence we do our children no favors to teach them that they will get something for nothing.

While the notion of natural consequences is an enticing one, it can be an unrealistic expectation.  How many schools are going to intervene when kids are giving 50 percent effort and getting by with passing grades? What are those consequences? An astute teacher might express disappointment, and offer the encouragement that she is really expecting more. An advisor might make it clear that honors classes will become out of reach, or that remedial classes are in the offing. But these are hardly consequences to a student who has discovered that Facebook is more interesting than physics.

Waiting for natural consequences may mean waiting until the situation is grim and even then, a shortsighted teen may fail to respond appropriately. Some will come around, others will delude themselves into thinking they have the situation under control right up until the moment that they find out that they don’t. Teens live in the here and now and often underestimate the time and effort an unpleasant task requires.

Students thrive when they feel they can master the task they are given, when they see the purpose of that task, when they are engaged in the work and when they get positive feedback from peers, teachers, or parents for their efforts.

Creating these conditions, and cultivating the motivation that will follow, may well require parental intervention. When teens begin to struggle in school, that is the moment for parents to become more attuned to their child’s academic life, it is the point at which they should step up, not step back.

Parents might need to help students with their review by quizzing them, helping them to find online educational resources or by encouraging them to seek out the teacher or a tutor.  Parents may need to remove distractions, provide incentives or reinforce family expectations. Much of the social cred that came from doing well in school has faded by high school.  But one thing that does not change is some need for approval from parents.  Teens may play tough but are not entirely indifferent to the values in their homes and the friction that is incurred from ignoring those values.

While it is easy for adults to see the direct link between academic success and increased opportunity, those dots need to be connected again and again for teens who are naive about the world of work and higher education.  Nancy Hill of the Harvard Graduate School of Education found in a study of over 50,000 students that relating academic achievement to life’s later goals is one of the most effective thing parents can do to help their teens.

Although the study showed that parents’ involvement in school events still had a positive effect on adolescents’ achievement, it did not rank as highly as parents conveying the importance of academic performance, relating educational goals to occupational aspirations, and discussing learning strategies.

Poor performance in high school has its consequences in life and, while a teen may know this intellectually, they may choose to ignore it. Many high-school kids struggle because of their lack of organizational skills. While they may be capable of mastering the material, they underestimate the amount of time required, the careful notes that need to be taken or importance of test preparation or homework assignments. These are skills that can be taught, and reinforced by a parent. They are essential skills that will be needed in any academic or employment situation.

But this involves closer monitoring by parents, rather than stepping away. It involves parents saying, “How much homework do you have?” Here there will be a long pause. “How much time will that take? When are things due? What is your schedule for getting that done given your other time commitments?” Parents can model the executive function thinking that teens can lack, showing them the thinking process that leads to accomplishing tasks in a timely manner.

Many educators suggest that these types of questions are nagging, and taking responsibility for something that should be on the shoulders of the child.  As a parent, I have taken a different approach, believing that teens struggle in school because of the challenges posed organization, time management, and deferred gratification and that it is our job to help teach them these large life skills before sending them out into the world.

At one point, with a son who was underperforming in high school, I mounted a large white board over his desk. Every day after school he had to write down every task that he faced and then erase each one upon completion. This served the dual purpose of keeping me informed (without daily nagging) of how much work he faced and where he was in terms of completing it and he had to stare at this oversized to-do list on the wall above his computer. No progress on the list? No car keys, no Netflix, no computer time, and eventually no cell phone. In my very small, very unscientific study I have determined that a teen will do almost anything for a cell phone.

The argument against this internationalist approach is that it cannot be sustained, that working hard at something that is painful or boring because your parents are making you, is not a lifelong strategy for success.  It could be argued that parents setting up extrinsic motivation will let a kid down once his life begins to separate further from that of his parents.  Here is the good news. High school only last four years, and it is nothing like the rest of life.  As soon as kids arrive at college, they are given some choice about classes, teachers, their schedule and the direction of their lives.  If they pass into the working world, there is some choice there as well.  By demanding that they do their best for four years in the face of the protests we will hopefully have taught them the value of delayed gratification, self-control, and fulfilling their responsibility. And in doing that, as parents, we will have done our job.

Chinese Executive Forced Workers To Complete Daughter’s Homework, Employee Says

A bad idea…

The Huffington Post  |  By  Posted: 02/27/2013

Chinese Workers Daughter Homework

Looks like the adolescent daughter of a Chinese executive will no longer be able to shirk her homework duties.

According to the Qianjiang Evening News, an employee of the unnamed Chinese businessman has come forward, exposing his employer’s scheme to enlist workers to do his daughter’s homework.

Identified only by his surname, Chen confessed that his boss asked him and eight other workers to complete a variety of assignments — such as taking photographs or writing essays — for the fourth-grade student. While the assignments were simple at first, recent requests have been more complicated and required more time to finish. On top of that, workers were also instructed to complete the work at a fourth-grade level, according to the outlet.

Since Chen has come forward, the student’s school has warned the father against such future behavior, the Telegraph notes.

For years, students around the world have outsourced their homework to India, using companies that offer online tutoring or homework help, GlobalPost previously reported. While many actually assist students so that they complete the work themselves, other websites have popped up offering to execute the entire assignment.

In January, a U.S. developer came under fire after an internal audit revealed that theman was outsourcing his entire job to China. The employee, who instead spent the vast majority of his workday surfing the Internet and watching videos, no longer works for the company.

“Stop Panicking About Bullies”

An interesting article from The Wall Street Journal on bullying.  The author claims that there are actually many fewer cases of bullying in schools than in previous years.

Childhood is safer than ever before, but today’s parents need to worry about something. Nick Gillespie on why busybodies and bureaucrats have zeroed in on bullying.

By NICK GILLESPIE

[BULLY]Getty ImagesIs America really in the midst of a “bullying crisis,” as so many now claim?

“When I was younger,” a remarkably self-assured, soft-spoken 15-year-old kid named Aaron tells the camera, “I suffered from bullying because of my lips—as you can see, they’re kind of unusually large. So I would kind of get [called] ‘Fish Lips’—things like that a lot—and my glasses too, I got those at an early age. That contributed. And the fact that my last name is Cheese didn’t really help with the matter either. I would get [called] ‘Cheeseburger,’ ‘Cheese Guy’—things like that, that weren’t really very flattering. Just kind of making fun of my name—I’m a pretty sensitive kid, so I would have to fight back the tears when I was being called names.”

It’s hard not to be impressed with—and not to like—young Aaron Cheese. He is one of the kids featured in the new Cartoon Network special “Stop Bullying: Speak Up,” which premiered last week and is available online. I myself am a former geekish, bespectacled child whose lips were a bit too full, and my first name (as other kids quickly discovered) rhymes with two of the most-popular slang terms for male genitalia, so I also identified with Mr. Cheese. My younger years were filled with precisely the sort of schoolyard taunts that he recounts; they led ultimately to at least one fistfight and a lot of sour moods on my part.

As the parent now of two school-age boys, I also worry that my own kids will have to deal with such ugly and destructive behavior. And I welcome the common-sense antibullying strategies relayed in “Stop Bullying”: Talk to your friends, your parents and your teachers. Recognize that you’re not the problem. Don’t be a silent witness to bullying.

Is America really in the midst of a “bullying crisis”? That’s doubtful, says Reason.tv’s Nick Gillespie. He tells WSJ’s Ryan Sager that over-protective parents and a rising wave of laws and regulations don’t really reflect a boom in meanness among kids. In fact, they may be safer and better behaved than ever.

But is America really in the midst of a “bullying crisis,” as so many now claim? I don’t see it. I also suspect that our fears about the ubiquity of bullying are just the latest in a long line of well-intentioned yet hyperbolic alarms about how awful it is to be a kid today.

I have no interest in defending the bullies who dominate sandboxes, extort lunch money and use Twitter to taunt their classmates. But there is no growing crisis. Childhood and adolescence in America have never been less brutal. Even as the country’s overprotective parents whip themselves up into a moral panic about kid-on-kid cruelty, the numbers don’t point to any explosion of abuse. As for the rising wave of laws and regulations designed to combat meanness among students, they are likely to lump together minor slights with major offenses. The antibullying movement is already conflating serious cases of gay-bashing and vicious harassment with things like…a kid named Cheese having a tough time in grade school.

How did we get here? We live in an age of helicopter parents so pushy and overbearing that Colorado Springs banned its annual Easter-egg hunt on account of adults jumping the starter’s gun and scooping up treat-filled plastic eggs on behalf of their winsome kids. The Department of Education in New York City—once known as the town too tough for Al Capone—is seeking to ban such words as “dinosaurs,” “Halloween” and “dancing” from citywide tests on the grounds that they could “evoke unpleasant emotions in the students,” it was reported this week. (Leave aside for the moment that perhaps the whole point of tests is to “evoke unpleasant emotions.”)

And it’s not only shrinking-violet city boys and girls who are being treated as delicate flowers. Early versions of new labor restrictions still being hashed out in Congress would have barred children under 16 from operating power-driven farm equipment and kept anyone under 18 from working at agricultural co-ops and stockyards (the latest version would let kids keep running machines on their parents’ spreads). What was once taken for granted—working the family farm, October tests with jack-o-lantern-themed questions, hunting your own Easter eggs—is being threatened by paternalism run amok.

Now that schools are peanut-free, latex-free and soda-free, parents, administrators and teachers have got to worry about something. Since most kids now have access to cable TV, the Internet, unlimited talk and texting, college and a world of opportunities that was unimaginable even 20 years ago, it seems that adults have responded by becoming ever more overprotective and thin-skinned.

Kids might be fatter than they used to be, but by most standards they are safer and better-behaved than they were when I was growing up in the 1970s and ’80s. Infant and adolescent mortality, accidents, sex and drug use—all are down from their levels of a few decades ago. Acceptance of homosexuality is up, especially among younger Americans. But given today’s rhetoric about bullying, you could be forgiven for thinking that kids today are not simply reading and watching grim, postapocalyptic fantasies like “The Hunger Games” but actually inhabiting such terrifying terrain, a world where “Lord of the Flies” meets “Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior,” presided over by Voldemort.

Even President Barack Obama has placed his stamp of approval on this view of modern childhood. Introducing the Cartoon Network documentary, he solemnly intones: “I care about this issue deeply, not just as the president, but as a dad. … We’ve all got more to do. Everyone has to take action against bullying.”

The state of New Jersey was well ahead of the president. Last year, in response to the suicide of the 18-year-old gay Rutgers student Tyler Clementi, the state legislature passed “The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights.” The law is widely regarded as the nation’s toughest on these matters. It has been called both a “resounding success” by Steve Goldstein, head of the gay-rights group Garden State Equality, and a “bureaucratic nightmare” by James O’Neill, the interim school superintendent of the township of Roxbury. In Congress, New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg and Rep. Rush Holt have introduced the federal Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has called the Lautenberg-Holt proposal a threat to free speech because its “definition of harassment is vague, subjective and at odds with Supreme Court precedent.” Should it become law, it might well empower colleges to stop some instances of bullying, but it would also cause many of them to be sued for repressing speech. In New Jersey, a school anti-bullying coordinator told the Star-Ledger that “The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights” has “added a layer of paperwork that actually inhibits us” in dealing with problems. In surveying the effects of the law, the Star-Ledger reports that while it is “widely used and has helped some kids,” it has imposed costs of up to $80,000 per school district for training alone and uses about 200 hours per month of staff time in each district, with some educators saying that the additional effort is taking staff “away from things such as substance-abuse prevention and college and career counseling.”

One thing seems certain: The focus on bullying will lead to more lawsuits against schools and bullies, many of which will stretch the limits of empathy and patience. Consider, for instance, the current case of 19-year-old Eric Giray, who is suing New York’s tony Calhoun School and a former classmate for $1.5 million over abuse that allegedly took place in 2004. Such cases can only become more common.

Which isn’t to say that there aren’t kids who face terrible cases of bullying. The immensely powerful and highly acclaimed documentary “Bully,” whose makers hope to create a nationwide movement against the “bullying crisis,” opens in selected theaters this weekend. The film follows the harrowing experiences of a handful of victims of harassment, including two who killed themselves in desperation. It is, above all, a damning indictment of ineffectual and indifferent school officials. No viewer can watch the abuse endured by kids such as Alex, a 13-year-old social misfit in Sioux City, Iowa, or Kelby, a 14-year-old lesbian in small-town Oklahoma, without feeling angry and motivated to change youth culture and the school officials who turn a blind eye.

But is bullying—which the stopbullying.gov website of the Department of Health and Human Services defines as “teasing,” “name-calling,” “taunting,” “leaving someone out on purpose,” “telling other children not to be friends with someone,” “spreading rumors about someone,” “hitting/kicking/pinching,” “spitting” and “making mean or rude hand gestures”—really a growing problem in America?

Despite the rare and tragic cases that rightly command our attention and outrage, the data show that things are, in fact, getting better for kids. When it comes to school violence, the numbers are particularly encouraging. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, between 1995 and 2009, the percentage of students who reported “being afraid of attack or harm at school” declined to 4% from 12%. Over the same period, the victimization rate per 1,000 students declined fivefold.

When it comes to bullying numbers, long-term trends are less clear. The makers of “Bully” say that “over 13 million American kids will be bullied this year,” and estimates of the percentage of students who are bullied in a given year range from 20% to 70%. NCES changed the way it tabulated bullying incidents in 2005 and cautions against using earlier data. Its biennial reports find that 28% of students ages 12-18 reported being bullied in 2005; that percentage rose to 32% in 2007, before dropping back to 28% in 2009 (the most recent year for which data are available). Such numbers strongly suggest that there is no epidemic afoot (though one wonders if the new anti-bullying laws and media campaigns might lead to more reports going forward).

The most common bullying behaviors reported include being “made fun of, called names, or insulted” (reported by about 19% of victims in 2009) and being made the “subject of rumors” (16%). Nine percent of victims reported being “pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on,” and 6% reported being “threatened with harm.” Though it may not be surprising that bullying mostly happens during the school day, it is stunning to learn that the most common locations for bullying are inside classrooms, in hallways and stairwells, and on playgrounds—areas ostensibly patrolled by teachers and administrators.

None of this is to be celebrated, of course, but it hardly paints a picture of contemporary American childhood as an unrestrained Hobbesian nightmare. Before more of our schools’ money, time and personnel are diverted away from education in the name of this supposed crisis, we should make an effort to distinguish between the serious abuse suffered by the kids in “Bully” and the sort of lower-level harassment with which the Aaron Cheeses of the world have to deal.

In fact, Mr. Cheese, now a sophomore in high school with hopes of becoming a lawyer, provides a model in dealing with the sort of jerks who will always, unfortunately, be a presence in our schools. At the end of “Stop Bullying,” he tells younger kids, “Just talk to somebody and I promise to you, it’s going to get better.” For Aaron, it plainly has: “It has been turned around actually. I am a generally liked guy. My last name has become something that’s a little more liked. I have a friend named Mac and so together we are Mac and Cheese. That’s cool.”

Indeed, it is cool. And if we take a deep breath, we will realize that there are many more Aaron Cheeses walking the halls of today’s schools than there are bullies. Our problem isn’t a world where bullies are allowed to run rampant; it’s a world where kids like Aaron are convinced that they are powerless victims.

—Mr. Gillespie is editor in chief of Reason.com and Reason.tv and the co-author of “The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong With America.”

To Hover or Hope – Tough Calls in a World of Risk

Are we raising “soft kids”?

Published on January 14, 2013 by Peggy Drexler, Ph.D. in Our Gender, Ourselves

By today’s standards, social services should have taken most us baby boomers away from our parents.

We were raised in a world of lawn darts, BB guns and second-hand smoke; without car seats, airbags or bicycle helmets. We gobbled sugar, swilled fats and consumed mushy white bread with the nutrients pounded out in processing.  We roamed our world freely, gone for hours, told only to be home when the streetlights come on. As a friend said: “I’m pretty sure my parents were trying to kill me.”

Yet: here we are. Aside from a few mended bones and some fading scars from stitches, most of us are little the worse for wear from growing up in a world before dodge ball became organized bullying.

Helmets, car seats and smoke-free homes are the logical outcomes of a smarter society. But for parents today: has common-sense protection crossed a divide to irrational obsession with driving risk from young lives?

That question, of course, must be asked in the chilling context of a very different world.  In the most normal of places on the most normal of days, 20 children went happily off to school in Newtown, Connecticut. They did not come home.

Threats are real. Fears are justified. And the instinct to protect our children is one of the crossbeams in our human architecture. But are those realities combining  to cause us to raise kids so emotionally and physically bubble-wrapped that they are paying a cost in confidence and, ironically, the well-being that we are working so hard to create? Have we lost our sense of the difference between risk’s reality and its mere possibility?

They are questions without easy answers.

A recent study from Norway concluded that playgrounds have become so low, slow and bouncy that kids have lost interest – to the point that there is a causal connection to childhood obesity. Is a slide still a slide if you don’t go flying off the end?

It’s yet another easy addition to the catalog of evidence that “we’re raising soft kids.”

It becomes less easy when you also consider CDC reports that, every year, 200,000 kids under age 14 suffer playground injuries serious enough to send them to the emergency room. A third of them are severe – fractures, concussions, internal injuries and dislocations. Approximately 15 of these injured children die.

How many of those casualties are worth a trade-off in a more formative playground experience?

Reaction to risk plays out everywhere parents gather with children to play. When a child falls, some will race to them like a lifeguard to a drowning swimmer. Others will watch, allowing the drama to play out, allowing the child to find his or her own resolution.

I’ve seen that choice – especially in emotional risk — from an interesting perspective in my work with single and two-mother families; where mothers know that their children start the day outside the norm.

As one lesbian mother told me: “At first, I would charge in to school to do battle every time there was a hint that my child was being taunted or bullied because of the makeup of our family. But I realized, I can’t be doing this when he’s 20 years old. So I started to think more about how to help him deal with it himself. I tried to give him the confidence and perspective to make the decision about when to walk away, when to laugh, and when to push back. He’s very funny, so that was his way in. The fact that he had two mothers became a non-issue. It would have taken a lot longer for kids to get him if they always had to get past me.”

So what’s a parent to do: try to banish risk, or learn to accept it?  Most of us in the mental health field suggest a mix of both. The question is whether a given situation carries a high risk of physical or emotional harm; or whether it is a bump – figuratively or literally – that is part of the invaluable life lessons that come from the  pain of hitting the ground hard, and the thrill of getting back up.

Like anything else in the complex and situational world of protecting the most precious thing the universe has ever created, distinguishing between the two may take a little practice.

Peggy Drexler, Ph.D. is a research psychologist, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Weill Medical College, Cornell University and author of two books about modern families and the children they produce. Follow Peggy on Twitter and Facebook and learn more about Peggy atwww.peggydrexler.com

3 Things You Should Never Do For Your Children

Written by Kim Droze
Thursday, 27 May 201
As parents, we only want the best for our children. But sometimes our judgment is clouded, and our actions can actually impede our kids’ progress. By nature, we want to see our children succeed, even if it means giving them a gentle nudge. Unfortunately for some parents, that nudge often turns into a huge push, and before we know it, we’re actually doing things for our children that they should be doing for themselves.

Admit it. We’ve all been there. You see that sweet little face struggling to tie his shoe, write a Pulitzer-worthy paragraph or even make his bed. When you sense his frustration, your maternal instinct kicks into high gear, and the next thing you know, you’re doing the deed for him. Your intentions may be good, but the end results are not.

You’ve essentially become the dreaded helicopter parent, a mom or dad who gives eagle-eye attention to every aspect of the child’s life. From report cards to recreational activities, you’re the gatekeeper of your child’s affairs. You exact precise oversight in everything he does do to ensure that there is nothing holding him back.

The term “helicopter parent” was actually coined in the 1990 self-help guide Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility. It’s frequently used to describe those parents who sweep in to rescue their children from the perils of higher education. For some, it’s hard to believe that parents would actually appeal to a college professor on behalf of their young adult offspring, but it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

This trend begins long before teens ever don their cap and gown and head off to college. It’s a behavior that we as adults begin even in the earliest stages of parenting. However, helicopter parenting can have some serious implications on our children. While it might seem like we are doing our children a favor at the time, that couldn’t be further from the truth. What we’re essentially creating are children who are reliant on us for everything.

Parenting expert and educational psychologist Michele Borba addresses the trend of helicopter parenting on her personal Web site, www.micheleborba.com. On her blog, the author of No More Misbehavin’ and Don’t Give Me That Attitude points out that children will continue to sink if you don’t teach them to swim. Dr. Borba writes, “Look down the road at the big picture. If you keep on with any hovering behavior now, how will your kids turn out later? Every once in a while, we need to fast forward your parenting and think ahead.

“It just may help that you alter you current response with your kids. And here’s a big reason why: Researchers are seeing this phenomenon of “parental hovering” (aka micro-managing, overparenting or helicoptering) as a dangerous trend when it comes to how our kids turn out. The long and the short is: If we keep the hovering we’ll rob our kids of an essential trait for L.I.F.E. called self-reliance!”

And Dr. Borba is definitely onto something. The ramifications of helicopter parenting are far reaching. Take a recent poll conducted by Harris Interactive for the National Endowment for Financial Education. It showed that 40 percent of American adults aged 18-39 reside at home or have done so in the recent past. That figure also excludes students.

Even more disturbing is the fact that 26 percent of parents with adult children living at home have incurred their own debt to support these adult children, with 7 percent delaying retirement.

While it may seem like a giant leap to take, the point is it’s never too early to teach your children to be independent. You want your children to be able to stand on their own two feet so they can make the transition from impressionable children to responsible adults.

Here are three things you should never do for your children:

1. Homework – How many times have you watched parents do their children’s homework for them? One minute you’re shaking your head in disgust and the next minute you’re holding a #2 pencil in your hand writing an essay on the French revolution. Face it. It’s easy to get sucked in by your child.

Those frustrating cries of “I can’t do it!” can weaken even the most steadfast parent. Sometimes it seems far easier just to do the work for your child. But before you give in, stop, look and listen hard. Your child first should attempt to the work on his own.

If he is genuinely confused about the subject at hand, take a moment to look over the questions. Ask your child what he thinks the questions mean. If possible, show examples of how to solve the problem. Avoid doing the actual problem for your child. Once you feel like he has a grasp on the subject matter, send him back to his desk to finish the work.
Do not sit over him while he is doing his homework, as he will be inclined to ask for further assistance repeatedly. After all of the work is completed, glance over the assignment for any glaring errors. When you find mistakes, have your child redo the problems until they are correct. While it’s fine to show examples, brainstorm and encourage, do not — and we repeat — do not do the work for him. Doing reports, projects and homework independently will actually increase your child’s self-confidence and self esteem. Nothing compares to the sense of accomplishment your child will have knowing that he earned that “A” on his own.

2. Speak for them – It’s far too easy to put words in your child’s mouth. Children are works in progress. As they get older, they come into their own.

However, being a child can often be intimidating. Children are often insecure and, at times, unable to properly express themselves. In many cases, he may expect you to be his spokesperson.Whether it’s asking a neighborhood child to play or requesting a cup of water at a restaurant, always encourage your child to use his voice.

It might be just as easy for you to do your child’s bidding, but how will he ever gain self- confidence if he never has to speak for himself? Oftentimes, we feel compelled to speak on our child’s behalf. For example, in school your child might have issues with a fellow student. If the situation puts your child in danger, it’s understandable that you would get involved. However, if things haven’t escalated, encourage your child to work things out on his own. It’s fine to make suggestions of things he might say to smooth things over and resolve the conflict. However, try not to take things into your own hands unless it’s an absolute necessity.

Keep this important rule of thumb in mind when you are also among a group of people. When your child is asked a question, it might be instinctive to respond for him. Don’t. Give your child a chance to speak for himself. Over time, you will notice him becoming more and more confident in the way he expresses himself. Remember, practice makes perfect.

3. Choose their friends – This one is a real doozy. It’s only natural to want to pick your child’s friends – whether it’s the sweet little boy from Sunday school or that adorable girl from the playground. In your mind, you think you know what – and who – is best for your child. And you probably do. But this is one of those lessons your child needs to learn on his own. While you will probably be responsible for fostering many of their friendships through play dates in the early years, your child will be more and more inclined to choose his own pals as he gets older. This is one of those cases when you should go with the flow.
Just because you might be friends with someone doesn’t necessarily mean your child when be friends with that person’s child. First and foremost, don’t force it. Your child will only resent you in the end if you make him spend time with someone he doesn’t particularly care for. There’s nothing wrong with introducing him to new faces. However, let him take the lead when it comes to building lasting friendships.

At the same time, you still have a responsibility to ensure that your child is playing with kids who have similar values. In other words, you probably want to prevent your children from hanging out with kids who swear, steal, misbehave and have other habits you don’t want your own child picking up. Always be aware of who your child is hanging around.

At the end of the day, what you don’t do for your children is every bit as important as what you do. Sometimes a more hands-off approach actually will benefit your child.

Original article