By 23 years old I was a high school English teacher. I spent hours crafting lessons that were meant to reach every student. It truly was a labor of love as I spent evenings and weekends thinking about the next class and how I could make it meaningful.
My idealism began to deflate as it became clear that many, but certainly not all, of my students’ families really only cared about one thing: getting into prestigious colleges. There was one roadblock standing in their way: teachers like me who didn’t readily hand out A’s just for showing up. There is one parent I will never forget- a mother who, ironically, was an administrator at a neighboring high school. Whenever her daughter came home with less than an A on any assignment, she’d make an appointment to come in and did her very best to intimidate me, which worked at first. Thank goodness I had a wonderful principal and department head who were my champions. I can see the woman’s daughter now, as I remember feeling sorry for the girl as she was the physical definition of anxiety.
I left the profession to raise my children, but once I also became a school parent I saw some, but again not all, parents with the same attitude that I witnessed before, only this time giving kids as young as 5 years old an edge at school. Parents doing their kids’ school projects has become so commonplace that by my fourth child I’ve noticed teachers actually have to state in rubrics that students “must do their own work.” There are countless other examples in schools, happening at every age level. Not surprisingly, this phenomenon has spread to youth sports as well.
As parents we want the best for our children, yet sometimes it’s hard to know where the line between helping them and actually doing them a disservice lies. In one of my favorite parenting books, “The Blessing of a B minus,” author Wendy Mogel uses everyday examples to advise parents of teens to resist the urge to intervene or rescue them and argues why this approach is far better for a child’s emotional development.
When the college admissions scandal came to light, parents everywhere collectively gasped. It was the top news story for days as “How could they?” dominated the conversation. The two most high-profile parents who allegedly paid to ensure their children were accepted into prestigious universities, actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, have become pariahs in their industry since then, with even “close friends distancing themselves” from the two.
I wasn’t that surprised by the news and even felt irked by the sanctimony of so many. What those wealthy parents allegedly did is an extreme case of the type of parenting that has become part of our culture. Yes, what they are accused of is actually criminal, but the intent is the same. Watered-down versions of the same old story are happening everyday. As a society, instead of throwing stones at these high-profile parents, we should check our own behavior to see how close or how far from it we are as well. If given the same means and opportunity, how many other parents would do the same?
As a whole, parents are more entwined in their kids’ lives than parents were in generations past, and some argue that is a good thing. However, being kid focused doesn’t mean hovering over them. It’s often doing the hard thing, even the embarrassing thing, like walking out of a birthday party when your child is misbehaving. Or having them bake the cupcakes, make the science project display board, sweep the kitchen floor, or fill out their own college applications, even if you could do it better.