29 August 2005

Wanted: Goldilocks Style Parenting

Last week, I wrote about an article describing all of the efforts to get parents more involved with school. This seems to be the most common problem. But what about the other end of the spectrum? The "helicopter parents" who hover over their child's every move? Ah, today we have an article about the "too much" parent group and the impact they're having on colleges.

Some parents have been complaining to college administrators about the issues such as student grades, roommates, and even plumbing issues while overseas. The idea that they're paying $40,000 for their child's education somehow gives them a sense of entitlement to complain about anything they don't like. It makes me wonder about a couple of things. One---what is their purpose in sending the kid to college? Is it only to obtain a piece of paper saying that a degree was earned? And secondly, when do they plan to teach the child that the answer to every problem isn't "call mommy and daddy"? How old were these parents, I wonder, when their parents made them fight their own battles?

I like the fact that the college mentioned in the article is starting to be proactive about this issue. "At Colgate, parents used to receive a sheet listing administrators' phone numbers. This year, they got a statement about Colgate's philosophy of self-reliance — a message that was hammered home repeatedly in talks by administrators. Next year, the school may assign parents summer reading on the transition to college. The approach will continue throughout the year, part of a larger emphasis at Colgate on 'teachable moments' outside the classroom. A memo sent to departments ranging from residential life to counseling to public safety reminds employees: 'We will not solve problems for students because it robs students of an opportunity to learn.'"

I have to ask myself what the "just right" mode of parental involvement is. I know all too well what the "not enough" looks like...and I have had a couple of experiences with the "too much" variety. Certainly, parents should take an active interest in what the child is doing (or not doing) in the classroom. Parents are expected to be strong advocates for their children. I can understand that parents don't want their kids to hurt---physically or emotionally. I suppose the Goldilocks style of parenting means that you do these things in a realistic way: keep in contact with the others who are involved in your child's life without coming from the stance that your child can do no wrong nor have Life do wrong to them.


Superdestroyer said...

Isn't part of the helicopter parent problem is the winner-take-all, no late bloommer mentality. They have been making sure their kids got into GT since the third grade so that their kids could get into the "right" tracks later on. After a decade of such actions, why should universities expect them to suddenly stop. Since Universities want "well rounded students" who took college prep courses, achieve in sports, music,etc while having time to perform volunteer work (all done with parental help), they should expect the engines of that well roundedness to come with the students.

Jenny D. said...

So true. These are parents that want high-achieving kids who never have to struggle for anything. It's as though they can get the diploma without breaking a nail. These parents are all around me and they make me crazy.

The Science Goddess said...

Superdestroyer---I agree that the admissions process may have contributed to the creation of these types of parents.

I still wonder when it is time for these parents to stop, if not college (or before). What happens after the diploma?

Batya said...

Honestly, how mature are today's kids?
How mature were we? Or was it just a more innocent time, way back when?

A. Rivera said...

What I wonder, which I believe you pointed out, is about the parents. When did their parents "cut them off"? Assuming they ever did. I mean, I am sure the parents's parents at some point decided it was time for junior to cope on his own. If these parents' can't let go by the time their kids get to college, I cannot feel but worried for the poor kids who are only going to know to call mommy and daddy for every little thing.

Anonymous said...

There are parents out there who think that "good parenting" means believing that your child is incapable of doing something wrong. Therefore if any adversity is encountered by their kids, it must be somebody else's fault (and by default, "adversity" is a bad thing) and the parent then has an inalienable right to make life a living Hell for the "person at fault" until the situation is fixed.

This is the kind of parent who typically the helicopter type mentioned in the article. THey can't seem to grasp the idea that their kid can, will, and actually *should* screw up every now and then, and deal with the consequences. They've been tricked into believing that good parenting means shielding your kids from all problems and all mistakes and all consequences.

So while I their hearts are in the right place -- they're just trying to be good parents, but their idea of what a "good parent" is, is really fundamentally screwed up.

Did I ever tell the one about the student who I suspected of cheating on a test, and when I called her into the office to discuss it, her dad showed up -- with a *gun*? He was a local cop and figured it'd be all intimidating to come in wearing full dress uniform including the sidearm. The dean summarily kicked the guy off campus.