What is “intensive parenting” and is it the norm?

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My cute kiddos.

I’m not quite sure what the difference is between helicopter and intensive parents, but according to a recent study by a researcher at Cornell University, “intensive” parenting is what most parents view as “good parenting” regardless of their educational or socioeconomic status. In fact, it’s becoming the norm. In an article by Joe Pinsker from The Atlantic called ‘Intensive’ Parenting Is Now the Norm in America, he states that “This style of child-rearing that most aspire to takes a lot of time and money, and many families can’t pull it off.”

Here’s are a few paragraphs from the article:

Supervised, enriching playtime. Frequent conversations about thoughts and feelings. Patient, well-reasoned explanations of household rules. And extracurriculars. Lots and lots of extracurriculars.

These are the oft-stereotyped hallmarks of a parenting style that has been common in upper-middle-class households for at least a generation. But according to a recent survey, this child-rearing philosophy now has a much broader appeal, one that holds across race and class. The survey, which polled roughly 3,600 parents of children ages 8 to 10 who were demographically and economically representative of the national population, found evidence that hands-on parenting is not just what the well-off practice—it’s what everyone aspires to.

Intensive is the adjective that researchers, including Patrick Ishizuka, a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University who published the survey results late last year, use to describe this model of raising kids. It’s difficult to nail down precisely when it became the standard that so many American parents hold themselves to, but its approach seems built for an era of widening economic inequality, in which the downsides of a child falling behind economically are the largest they’ve been in generations.

Intensive parenting is a style of child-rearing fit for an age of inequality, indicative of a stratified past, present, and future. The past: As some social scientists have theorized, the tilt toward intensive parenting originated at least in part from parents’ anxieties about their children competing for education and jobs. (The more extracurriculars, the logic of intensive parenting goes, the better the odds of getting into an excellent college and of securing one of the high-paying jobs that America cordons off for the best-credentialed.) The present: As Ishizuka described, intensive parenting is an ideal that’s currently out of reach for many families. And the future: Practiced as it is by some families but not others, it might replicate—or even widen—inequities in future generations.

Many children surely benefit from being raised like this—concerted cultivation can serve them well later in life, teaching them how to manage their time and assert their individuality. But heavily involved parenting can at the same time stunt kids’ sense of self-reliance, and overcommitted after-school schedules can leave them exhausted. Also, there is some evidence that parents who overdo it increase the risk that their children will grow up to be depressed and less satisfied with life. And on the parents’ side, the intensive ideal can lead parents—particularly mothers—to fear that they aren’t doing enough to give their child the best future possible.

I am sure that this style of parenting is what my husband and I followed with our kids. We were big on extracurriculars, spending quality time with our kids and having lengthy discussions of what we considered to be morally right or wrong. But, from there, I went overboard to helicoptering. I couldn’t let my kids fail for the life of me. If it meant arguing with teachers over a second-grade continent test (where I finally learned that Artic is spelled Arctic — my bad!) or sending an email to the AP history teacher in high school demanding that the 89.9% be rounded up to a 90% and an A, I definitely passed the line from “intensive” to “copter.” At least I can look back on what I did and see the errors of my ways. We get a laugh about it today with the kids. They know I had their best interests in mind and wasn’t trying to sabotage their adulthood.

If you want more details about the study on “intensive” parenting, read the press release from Cornell University here.

In an article by Susan Kelley in a Cornell publication called “Hands-on, intensive parenting is best, most parents say,” she gives more details:

Regardless of their education, income or race, most parents say a child-centered, time-intensive approach to parenting is the best way to raise their kids, a Cornell researcher has found.

The findings suggest intensive parenting has become the dominant model for how parents across the socio-economic spectrum feel children should be raised – regardless of whether the parent has the resources to actually do so.

“This points to exceptionally high standards for how parents should raise their kids. It suggests that parents are experiencing significant pressure to spend great amounts of both time and money on children,” said Patrick Ishizuka, the author of “Social Class, Gender, and Contemporary Parenting Standards in the United States,” published Dec. 22 in Social Forces.

Most parents also said intensive parenting is the ideal approach for both mothers and fathers, and applies to parenting boys and girls, according to the study.

“It’s remarkable just how widespread support is for intensive parenting, in terms of social class and gender,” added Ishizuka, the Frank H.T. Rhodes Postdoctoral Fellow at the Cornell Population Center.

Researchers in the field have known that parents with low incomes and less education tend to spend less time and money on children than parents with higher incomes and more education. But it hadn’t been clear whether that’s because they lack resources or because they prefer a different approach to childrearing. Ishizuka’s study is the first to directly address the question using a nationally representative survey, by asking parents of different social classes what they consider “good parenting.”

Ishizuka analyzed data from more than 3,600 study participants who were parents. The participants read about various scenarios in which a mother or father interacts with a child between the ages of 8 and 10. The vignettes focused on the child’s leisure activities, how the parent speaks to the child and how the family interacts with professionals in institutions like schools or a doctor’s office. The participants then ranked the parent’s behavior from “excellent” to “poor.”

Each scenario described one of two approaches to parenting: concerted cultivation (an intensive parenting approach) or natural growth (a non-intensive parenting approach). In concerted cultivation, parents facilitate their child’s participation in extracurricular activities, play with them at home, ask them about their thoughts and feelings, and respond to misbehavior with discussion and explanations. In contrast, parents taking the natural growth approach set rules for their children’s safety but give them flexibility to play on their own or with friends. Parents are less involved in the children’s activities and give them clear directives with little room for negotiation.

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A more recent pic.

What are your thoughts about intensive vs. natural growth approaches to parenting? Is intensive parenting something you approve of? And have you ever crossed the line into the realm of helicopter parenting?

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Getting back to my normal routine

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This is my view as I write.

After a busy week celebrating Christmas with my kids and guests, today I’m having a normal day. My routine feels great. I swam for the first time since last Friday and also found time to work on writing projects. Yay for me!

We were fortunate to have a houseful of interesting, intelligent people in our house for Christmas. My son’s girlfriend arrived with her mom and six siblings. They’re all talented go getters and crazily accomplished. I felt at first like we were being invaded by a superior race of human beings.

On Christmas Eve, we were treated to a viola concert by two of the sisters, who happen to be professional musicians. One was a Cal grad and the other has two Masters degrees from Yale. I came from a musical home, and having a live concert in our home moved me to tears. My dad was with us and he was amazed and delighted, too.

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One of our meals together.

The family drove up to Joshua Tree to watch the sunrise, ran the Tram road, hiked the Karl Lykken Trail, and worked out in the gym. We managed to fit in a walk to Robolights, too.

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Robolights

Athletically gifted, most of the family rows and they work out and run. One was an NCAA champion from Cal and coaches for the East Bay Rowing Club. I wrote about one of the daughters and her first running race — the Boston Marathon — here. The second to the youngest is double majoring at U Penn in Engineering and the Wharton School of Business — while being team captain of the Women’s Rowing. Yikes, it’s mind boggling to have so much going on in one family. It makes me feel like a slouch.

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The nightly charcuterie board created by my son.

Along with the energy and big personalities, everyone seemed so happy and appreciative to be in Palm Springs. They lifted my spirits and filled my empty nest. They also ate an amazing amount of apples. On Christmas Day, I bought 24 Honeycrisp apples and the next day I was off to the store for 18 more.

 

 

As much as I loved having guests, my empty nest is welcomed once again. I was sad at first to have my kids leave and our newfound friends, but getting back to my normal routine is nice, too.

 

Who is to blame for millennials’ angst?

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When the kids were young and I hadn’t messed up parenting too badly, yet.

I watched a video posted on Facebook by one of my children’s former swim coaches about millennials in the workforce and the problems they face. It really made me reflect about my own parenting and kids. There’s an increased number of kids in this age group with depression, committing suicide and overdosing. That’s terrifying, don’t you agree? What can be done about it? And why is it happening?

You can watch the aforementioned video here

Here are the four main points of the video:

ONE
Bad Parenting

I hate that bullet point and know I’m guilty of some bad parenting myself. The main idea is that our kids were told they are special at every turn, whether it’s deserved or not. Consequently, millennials often suffer from low self esteem. While we’re trying to make our kids strong, mentally and physically, we’re doing something very wrong. We have highly educated, competent kids who don’t believe in themselves. Maybe everyone shouldn’t get a participation trophy in tee ball. It’s one of the reasons why I like swimming. Every mili-second dropped and ribbon received is truly earned. The clock doesn’t lie.

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Before the computer and cell phone I thought the The IBM Selectric II was the greatest invention ever.

TWO
Technology

Checking our number of likes, texts, etc. give us a jolt of dopamine. That’s why we get addicted to our phones. Social media and cell phones are not much different than other highly addictive substances like tobacco or alcohol. When teenage brains are exposed to dopamine, they get hooked and their brains get hardwired. Hearing this part of the video makes me want to look at my own cell phone usage and make some changes—a good thing to think about for New Year’s Resolutions (I’ll write more about this later). Social media is preventing our kids from developing personal relationships and may lead to depression and being unable to handle stress.

THREE
Instant Gratification

Our kids have grown up in the world of instant gratification. If they want to watch a movie, they turn on Netflix. If they want to buy something, they click on Amazon and it’s delivered the next day. I interviewed a psychologist, Dr. Nicole Walters, and wrote about instant gratification here. Job satisfaction and relationships aren’t a click away. Instead they are messy and time consuming, but our kids aren’t learning these skills of waiting and working for things.

FOUR
Environment

Maybe our corporate environments aren’t a good fit for young people. Our kids blame themselves when it could partially be the fault of the company they work for. Companies need to work extra hard to build the children’s social skills and work on their lack of confidence. We need to work on interpersonal relationships and one good way to start is to put the phone down.

What are your thoughts about millennials and their angst? Do you think it’s our fault they are suffering from depression and anxiety? Or, does the environment and technology play a bigger role?

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Selfie of Mom and me playing BINGO. She is the best mom and my role model.

Why are parents hiring coaches — for themselves?

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With my grown-up kids at the PAC 12s Swim Meet last year.

I was interviewed for an article in the Deseret News about parenting coaches, written by Jennifer Graham.

 

This was an interesting turn about for me, because I’m usually the one asking the questions. I wrote a piece recently about the parents hiring coaches and expressed the view that I didn’t think much about paying hundreds of dollars for hour-long Skype talks with a stranger. You can read that story here.

Here’s an excerpt from the article “Why some parents — including Prince Harry and Meghan Markle — are hiring parenting coaches:”

SALT LAKE CITY — Cheryl Cardall has a degree in early childhood education and has read “a ton” of parenting books, but she still wasn’t sure what to do when one of her children morphed into a full-blown teenager with anxiety and anger issues.

Instead of calling her mom, who had raised seven children of her own, Cardall sought help from a parenting coach near her home in Sandy, Utah.

Likewise, when Rachel Anderson, who lives in Minneapolis, grew tired of fighting with her 3-year-old every morning, she consulted a Florida parenting coach via videoconferencing.

“I talked with family and friends, and they all provided some little tips and advice, but the general consensus was that this was just a stage he’s at and you’re going to have to endure and work through it. And I wasn’t OK with that answer,” Anderson said.

Cardall and Anderson are now enthusiastic proponents of parent coaching, which is one of the fastest growing segments of the $1.2 billion personal-coaching industry. Once a service offered mainly for divorcing or blended families, parent coaching is now available for any sort of parenting challenge, from getting a child to sleep to communicating with a taciturn teen.

Even Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, whose baby isn’t due until spring, have reportedly hired an American parenting coach, “super nanny” Connie Simpson.

The growth of parent coaching has occurred amid a trifecta of change in family life: a desire for perfection driven by social media, a blitz of contradictory advice on the internet, and the emergence of technology as the No. 1 challenge facing parents.

“Our mothers were not raising us with the same challenges that parents raising their kids now have,” said Vicki Hoefle, a parent coach in Petaluma, California.

But skeptics see parent coaching as a dubious use of resources, and evidence that Americans are obsessing about parenting to unhealthy extremes.

“Through the years, you learn that overparenting doesn’t work,” said Elizabeth Wickham, a mother of two who writes about parenting for the website SwimSwam, but says she can’t imagine anyone paying her hundreds of dollars for her advice.

I understand why someone may choose a stranger over their parents or in-laws for advice. Our own family members can be very judgmental — or we may view them as such when they are trying to give us advice. They may give us unsolicited advice when we aren’t asking for it as well. The common thread according to the article was that parents were fearful. One of the many challenges they are facing today, which are parents never had was the powerful tech world and social media.

Here’s more from the article:

Of course, not all parenting challenges can be resolved with a coach, DeGaetano said. Issues that arise from trauma or a psychological condition may require a mental-health professional, and a good coach will refer parents elsewhere in cases like that.

“Counseling is about healing. We don’t do that; we’re not licensed counselors, and I make that clear,” she said.

Wickham, who lives in Palm Springs, California, and whose children are 22 and 25, said she’s never used a parent coach and doesn’t know anyone who has.

But she said she understands the desire for input from an impartial, nonjudgmental expert, and said maybe she could have benefited from one.

“I wish I had done less for my kids — for example, when kids forget their homework, don’t drive to school with it, let them suffer the consequences. That’s one thing I really wish I’d learned, from a coach or anybody, but I never got that advice,” she said.

One of the things I explained to Graham was that no two children are alike, and they all have different personalities and will react differently to parenting techniques. Once you find something that works, by the next week it probably won’t. Parenting is thinking on your feet, being flexible and learning when to pick your battles. Our goal should be to raise children who become independent, happy, self-sufficient and kind human beings.

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One of the pics from a Christmas card–a few years ago.

What are your thoughts about hiring a parenting coach? 

This time of year, take time to breathe!

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My children’s first Christmas picture together.

It’s that time of year and feeling festive, I agreed to go to more events than normal. But while I’m bouncing from event to event, I’m stressed thinking of all the work I have at home to do.

 

Last night I was downtown for the Palm Springs Walk of the Inns and the Palm Springs Woman’s Club. I baked a double batch of snickerdoodles for the bake sale for the PSWC. Today I’m off to a luncheon fashion show with a friend at Wally’s. But, I really have so much stuff to do around the house to get ready for Christmas.

I have to find a tree! I have to clean out my kids’ rooms for the guests (We invited my son’s girlfriend and her family to stay with us Christmas week.) I have to meal plan and grocery shop and yeah — shop for presents, too. So many to dos are filling my lists. It’s freaking me out a bit.

The entire tree thing seems too much. There’s a tree seller down the street and during an evening walk, my husband and I stopped by to look. I only want a little tree, nothing stupendous. Just a four-footer or so. I just about choked when I saw the price tag on the smallest tree on the lot — $225! I remember when I’d pick up a tree in front of the grocery store for $30. I’ve been against fake trees on principle all these years. But, I think those principles are now telling me that it’s a crime to buy a real tree and pay a small fortune just to have the garbage man haul it off in a couple weeks. It seems so wasteful to destroy a tree, too, for a few week’s pleasure.

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My son in the Palm Springs Christmas Lights parade in the Nutcracker Sleigh next to the Sugar Plum Fairy (pink tutu).

 

One funny story about the Christmas tree lot near our house: I remember when my kids were young and one night we walked there to pick out a tree. My husband carried our toddler son on his shoulders. I was pushing the stroller with our infant daughter while holding on to our Rottie’s leash. We walked the few blocks to the tree lot and began walking in an out of the rows of trees. Something jumped out from under one of the trees — scaring me to death! It was Sherman our black cat! I guess he couldn’t stand being left out. I had to walk back to the house with baby and dog in tow, herding the cat home, too!

Now with my busy schedule on my mind, it’s my saving grace to take time for myself. I’m grounded with my morning routine of walking, praying and writing. I am forcing myself to swim at noon Masters a couple days a week. And then I find a moment to sit in the back yard, close my eyes, listen to the birds and breathe.christmas

What’s your secret for staying calm through all the Holiday fun activities and things you have to do?

Have You Read This “Life-Changing” Book?

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Me and my friend Cindy.

Four years ago my best friend Cindy gave me a present. It was a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It took me a while to open it up and dive in, but Cindy kept pushing and prodding, explaining how this book is magical and life changing.

Doesn’t that sound a little crazy to call a book “life changing?” It did to me. But Cindy told me stories about how the book changed a few of her friends’ lives. It led them on entirely different life and career paths that proved to be more satisfying and creative. At the time, I had quit working with my husband as a financial advisor and was facing my empty nest with both kids away at college. I learned the secrets the book offered—morning pages, prayer or meditation, and daily walks. I incorporated each into my daily life and Voila! I saw changes. I made a routine for myself—and best yet, I stuck with it.

Soon after starting my morning routine, I started this blog, submitted a story to SwimSwam.com, rewrote a mid-grade novel, began a project writing the history of Southern California Swimming with the website socalswimhistory.com. I also dove in and learned to swim myself and joined U.S. Masters Swimming.

Looking back on reading the book The Artist’s Way, it was life-changing for me. My writing projects have multiplied and my biggest problem right now, is not spreading myself too thin. Writing my morning pages, walking and praying keeps me grounded. On the rare occasion I have had to miss my morning routine, I feel at odds with myself — a little off like something isn’t quite right.

It dawned on me to buy another one of Cameron’s books and the title I chose was Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance. It’s more of the same, but pushing me further along my path as a writer. Then, I sent The Artist’s Way to both of my kids. I have no idea why it took me four years to share this gem with them. I just spent a week with my daughter, and we took our daly walks together and we sat at her dining room table writing in our journals.

My son called me this morning and said he had begun his morning pages today. The book says to write three pages every morning when you first wake up. It’s a brain dump of getting rid of all the little worries, fears and negativity that you’ve carried over into a new day. By eliminating all this garbage, or writing down what worries you—or even the tasks you need to get done—you become free. You’re free to see the creative forces and beauty around you. My son said although he found the spirituality in the book a little “90s” he thought the book had some really good stuff in it.

I’m sharing this with the hopes that whether you’re an artist or not, read The Artist’s Way. Give it a try and see how it changes your life.

Have you read The Artist’s Way and how did it change your daily life? I’d love to hear your story.

When is enough parenting enough?

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My daughter was going on job interviews and sifting through prospective roommates, when she returned from an appointment to find her home had been ransacked. Frankly, there’s enough change going on in her life these days that she didn’t need her drawers pilfered through and closets emptied onto the floor. She said it was all topsy turvy in each room, including the garage and small storage room.

She found Waffles, her pug, locked in the garage. As the concerned mother I am and wanting to solve all my kids’ problems, I immediately headed to her house — where I still am several days later. By the time I arrived, she had straightened up the house, and together we shopped for a doggie door and security system. A day later, her handyman came and she got dowels in the windows, more security cameras and alarms installed, and she’s no longer leaving the patio door open for Waffles. He has his own door. Now, he just has to learn to use it. (This is proving harder than expected. He scratches at the screens and barks, instead of bolting bravely through.)

I found on this visit to help my daughter out, there wasn’t much for me to do, except to be with her. She needed company and someone in her home so she didn’t feel scared or all alone. She has a dear friend who came over immediately after the burglary and spent the first night until I got here.

Now, my question for myself is — how long do I stay? Do I wait for her to find a new job? A roommate? Feel more settled? Be completely over her fright? Or, is my parenting job over for this moment? I’m planning on heading home soon to pick up the pieces of my life and continue with the work I need to do.

I’m glad to be able to help. But, at some point, Mom can’t be there for them and I need to live my own life. I am kind of torn on this. I enjoy hanging out with both my kids. I worry when things go wrong for them.

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When do you think enough parenting is enough?