Why kids want instant gratifcation and how helicopter parents make it worse

Back when it was okay to helicopter.

Back when it was okay to helicopter.

Here’s a story I wrote two years ago about why kids today have more trouble facing challenges their first year away from home than previous generations. As parents, is it our fault?

The numbers don’t lie. ACT states that 50% of kids do not return to college for their second year, and then only 25% of those graduate in five years. US News and World Report, which ranks colleges annually, changed one of its measurements from a graduation rate of five years to six years! I don’t know about you, but I’d like to know the percentage of kids that get out in four!

Letting my kids play and be kids.

Letting my kids be kids.

I’ve given my two cents worth in Four Reasons Why Kids Fail Their Freshman Year. This time around, I asked Nicolle Walters, RN, PhD, Clinical Psychologist for her expertise. In addition to being a practicing therapist, she’s the mother of two kids about the same ages as mine.

Why do our kids have such a hard time once they’re away from us? They’ve worked so hard to fill their resumes with high grades, SAT scores, leadership, community service, sports, or music. Yet, these kids who look perfect on paper can’t handle the daily demands of life on their own. How much of the failure is our fault? 

According to Dr. Walters, our kids aren’t prepared for college. She said, “Part of the reason is our instant gratification society. They want everything right now—and get it with technology like streaming, etc. They don’t learn self-discipline. They don’t have to wait for things like we did.”

She said, “I know it sounds contrary or strange, but kids who come from dysfunctional families and had to take care of themselves are more equipped to deal with everyday problems, compared to kids who had parents who did everything for them.”

“Also, A lot of kids don’t learn how to work hard. If you’re smart, you don’t need to work hard in high school, and they aren’t prepared for college. Our kids need skills like planning ahead and self-discipline.”

Here’s another thought she had, “College is totally different. Class time is switched and it’s the opposite of what they are used to. They are used to spending eight hours in class and studying a smaller amount of hours at night. In college, it’s two or three hours a day of class, but they need to study for six to eight,” Dr. Walters said.

Today on TV, I heard a Stanford expert, Julie Lythcott-Haims, talk about her book, “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.” She says we are literally ruining a generation of kids. She said it’s not just at Stanford, but in colleges throughout the country. You can read more here.

This week on SwimSwam I list the things we do for our kids that we need to stop doing. Like today.

We are smothering our kids and crippling their self-development. I know this because I’m guilty of a ton of it. I’m looking back at how concerned I was with performance, how busy my kids’ lives were, and because of those two factors I jumped in and did too much for them.

My kids being kids. They're okay despite my hovering.

The kids are okay despite my hovering.

Here’re are links to a couple other stories I’ve written about getting our kids ready and self-sufficient for college:

My Confessions as a Helicopter Mom 

10 Things Our Kids Need to Know Before College

If we as parents are over parenting like the experts claim, then what should we do to help our kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts, too.

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I Survived My Daughter’s First Year of College

My daughter's dorm at the U.

My daughter’s dorm at the U.

I can’t believe my daughter’s first year of college is over and my son is finishing his senior year! It’s been a strange year for me, being an ’empty nester,’ but a good one, too.

I’ve enjoyed having my own time to pursue my work without interruptions. I’ve made progress on several writing projects, plus I’ve established a good routine of writing, walking and swimming.

Signing day seems like yesterday!

Signing day seems like yesterday!

We loved visiting both kids this past school year. Santa Barbara is one of our favorite cities. Our son took time to spend with us, more than he has in the past three years. He even brought his girlfriend home for spring break.

Traveling for college meets was a blast. Our first dual meet was so exciting to watch! I will never forget my daughter swimming against Stanford in the 1000- and 500-yard free. I was a nervous wreck and I wondered why she had to swim such long races? It would be much easier getting through watching a 50 free than a 1000!

Last week, we drove up to Utah to move her out of her dorm room. A tiring 11-hour drive each way. I just want to know where did she get so much stuff? Did we pay for all of that? I couldn’t believe the trips we took of boxes, hanging clothes, mini-fridge, cleaning supplies, stuff and more stuff!

We moved the stuff into a house that she’s going to share with a few teammates. The landlord was kind enough to let us store her things inside, until her lease begins.

Still ahead, I have the adventure of furniture shopping with her. Yes, she’s going to need a bed, desk and a few more things. I hauled up my old pots and pans, dishes and towels for her house. After all, I have more than enough stuff in my house, too!

First, she’s home for a few days and we’ve got an action-packed schedule. Swim meet, visiting friends, vision and dental appointments, etc. I love having my kids home, but I’m also protective of my own time, too. I discovered that I enjoy my life as a mom, and also my life as an individual person, too.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the next few years are going to fly by!

Shopping at Target for the dorm freshman year.

Shopping at Target for the dorm freshman year.