Instant gratification and helicopter parents go together like cookies and milk

Back when it was okay to helicopter.

Back when it was okay to helicopter.

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 then 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 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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How to embarrass your kids without trying

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Desolation Sound. photo credit: Pinterest

Do you remember being embarrassed by your parents? I do.

The summer before I was in 8th grade, we docked our boat across the street from The Empress Hotel after a few weeks of roughing it in Desolation Sound. Mom, dad, my brother and I badly needed showers and clean clothes. (If you haven’t been to The Empress, it’s a gorgeous Edwardian hotel built in 1908 and a landmark in the heart of Victoria B.C.)

Dozens of civilized people dressed in their finest, sipped their afternoon tea and munched finger sandwiches and crumpets. My dad wore denim bell bottoms, thick soled canvas boat shoes — and dragged a giant black plastic trash bag filled with dirty laundry across the fancy lobby — while I looked for a potted palm to curl up behind and die.

Why couldn’t we have walked around the hotel? Why was he making a scene? It was to embarrass me! I was a 13-year-old who cringed at whatever my parents did, so my dad loved to make sure I was cringing over something worthwhile.

All I can say is thank goodness there were no iPhones, Facebook or Instagram back then! I can’t imagine!

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The Empress Hotel and harbor where we docked. photo: TripAdvisor

Why am I sharing this moment of embarrassment? Because I read an article in The Daily Pilot by Patrice Apodaca called Stop ‘sharenting’ and start parenting. She explains that the one thing all parents have in common is embarrassing their kids. Then she goes on to talk about a new phenomenon called “sharenting” where we share too much online.

Read more here:

Parents share one universal trait. They’re very good at embarrassing their children.

They loudly and publicly boast, complain and share mortifying and intimate details about them. Then those kids grow up, procreate and proceed to engage in the same oversharing behavior regarding their own offspring.

This has probably been going on since the dawn of humankind.

There’s a new wrinkle, however, and it’s eliciting growing concern that it’s not a healthy one. It’s known by the portmanteau, “sharenting,” and it comes to us courtesy of social media.

Sharenting, the overuse of social media by parents to broadcast content about their kids, is increasingly one of the most hotly discussed and debated cultural trends revolving around the internet. In short, worries are escalating that parents who continually post photos, videos and stories about their children are unwittingly creating a host of potential problems.

To be sure, social media such as Facebook and Instagram have positive attributes. They allow parents to engage with like-minded communities, and to quickly and easily update friends and family members, some of whom might live far away, about the progress of their little ones. This can be a blessing for out-of-state grandparents, for instance, who appreciate the ability to regularly access information about their beloved grandkids.

But experts are increasingly warning about the dark side to all this sharing.

One cause for concern is that parents generally post this information without their children’s consent.

Of course, parents make decisions all the time that affect their kids without consulting them. That is the prerogative of being a parent. As children mature, though, they might come to resent their parents’ constant disclosures about their lives and grow uneasy about exactly how much they are sharing and who has access to that information in the online universe.

By age 2, one study found, 92% of American children have unique digital identities, which grow and follow them as they age.

One could imagine, for example, a child being bullied by her peers over a photo or story about her that was posted online by clueless parents, who considered such posts to be only a harmless sharing of cute or humorous content, or a display of pride intended for a friendly audience. The trouble is, once information is posted, it’s hard to control where it goes.

You can read the rest of the article here. There’s a lot more valuable info.

I used to post on FB all about my kids swim meets, awards, piano recitals, graduation pics, etc. I’m so proud of them and love sharing each and every special moment. However, I was fortunate that FB didn’t exist when they were born! Instead, it began in their awkward ‘tween years! At one point, my daughter told me I had to ask her permission to post anything about her. She was being teased by her peers. She also told me not to “friend” any of her friends. I respected her wishes.

I think it’s a good idea to let our kids know when and what we post about them. The exception is my blog 🙂  Actually, neither of my kids follow me or read it. They said they’ve lived it! Why bother? So, they don’t mind the old pics I post, or the stories. Or, I’m sure they’d let me know!

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Photos that could embarrass!

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Christmas Parade in the Nutcracker float.

What are your thoughts about the tendency for parents to share too much info and post pictures online about their kids? Also, please share any stories where your parents embarrassed you!

 

 

What’s the Golden Rule of Parenting?

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My first grade class. I’m in the bottom row.

When I was a first grader at Emerson Elementary in Snohomish, WA, our teacher said, “Please, raise your hand if you know the Golden Rule.”

I wasn’t sure what she meant by the “Golden Rule.” She pronounced each word with such emphasis and finality it made me wiggle in my seat because I wasn’t sure what it was — and it sure must be important. I looked around me and everyone’s hand had shot straight up. So, I shyly raised my hand, too. I thought hard and hoped she wouldn’t call on me. My mind raced through all the Bible versus our Mom spouted off at a fast clip each morning. The best I could come up with was from Matthew 5:39, “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”

After a sigh of relief when the teacher called on someone else, I learned that The Golden Rule was to “treat others how you wished to be treated yourself.” After that revelation, the teacher pulled down the white screen over the green chalkboard, turned off the lights and started up the projector to show us a black and white, approved for school circa 1950s, short film on “The Golden Rule.”

This memory came back to me after reading an article in Psychology Today by Suzanne Gelb Ph.D., J.D. called Good Parenting—It’s Not Complicated: Learning to be the type of parent that your child deserves.

It seems her parenting advice is kind of a Golden Rule itself. Be the parent you would want to have as a parent Here’s an excerpt, but be sure to click on the link above to read it in full detail. It’s worth it and it’s not that long. She gives a list of things we can do to improve.

I just searched for the term “Parenting” in the Books section on a major online platform.

Do you know what I found?

Over 50,000 titles!

This makes me happy… and frustrated. 

Happy, because if you’ve got valuable insights to share—on any topic—writing a book is a beautiful way to do it. (I’ve written 15 books

, myself.)

Frustrated, because… hmm. How do I put this elegantly? 

Let’s try this:

Good parenting is not rocket science—and it shouldn’t require 50,000 books to help parents understand what is required. 

As a parent, your job can be quite simple. 

To care for your child, as you would care for yourself.

The problem is that many grown-ups don’t actually care for themselves in all of the ways that matter. They know how to care for themselves in the basic and fundamental ways—like brushing teeth, washing hair—but not always in the deeper ways, like maintaining emotional health or prioritizing self-respect and self-worth (which invariably translates into making positive choices.) Yes, making positive choices is a form of self-care.

The problem is that many grown-ups never learned how to truly be well-adjusted grown-ups, in large part because their parents or caregivers weren’t equipped to teach them everything they needed to know. So they tend to pass along that “shakiness” to their children, perpetuating the cycle of inadequate parenting and shaky life skills. 

It is heartbreaking, but true. 

This is a problem that 50,000 books are trying to help resolve. 

This is a problem that I have devoted much of my 30-plus-year career in the counseling field to solving, too.

A lot of my early classroom memories are of teachers reading to us after recess, putting our heads down on desks to play a game called “Seven Up” — at  least that is what I think it was called. And those black and white films the school would order. I’d love to see them now. I bet they’d make me laugh with how corny and contrived they were. They did then.

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High school friends.We were all in the Yearbook staff together.

What do you think about the golden rule suggestion in parenting? Do you use it and try to parent differently than your mom and dad?

Are Kids Taking Longer to Grow Up?

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Senior prom–the kids got together in person.

Several articles published recently are referencing a study by San Diego State University professor of psychology Jean M. Twenge. She studied millions of kids to come up with the fact that millennials are taking longer to grow up than previous generations. Twenge doesn’t make a judgment on whether that’s good or bad, she just states it as a fact.

In a talk I attended a few years ago for my daughter’s college, in one of the sessions led by an Associate Vice President of Student Affairs, Psychologist Kari Ellingson said the same thing. She said when we were young, kids matured into adults at age 19, 20 and 21. Today, those numbers are delayed to 26, 27 and 28.

In an article from the New York Times, called “The curse of the helicopter parent” Twenge and her study are cited:

New York – Parents may still marvel at how fast their children grow up, but a new study finds that US teenagers are maturing more slowly than past generations.

In some ways, the trend appears positive: high school children today are less likely to be drinking or having sex compared with their counterparts in the 1980s and 1990s.

But they are also less likely to go on dates, have a part-time job or drive – traditional milestones along the path to adulthood.

So is that slower development “good” or “bad”? It may depend on how you look at it, the researchers say.

The findings, published online in the journal Child Development this week, are based on surveys done between 1976 and 2016.

Together, they involved more than 8 million US children in the 13-19 age group.

Over those years, the study found, teenagers gradually became less likely to try “adult” activities – including drinking, having sex, working, driving, dating and simply going out (with or without their parents).

By the 2010s, only 55% of high school seniors had ever worked for pay – versus roughly three-quarters of their counterparts in the late 1970s to the 1990s.

Similarly, only 63% had ever been on a date. That compared with 81% to 87% of high school seniors in the 1970s through 1990s.

In the San Diego Tribune, contact reporter Bradley J. Fikes wrote: “Teens are growing up more slowly — and they seem OK with it.”

Mid- to -late teens are delaying the classic milestones of adulthood, namely working, going out without their parents, driving, dating, having sex, and drinking alcohol, according to four decades of surveys reviewed for the study, led by San Diego State University professor of psychology Jean M. Twenge.

Today’s 18-year-olds exhibit similar milestone behaviors as did 15-year-olds in the late 1970s, Twenge said. Moreover, they’re mostly doing this voluntarily — parents aren’t imposing this delayed independence.

The spread of smartphones, which allow teens to socialize from the safety of their homes, is part of the explanation, said Twenge. The author of “Generation Me,” she has released a new book on the generation born after 1995 called “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood.”

When I look back on my teenage years compared to my kids, we had a whole lot more freedom. We were out all the time and our parents didn’t seem to care where we were. In fact, my parents were enjoying weekends on our boat or at the cabin and would leave my brother and me alone when we were teens. The same was true for a lot of my friends’ parents, as well. They didn’t keep track of us on a minute by minute basis. They also didn’t track us on “find my iPhone.” There weren’t any cell phones to call home and they just said to be home by a certain time.

I wonder how much influence our technology has today over our kids not growing up so fast? They aren’t getting together with friends to interact in person. They can do that from the comfort of their own bedrooms. Plus, they have all the entertainment they can consume, right on their iPhones. We helicopter parents keep a close eye on our kids and we know where they are at all times. By contrast, our parents told us to get outside and not come back until dinner. Between us and iPhones, our kids aren’t getting real-world experiences.

Everyone I knew growing up had some sort of part-time job in high school–even if it was working for their family’s business. I worked in my dad’s dental office and my brother bagged groceries at the local Safeway. Today, I know of very few kids with part-time jobs. My own son worked several jobs, but he was one of the few. He was an assistant lifeguard, then a coach for our team. He tutored in math and was paid to maintain a website. Very few of my kids’ friends had jobs after school. Teens today must not need to earn money because we are providing for all their needs and wants.

On the bright side, it’s good our kids aren’t running around at night unsupervised, drinking and having sex as teens. Also, they actually like hanging out with their parents!

 

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Hanging out together this summer.

Here’s a recent story I wrote that included psychologist Jean M. Twenge.

 

What are your thoughts about why kids are not growing up as fast as we did?

7 Easy Ways to Crush Kids’ Confidence

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Me and my brother who were fortunate to be raised by an exceptional mom.

I kept noticing an article on CNBC.com  called, A psychologist shares the 7 biggest parenting mistakes that destroy kids’ confidence and self-esteem. I didn’t want to read it because I figured it would spell out all the mistakes I made as a parent. It’s written by Amy Morin is a psychotherapist and instructor at Northeastern University.

 I was pleased to see I didn’t do all of them — I think there were one or two things I avoided. Yikes.

Here’s the opening paragraph and a list of seven things we’ve done wrong as parents that crush the confidence of our kids. The real article if you click the link above will offer the reason for each item on the list. It’s worth a read.

Every parent wants their kids to feel good about themselves — and with good reason.

Studies have shown that confident kids experience benefits ranging from less anxiety and improved performance in school to increased resilience and healthier relationships.

As a psychotherapist and author of “13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do,” I’ve seen many parents engage in strategies they believe will build their children’s confidence.

But some of those strategies can backfire, creating a vicious cycle where kids struggle to feel good about who they are. As a result, parents may find themselves working overtime trying to boost their children’s self-esteem.

Here are the seven biggest parenting mistakes that crush kids’ confidence:

1. Letting them escape responsibility

2. Preventing them from making mistakes

3. Protecting them from their emotions

4. Condoning a victim mentality

5. Being overprotective

6. Expecting perfection

7. Punishing, rather than disciplining

Looking back on how my mom raised us, I have to say she didn’t do any of the above. So, why did I fall short? Was it a new age of parenting? Or was my mom an exceptional parent? She used to say her job as a parent was to let us fly from the nest and be free. That when she was needed anymore, she would know she had done her job.

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Mom and me in the early 90s.

Which of the seven mistakes that crush our kids’ confidence are you guilty of doing?

How Social Media Is Changing Parenting

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Free play at the beach.

Parenting has changed through the years. We all know that our childhoods were a lot freer that our kids’ schedules. Well, except for that dang list my mom would leave us. My brother and I were latch-key kids and Mom would write a list of chores on a yellow legal pad. She’d fill up the entire thing, sometimes both sides. Her handwriting was atrocious and it was a chore just to read the list! It was her method of keeping us busy while she was taking classes at the University of Washington. Better than a babysitter, because she’d come home and the house was clean and dinner would be ready!

According to a study from the University of Alberta, social media is partially the reason why there’s a big change in parenting today.  In an article called How social media altered the good parenting ideal by Michael Brown, University of Alberta, he explains why. Here’s an excerpt:

Social media has altered perceptions of what good parenting is and may play a role in the reduction in the amount of time kids spend just playing, according to a University of Alberta study.

“It has long been known that children today aren’t playing outside as much as they used to, nor are they playing as freely and without supervision as they used to do,” said U of A Ph.D. student Shannon Pynn, who led the study. “We were looking at why this has happened when we realized this idea of free play kept coming up in terms of good parenting.”

Pynn said this “good parenting ideal” refers to how parents understand what’s expected of them from their social network, people in their community and the broader society.

“It’s basically what parents think other parents think is good parenting,” she said.

What she wanted to know was how the good parenting ideal changed in relation to active free play and why.

Pynn and her colleagues interviewed 14 sets of parents and grandparents to get a feel for what free play looked like when they were children and parents.

One theme emerging from the interviews was that some parents today parent differently from how they were parented because they are expected to have their kids in structured activities, said Pynn.

“That’s one reason free play isn’t so much of a thing anymore—kids are playing a lot more sports and participating in many more structured activities, so they don’t really have the time to go outside to play anymore.”

Pynn said structure crept into free play because of heightened safety concerns propagated by social media. Because news is so readily accessible, events like child abductions, for instance, are affecting the behavior of parents a world away.

“Social media makes it all feel a little closer to home, when in reality statistics show that kids are actually safer today than they were in the past,” Pynn said. “The safety concerns are not really founded, but they’re heightened because of social media. That didn’t happen in their grandparents’ days.”

As well, Pynn said parents are concerned about being judged on social media platforms or on any number of parenting sites.

There’s a lot more to the article and it’s well worth reading the entire thing.

Looking back, I did most of my parenting without social media. It wasn’t a thing yet. But there still was pressure from our school community to sign our kids up for certain activities. We chose swimming after trying tennis, ballet, golf, tee ball and karate. Both kids like liked swimming and we found a second home at the pool and a whole new set of parents to hang out with.

Swimming does take a lot of time and our days were structured. Before swimming there was more free play time. We have a park nearby and they used to have really awesome equipment, like a stagecoach for the kids to climb on. I’ll never forget the tall scary slide that freaked me out whenever my toddler son would climb to the top. I’m glad my kids got to play in the park before the city replaced the “unsafe” equipment with rubber padded ground and non-slippery slides.

There was also lots of beach time in the summer. The kids would use their imaginations creating kitchens or castles out of sand. Of course, they also fought over sand. Because there’s nothing like your siblings sandpile, right?

Once they were swimmers, we’d have their swim friends over to the house and they’d play like crazy. I remember a game called sardines which is like a reverse hide-and-seek. I loved  the laughter and sorely miss that sound in my empty nest.

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Celebrating Natasha’s birthday. Probably my son’s idea!

What are your favorite things your kids did in free play before social media told us how to act?

Can we teach good sportsmanship?

 

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Open Water Nats–being good sports after a close 5k race.

 

Nobody likes a sore loser and I think it’s even worse to have a gloating winner. In an article on CNN called “If I Were a Parent: Teaching kids to be good sports” by Kelly Wallace, the number one way to teach good sportsmanship is through role modeling.

“Losing is not easy for many kids, and being a graceful winner can in some ways be even harder, so the question becomes: what can parents do to teach their children good sportsmanship?

“Rule No. 1 seems simple enough but is too often overlooked by helicopter parents who are living vicariously through their children. Parents should model the behavior they want to see in their kids, said John O’Sullivan, author of “Changing the Game: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes, and Giving Youth Sports Back to our Kids.”

“Kids are not very good at listening, but they are fantastic at imitating,” said O’Sullivan, founder of the Changing the Game Project, which says it seeks to “put the ‘play’ back in ‘play ball.’ “

“And so if you want your kids to display good sportsmanship, you should. If you don’t want your kids to yell at referees, you shouldn’t yell at referees.”

The article goes on to talk about the flip side, lousy winners:

“And as for teaching your child how to win and win gracefully, remind them how it felt when they were on the losing side. “The biggest thing that I always say to my team when you’re winning by a lot is, ‘you know what, you’ve been on the other side of it where you’ve lost by a lot. Do you remember how that felt? So don’t do anything that’s going to make your opponent feel any worse right now,’ ” O’Sullivan said.

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Cheering on a teammate.

What do we mean when we talk about being a good sport? It’s easy to point out kids and parents who aren’t. They are mean, rude, usually loud and they do not care about how they affect those around them. Parents who are bad sports are causing fights these days with coaches and landing in jail! With social media catching every incident of bad parent behavior, it seems like it’s happening more frequently, but I haven’t seen any stats to know if that true or not.

Being a good sport is simple. It’s treating others with respect. It’s not talking badly about others behind their backs or throwing your equipment down. I remember when my brother was on the golf team in high school, there was a player who broke their golf clubs more than once when he lost. Staying composed and not getting too caught up in the moment helps us be better role models. In our kids’ sports, the process is just as important–or more so–than winning.

I think another important element in teaching good sportsmanship, besides being good role models, is to compliment our kids when you see them being a good sport. In swimming after races, you often see swimmers reaching over lane lines to hug the winner or you see the winner reaching out to competitors to shake hands. When you see your child being a good sport, point it out and say you’re proud of them. If you see other kids showing good sportsmanship, be sure to tell your child how much you admire them for their actions.

 

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My daughter showing good sportsmanship.

How do you teach your children good sportsmanship?