Should parents hire outside help to get their kids in college?

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When we weren’t worried about college admissions.

One thing we never did with our kids is hire someone to help with college admissions. My kids didn’t get much help from their high school counselor who had her hands full with who knows how many students. Probably at least 100. I didn’t know about outside counselors when my son applied to college and my daughter’s process was entirely different since she was being recruited as a swimmer. We assumed that our son could get in wherever he wanted with a packed resume of activities, valedictorian and near perfect SATs. Boy, were we wrong!

I first learned about college counselors when one of his friends from the swim team a couple years younger, hired a college counselor. She got lots of  valuable guidance. If I could turn back time, I’d consider hiring help, since we had no clue what we were doing. 

The question about whether families should hire outside help to get their kids into college comes up now because of the Varsity Blues scandal. Parents are going to jail for hiring an outside college counselor, who faked test scores and coordinated with athletic departments to get non-athletic kids accepted into schools. So far, 52 parents have been indicted and the trials are going on now.

There was an interesting article about how schools feel about families hiring outside help in the Wall Street Journal by Melissa Korn called Whose Advice Are You Taking? The Fight Over College Counseling at Elite High Schools.

Here’s an excerpt:

In the first application season since the cheating scandal, schools weigh how to exert control

At Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles, families receive a 43-page handbook on college planning. Students meet with their counselors, known as deans, sophomore year to discuss course selection and extracurriculars. Spring of junior year, they begin college counseling meetings, bringing parents along to some. Summer before senior year, the school hosts college essay-writing workshops.

Private-school administrators hope it is enough to keep parents from looking to outside counselors for extra help.

“The hardest part of my job is convincing families to trust our process,” says Gloria Díaz Ventura, director of college counseling at Flintridge Preparatory School in La Cañada, Calif. “Some parents need an insurance policy to make sure that they did everything possible to support their child.”

Tolerance for families hiring private college consultants has waned in the wake of the nationwide college admissions cheating scandal that led to charges against 52 people, says Emmi Harward, executive director of the Association of College Counselors in Independent Schools, a group representing counselors at private schools. Independent counselor William “Rick” Singer confessed to helping clients cheat on college entrance exams and faking athletic credentials to secure teens spots at selective schools.

High-school counselors, many of whom have experience working in college admissions offices, carefully curate relationships with university gatekeepers and are concerned about teens submitting applications riddled with falsehoods, or at least embellishments, if they can’t maintain a close watch over the process. They say outside counselors can confuse students with conflicting or uninformed advice, and tend to be too aggressive in packaging students, even if they don’t go to illegal lengths like Mr. Singer.

“They’re urging transparency, if not outright banning the use of outside counsel, to the extent that’s even realistic,” Ms. Harward says.

The role school counselors play at elite private schools can be different from many large public schools, where counselors maintain a caseload that includes general academic advising, career guidance and psychological support. That leaves little time for helping finalize students’ college lists, plan campus visits, brainstorm essay ideas and polish prose, say school officials and families.

I don’t think it’s wrong to hire someone to help guide your family through the college application process. It’s overwhelming, and in a public school, chances are your child won’t get much help. We didn’t know basics like dream schools, reach, fall back, etc. We didn’t know that many great schools across the country even existed besides the major brands like Harvard, Yale and Stanford. Looking back, the whole process was stressful for me — and my son was devastated.

After the Varsity Blues scandal broke, it’s obvious that these parents went too far. We are adults and we need to be role models for our kids. The one parent in the scandal that really drives me nuts is the “parenting expert” who wrote two books on parenting — and then paid $50k to have someone else take the ACT test for her child! Read about her here. What was she thinking? In what world would you think that is okay?

Here’s one last thought from the article:

“These are the people who hired a batting coach and pitching coach when the kid was in Little League, why wouldn’t they do it for college too?” says Jim Jump, director of college counseling at St. Christopher’s School in Richmond, Va., and a former president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

katWhat are your thoughts about hiring someone to help with college admissions?

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How to survive in an uncivil world

I wrote this four years ago in November. I hate to say it, but things have not improved much. I hope and pray each day that we can leave our differences behind, get along, and not get so worked up over every little tiny thing! Here’s what I had to say about it before:

Olive in an uncivil mood.

Olive in an uncivil mood.

I’m trying very hard to not get caught up in all the over-reacting that’s floating around. Have you noticed a lot of intolerance and anger lately? People seem to get upset and outraged over the littlest things. Like Halloween costumes. Waiting in line. Political opinions. Slow drivers.

Read about how I got yelled at by a total stranger here

How we handle little things and disappointments in life in a positive way can help us become better role models for our kids. It can also change our outlook and make a frustrating day, a better one.

imgres-4I think email, texting, twitter and social media in general can lead to misunderstandings and hard feelings. First of all, by emailing rather than having a conversation, a person can unload in ways they wouldn’t in person. He or she isn’t picking up on verbal and non-verbal cues. The conversation is totally one-sided without any give or take. We don’t have to bother with a discussion or to hear another person’s side of the story.

Online, have you read comment sections on a news or political story? If people can leave comments anonymously, look out! A snarky comment looks like an attaboy compared to the filth and nastiness you’ll read. People don’t tolerate differences of opinions and resort to name calling rather than debate issues. The anonymity of hiding behind a computer rather than facing someone is unleashing hostility and words that quite frankly are better left unsaid

imgres-3Have you ever texted someone or sent an email you didn’t mean to? Or, it went to the wrong person? How about thinking you hung up the iPhone, and you didn’t or pocket dialed the person, and they can hear your subsequent conversation?

It’s hard enough when you’re the one committing the faux pas and even harder when you’re on the receiving end.  Yikes. If this happens to you, take a minute and breathe. Realize you have a choice—how to react. You could get upset. You could make a big deal out of it and be confrontational.  Or, make the choice that it was mistake and no ill will was intended. 

I believe it’s a choice we can make on a daily basis. Take a deep breath when you’re behind a slow driver. When you’re waiting behind an elderly person trying to work the ATM or checking out at the grocery store. Don’t automatically jump on the uber outrage. We don’t have a choice on what is happening, but we do have a choice on how we react.

Baby Olive.

Baby Olive.

I think the best choice is to be “merciful.” This word popped up on my iPad yesterday. It’s not a word we hear spoken out loud these days—unless we’re sitting in a pew. In the everyday world it’s sounds old fashioned and is not practiced much.

I wasn’t quite sure of the exact meaning so I looked it up online at Merriam Webster:

treating people with kindness and forgiveness : not cruel or harsh : having or showing mercy: giving relief from suffering

I’m going to incorporate it in my everyday life when I feel the adrenalin or upset feelings start. I think if a lot more of us practiced mercy, our world would be a whole lot better.

We also need to keep in mind that our kids learn from our behavior. How we react to stress is most likely how they will deal with situations as they grow up.

Here’s a song to listen to: Bobby McFerrin — Don’t Worry, Be Happy. Relax and smile.

How do you deal with unhappy or rude people you see in person or online?

 

Oh, the things I will see…in a day or two

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I’m ready to dive back in!

This is it. Today at 6 a.m. I’m getting my second eye fixed. It’s been a long, long two months, but I’m nearing the end of my ordeal. I wrote about how I lost my glasses on vacation and then had to go one month without contacts here.

As someone who is severely near-sighted, this is going to be a real eye-opener. Sorry for the corny pun. In our family we call that a “dad joke.” As a baby, they could tell I couldn’t see. By age three I was wearing thick glasses. I was the poor kid in kindergarten called four-eyes. My brother, who is two years older, also wore glasses. At least my glasses weren’t always wrapped up with masking tape. Thanks to his class bully, my brother was smacked in the face and called four-eyes whenever his glasses were in one piece. Hence all the childhood photos of him have one corner of his glasses wrapped in thick masking tape.

My left eye was fixed a month ago and I can see out of it like never before in my life. It’s truly amazing. But, with my right eye nearly blind for the past month, I’ve barely been able to work at the computer or read without getting severe headaches and feeling off balance. In 24 hours after surgery, the doctor will remove the patch. I’ll be on my way to have vision that is close to 20/20. Instead of a -24 Rx, I may be at -1.

I could be driving at night, which I gave up years ago. I’ll get back to my normal life that I lived before this two-month eye surgery thing. Plus, in a few weeks, I’ll dive into the pool and feel free!

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I’ll actually get to see the sunrise on my morning walks — clearly!

 

 

 

What does CA have against freelance writers?

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The view from my freelance writer’s life.

I am a freelance writer. Obviously, I’m not writing to get rich. I’m doing it because I love it. I don’t need the state of California to dictate who I submit articles to nor how often. But in a new bill, AB 5 that will be law in January, they are destroying the freelance writing business.

In an article by Katie Kilkenny in The Hollywood Reporter called “Everybody Is Freaking Out”: Freelance Writers Scramble to Make Sense of New California Law, she spells out some of the confusion and frustration over AB 5. The real intent of AB 5 was to get rid of the gig economy — in particular Lyft and Uber drivers — and force people to join unions. That’s the bottom line.

A new bill that caps freelance submissions may make writing financially unsustainable for many workers even though the legislator behind the law insists that the goal is “to create new good jobs and a livable, sustainable wage job.”

California-based freelance writer Arianna Jeret recently learned about Assembly Bill 5 and is now concerned she and her colleagues in CA may soon be speaking about their jobs in the past tense.

Jeret, who contributes to relationship websites YourTango.com and The Good Men Project, says freelance writing has helped support her two children and handle their different school schedules. Her current gigs — covering mental health, lifestyle and entertainment — allow her to work from home, from the office and even from her children’s various appointments. “There were just all of these benefits for my ability to still be an active parent in my kids’ lives and also support us financially that I just couldn’t find anywhere in a steady job with anybody,” she says.

Jeret is now coming to terms with how her lifestyle will change come Jan. 1, when AB 5, California legislation aimed directly at the gig economy that was signed into law Sept. 18, will go into effect.

The bill, which cracks down on companies — like ride-sharing giants Lyft and Uber — that misclassify would-be employees as independent contractors, has been percolating through the California legislative system for nearly a year. It codifies the 2018 Dynamex decision by the State Supreme Court while carving out some exemptions for specific professions.

I worked at jobs with benefits for years before deciding to stay home and work as a contract employee. I did this when I became a mother. My husband had benefits from his job, so I no longer had to worry about health insurance, etc. I had the freedom to stay home and write. I’ve written for PR firms, magazines, newspapers, blogs, and worked on non fiction and fiction manuscripts. I’ve had enormous freedom in my writing career to juggle it with motherhood and volunteering. Sometimes writing took a back seat. And that’s okay. It was all my choice. 

Freelancers have different reasons for not being full-time or part-time employees. They know what the benefits are as well as the drawbacks. Why doesn’t the state want us to decide what fits our lives best? Why do they think they know better?

AB 5 came up with a number of 35 submissions to a single publication, or you’re considered an employee. And you have to join the union, too. So how did the State of CA come up with that number?

As for how lawmakers settled on the 35-submission figure, Gonzalez says that she and her team decided that a weekly columnist sounded like a part-time worker and so halved that worker’s yearly submissions. After protest from some freelancers, the number was bumped up to 35. “Was it a little arbitrary? Yeah. Writing bills with numbers like that are a little bit arbitrary,” she says.

Still, labor experts and freelancers alike are skeptical that the desired outcome of AB 5 — that newsrooms will hire California-based freelancers as part-time or full-time employees — will be achieved in the short term, especially as the news media continues to face major challenges to its business (in September, Business Insider estimated that 7,200 workers have lost their media jobs so far this year). Many publications that employ California freelancers aren’t based in the state and it’s not clear how AB 5 will affect them. Still, some are choosing to opt out entirely. Indeed, several freelance writers who spoke to THR say that various out-of-state employers — some with offices in California — have already told them they’re cutting ties with California freelancers.

What’s especially disheartening about this bill is that is was written by someone who doesn’t understand the industry at all. They have no idea how their law is going to affect the media industry.

I’d love to hear from other freelancers about their thoughts on AB 5.

The New Trend: Sportsplow Parents

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Team cheer on my daughter’s college swim team.

Our kids had one swim coach who laid out the law to us (me and a fellow swim mom.) We weren’t allowed to follow our kids to the starting blocks, nor stand at the end of their warm-up lanes with water bottles and towels. We weren’t even allowed to sit on the same side of the pool with them at meets. They had their own space with their coach and no parents allowed! Can you guess how old our kids were at the time? I’m embarrassed to tell you they were in high school — and yes, I was still chasing my kids around with their towels!

It seemed really harsh and crazy to me at the time. Looking back, the coaches my daughter had during her teen years were trying to help our kids gain skills and independence they’d need in college. Yes, my daughter missed an event during this period of time. Something she’d never done before. Of course, how could she not miss an event with me standing by reminding her and her brother when to warm up, go to their lanes and get on the blocks?

When kids get involved at an elite level in sports, most likely their parents are by their sides ensuring they make it. It gets a lot crazier than my simple stories when you’re talking about the major sports and the possibility of millions of dollars. Instead of acting like a Ball, be more of a Darnold parent. I wrote about those parents here and here.

In Sports Illustrated, I read The Rise of the Snowplow Sports Parents By Kalyn Kahler. There are a lot of great examples in the story about parents overly involved in their kids’ sports careers and how many are turning their children’s athletics into full time jobs. Read the entire article here. I’ve included a few excerpts below:

In football as in other sports, they’re drawing up business plans, starting marketing agencies, turning up at practice and even monitoring phone use. But by clearing out every obstacle on their kids’ road to stardom, hyperinvolved moms and dads threaten to deprive young athletes of critical life experiences. And they’re driving coaches and agents nuts.

Arriving at his draft-night party, Dwayne Haskins Jr. steps out of a gray van with a large logo affixed to its side: a black circle with two white H’s that connect in the middle. The Ohio State quarterback makes his way past fans and media down a red carpet, printed with the same logo, and walks under a banner displaying the two H’s. The symbol is everywhere and—to the uninitiated—could be more than a bit confusing: There is, after all, only one Dwayne Haskins about to be drafted. So why two H’s?

As Haskins Jr. wades through 300 of his closest friends and paying customers inside the Bowlmor Lanes in Gaithersburg, Md.—$40 covered bowling, food and drinks—the person responsible for that second h stays attached to his hip. It is his dad.

Dwayne Haskins Sr. has meticulously planned the draft-night event not just to launch his son’s career but also to launch their new family endeavor: Haskins & Haskins Group, LLC, an entertainment, branding and event agency that he registered shortly after Junior declared for the NFL draft in January. He has the two-H logo tattooed on the inside of his wrist, as do Dwayne Jr.’s mom, Tamara, and 18-year-old sister, Tamia, an aspiring actor. (The QB plans on getting it later.) The second h technically refers to Tamia, according to Dwayne Sr., but there’s little doubt who the driving force behind the company is.

Haskins Sr., it turns out, is not unique. One NBA agent said two out of his eight clients have their own LLCs to handle marketing and branding opportunities, set up by parents soon after their college careers ended.

The article describes how parents now show up for basketball camp and stay the entire time watching in the stands. When we sent our kids to USC Swim Camp, they were gone for an entire week. We kidded them that we’d hang out and watch, but we did manage to rip ourselves from their sides and head home. They loved that week so much! I wonder why?

Here’s more from the Sports Illustrated article:

The overactive parent is as old a concept as sports itself, but coaches and agents across football, basketball, baseball and hockey say that over the last few years, parents have become more involved in their children’s athletic careers than ever before—and it is reshaping sports. After all, this is a burgeoning age of player empowerment. Salaries are higher, athletes can force trades and recruit teammates. Business opportunities are everywhere, from the phones in players’ hands to the shoes on their feet. But that also means there are more complex decisions to make. So parents are stepping in to ensure that not an ounce of potential is wasted.

The phenomenon also reflects what’s happening in the rest of society, says psychologist Madeline Levine, an expert on the topic. “It used to be helicopter parenting,” she says. “And now it is snowplow parenting, which is much more active: It means you are doing something to smooth the way for the child. It’s not just that you’re hypervigilant—it’s that you are actually getting rid of those bumps, which robs kids of the necessary experience of learning and failing.”

Not surprisingly, the trend is driving many coaches nuts. “When I think about my next coaching job, I think it should be in an orphanage,” says Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey. “I use that [line] at coaching clinics, and high school coaches give me a standing ovation.”

Call it the age of the sportsplow parent.

I’m thankful for learning how not to be a sportsplow parent. It certainly helped my daughter when she went off to college and swam. The coaches she had in high school taught us well — even if we didn’t understand it at the time. We needed to be trained to let our kids make it on their own. My mom liked to say that her job as a parent was to allow us to fly from the nest. She was right.

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My daughter’s pug Waffles on deck and ready to go.

What are your thoughts about sportsplow parents? Do you know any — or are you one yourself?

What can parents do about tears in youth sports?

kat groupI’ve witnessed my fair share of crazy parents on the pool deck. I watched one parent yell at their child after a race and hold up her iPad, “Do you want to know why you swim so slow? Well I’ll show you right here!”

I heard one mom yell at her daughter, “We’re leaving the meet if you continue to swim like cr*p.” After her next race was over, she pulled her out of the meet.

When my daughter was at her first Summer Junior Olympics she was scared to death for her first swim. She was afraid she’d come in last place. And guess what? She did. What did I do? I ran up to her afterwards and said, “What happened?!”

I read some helpful tips in Sports Parents, We Have a Problem: Crying after sports is not healthy for child development by Jim Taylor Ph.D. for Psychology Today. Read the entire article here.

Like I said, sports parents, we have a problem. Want to know the problem? Well, look in the mirror. I don’t mean to insult you by indicting you as being the problem as an individual parent. I don’t know you or how you are with your children in their sports lives. I’m talking about the many sports parents who have been both seduced by and abet the toxic youth sports culture in which your children are now immersed. You know, the one in which results are all that matter for parents and children alike, even at a young age. And let me be clear: many children are suffering for it athletically and personally.

I am writing this article based on a disturbing experience that made this problem so glaringly evident to me. My painful epiphany occurred while attending a regional championship in a sport in which my younger daughter was competing.

Here is what I saw:

  • A father telling her daughter before the competition, “I know you’re going to win today.”
  • Parents coaching their children before their events.
  • At least a dozen kids in tears after their events.
  • Parents in the finish area talking to their children about their result immediately after they finished.
  • A boy who was lying face-down on the floor of the clubhouse in tears while his father had his earbuds in and was looking at his phone.
  • A father trying to console his sobbing daughter after her event. When a teammate approached, patted her on the back, and said “It’s OK,” the father asked her how she did. When the teammate said, reluctantly, that she won, the father high-fived and congratulated her with tremendous enthusiasm … all the while his daughter lay below him disconsolate.
  • A mother who is a friend of mine told me that her son didn’t want her to watch his events because it makes him too nervous.
  • A father I also know said that his daughter was in tears and vomited before her first event because she was so anxious and she was too upset to compete in her second event.

Why were these young athletes so unhappy to the point of tears in sports that are supposed to be such fun? And keep in mind that these were kids younger than 12 years old, most of whom won’t even be competing in a few years because of their interest in pursuing other activities. I didn’t, of course, interview each one of the tearful young athletes. At the same time, I have seen variations of these kinds of reactions in my consulting practice for decades.

If you dig down one layer to examine the causes of such painful reactions in young athletes, you’ll find expectations and pressure, primarily from parents, but also from peers (by way of comparison rather than ill intent) and our intense youth-sport culture. The weight of expectations is a crushing burden on the shoulders of young athletes. Imagine your children having to put on a 50-pound weight vest when they enter the field of play and you’ll get a sense of what they feel and how it will make them perform.

If you dig down to the very heart of these reactions, you will find a fear of failure—specifically, that if these kids don’t perform well, they perceive that something really bad will happen (however objectively untrue it may be). Based on considerable research and my own work with young athletes, the most common causes of fear of failure include:

  • Disappointing my parents (and, by extension, my parents won’t love me)
  • Being rejected by my peers
  • Ending my sports dreams
  • It will all have been a waste of time
  • Failure in sports means I’m a failure

These beliefs produce in children a threat reaction that causes powerful internal changes including:

  • Psychological (e.g., negativity, doubt, worry)
  • Emotional (e.g., fear, anxiety, stress)
  • Physical (e.g., muscle tension, racing heart, choppy breathing, too much adrenaline)
  • Behavioral (e.g., self-sabotage, avoidance)
  • Performance (e.g., tight, tentative performances)

With this reaction, not only are kids pretty much guaranteed of not performing their best, but sports simply becomes a truly aversive experience.

Let me be clear that this problem isn’t even a sports problem. Rather, it’s a problem that permeates our results-obsessed achievement culture that you find in school, the arts, chess, anywhere in which kids can aspire to great success and where parents can become overly invested.

Now here is where I’m going to go on a rant, so be prepared. Mostly, importantly, my rant starts with a question: As a sports parent, do you want to be part of the problem or part of the solution? (This should be a rhetorical question.)

Here’s a simple reality: Kids under 12 years old shouldn’t be crying after they compete (in fact, no kids should be)! What so many parents and young athletes don’t realize is that results at such a young age (even up to 16 years old) just don’t matter. Sure, it’s great for young athletes’ efforts to be rewarded with good results. And it’s gratifying for kids to get attention for their successes.

Speaking of crying, I remember several times when my kids cried at meets. I wish I would have had the common sense to see that it was not a healthy place to be. My daughter cried after competing for the last coveted spot on a 10 and under JO relay team. The coach had them compete at last ditch, and the fastest that day would make the relay. There were four or five fast young girls competing against each other. Afterwards, my daughter was crying in the warm down pool for an hour.

My son was upset after a race at the Claremont pool and threw himself down on the deck and cried. I was beyond knowing what to do. Another mom was very sympathetic and I remember her trying to talk to him. He ended up walking off the deck and disappearing. I didn’t know where he went and I was frantic. He obviously wasn’t enjoying swimming or competing then and needed space. But we were insisting that he stick with it.

With those horrible memories, I’m thankful they weren’t the norm, but were exceptions. Most of the time my kids were smiling, laughing, hanging out with their friends under pop-up tents and not that concerned with how they swam. It was all about the fun. IMG_5008

Here are the tips the author has for sports parents:

We can’t change the sports culture. So, it’s up to us parents to shape our family’s sports culture and do the right thing for our young athletes. During this holiday season (and beyond!), give your children the gift that keeps on giving: your love and none of the crap.

Here are a few concrete suggestions (and I realize how tough they are to enact, but I can assure you that I’m walking the walk on every one of these with my two athlete daughters):

  • Remind yourself why your kids compete in sports (and it has nothing to do with results).
  • Be happy and have fun at competitions. If you are, your children most likely will too.
  • If you can’t control your emotions at competitions, don’t go.
  • Before competitions, if you find that you are stressed, worried, or anxious, stay away from your kids.
  • Before competitions, don’t try to motivate or coach them; nothing you say will help, but a lot you say can hurt.
  • Before every competition event, smile and say “I love you.”
  • After every competition, smile and say “I love you. Do you want a snack?”
  • After competitions, if you find yourself frustrated, angry, or otherwise upset, stay away from your kid till you’ve calmed down.
  • Here’s the toughest one: Never, ever talk about results! I know this sounds impossible, but it can be done (though it takes tremendous willpower). If your children bring up results, just say, “Results don’t matter now. What matters is that you gave your best effort and had fun.”

33944149_10156550450214612_1114497597600432128_oWhat are your suggestions for when kids cry at meets or competitions?

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It’s official. I was a lawnmower parent.

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“Ever run a forgotten backpack or sports equipment to school for your child? The habit is a sign that you’re engaging in lawnmower parenting.”

That is the first sentence in a story from nbcnews.com called Why ‘lawnmower parenting’ is like robbing your kids — and how to actually help them by Nicole Spector. Yes! I’m so guilty. I ran forgotten homework to school, forgotten lunches, projects and swim suits and swim bags from kindergarten through high school graduation day. I thought I was helping, but instead my kids didn’t get to learn from mistakes or how to make do when things weren’t perfect. The downside is that all this help from mom was going to cripple them later on — I saw it first hand. Children of lawnmower parents lack resilience, confidence and the ability to problem solve.  Here’s an excerpt from the article:

The recent “Operation Varsity Blues” scandal is an extreme example, but this parenting tactic is more common than you may think. Are you guilty?

First we had helicopter parents — the types who “hover” over their children’s every move; now, we have lawnmower parents.

Saba Harouni Lurie, a licensed marriage and family therapist defines lawnmower parenting (also referred to as “bulldozing parenting” and “snowplow parenting”) simply as: “when parents remove obstacles for their kids in hopes of setting them up to be successful.”

The “Operation Varsity Blues” scandal that recently saw dozens of parents, including recognizable actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Laughlin, charged in a $25 million college cheating scheme, may be interpreted partly as an extreme (and criminal) example of lawnmower parenting; but therapists, parenting coaches and educators say they observe lesser (and legal) variations of lawnmower parenting often.

“I see this all the time,” says Jasmine Peters, a parenting life coach and founder of Parenting Wellness Center, LLC. “Most parents don’t realize what they are doing until I bring it to their attention.”

From not allowing them to quit, to ‘pulling strings’ so they get ahead

Jenny Grant Rankin, PhD, an educator, author, lecturer and writer for “Psychology Today”, highlights just how subtly lawnmower parenting can operate.

“For example, if a boy forgets his violin at home, his mom races to drop it at school before band practice so the boy doesn’t have to weather the consequences [that’s a variation of lawnmower parenting],” she says. “If a girl gets in a fight, her dad yells at the principal that it was the other child’s fault and refuses to hand out consequences at home.”

Kelley Kitley, a licensed clinical social worker, adds that lawnmower parenting can also manifest as “pulling strings to get your child onto a certain sports team”, ”setting up a rigorous summer schedule that is all work and no play to get ahead” or “not allowing your child to choose activities they want to participate in or forcing them not to ‘quit’ if they no longer enjoy it”.

Another example, from Rankin: “If a child fails to complete a homework assignment, a mild lawnmower will say her kid is sick so the child can use the time off school to get the project done.”

‘Lawnmower’ parents usually have good intentions, but this behavior backfires later

Bringing your kid his violin because he forgot it, or defending your kid when she’s gotten into a fight, doesn’t sound so bad to me. Indeed, we see such depictions in Hollywood movies all the time and those parents can seem downright heroic. Look at that mom saving the day! Go dad — sticking up for his daughter!

This is where it gets tricky because these types of parents really do want to help, and, usually they have no idea how potentially harmful this manner of helping can be.

So, why is bringing your kid his violin harmful? In and of itself, it’s not. But making a habit of these kinds of quick fixes for your kids can be detrimental in the long term.

“These parents think they are helping their children, but [they’re] robbing kids of the chance to face obstacles, [meaning] these kids don’t get practice dealing with challenges and developing healthy expectations,” Rankin says. “Kids who receive the best of everything and don’t have opportunities to practice defeat will later struggle when coping with life’s messy nature. Such children are also less likely to appreciate their good fortune; gratitude is a vital ingredient for happiness.”

Kitley makes a similar conclusion: “I absolutely do believe these parents mean well for their kids, but it fails them because it sets them up to not have the skills to cope with disappointments of not getting something you want which is a fact of life,” she says. “We want to teach kids to be resilient, and the only way they can learn this is through experiencing disappointment, picking themselves back up again and looking for a different path or outcome.”

Why do we this? It usually comes down to you and not your kids

The article offers explanations for why parents go down this path from our personality types to a need to compensate because of our own childhood experiences. It also offers tips to to help parents change which I’ve highlighted below.

It’s painful for me to look back on how much I did for my first born and how much he struggled when he was away at college. I was a little better with my daughter because she lucked out by me gaining a bit more experience. I remember talking to teachers constantly on behalf of both my kids when I thought they received an unfair grade or punishment. Those teachers must have secretly despised me. Seriously. I wrote an email to a high school teacher complaining about my son receiving a B in a class because it was taking him out of the running for a Merit Scholar award. I really did want everything to go smoothly for them, so I was a lawnmower, removing every obstacle in their paths.

We want to teach kids to be resilient, and the only way they can learn this is through experiencing disappointment, picking themselves back up again and looking for a different path.

What does success mean? Add ‘resilience’ to the definition

The goal of lawnmower parents generally is to help their kids succeed. But what is success to you? Think about it. Make a list. And as Lurie suggests, consider revamping it.

“Rather than being outcome-based, could that definition [of success] look like our children developing independence and resilience? Then we can shift our energies to helping them achieve that, while allowing them to have their own experiences and resisting living our lives through them.”

Recovering ‘lawnmower’? Here’s what to do:

  • Start to change by being honest with yourself and your kids. Changing parenting styles can be not only hard on you — it can be hard on your kid, especially if they’re used to having you figure out how to handle their problems. “If you are a lawnmower parent who wants to change, be honest,” says Rankin, “Sit your child down and explain you have been too lenient. You thought you were helping your child by removing obstacles, but you realize now that consequences and struggle are an important part of growing up and learning how to deal with life. Say that things will be different from now on, explain how, and (very importantly) stick to what you said. It will be hard at first: your child will not like the change and will push you to go back to your old ways, so be strong. Good parenting will get easier. [I recommend] reading the book ‘Mindset’ by Carol Dweck for assistance.”

  • Give strategies for problem solving. Sharing wisdom with and lending guidance to your kids is always useful, and you should continue to be as supportive as you can when they’re dealing with a challenge (provided you don’t step in to clean up the mess). “Ask your child what they think they can do to solve the problem, which will help them consider alternatives,” says Lurie. “Make tasks more approachable by helping your child break problems down into steps. Support them and praise them as they complete each part of the process, which will allow them to lean on you for support while also allowing them to take ownership of their own decisions, regardless of outcome.”

  • Should you struggle with backing off, remember how your kid learned to walk. Just because you’ve decided to let go a bit (or, at least, resist intervention around building success) doesn’t mean you’ll immediately break your habit of wanting to control their challenges. When this happens, Lurie recommends remembering how your child learned to walk. “Letting them fall was probably difficult to tolerate as their parent, but we had to let them do it in order for them to learn to walk,” she says. “As they enter new stages of development, they will continue to ‘fall,’ and it’s just as important for us to tolerate our own reaction to it.”

  • Keep your eye on the goal: independence! Just as we want our children to be able to walk instead of crawl, we want them to be able to thrive on their own instead of depend on us. The more you can remind yourself of this, the better you’ll manage keeping boundaries in place. “Strive to focus on what is healthy for the child in the long run,” says Manly. “Imagine what is best for the child — not your own gratification or personal agenda. This takes quite a bit of insight, focused effort, consistency and patience. Don’t give up.”

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What do you see as the biggest downside of lawnmower parenting?