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.

What are 14 things helicopter parents do?

 

 

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My kids had long days of unstructured playtime at the beach.

 

I found three interesting articles about helicopter parents today. The first from the HuffPost is called “Do You Recognize the 3 Warning Signs of a Helicopter Parent?”
The author David Wygant goes into more detail that you can read here, but the bullet points are below:

#1: Their kids can’t really leave or go anywhere without them
#2: Vacations basically don’t exist without the kids
#3: No sleepovers allowed

I can add to this list, from my own mistakes and from watching other helicopter parents. I like to think of myself as a reformed helicopter parent—or at least one who’s been grounded. Here are my warning signs to add to the previous three points:

#4: You walk your kids into their classroom and “help” them put their things away.
#5: You chat with the teacher daily about your child’s progress and what they can work on to get ahead.
#6: You never turn down an opportunity to volunteer at your children’s school.
#7: You’ve been room mom every year.
#8: You arrange playdates with kids you would like your children to become friends with.
#9: After school, you empty your child’s backpack or book bag and go through all their graded work and homework assignments without them.
#10: You supervise homework sitting down at their side.
#11: You go to every swim practice and talk to the coach every day after practice to ask how your child is doing.
#12: You have nothing to talk about with your friends except how exceptional your children are.
#13: You have a tough time listening to anyone else and often interrupt or walk away while someone else is talking.
#14: Your children don’t have any downtime in their lives and you’re always involved in everything they do.

Like I said, I honestly did not do these things. Well, at least not all of them. Here is the second parenting article I read today called “Time To Ditch the Helicopter, Parents” written by Kevin Thomas:

During orientation programs, when students and parents split into separate groups, there are often talks to Mom and Dad about letting go and the dangers of the helicopter parent. These are nice ways of saying it’s not about you.

The helicopter parent, for those new to the term, is the one who can never stay out of the kid’s life, interfering, making the most the routine choices or performing the smallest chores for the child (who is no longer a child).

When my previous offspring prepared to attend a military academy, we read posts on a parents’ Facebook page, asking how to pack for their child. These young people were going off to college to learn how to become military leaders in battle, and they couldn’t pack their own duffle bag?

Love is not coddling. It about knowing when to let go.

The last parenting article is from 2015 and reposted recently. It includes an excerpt from Julie Lythcott-Haims in her book “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.” You can read more here.

Former Stanford Dean Says Overparenting Leads To Kids Being Unprepared For College

Around the country, students are moving into college dorms for the first time. As former dean of freshmen at Stanford University, Julie Lythcott-Haims observed parents becoming increasingly involved in their children’s lives. Consequently, their kids arrived at college without some basic living skills. In response, Lythcott-Haims published the 2015 book, “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.”

Here & Now’s Meghna Chakrabarti’s revisits a conversation from August 2015 with Lythcott-Haims (@DeanJulie) about the book.

3 Parenting Tips From Julie Lythcott-Haims

Stop staying “we.” In conversation about your children, don’t refer to their work or achievements by using “we.” “We” are not on the soccer team, “we’re” not doing the science project, and “we’re” not applying to college.
Stop arguing with the adults in your children’s lives. Kids need to learn to advocate for themselves with their teachers, coaches or other school staff. They should have these conversations themselves.
Stop doing your children’s homework. The only way kids will learn is by doing their work themselves.

Have you seen parents doing things on my list? Can you add to it?

 

Letting my kids play and be kids.

I supervised from a distance, of course.