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 can parents help kids with resilience?

I wrote this a couple years ago and I believe there is some useful information about resilience that is worth repeating.

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Resilience can be learned at the pool.

 

re·sil·ience
rəˈzilyəns
noun
1. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
“the often remarkable resilience of so many British institutions”

2. the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.
“nylon is excellent in wearability and resilience”

I’ve read several articles about resilience in the last few days and it is interesting to learn why some people bounce back after defeat or failure while others collapse. It’s also enlightening to learn how parents can help their kids become more resilient. It reminded me of a conversation with a therapist friend, Nicolle Walters, R.N., PH.D., Clinical Psychologist. 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.”

For more of my interview with Nicolle read “The Instant Gratification Generation and Helicopter Parents” here.

That thought process is reflected in a Wall Street Journal article called “The Secrets of Resilience” by Meg Jay. Here’s an excerpt:

“What does it take to conquer life’s adversities? Lessons from successful adults who overcame difficult childhoods

“Does early hardship in life keep children from becoming successful adults? It’s an urgent question for parents and educators, who worry that children growing up in difficult circumstances will fail to reach their full potential, or worse, sink into despair and dysfunction.

“Social scientists have shown that these risks are real, but they also have found a surprising pattern among those whose early lives included tough times: Many draw strength from hardship and see their struggle against it as one of the keys to their later success. A wide range of studies over the past few decades has shed light on how such people overcome life’s adversities—and how we might all cultivate resilience as well.”

I don’t mean to say that we’re failing our kids by caring for them and creating positive, stable environments. No, I think that will help them become positive and caring people. But, if they haven’t faced any problems or adversity, it may be a wake-up call when they do. In “Raising Resilience: Parenting Tips that Go the Distance” a blog by Julie Gowthorpe, PH.D. in Hitched, she writes about “how to better prepare your child for the ups and downs in life, it’s good to let them experience struggle.” She has several practical tips you can read in her article here. In addition, I’ve quoted a bit of her article:

“Every loving parent wants childhood to be a positive experience for their kids. When it comes to parenting however, only focusing on the positive is problematic because it derails children’s ability to develop resilience. Resilience, the ability to bounce back from adversity, is extremely important when teens move off to college and face problems independently.

“Since many young people seem armed with a sense of self-importance and confidence, they present as able to conquer any challenge. Unfortunately, high rates of anxiety, depression and even suicide attempts in college-age students indicate that this is not the case.

“Deluded by the belief that children should be protected from uncomfortable feelings (such as disappointment and sadness), some parents and school systems have completely undermined teaching the importance of work ethic and perseverance. The importance of learning to ‘try and try again’ has been left behind for ‘everyone gets a trophy just for being you.

“The problem with the latter is that it breeds entitled thinking patterns and disrupts learning the natural link between effort, skill and success. Without understanding natural outcomes, later-age teens can be psychologically devastated when they experience failure. With no tolerance for the emotional discomfort, it is no wonder that their mental health spirals and academic success suffers.”

I look at my kids’ lives and they both struggled more in college than I’d expected. They were coddled pretty much at home, by me. But, I do believe they faced challenges in their own ways and weren’t completely without experiencing failure during their formative years. Also, I firmly believe competitive swimming helped them learn the life lessons of hard work, not giving up, shaking it off after a failure and getting back on the blocks to reach their goals. They both have grit, which I think is related to resilience. If they truly want something, they don’t give up in their pursuit.

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My daughter giving it her all in the 1,650 despite having the flu at PAC 12s.

How do you view resilience in your own lives?