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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Three strategies for parents of boys

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My son and daughter.

I have never thought that raising a boy was much different than raising a girl. Since I’m the parent of one of each, it never occurred to me to think of needing different strategies to raise them because of their gender. They were entirely different human beings on so many levels. They had some common interests and a wide range of different ones, too. Their personalities were different from babyhood into adulthood, which in my opinion as the mom had nothing to do with their sex.

So, with all that in mind, when my husband told me about an article called “The New Strategies for Raising a Boy” from yesterday’s Wall Street Journal by Elizabeth Bernstein, I was skeptical.

She writes about a new book that “offers a road map for parents of sons at a time when boys face struggles at school and increasing pressures on social medal.” I had no idea how hard it is to be a boy today. None at all. The article was eye-opening and some of the struggles I had with my son his senior year of high school make more sense with a new perspective.

Here is an excerpt:

The New Strategies for Raising a Boy

It’s a challenging time to parent a boy. Moms and dads worry about everything from hypermasculine cultural stereotypes to how to talk about sex in the #MeToo era.

A new book, “How to Raise a Boy: The Power of Connection to Build Good Men,” suggests there’s good reason for concern. Author Michael C. Reichert cites research showing that boys seek help from health care or school staff at rates nearly twice those of girls; they lag behind girls in social and behavioral skills; and they are the primary recipients of disciplinary sanctions and medication prescriptions.

Dr. Reichert, the founding director of the Center for the Study of Boys’ and Girls’ Lives at the University of Pennsylvania, aims to provide a road map for parents of sons. A clinical and research psychologist specializing in boys and men for more than 30 years, Dr. Reichert has worked both in the juvenile justice system and with boys in some of the most affluent communities in the country.

Here is an excerpt of a conversation with him:

Are there unique challenges for this generation of boys?

Yes. Media images of boys have exaggerated body types. Studies show that this exaggeration of the male figure in videogames and movies—the Adonis complex—is a relatively new phenomenon. We also see it in the ways that younger males are presenting images of themselves on social media. Boys are aware of the broad audience of spectators on social media viewing them and their relationships. And they are becoming more self-conscious.

Hookup culture is another challenge. Research shows that 62% of young men say they have regrets after a hookup. They wish they had more opportunity for intimacy and romance. But they feel a prohibition to “catching feelings.”

There is also a concern about the danger of addiction to technology. Boys put in more hours playing videogames and watching pornography than girls do. And these industries are becoming very adept at creating dependency.

What do we need to change?

It is the role of the adult—the parents, teacher, coach or mentor—to not buy the mask that boys may have adopted, the cool pose or bravado posture. The boy has put that on as a matter of his survival in his peer culture, the brotherhood. Underneath that is a fully beating heart and human desire for connection. We need to reprioritize this need.

Human minds are wired to connect, so this is important for both boys and girls. But it is important to remember that we are influenced, consciously and unconsciously, by stereotypes of boys. Because of this we have socialized them in a way that leaves them on their own. We need to reinforce for ourselves that they need connection.

How can parents improve their connections with their sons?

I suggest three tools. The first is the tool of deep listening, a form of listening in which parents maintain their focus of attention on their son, and not let themselves get distracted by their immediate concerns or the life lesson they want to teach their boy.

What is the second tool parents can use?

The next is “special time”—carving out a block of time in which you are going to go be with your son one-on-one. This is intuitive but not easy. You are going to pay attention to him and follow his lead and do what he wants to do, whatever that is. Often it starts out with lots of videogames, or shooting baskets, or watching TV shows. We are giving them the freedom to direct the time or play. And that outweighs any concerns about technology or gaming or TV viewing.

What’s the third tool?

It is a way to set limits, premised on the notion that boys who get cut off from their emotions often act their emotions out. A boy who is angry or scared or disappointed or who has experienced some setback acts his emotions out by becoming mean to his sister or disconnected from his family or shut down, angry or surly.

It’s the parents’ job to intervene and help the boy work through the painful emotion. I call this the “listen, limit, listen” model. The first step is to notice the boy is off-course.

Next, the parent steps in and says: “I am not going to let you do this—let you isolate from your family or not do homework or be mean to your sister.” You tell him firmly but not forcefully. A limit set accurately is not about domination or forcing compliance.

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What are your thoughts about the differences in raising boys and girls? What strategies do you use, or do you raise each individual as that — an individual?

Reflections from a new sports parent

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My son during the age of tee-ball.

Reading an article in the Wall Street Journal called “A Rookie Sports Parent’s Guide to Sports Parenting” by Jason Gay, brought back fond and crazy memories from years ago. When we were first sports parents, our son tried tee-ball. We had some hilarious moments of funny things the kids did, but also not so funny ways that parents acted–including ourselves.

My son never seemed to get into the game. But he loved sitting in the dirt building castles and daydreaming, without noticing or caring that a ball flew or rolled past him. Once, an athletic youngster hit the ball and charged straight out to the field getting to his ball before anyone else could to bring it back. All the parents laughed at that.

It was all going okay, since we didn’t mind our son’s fascination with anything in the field except the ball, until the day one of the coach dads asked my husband to help out. I knew it wasn’t a good idea. My husband is the type of overly enthusiastic guy who can go overboard easily. So when my son was laying in the dirt as short stop, crafting a castle from the red clay and a ball was headed his way, my husband grabbed our son by the back of the shirt, pick him up, and the two raced after the ball together! That was one of the not so good memories. After that day, my husband at least had enough sense to be embarrassed and refused to help out as a tee-ball coach ever again.

We made it through the first season of tee-ball and the season ended with a pool party at our house, complete with the required trophies for everyone–including our son the dirt castle builder. One good thing we did for him–we never signed him up for a season of tee-ball again. We recognized it wasn’t his thing.

Here’s an excerpt from the Wall Street Journal:

“A columnist enters the magical world of practices, game days, and cheese sticks. So far, so good—but it’s early…”

I’ve recently become a bona fide sports parent. I think it’s going fine. I’ve yet to get arrested for sumo-wrestling another parent in the parking lot. Of course, there’s plenty of season left, so who knows.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

• The college scholarship offers…I don’t know what your experience was, but I’ll be honest: They haven’t exactly come rushing in. My son is two games into his spring season, and we haven’t had a single nibble from a college coach.

• I should mention my son is 6 years old, and he just started playing Pee Wee baseball. But still, college coaches: Make us an offer! Even a half scholarship will do. Wisconsin: Where are you?

• I’m giving my son two more weeks to get a scholarship offer before I start photoshopping his head atop the bodies of high-school rowers. Is this illegal? Please let me know.

• Ah that’s right: Wisconsin hasn’t had a baseball team for ages. This seems bizarre. The Badgers have a varsity bratwurst team.

• The parents around my son’s team are kind, encouraging and seem uninterested in being bad sports parents—you know, the sports parents that end up on the 11 p.m. local news, swinging folding chairs at each other. To be sure, it’s easier being a good sports parent when it’s just 6-year-olds. I’m sure the sports parenting gets a lot more intense when the games mean something, and the kids are older, like 7.

• So far, we’re staying local. This keeps it sane. Every sports parent I know with older sports children says the happiest days of their lives are when their children are born—and the saddest days are when their children make travel teams.

• It’s kids—not adults—who have the correct perspective on sports. My son likes playing baseball, but if, on the way to the game, I told him we were going to skip baseball and go look for hermit crabs, he’d be perfectly fine with that, too.

• Last week my son asked me: “Do we have that thing on Saturday…What’s that thing I play?” It was adorable, and yet I also thought: Here’s a golden opportunity to prank him into thinking he’s on a badminton team.

There is a lot more good stuff in Jason Gay’s article. I suggest you click on the link above and read it. Having been through the years of sports parenting and being a sports parenting writer — I’m kind of jealous. He’s got all these years ahead of him to enjoy.

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The best of times were letting the kids play for hours on end at the beach.

What are some of the funny or crazy moments you remember as a sports parent — or that your parents did?

Are Baby Boomers More Involved With Their Adult Kids?

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Sutro baths on the Pacific. photo by Robert Wickham

As a baby boomer who loves hanging out with my adult kids, I found this article in the Wall Street Journal called “Baby Boomers and the Art of Parenting Adult Kids” by Clare Ansberry to be right up my alley. “More involved with grown children than previous generations, many boomers struggle with letting them go” was the tag line to the story. Hmm. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Am I struggling to let my kids go? Or, do I simply like hanging out with them?

I had a trip to Nor Cal to hang out for a few days with my son and his girlfriend, and I treasured the trip. I don’t go up to San Francisco very often, mostly because it’s too far and it costs a lot. My son treated me to some great sightseeing including hiking up to Indian Rock to see the sunset, a trip to SF MOMA and the Sutro baths. We had some incredible meals including Belotti and a Chinese restaurant where I watched them roll out fresh noodles in the window called Shan Dong.

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The view from Indian Rock Park. photo by Robert Wickham

On my trip, I visited a swim team in Roseville, California Capital Aquatics, and talked about things swim parents need to know so they don’t make the same mistakes I did. That was a blast, and having my son take time off work and drive me there, gave me a boost of confidence. He seemed to enjoy what I had to say and was encouraging.

The following weekend, we were off to Arizona to spend the weekend with our daughter. We are exploring where we want to “downsize” to, which I wrote about yesterday. Presently, Arizona is at the top of our list. Plus, my daughter is there. Enough about me and my time hanging out with my kids. Here are some excerpts from the article about baby boomers and their adult kids:

Linda Hoskins would like to believe her adult son considers her a friend.

She’s a baby boomer and boomers tend to think they’re cooler than their own parents were, she says.

“Therefore why wouldn’t our kids want to hang out with us all the time. We’re their friends, right?” the 69-year-old executive director of the American Pie Council asks half-jokingly.

Her son sees it a little differently. “She’s my mom,” says Rick, 44. While very close—seeing each other several times a week until she recently moved and texting in between—his mom isn’t on the same level as his friends, nor would he want her to be.

Baby boomers are far more immersed with their own grown children than their parents were with them, says Karen Fingerman, a professor of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Texas, Austin. She found that parents in the early 2000s offered about twice as much counsel and practical support (which could be anything from babysitting grandkids, running their grown kids’ errands or reviewing their résumés) as parents did in the 1980s. Such deep ties can make it hard to let kids go or accept that they will likely love their children more deeply than their kids can love them.

FAMILY MATTERS

Tips for boomer parents dealing with their adult kids

  • Don’t give unsolicited advice. If they want your opinion or need your help, they will ask.
  • Let your kids make mistakes. You did and learned from them.
  • Make a life of your own, so your children don’t feel guilty as they move on with their own life.
  • Manage your own expectations. The fewer expectations, the less likely you are going to be disappointed when they don’t call or visit as often as you would like.
  • Keep in touch in ways that are meaningful to them, whether that’s texting, FaceTime, or phone calls.
  • Set limits. If you can’t or don’t want to babysit all the time, let them know.

Boomers are also the first group of parents in the psychological era, when therapy became more commonplace and relationships were closely examined, says William Doherty, a professor of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota. Their own parents were concerned about a child being safe, getting a job, and getting married. “They didn’t obsess about how they were feeling about you,” he says, adding that there are far more elements of friendship in boomers’ relationships with kids. “In many ways, that’s good. But then you have to deal with disappointment if kids are not as close as you would hope for.”

That’s what Linda Stroh found when she and a fellow author surveyed nearly 1,000 baby boomers for their book, “Getting Real about Getting Older.”

“My kids use language like ‘my family’ and ‘our family’ and they don’t mean us,” one man commented. “I’m at the mercy of their whims. We see them when they want, not when we want,” said another. “I miss my kids. I want to be around them more,” one woman said.

It’s not that grown kids don’t want to be part of a parent’s life, but that they are really busy, says Dr. Stroh, herself a boomer and mother of two children, who are very involved with their careers. “If I get a call, I’m thrilled and flattered,” says Dr. Stroh, who teaches human development at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Pittsburgh resident Art DeConciliis, 58, remembers when he and his wife, Mary Pat, got married. “It was sink or swim,” he says, their parents offering little help or support. Today, his three adult children, all married and living near their Pittsburgh home, frequently call for advice about work, buying a house and starting a family. He’s happy to offer it.

“My self-identity is very closely tied to my relationship with my children. I don’t think that was the case with my dad. His was wrapped up in his business,” he says. While he sometimes wonders if too much advice-seeking and advice-giving is a good thing, he also felt a little disappointed that his youngest daughter didn’t involve him when she and her husband bought a house.

That daughter, Samantha DeConciliis-Davin, 26, says that while close to her parents, she has always been independent. Buying a house without their input wasn’t a slight as much as it was an affirmation of their lifelong guidance. “I still depend on them for advice,” she says. They are the first ones she calls if something happens at work.

Kathy McCoy, a psychotherapist specializing in family dynamics, says some distance can be a good thing. Kids should refrain from telling their parents everything and parents should refrain from trying to direct their adult child or grandchild’s life. “That distance can lead to a new kind of closeness,” says Dr. McCoy, who wrote “We Don’t Talk Anymore,” about estrangement between parents and their adult children.

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My adult son at SF MOMA.

If you’re the parent of adult kids, do you think you’re struggling to let your kids go, or like me, do you like to spend time with them? 

Are parents over the top for hiring video game tutors?

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Personally, I prefer my kids being outside instead of sitting in front of a screen.

A WSJ article called “Ready, Aim, Hire a ‘Fortnite’ Coach: Parents Enlist Videogame Tutors for Their Children” by Sarah E. Needleman, caused a furor this week. I’ll admit I stopped paying attention to gaming after my kids left home. The extent of my own video game experience was Mario Brothers and tennis on the Wii. My son liked to play Zelda and he used his GameBoy Color to play Pokemon. I guess you could say we weren’t a big video game family.

When my dad emailed me an article about parents hiring coaches for “Fortnite,” I realized I had no idea what Fortnite was! Since then I’ve learned that it’s a hugely popular video game with millions playing worldwide. Parents are hiring online tutors so their kids get better at the game, much as we hired Coach Todd to help my kids with their stroke technique in swimming. Why would parents hire tutors to help their kids play a game? There are many reasons including huge monetary rewards and even college scholarships. Who knew? Even my daughter’s college the University of Utah introduced Varsity Esports as a thing.

“The U and its nationally ranked Entertainment Arts & Engineering video game development program announced today that it is forming the U’s first college-sponsored varsity esports program. Utah esports will compete in multiple games and has confirmed the industry leading League of Legends as its first game with additional games to be announced shortly. The esports program is the first of its kind from a school out of the Power Five athletics conferences (Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12, Atlantic Coast and Southeastern).

“Esports has had a dramatic rise in popularity in the U.S. over the last few years – especially on college campuses,” said A.J. Dimick, director of operations for the U’s new esports program. “We think college esports is a great opportunity and we want our students to be part of it.”

The U’s esports program will be sponsored by the EAE video game development program, which has been ranked the No. 1 video game design program in the nation for three of the past five years by The Princeton Review.”

Here are some excerpts from the WSJ:

“It’s not the violence or the addiction of the hit game that bothers mom and dad—it’s the losing.”

Ally Hicks fretted over her 10-year-old son playing the hugely popular shoot-em-up videogame “Fortnite.”

This is for your own good

It wasn’t the violence or the amount of time she was worried about. It was the result. He wasn’t winning.

So she hired him a coach. For about $50, Ms. Hicks purchased four hours of online lessons from a player she found through a freelance labor website.

For many children, “Fortnite” has become a social proving ground. More than 125 million people play it world-wide, according to its maker, mostly in a free mode pitting 100 combatants against each other until one person or team is left standing.

Winning bestows the kind of bragging rights that used to be reserved for the local Little League baseball champ. Just like eager dugout dads opening their wallets for pitching lessons, videogame parents are more than willing to pay for their offspring to gain an edge.

Nick Mennen was happy to pay $20 an hour for his 12-year-old son, Noble, to take “Fortnite” lessons. The dad is already dreaming of a scholarship—or at least some tournament money. (“Fortnite” creator Epic Games Inc. recently pledged $100 million in tournament prizes. Some colleges court gamers with financial incentives to join their varsity teams.)

Noble used to win “Fortnite” infrequently before he began taking about six hours of lessons a month. “Now he’ll throw down 10 to 20 wins,” said Mr. Mennen, a software developer in Cedar Park, Texas.

The success has made Noble competitive with his dad. “I should be the one charging him,” Noble said. “He’s not as good as me.”

Coaches can be found on social media or through contracting sites such as Gamer Sensei and Bidvine, which said it has hired out more than 1,400 “Fortnite” coaches since early March. Some coaches can’t believe parents want to sign up their children for lessons.

“It’s really surreal to me,” said Logan Werner, an 18-year-old “Fortnite” coach in Roy, Utah, who plays the combat game on a professional team called Gankstars. “My dad would have never paid for me to take videogame lessons.”

Hiring a “Fortnite” coach for a child is no different than enlisting an expert to help a child excel at basketball or chess, parents say. Some sit in on lessons to make sure coaches are professional and that their children, well, level up.

“I want them to excel at what they enjoy,” Euan Robertson said of his sons Alexander, 10, and Andrew, 12. He hired them a “Fortnite” coach in June, who can stay as long as the children keep up their grades.

Here’s a video from Good Morning America about the phenomenon of hiring tutors to help kids improve at Fortnite. According to their story, tournament play has up to $100 million in prizes. 

In USA Today, “Fortnite tutors are a thing. And yes, parents are paying them,” written by Caroline Blackmon, writes that the craze over Fortnite is like Beatlemania. Really?

It’s turned kids into couch potatoes.

It’s caused professional athletes to crash and burn at their jobs.

It’s even infiltrated daily conversations with its own vocabulary.

Fortnite arrived on the scene last July as a free-to-play shooter by Epic Games. But it started off as less than a success when first released.

Then, in September 2017, Epic added a free-to-play “battle royale” mode, in which 100 players on a large island fight for survival.

That’s when things went crazy.

It captured the Minecraft generation with its free play, bright graphics and ridiculous costumes. It even overtook Minecraft in March as the most-watched video game in YouTube history.

“In terms of fervor, compulsive behavior and parental noncomprehension, the Fortnite craze has elements of Beatlemania, the opioid crisis and the ingestion of Tide Pods,” according to the New Yorker.

Now instead of pushing back against the addictive nature of the game, some parents are doubling down on Fortnite by hiring tutors for their kids.

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I prefer this view to a video game.

What are your thoughts about hiring tutors for video games? Do you think it’s a reasonable thing for parents to do or not? Are parents going way over the top, or is it fine to give our kids all the reasonable advantages to help their self-esteem and perhaps earn a college scholarship?

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?

A Free-Range Parent Talks About the Free-Range Utah Law

 

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My son having play-time at the beach.

 

If you read parenting news and blogs like I do, you’ve probably read that a new law in Utah that goes into effect in May, allows parents to stop being helicopters. A Wall Street Journal article called “Parents, You Can Stop Helicoptering” is written by Lenore Skenazy, the woman who let her 9-year-old child ride the subway alone in New York.

Here are some excerpts from her opinion piece:

“If you send your kid out to play in the park for an hour, or buy a carton of milk, or even walk to school, guess what? If you’re in Utah, you won’t get arrested for negligence. Woo hoo!

“You don’t have to worry about a trial, fines, mandatory parenting classes, jail time or even losing custody, all thanks to a new law passed unanimously by the Utah Legislature and signed this month by Gov. Gary Herbert. It goes into effect in May. It’s called the Free-Range Parents Law, named after the movement I started, Free-Range Kids.

“I’m the New York mom who let her 9-year-old ride the subway alone and wrote a column about it for the late, great New York Sun. That was 10 years ago April 1 (and no, it wasn’t a joke). Two days later I found myself on NBC’s “Today” show, MSNBC, Fox News Channel and National Public Radio. The hosts all asked the same question: “But Lenore, how would you have felt if he never came home?”

“Well, I did have a spare son at home. But seriously, that very question was the reason parents were going crazy with worry. Paranoia about abduction by strangers—among the rarest of crimes—was the whole reason kids were being supervised every second. The No. 1 cause of death for children is car accidents. Yet you don’t hear talk-show hosts saying: “Oh my God, you drove your son to the dentist? How would you have felt if you got T-boned by a truck?”

“I started the Free-Range Kids blog the weekend after the media firestorm, to explain that I am all for safety. I love helmets, car seats, seat belts. If you’re having a baby, my shower gift is a fire extinguisher. But I let my son go out into the big wide world without me because that’s what kids, certainly 9-year-olds, have been doing since the beginning of time.”

Her article goes on to describe hair-raising scenarios where 911 was called and Child Protective Services showed up at homes when a parent let their kids be alone for five minutes or less—or play outside the house 150 feet away. In one story, a mom went into a Starbucks and let her girls sit in their van. A police officer greeted her and threatened to take the kids away when she returned three minutes later. The next day, Child Protective Services showed up at their house and demanded a doctor examine the children for signs of abuse.

Here’s what Skenazy wrote about the law in Utah:

“The Utah law redefines neglect to exclude letting kids walk to school, play outside, remain briefly in a vehicle under certain conditions, stay at home as a latchkey kid, or engage in any “similar independent activity.” It adds that children should be of “sufficient age and maturity to avoid harm or unreasonable risk of harm,” which could leave the door open for overzealous officials. But clearly the law leans in the direction of giving Free-Range parents the benefit of the doubt.

“In America, we keep talking about how we need to raise a generation of kids who are smart, resilient problem-solvers ready to take on the chaotic, robotic economy ahead. We can’t do it by standing always by their side, solving all their problems.

“It is not negligent to believe our kids are ready for the childhood independence that made us who we are. It is negligent to deprive them of it.”

Isn’t it a shame that our children aren’t allowed the same freedom we had as kids? I never let my kids walk to the park or wander around the block alone when they were young. When I was young, we were outside if the weather allowed it. We rode our bikes around and went in and out of neighbor’s houses. I remember going to the Schutt’s house (they had teenagers who babysat us–and a horse named Snoopy.) I loved hanging out in the girls’ rooms and seeing their cool clothes, make-up and hairstyles. Their mom always gave us a cookie or popsicle, too.

My kids never had that life. We did have a child kidnapped from his front yard in a nearby town when my kids were little and it scared me to death. His body eventually was found. That one incident had a profound effect on my parenting.

I let my kids play at the park or beach, but we moms would be gathered on a blanket chatting and watching while they played. They also had their space at the pool, where they went six days a week for practice with a great group of kids. The park, beach and the pool allowed a little bit of freedom for them to explore and be with other kids, without us constantly hovering—although we were there on the sidelines ready to helicopter at a moment’s notice.

robkatrock

Freedom to play at the beach.

 

What are your thoughts about society today not allowing kids any freedom? Do you agree with the new law in Utah?