Saturday, July 27, 2019

Why do we keep raising CHILDREN?

As a teacher and a parent, I have been astounded by the behavior I've seen from parents. I've learned not to judge, and I don't want to come across as a "know-it-all" with parenting. After all, parenting is a perpetual work in progress. Right?

I have one guiding phrase that helps me: The point of parenting is to help your child achieve emotional gratification.

Now, that's easier said than done. But with that guiding principle, stressing the importance of self-worth, empathy, kindness, adapting and problem solving are all a part of it.

Unfortunately, many of my fellow Gen Xers have fallen victim to the parenting of the day. They've been helicopter parents or bulldozer parents, and they think that's how it should be because that's what's happening around them.

Well, thank God for Julie Lythcott-Haims and How to Raise an Adult (2015). In a United States of parenting and college admittance gone awry, Lythcott-Haims has provided parents a must-read, especially for ones with college in the future. She put into words experiences that I wholeheartedly relate to, and How to Raise an Adult is my favorite parenting book. It's a perfect pick to kick off the parenting section of 100 Nonfiction Books I Recommend.

Lythcott-Haims is a former dean of freshmen and undergraduate advising at Stanford University. What she noticed is that many parents would stay on campus as school started and would approach campus officials if there were any problem with schedules. The parents were fighting the kids' battles at college, and that is unheard for this Gen Xer. Our parents didn't do that stuff, and we thank them for that.
Teaching at an academically prestigious school, I see similar things as Lythcott-Haims. The point of parenting I see at my school is more concerned about "success" or "getting into a good college," as opposed to helping develop the individual and life skills. Many kids nowadays are taught to develop their transcript and not themselves.

As a parent, I've often pondered how much influence I have with my daughters, or even with my students. I believe the unspoken, subconscious lessons may be greater than the explicit ones. How I behave and my actions likely are more important than any "secret of life" lesson I espouse.

Shortly after How to Raise an Adult came out, I wrote about it here and identified myself as a reformed helicopter parent. I would like to report that the world has responded to Lythcott-Haims' book and similar criticism of modern-day life and parenting, but I still see repeated red flags from parents of behavior that is detrimental to kids.

The irony of parenting is that we try to prepare our children for the world we had. However, the world is evolving, and our children face much different issues and difficulties than we did. I believe we have to understand that a "one size fits all" parenting approach only works for one size and that some fundamentals like physical health, emotional health and social health are the foundation of parenting and personhood.

Sadly, Lythcott-Haims and I have seen that "being successful" often replaces health, and many parents unwittingly perpetuate an unhealthy society.

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