Two things happened this week.
First, my colleague remarked, with well intended concern, that I should be spending way too much time with my tenth grader making him “study” as he was in a critical part of his school life. (In India, the marks one scores in tenth grade helps set the path forward).
He almost fell off his chair when I said I don’t. I guide my kids, check with them from time to time on how they go, attend all PTMs religiously, but that’s where I stop.
I should mention that I am choosing to ignore, for the sake of this post, that my husband is in the same organisation and the above said colleague would have never asked my husband the same question. He was in fact comparing his wife’s parenting style with mine. Let us not go there for now.
Parents are “too worried about [their children’s] future achievements to allow [them] to work through the obstacles in their path” (Lahey) and “students who seemed increasingly reliant on their parents in ways that felt, simply, off” (Lythcott-Haims).
These got me thinking.
I am not someone who believes that there is one right way of parenting. At the same time this is a topic where it is extremely hard not to be judgemental. And here were two experts, who deal with kids, every day of their life (one is a school teacher and the other teaches in a college) worrying that parents are getting too involved.
However, I Could easily visualise the counter arguments for their case starting with Tiger Moms in one dimension and the “all-sacrificing” parent in another. C’,on – when that 20-year old tears up on television that he needs to win the Masterchef title for his Mum who spent all her life bringing him up, don’t you secretly want to be that parent?!
So am I doing the right thing by letting my kids figure it out or are my kids losing out to those who have doting parents?
The truth is, no way for us to know. Our kids are growing up in a world that was unfamiliar to us as kids.
- We can afford more (mostly junk) things now, so our kids grow up with a sense of affluence and entitlement we never had.
- Families have become nuclear and the extended families are flung far apart that they have more electronic gadgets than people around them.
- We have no clue about many of the things they get into – Snapchat, YouTube channels, torrenting books and movies. (Does anyone really know if video games increase mental agility like some research papers claim?)
- The social pressure has gone through the roof with many of us living lives through Facebook wher there is always a better story out there than yours. As a parent you want your child to succeed in this cut throat environment.
- The choices are enormous and that doesn’t help either. My friend’s daughter for instance, asked her the other day, if she could be a college drop out. With examples like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg out there, dropping out is another choice a parent has to be open to.
Let us admit it, it’s hard. Even simple pleasures like biking to school need a careful thought (I had a rude awakening when my son bumped on to a speeding motorcycle on the city roads).
So, do you hover, be a tiger Mom or back off? We hover because the consequences of one misstep can be so scary. We do more than we should because we want to give the world to them. But we do have to back off so that they learn to make choices and be responsible.
The interview does offer one clue. Think of parenting as raising adults, it says, because that is what your kids will one day grow up to be.
What kind of adult would you want them to be? That should make set the direction.