Declaration of Independence – Part I

I’m off tonight to the Raleigh New Student Reception, and to the Wilmington, NC reception on Saturday. Hope I see some Daily Deacers there!

One of the things we like to do at the Daily Deac is share articles about topics that might be of interest to parents and families. Two things came out last week while I was on vacation that may be of particularly salient to those Deac families with younger kids not yet in college. We’ll talk about one article today and one at the end of the week.

The first is from NPR, and it is The Overparenting Crisis At School and At Home. It features an interview with Julie Lythcott-Haims, former Dean of Freshmen at Stanford who wrote a very popular book a year or two ago called How to Raise an Adult, and Jessica Lahey, who wrote The Gift of Failure.  Lythcott-Haims suggests:

“Three things parents can do right away:

Stop saying “we” when you mean your kid. “We” aren’t on the travel soccer team, “we” aren’t doing the science project, and “we” aren’t applying to college. These are their efforts and achievements. We need to go get our own hobbies to brag about.

Stop arguing with all of the adults in our kids’ lives. As Jess well knows, teachers are under siege from overinvolved parents insistent upon engineering the perfect outcomes for their kids. Principals, coaches and referees see the same thing. If there’s an issue that needs to be raised with these folks, we do best for our kids in the long run if we’ve taught them how to raise concerns on their own.

Stop doing their homework. Teachers end up not knowing what their students actually know, it’s highly unethical, and worst of all, it teaches kids, “Hey kid, you’re not actually capable of doing any of this on your own.”

I cannot stress enough how important that first point is – not using “we.” This has been a somewhat troubling nationwide trend in recent years, college parents who speak of their students’ college activities in the plural: “we are having trouble registering for classes,” “we are trying to see if we can move into the residence hall early” or “we are trying to figure out which abroad program to attend” – as if the parent or family member was an equal actor in these processes.  Those are all experiences that should be your student’s, and your student’s alone.

As subtle as it may seem, if you use “we” language for what should be your student’s individual action, it potentially suggests that the activities of college should be a joint effort, when it is really a time for your students to be taking ownership, developing their own independence and the ability to solve their own problems, and to make decisions – and yes, mistakes – and learn from them.  Parents/family members are older, wiser, and have already developed excellent problem-solving skills. When a family “we”s the college experience, it is like keeping training wheels on a bike – makes it that much easier for students to look to you for answers or help instead of learning the answers themselves.

So my best advice is to ban the college “we” from your vocabulary – unless of course it is to tell your Deac “we love you.” Which you should do as often as possible, because your kids love and miss you 🙂


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