Fullscreen
Loading...
 
Print

Overparenting

Lythcott-Haims, who brings some authority to the subject as Stanford’s former dean of freshmen and undergraduate advising, has seen varieties of extreme parental interference suggesting not just a lack of common sense, but a lack of wisdom and healthy boundaries.... Instead of allowing kids to experiment and learn from their mistakes, parents hover where they’re not wanted or welcome, accompanying children on school trips or shadowing them on campus. Caught up in what the author calls the “college admissions arms race,” parents treat securing their children a spot at one of 20 top schools (as decreed by U.S. News and World Report’s popular but somewhat dubious rankings) as an all-or-nothing proposition. Concerned about the effects of a flawed high school transcript, parents do their children’s homework, write or heavily edit their papers, fire questions at teachers, dispute grades and hire expensive subject tutors, SAT coaches and “private admissions consultants” (26 percent of college applicants reported hiring these in 2013). Even after kids graduate, the madness continues. Lythcott-Haims offers anecdotes of parents touring graduate schools, serving as mouthpieces for their shy, passive children.... ...

Lythcott-Haims takes pains to demonstrate that overparenting doesn’t merely threaten a child’s future income; it also does enormous psychological harm. She cites a 2011 study... that found a correlation... between helicopter parenting and medication for anxiety or depression. One researcher at a treatment center for addicts in Los Angeles found that “rates of depression and anxiety among affluent teens and young adults . . . correspond to the rates of depression and anxiety suffered by incarcerated juveniles.” Other studies suggest that overparented kids are “less open to new ideas” and take “less satisfaction in life.” For Lythcott-Haims, the message behind this research is the same: Kids need to sally forth independently without constant supervision. ...

Lythcott-Haims sees this inability to disengage as a side effect of the prevailing fantasy among parents that the “right” college education will secure a child’s comfy seat in the upper-middle-class tax bracket. ...

A 1999 study... suggests that graduates of a hundred or so “moderately selective” schools “had on average the same income 20 years later as graduates of the elite colleges.” ...this statistic... should at least cast a shadow of doubt on parents’ extreme fixation on top-tier colleges. There are also several alternatives to the U.S. News and World Report rankings that could shift common thinking about what constitutes an “elite” education. The “Fiske Guide to Colleges” evaluates schools based on “the quality of the experience and their price tag,” while The Alumni Factor ranks schools based on intellectual development, average income of graduates and whether alumni would choose the college again, among other factors.

- Heather Havrilesky, ‘How to Raise an Adult,’ by Julie Lythcott-Haims, New York Times, June 15, 2015



Show php error messages