Sunday, May 11, 2008

Living up to expectations

I like to think that I try hard not to be a helicoptering parent. I enjoyed a growing sense of independence when I was a kid, and I want my children to have similar experiences that allow them to occasionally reach out and test new things. There is no question, though, that the temptation to hover and help is ever-present. How do you provide a safety net without your children coming to expect and rely on its presence?

A week ago, I read an article about the trend toward increased communication between schools and parents, often via the web, that allows parents to check on homework assignments, test results, etc. almost in real time. Some parents use this to absolve their kids of ever having to answer the question "what happened at school today, honey?" Some use it to mete out punishments for poor grades in the hopes of seeing quick improvement.

But I wonder how helpful it is in the long run to always be looking over your child's shoulder. And a few days later, The New York Times ran a piece about the psychology of lying that convinced me that kids should have to report to their parents what's going on at school rather than having it done for them. The gist of the 2nd article indicated that students who exaggerated how high their grade point average was subsequently bumped up their grades to match the lie.

Now certainly I don't want my kids to lie about their achievements. But I don't want them to lose the chance to aspire to be better either -- I want them to want success (however you want to define it) for themselves rather than having it forced on them by me -- or by anyone else.

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