Parenting: Ur Doing it Wrong

Lots of brouhaha over parenting this week in the blogosphere.  The loudest complaints coming from arguments about “Chinese mothers” vs. American ones.  Go find the articles.  You’ve read them or heard about them.  The basic argument is that we Americans are too permissive and soft as parents and that only Asian parents, who insist on violin lessons, science fairs, and no social life will have successful kids.

The sucky thing about parenting is that you never know if you’re doing it right until you get to the end. And even then, you might not really know.  Oh, sure, sometimes you see your kid go off the rails in the teenage years (I’m there, people), and you wonder if it’s your fault.  Did you not read to them enough? Did working full time harm them in some way? Should you have insisted on that science camp back in 7th grade?  I personally don’t see permissive parenting happening around me.  I see a lot of anxiety among parents and kids about doing it right–mostly for the golden ticket into the “right” college.  I get it.  Getting into the “right” college seems to be the ticket to success.

At least that’s the line we’ve all been fed around here.  And yes, some of it is true.  But what is the right college? And for that matter, what is success?  Being around high achievers, which many of us in education (higher and otherwise) are, makes one define success fairly narrowly.  And that’s not really fair.  It’s not fair to our kids and it’s anxiety-producing for most of us as parents.

I had to redefine success for myself as I rejected the typical path for a person with a Ph.D., and I’ve had to step back and let my kids define success for themselves.  It’s a harder thing than one might think.  I, like many parents, had an idea of what my kids would be like.  But they haven’t turned out that way.  They’ve surprised me.  At first, I found that surprise unpleasant, but now, I’m delighted.  As a parent, I’ve simply tried to provide the scaffolding and support for the success my kids are starting to define.  And yes, that sometimes means lessons and insisting on certain grades.  But I’ve learned there’s only so much I can do as a parent.  At a certain point, it’s up to my kids, and I just have to wait and see.  And yes, the waiting is killing me.

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3 Replies to “Parenting: Ur Doing it Wrong”

  1. Hang in there Laura! I’ve got a 16 year-old that is making me mental these days. Super-smart kid and a real sweetheart 99% of the time. She still seems to like me and her and I spend a lot of time together. Our only friction is that she has just decided that high school is lame and she will express her dissatisfaction by doing the minimum amount of work possible.

    The crazy thing is (and maybe you’ve experienced this too) that she can’t wait for college. We keep telling her that if she doesn’t figure out how to pass tests now college is going to be a rude awakening.

  2. So true – parenting is so hard because you don’t get a” report card” or constructive criticism and what works great for one kid is often a total disaster with another. And then , of course, there is the little matter of the kids themselves- a lot of how they turn out is in their control not ours.
    I agree totally that redefining what we hope for our kids, redefining “success” in parenting, is important. Is going to a certain college really make it or break it in life? Do most of us even know where our colleagues or bosses went to college? Did they get straight A’s or did they make mistakes and blow things off a lot? Who knows?
    It’s a tough job this parenting thing!

  3. Mike, Geeky Boy sounds just like your daughter. School has been lame since about 7th grade–bare minimum or less, can’t wait for college, but yep, we keep saying the same thing, figure out the school thing or college either isn’t going to happen or it’s going to be tough. He’s a great kid, though, has a lot going for him; he’s just not going to look like that on paper.

    k–I agree about not having control over how they turn out. Mr. Geeky marveled that his sister seemed to have been raised by her peers. I said, hey, that’s how it normally works. A tug of war between peers and parents and you hope that each group contributes good things to the whole project. Just because he didn’t escape his parents until later . . . 😉

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