David Albert (aslan) Thu 18 Sep 08 13:19
It is surely important to have high expectations for our children. The question that I think is being raised, however, is whether it can be counterproductive to have expectations that are TOO high. When a goal is out of reach but not TOO far out of reach, one might strive for it and, possibly, achieve it, or else attain a lower but still worthy goal. When a goal is so far out of reach that achieving it is obviously impossible, the tendency is not to even bother trying.
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Thu 18 Sep 08 13:34
In parenting, it's also critically important, I think, to distinguish a kid's goal from a parent's goal.
Hara Estroff Marano (haramarano) Thu 18 Sep 08 13:57
YES, VITALLY IMPORTANT TO DISTINGUISH A KID'S GOAL FROM A PARENT'S GOAL FOR THAT CHILD. AND AS FOR EXPECTATIONS, IT'S LESS A MATTER OF HOW HIGH THEY ARE THAN HOW THE ARE COMMUNICATED. (ooops, sorry for the caps. didn't mean to shout. keyboard was in caps lock mode. rushing here.) paying attention to a child only when getting As or even the mere wordless raising of an eyebrow at a B can communicate expectations in a way that can permanently cripple a kid emotionally. kids don't really want to disappoint parents. and they need their love.
Jennifer Simon (nomis-refinnej) Thu 18 Sep 08 15:59
Well said, caps and all.
Hara Estroff Marano (haramarano) Thu 18 Sep 08 19:20
now i have a moment to finish the thought. because kids don't want to disappoint parents and really want their love and approval, they adopt the inflexible goals a parent communicates in that raised eyebrow. (or they just might decide they can't meet those expectations and decide they are screw-ups, and then do their best to live up to that label.) the child, who then believes parental approval is conditional upon good performance, then becomes a perfectionist...about as sure a one-way ticket to misery as exists. perfectionism is awful because it keeps people living in fear of mistakes, focused on the very thing they most want to avoid, and thus dwelling in negativity. and without a secure sense of self because parental love is so conditional. these people can't take risks. they just drive themselves, and many people around them, crazy. they can't take critical feedback. etcetera. there's nothing wrong with high expectations per se. but sometimes kids can't meet them. and when they can't the best response isn't anger or disappointment on the part of the parent. it's best for a parent to ask a kid how s/he feels about his/her performance. if a kid isn't humiliated or backed into a corner, then the child feels free to voice his/her own disappointment. then a parent can say, what do you think you need in order to do as well as you want. the child owns his own expectations and experience, feels understood, and stays motivated. but sometimes a kid doesn't meet the parental expectations because the child doesn't value that domain of performance so much, and it's much more important for the child to do well in some other arena. parents need to heed that. and sometimes, for any number of reasons having to do with development and its timing, kids need much more time to meet expectations and sometimes they have to fight their way around obstacles (inner or outer) to carve their own path. call them late bloomers. sometimes they just see things differently. we need to find a way to value this. as a culture, we put very much emphasis on early achievement. but in the long run, it doesn't get you much (ok, so you get into harvard. great bragging rights, but so what?). for one thing, it's likely to keep you focused on meeting conventional benchmarks of success. you're not terribly likely to be innovative. there's a reason you seldom hear about child prodigies after they become adults. they don't break new ground.
David Albert (aslan) Fri 19 Sep 08 03:38
Interesting Boston Globe article on what it takes to get kids to walk (even 10 minutes) to school. The reasons mentioned in the paragraphs I quote here will be nothing new for those of us reading this topic, but I found it apropos enough to want to quote them: "One major obstacle remains: parents who are fearful of letting their children leave home on their own. In response, school districts have made sure that their walking groups are led by an adult.... "Walking advocates say the risk of harm to students walking to and from school is low.... "The data doesn't show a lot of accidents on school routes or kids being snatched, but if you talk to parents you would think it's an everyday occurrence," said Karen Hartke, a project manager at WalkBoston who works with schools."
Hara Estroff Marano (haramarano) Fri 19 Sep 08 04:53
it's kind of pathetic that a Whole Project (a whole wing of WalkBoston) has to be organized to get kids to walk to school. but if that's what it takes, it's better than nothing. and yes, nothing new: parental fears way out of proportion to the reality. the funny thing is, i don't think parental anxiety is anything new. i think parenting and anxiety have gone together since the beginning of time. what is new now is that parents impose their own fears on their kids to restrict their kids' lives. that's new. before, you gradually let your kids do things while you kept your own fears in check, and step by step you let out the leash.
Mr. Death is coming after you, too (divinea) Fri 19 Sep 08 09:37
I don't know. I have a near miss in the school parking lot, or on the streets surrounding my child's school- invariably with some cell phone-yapping numbskull driving a tank-sized SUV- on a near daily basis. Perhaps my fears of my daughter getting hit are not unfounded.
Betsy Schwartz (betsys) Fri 19 Sep 08 09:51
It's a vicious circle. Unless more kids are roaming around, there *is* an increased risk. There are more parents in cars (and on cellphones in cars!) and fewer kids for company and protection. It's one thing to talk about a time when kids were allowed to run free before dark, but it feels very different when you send your kid out to play and she doesn't find any other kids out there, only a few lone adults. I let my daughter walk to afterschool in fourth grade, but she was often walking *alone* as she got farther from the school building. She was a grade-schooler heading towards the middle school so her path wasn't a common one. I let her run some risk because I thought it was still very low, in daylight in our quiet town, but I made dang sure that she walked the long way with the light and the crossing guard instead of the short way where a kid has been hit every couple years. (I *believe* she tells the truth about that, but I do see many kids walking that way in the morning). When we went to the playground alone as grade schoolers, we found other unaccompanied kids our own age there. That isn't so today.
Hara Estroff Marano (haramarano) Fri 19 Sep 08 11:19
betsy, i agree...in fact, it's really difficult to send a kid out there alone to play. play with whom? so well-intentioned parents really do face a dilemma. that's why i think even just a couple of parents in an area have to get together to carve out the opportunity/space for activity...set it up, in a way...and then step back and not monitor it. there are lots of ways neighborhoods could be made safe for kids to walk. adults lobbying to get speed bumps installed. stop signs on every corner in a residential area. and yes, more kids and adults out locally would have an effect, too. drivers (and even pedestrians) on cellphones are a menace, and not just to kids. if i'm driving on the highway, i try to get away from them as quickly as possible. even with headsets, talking on the cellphone distracts drivers...and pedestrians. the evidence is clear.
Mr. Death is coming after you, too (divinea) Fri 19 Sep 08 13:22
There's an unusual number of them in affluent 'burbs, I think. The kids in our neighborhood are outside all the time, playing, unsupervised. We just don't let them cross the racetrack street on their own. Too many people have been hit and injured at that corner.
Hara Estroff Marano (haramarano) Fri 19 Sep 08 20:41
a neighborhood where kids are outside playing all the time? wow. i want to move there!!!! even tho my kids are grown and fledged. i love the sound of kids playing. hey, i just want to share with you a message i got today on my website (www.nationofwimps.com)from a mother who just nails the issues. she has the unusual perspective of raising older and younger kids, and so experiencing personally the culture change in parenting. Great book! I thought I was a slacker mom! I've been a parent for 23 years. My youngest is 11. There is a large difference between the parents of my 23 year old daughters friends, and the parents of kids my 11 year old's age. When my oldest was little, we let coaches coach and enjoyed watching the games. We let teachers teach, went to parent teacher conferences, and the Christmas play. With my younger kids,parents coach, are the scout leader, room mother,tutor and lunch lady. I was always made to feel like I wasn't pulling my weight if I didn't want to build gingerbread houses, or go to every kids sports practice. Practice! I always felt like my kids don't want me there every time they turn around. And frankly, I don't always want to be there. Parenting is a not very stimulating sometimes mind numbing adventure. Also when I'm around, sometimes my daughter turns into my whiny kid instead of the confident 6th grader she is. I want to thank you for writing this book. I was starting to question myself. Because my daughter is the baby, I was tending to micromanage her. This book reminded my of what I knew already, of how things used to be. My children are not stupid, incapable or incompetent. I shouldn't treat them like they are. Lisa
descend into a fractal hell of meta-truthiness (jmcarlin) Sat 20 Sep 08 11:04
I just happened to notice this story today that ties in with the book and discussion here: http://www.healthcentral.com/newsdetail/408/618486.html Parental Involvement in School Has Its Limits FRIDAY, Sept. 19 (HealthDay News) -- While it can be a good thing for parents to advocate on behalf of their children, there's a point where children need to assume that role for themselves, says a Saint Louis University School of Medicine expert. "That's the only way kids will be able to learn the skills they'll need to take care of themselves when they become adults," Dr. Ken Haller, an associate professor of pediatrics, said in a university news release. ...
Hara Estroff Marano (haramarano) Sat 20 Sep 08 21:11
yes, the article ties in nicely. and here are the wise doctor's parting words: A parent's job is to prepare children to be responsible and capable adults. Decrease your involvement over time and let your child live his or her own life. They are worthy pausing over: Let your child live his or her own life.
Lisa Harris (lrph) Thu 2 Oct 08 07:46
Just checking in here to say that my kids rode their bikes to school by themselves today. And they made it there on time (okay, I admit I had to check).
Gail Williams (gail) Thu 2 Oct 08 10:47
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Thu 13 Nov 08 14:26
Interesting review of "Nation of Wimps" as well as a few other similar books (plus one that's dissimilar: "Huck's Raft: A History of American Childhood") in this week's New Yorker. "The Child Trap: The rise of overparenting," by Joan Acocella: http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2008/11/17/081117crbo_books_acocel la
Lisa Harris (lrph) Thu 13 Nov 08 15:24
Jennifer Simon (fingers) Thu 13 Nov 08 19:20
Yes, thanks, very interesting.
Ed Ward (captward) Thu 15 Nov 12 01:27
Because of a phenomenal amount of spam directed at the comments for this topic, I am freezing it so as not to have to delete 20+ comments a day from spammers. It is Inkwell's policy that discussions remain open for readers, and this policy remains. If anyone wants to comment here, please write to me, capt ward at well dot com (with the first name as one word) and I'll unfreeze and post. Sorry for the inconvenience.
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