PEP Blog

03|17

The Slippery Slope of Propping Up Children

By Katherine Reynolds Lewis

It’s college and private school admissions season — a time when many parents stay up late worrying about the fate of their precious offspring or brainstorming ways to help them get ahead. So I’m not surprised by the news of arrests in a massive college admissions scam consumed the Internet this week

When authorities charge 50 wealthy parents, celebrities and college coaches with fraud for bending the rules to sneak their privileged children into a “side door,” (link) you can bet the world will be watching and commenting. For many, the episode exposed the reality that the rules are different for the rich and that the system is rigged against students with less money, access to power, or those who are marginalized due to race, ethnicity, disability or other factors. (One especially infuriating detail: the students whose families allegedly faked a learning disability to get them extra time on the ACT.) 

For me, the situation signaled a loud warning about those tempting thoughts that wander into my brain. Maybe I should hire a tutor to give my child an edge in math? Should I have put them in Kumon classes? Could that budding interest in volleyball be bolstered by intensive summer camp into a potential college scholarship? Maybe I could force them back into viola lessons …

These notions represent a first step on the slippery slope of propping up our children so that their accomplishments will be more impressive than they are on their own. Besides being dishonest, this sends our children the message that their achievements define their worth, that we don’t feel they’re enough on their own, and that the decisions they make just aren’t cutting it.

I’m not saying we can’t support our children. Of course, we can find learning specialists to help kids in areas where they’re struggling and seek out ways for them to explore their extracurricular interests. What we should avoid is pushing the envelope because we’re focused on that college resume, not helping them discover themselves. I wrote about this in more detail for Parents; please check out the article here

One of my favorite Twitter commentators about the college admissions scandal is Julie Lythcott-Haims, the former dean of Stanford University whose book How to Raise An Adult should be required reading for every parent. Lythcott-Haims pulls no punches in skewering over parenting, entitlement and the result for disempowered kids, who end up whimpering in a corner. 

Fortunately, Lythcott-Haims spoke to parents recently about ensuring that kids can take charge of their lives with competence and confidence. If you missed the live talk, you can still catch the recording — but only for a short time — by clicking here.

Editors Note: Thanks to Katherine Reynolds Lewis, Author of The Good News About Bad Behavior, for writing this piece for the PEP Blog!

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Carissa Feeney says:

Please sign me up for the webinar. Thank you!

pepadmin says:

Hi Carissa, I’m sorry to be replying to your comment so late. This webinar is passed but you can purchase the recording for a limited time by clicking here: https://pepparentonline.org/courses/category/PEP%20Common%20Challenges%20Workshops

Thank you,
The PEP Team

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