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Are we the worst generation of parents ever?

Original post made by Simon Firth, College Terrace, on Oct 3, 2007

That's the argument of a recent article in 'Philadelphia' magazine.

Web Link

Here's the nub:

"How is it that a group of moms and dads who love their kids so much, and who were so intent on being great at raising them, has turned out to be, arguably, the worst parents ever? The short answer might be expressed like this: We've been too uptight about things — achievement, success, appearances — we should have been relaxed about, and too relaxed about things — values, integrity — that we should have been more uptight about."

But you might be interested in the rest, too -- the Main Line communities it features sound an awful lot like Palo Alto.

Enjoy!

Comments (54)

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Posted by Mike Lanza
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 3, 2007 at 10:19 am

My wife and I have a lot more money than our parents did, but unless we get tremendously lucky choosing a neighborhood with lots of kids our kids ages who play outside, our kids' childhoods will be much worse than my wife's or mine was. Blocks with lots of kids playing are almost unheard of in Palo Alto, but it's not much more common anywhere else in the US. Isn't money supposed to give us the freedom to choose better lives for us and our children? Something's really screwed up here.


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Posted by an older person's opinion
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 3, 2007 at 10:39 am

Sharing common values about integrity and goals is becoming more and more difficult in areas where children from the same street go to entirely different schools, either different public or different private schools. This means that parents and kids from the same street don't get to know each other, and don't get to help each other reinforce our common values. Instead, they each go to different schools with different values and emphases.

Second, we continue to allow the erosion of the common cultural activities and "heros" in our schools that we all grew up with, meaning school has become more and more simply a way of passing on information, not also a common culture. We are doing this our of fear of "offending" various minority opinion peoples, and the result is an erosion of what used to be commonly held American values.

I grew up with the pledge of Allegiance, the National Anthem, the stories of Davey Crockett, Paul Bunyan, "I can not tell a lie" George Washington, the brave and rugged individualism that settled and expanded our nation. I grew up with the words of JFK ringing in my ears, about asking myself what I can do to help my country, not asking my country to help me. About how we beat back fascism, and communism, and defended and spread liberty. With the value of service, honor and integrity of Scouts. These are values that I held and hold dear.

Our children are missing all of these pieces of the common fabric that held us together. We no longer have "Columbus Day" parades, we get the willies over the Pledge of Allegiance because of a certain Word in it, so we don't teach it to our kids, we joke and laugh through the National Anthem because we no longer have a respect for where that came from and what it means. We are afraid to insist on English as a national language or insist on controlling our borders for fear of being called "racist", and we call our Christmas trees "winter trees" so that we don't offend anyone. We even go so far as to talk about every "winter holiday" in the schools except the Christian "winter holidays", for fear of "offending" someone.

We have become a nation that is losing its identity, in the mistaken notion that tolerance and acceptance of others means sacrificing who we are.


I am fed up.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 3, 2007 at 10:40 am

Simon

I don't think we are talking about bad parenting, just a different perspective nowadays of what is good for kids.

In my day, if I had an after school activity, it was once a week. Now if you sign up for ballet, or sports, or a music instrument, it is assumed that it will be for at least three times a week, once a week is not on. I did an activity with my friends, so all of us were busy at the same time and free at the same time. There is now so much choice and diversity with after school activities, that the kids are too busy to play together. If my kids are free, then their friends are busy.

Next, when I was young, all the fun things to do were outside things. I use to leave the house and get my bike and all my friends did the same and off we went somewhere to have fun, together. Inside activities were basically down to board games or watching tv (of which there wasn't much choice) so those things were done when it was too wet to be outside. Nowadays, all the fun things are inside, video games, garage bands, im, internet, etc. and there is always a huge choice of tv and of course dvds.

I do like my kids to get outside and play with friends, but it is really hard for them. The nearby parks are geared up for younger children, Seale Park has one basketball hoop. There always seem to be signs on baseball diamonds closing off pickup games. The grassy areas are often waterlogged and although we do have soccer pitches, it is once again hard for a pick up game because so many official practices are taking up the space. Earlier this week when my 9 year old had his practice, the coach had to get a group of teenage boys who were having fun with their own pickup game off their practice field. I felt for the coach as it was his right to have the field, but those teenagers were just doing what we want kids to do, having fun on their own doing something healthy. They were upset at having to move and really who can blame them. The park is for them too.

We organise our kids so much so that they feel everything has to be organised for them. They have lost the skills necessary to act on the spur of the moment, but when they do, they are in the wrong and have to move. What sort of message is that.


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Posted by Simon
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 3, 2007 at 10:54 am

Parent -- you say: "We organise our kids so much so that they feel everything has to be organised for them. They have lost the skills necessary to act on the spur of the moment, but when they do, they are in the wrong and have to move. What sort of message is that."

Could that not be called bad parenting, though? I guess the value of labeling it 'bad' is that it might induce us to change our ways rather than accepting it as a reality against which it is futile to reisit. Are you in the 'it's just too bad' camp, or are you trying to work against something that you seem not to like? What would it mean, I'm wondering, to make Palo Alto a community that really tried to push back on these trends?

How about no homework in elementary school? Or community funded park 'attendents' who could be in loco parentis -- not organizing games, but making sure kids are safe while they create their own -- so parents would feel able to let their nine year olds play there?


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Posted by a mom
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 3, 2007 at 11:11 am

I agree with older parent that we have claimed "tolerance" as the highest value in schools and thus diluted the values many of us grew up with. We have become afraid to elevate one cultural value over another, even to the point of absurdity. However, I'd blame this on parents more than on anyone else. Parents are happy to pay lip service to personal responsibility, integrity, and hard work, but if a screw-up threatens little Madison's chances of getting into Stanford - watch out! Witness the parents in the article who hired lawyers, rather than cracking down on their kids, when their teenagers behaved abysmally and trashed a house.

I don't agree with the pp that the situation is as extreme across the country. Yes, it's a national trend, but it reaches its zenith in affluent pockets like Palo Alto, the NYC suburbs, and mainline Philly. I grew up in an affluent neighborhood in the midwest and many of us attended private schools. We always had assorted lessons. Nonetheless, my parents were extremely strict about manners and "the golden rule" and we always played outside with neighborhood kids and had neighborhood picnics at least once a year. Relatives in less-affluent areas tell me their kids still play with neighbors and ride bikes. This "benign neglect" doesn't seem to exist here.

I think the reason this trend is so exxagerated here is that affluent, high-achieving parents expect the same from their kids, and, as the article points out, we're aware enough to know that our kids will face extreme competition for entry to top colleges and from kids in India and China who are already working like dogs. Also, the reality is that most families here are dual-income, and the parents simply don't spend much time with their kids. (Sorry - I know this is controversial.) Professional class careers require long hours, and parents who feel guilty seem to cram their kids' schedules with "enriching" activities on the weekends to compensate for the extra parenting kids with stay at home moms get. They may also feel less inclined to spoil limited time together with arguments and recriminations, so they say no less than they should and give in to whining and demands.

Also, (and I apologize in advance for saying something that's sure to push buttons), I think that many of the qualities that make someone extremely successful professionally are probably the same qualities that make someone unsuccessful as a parent. Kids don't need type-A, hard-charging, ambitious, perfectionist parents. They need patient, self-sacrificing, warm parents who put them first. Even the best-intentioned parent will have a hard time changing gears when stepping out of the corporate boardroom and into a house filled with tears, thrown food, toys on the floor, "it's not fair!" etc. While having two gentle, nurturing parents obviously isn't realistic (someone needs to go out into the cold hard world and make a buck!) a world where BOTH parents are hard-charging professionals is probably not a super child-friendly world.

I think the kids here will do fine professionally, but I wonder how happy this generation will be. Many of the parents I meet don't seem to care.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 3, 2007 at 11:26 am

Simon

Yes, what I said was confusing. I will try to explain.

Parents now arrange playdates for kids, organise Memorial Day baseball tournaments, harvest fairs and talent shows at schools, and so many other activities that our kids free time, even outside their Little League, AYSO and ballet classes, that there is very little point in them trying to put together something themselves. The motivation for many parents is twofold. Some feel that it is safer if parents organise these things and some feel that they are so busy in their careers, that by arranging these things they are spending quality time with their kids.

With all this free time filled, there is very little opportunity for kids to just play by themselves ad hoc.

If a group of enterprising or bored kids, do try and play a pickup game of soccer or baseball, they are very soon told that the field is needed for ayso soccer practice or the field is closed for some reason or other (possibly because the field is wet or a "paid for" competition game wants the field in tip top condition. If this happens they are less likely to try and play by themselves for fear of doing the wrong thing.

This means that the kids are unable to do things for themselves. I personally would love my kids to go to the park and just start playing a game of soccer or frisbee with whoever is there, but somehow that no longer happens.

I do get my kids into organised sports, but I would like it to be less demanding on their spare time. I do like them to make new friends on these teams, but I would like them to meet up with existing friends and just play for the fun of it.

We have had no homework nights, but with kids in different schools and involved in different activities, it hasn't really provided an ease in the problems. We have school restaurant nights arranged and it rarely works for us because of sports practices, etc.

I like the idea of having park "attendants" so 9 year olds could be left at the park, but at present, 9 year olds feel too old for many of the playgrounds because they are designed to a level of safety for young children that the older children consider it not for them. There should be areas which are "off limits" to under fives. There are so many young children playing on equipment which older children may enjoy that it makes things dangerous. This sounds like a contradiction, but the smaller parks have nothing for older children and at say Mitchell Park, where there is a big climbing structure which I myself think the older children like, is so filled with younger children that the older ones can't really use it. They are constantly being told to watch out for little ones climbing to the top who shouldn't really be there. Yes, we have to be safety counscious, but it would be nicer if the little ones were in their own area and left at least one area for big kids.

This is a complicated issue and I think lots of useful discussion could go on. Thank you for bringing the subject up.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 3, 2007 at 12:43 pm

Well, I'm at the infamous no-homework school, so, yes, there's unstructured time. Even so, I have to say it is *hard* to keep a balance around here. You do see what other kids are learning. You do see tons of activities. The playdate thing is tough because even Ohlone kids have a lot of afterschool stuff. And, honestly, a lot of the afterschool activities *are* wonderful opportunities. You end up balancing the concrete value of team sports, music lessons, etc. v. the less-clear values of free, unstructured time.

It's all very well to demonize parents and try to raise a child sanely in an insane world, but, honestly, I've also seen what happens when a kid isn't from one of these privileged areas and doesn't have a bunch of money for the consultants and the summer programs that look good on the resume. The kids who write their own college essays and don't take SAT prep courses are at a disadvantage when applying to the elite schools--even though they will perform better in college because they do do stuff on their own. The student's the real article.

Ironically, I don't think the colleges like what they're getting--they don't want rooms full of cautious overtended kids. But I blame the current obsessions with rankings for a lot of this. I think the top-tier colleges need to jump off the rankings bus--reveal the average SATS and GPAs, but quit revealing the numbers of applicantss. Dump the common applications.

As it is, it's to the college's advantage to turn down as many students as possible. It makes them more "selective." When one side benefits from rejecting as many people as possible of course, you have an extremely stressful situation. Of course you have parents trying to compesate for this. Of course, the stress gets passed down to the kids.

We need to change how colleges are ranked and how education is valued. But a big part of this has to come from the universities themselves.


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Posted by anonymous parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 3, 2007 at 2:44 pm

I haven't gotten through the entire article, but one thing leaped out at me: students now are the most narcissistic ever. I didn't come up with that but it rings a bell.

Students have and take for granted luxury gadgets now, iPods, etc. that we couldn't even dream of, much less constant access to TV, cells, computers (at the library if the parent wishes to restrict in the home), it goes on and on.

Advertisements, news, MTV, texting furiously fast, gaming, whatever work towards a shorter and shorter attention span and the message to buy, buy, buy which I think is detrimental for any human being.

Some high school students appear to be calculating about things and say, what's in it for me? There does not appear to be natural education and exploration in a thoughtful manner. Of course, this mindset is parent-driven.

There may be little respect from the neighbors (or college apps) when the student tinkers - the mechanical type who is not a publicized high tech whiz, experiments, writes poetry. Instead, one must constantly appear to be busy (and therefore, really IMPORTANT) and impress your peers by claiming you stay up until 2AM doing homework - because you have such a top academic schedule -every night if you are a junior. My response is you better learn to manage your time better and work smarter and more efficiently, but I am told by those who know (students...) that this is the way it is, students who are IMPORTANT juniors must stay up until 2AM.

Those parents or kids who are insisting on Harvard (see the link referenced by original poster) may wish to follow the debate about undergrad education at Harvard, the state of general ed, it may be illuminating.

At this point, I'd be more impressed (and I wish the top colleges would be impressed) by some kid who actually works a basic job day in and day out after school, like McDonald's. That would show more discipline and real-world skills, being a solid person who works for others not just themselves.

Instead, with the focus on competition for competition's sake (need as much paper record as possible) and college applications, getting ahead of ones' classmates is the priority, whether by cramming in more science and math course, by having manufactured/paid for "experience," parents actually paying for the student to do "research," receiving dubious "awards" from competitions put on by discriminatory groups.

Community Service is sometimes abused, and that is sad - some are outrageously manufactured and contrived. Some are arranged by parents. This diminishes the student who has a real calling for charity, public service and so on, they may actually be overshadowed and not receive as much publicity.

Claiming to be president of non-existent or inactive high school clubs that the student lists on his/her college app is really unethical, too. In my day, there were high school club with officers, members, and meetings, things actually happened and people were accountable.


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Posted by Benjamin
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 3, 2007 at 3:40 pm

What we are is the most guilty generation of parents ever; afraid to act without the sage advice of some one or other outside "expert"

We're also living - along with our kids - inside a huge bubble that has been slowly deflating. That bubble represents the easy hegemony that America had after WWII, and that we've squandered on baubles and position-mongering.

Now, there's nothing "wrong" with achieving status - after all, we're wired for that. the problem is that Americans are "all about the money' and what money brings.

We're going to be alright, and so are our kids - but not before we go through a few very difficult decades of figuring out how everyone caught up to us; how we no longer have massive advantage; how the American dream was a temporary phenomenon; how the family next door from Bangladore is out pacing us...and so on.

It's not going to be pretty, and many of the coddled kids in our culture are going to be the ones to pay the price, along with their by-then aged parents who prefaced everything on money, position, and power. We will see massive shifts in what it means to be "successful", with many people who have not been prepared for the rigors of world-wide competition left behind - no matter their high school or college pedigree. This is happening already, as many kids return home after a year at college. There are some very interesting projections done by financial institutions about the forward increase in this trend.

Look about, at European culture - that's kind of where we're headed. We'll probably be the happier for it. Life in America is about to change in ways that will surprise many, and present substantial challenges for those who think that life - as long as one has gone to all the right schools - will be a virtual free ride.


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Posted by Stay-at-home Dad
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 3, 2007 at 3:52 pm

I'm a stay-at-home dad of a 1-year-old boy, so I haven't had to make too many hard parenting decisions just yet. But I read this article and say "Well, DUH!" It all seems so obvious to me.

I can't help but think that it is partially related to 1) people having kids at an older age (after they've had an accomplished 'adulthood'; and 2) the inability of many families to have a stay-at-home parent, which often creates a much more frenzied lifestyle for everyone in the household. I'm not saying that working parents can't be good parents, but it MUST make things more challenging.

But "mom" in Midtown, I think got it EXACTLY RIGHT in that you can't raise a kid with the same qualities that get you ahead professionally. Parents need to just RELAX; I don't think good parenting requires reading lots of parenting books or trying to maximize every opportunity. It's about being a good, well-rounded person and letting that rub off on your kids. And like "mom" said, it requires patience, self-sacrifice, and warmth, which unfortunately I don't see exemplified by many adults out in our world today. Many of these problems with 'bad parenting' can be seen among adults every day in the form of "me first" attitudes and lack of consideration for others. In this modern rat race, many people are raising their kids to be well-accomplished rats.

Those of you talking about 'tolerance' diluting our values, I don't understand what 'tolerance' has to do with this subject... this is about raising kids with good character, and giving them an environment where they can relax, feel safe, and thrive. A debate about celebrating Columbus Day or reciting the pledge of allegiance belongs elsewhere.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 3, 2007 at 4:00 pm

Ben

You raise some interesting point.

I am not sure what type of European culture you are talking about. Is this a warning or something that we should emulate? I would love to hear more on the point you are trying to make about the Europeans. Do you have any experience of this or examples?

Thanks.


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Posted by Moira
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 3, 2007 at 6:50 pm

This town is full of MDs, PHDs, JDs and other highly educated parents. The one thing we don't seem to have is parents with, for lack of a better description, common sense.

If there are more than a thousand highschool graduates each year in Palo Alto, is it logical to teach them that the only possible schools to go to are a handful of the top universities in the nation? Those schools couldn't possibly have space for every top student in all the "Palo Alto" towns in the US! Another common sense lesson, hasn't everyone who has been in the real world of work met a co-worker who was smart and successful and went to a "no-name" school? A study of CEOs showed that most did NOT go to elite universities. Telling a kid the only way to success if to go to Princeton, Berkeley, Yale, etc is crazy.

Then there is the over-sheltered, coddled and fearful parenting endemic to this town. I am a parent and on some level you always worry about your kids, but c'mon, 5th graders who can't walk to school with a group of friends, kids who have never biked to get an ice-cream, it is insane. Look at the true statistics of kidnapping-it just doesn't happen to a group of kids and to tell them it will and scare the bejesus out of them is sad. It leads to kids with no autonomy, no sense of discovering their skills on their own and face it, a bunch of kids who can't help out by biking to Safeway for a loaf of bread as I was doing at 8 or 9 (in a bigger town with traffic). They are mostly helpless, but they can sure download those Itunes.

This ties into the fact that many kids don't even have a spare minute to ride their bikes anyway. They have so many lessons (that we get to ferry them to because they can't ride their bikes) that we have already seen the effects in college students who can't seem to figure out how to structure their time without someone else dictating it to them,

I am very worried that when these kids hit 30 or so, they will be in careers they didn't chose, having spent their childhoods doing things they were told to do and they will hit a wall of emptiness. You have to find your own interests in life and if it is theater and not electrical engineering, so be it, That is a lesson your parents should teach you.

PS: I have a friend who quit teaching in a Palo Alto school when he/she caught a student cheating and tried to follow through with lowering the students final grade. The parents were able to exert enough influence to allow the student to do make-up work and raise the grade. I try to picture my parents (Depression era/ WW II generation) being told by a teacher I had cheated. Remember when kids had to apologize to adults for breaking rules? Their disappointment, not to mention my being grounded, is almost a thing of the past.


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Posted by anonymous parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 3, 2007 at 8:18 pm

Moira,
You are awesome!!! You sure got it right.


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Posted by Benjamin
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 3, 2007 at 8:45 pm

Parent, I'm not romanticizing European culture. Certainly, K-12 education in Europe exceeds our K-12 education in results. There are some drawbacks to the rigours of K-12 in Europe, but again, one cannot argue with the results, compared to America, where 50% of high school seniors are unable to locate NYC on a map.

Europeans, are, by-and-large happier with their lives than Americans. btw, only about 10% of Europeans own their own homes. Ask most Europeans what they "do", and they almost never answer with their occupation. It's refreshing.

Read Jeremy Rifkin's "The European Dream"
Web Link

Moira makes some great points. Kids today are living in a time of super media, that will get only more intense as they mature. Most of this media is berift of values that inspire healthy overall culture. The lack of simple respect for each other, or figures of everyday authority, is appalling.


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Posted by Big Al
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 3, 2007 at 9:50 pm

I was hoping tom brokaw would chime in on this thread-
don't he know something about being the best and brightest....


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 3, 2007 at 10:01 pm

Well, I finally read the article in Philadelphia magazine and it completely resonated with me. I grew up in the Philly suburbs and know very well the communities mentioned in the article. Very similar to Palo Alto - highly educated but old money.

Do you know how many people look at me sideways when I say I let my kids go to/from elementary school by themselves? Then you can just imagine what they say when I let them go around to friends' houses alone on their bikes. How many kids could find their way home if they had to? These other parents don't want to let their kids play with mine if they think the kids aren't being closely supervised or picked up/dropped off by an adult.

We are our own worst enemies - we are the ones who have the power to say "no"... we need to follow through with consequences if the rules are broken, say no to adding yet another activity to keep up with the jones's, stop organizing their schedules for them so that they never figure out how to do it themselves.... or figure out for themselves their own limits,...

And what about saying no to other kids who are misbehaving in public? How about that incident a few years back when some local high school kids got out of hand at a party (parents were away) and they ran over another kid with an SUV? These are kids with too much money, no idea of consequences, and parents who will bail them out. This is hardly the idyllic, perfect community of fairy tales. But it takes a critical mass of parents to stand up and act like grown-ups for this trend to turn around.


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Posted by Fed Up
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 4, 2007 at 2:25 pm

Right on, Moira!
I work with those kids who misbehave in public and I am astounded, on a daily basis, by their behavior and the parents who resist teaching them basic manners and respect.You, Moira, hit the nail on the head. Thanks!


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Posted by Yep, it's true
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Oct 4, 2007 at 9:52 pm

oh the stories I could tell. kids break rules, parents seek loopholes. Kids break rules, parents lie to cover for them. Kids mess up, parents put the blame everywhere else. Every day occurrence. Most kids and parents do the right thing, but we kind of resent dealing with these issues often.


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Posted by AnotherView
a resident of another community
on Oct 4, 2007 at 10:05 pm

Here's an alternative view: Much like the rich old guy wanting a "trophy wife," we want "trophy kids."
And we get them - nice to look at (on paper at least), but hollow inside.


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Posted by Sympathy for "bad parents"
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2007 at 6:39 am

How about some sympathy for the "bad parents"?

Ever wonder what it is like to raise a child 1,000 miles away from your closest relatives, leaving you on your own for tips on how to get rid of diaper rash or when is the right age to let your kid walk home from school alone?

How realistic is the suggestion above of letting your child bike to the ice cream store on his own in Palo Alto? It isn't the stranger anxiety so much I think that keeps parents' kids close to home, but their concern for their children's safety because, for many, to get to the ice cream shop the child has to cross several busy intersections with cars that often run red lights and no dividers wide enough for the child and his bike to stand on.

What of the parent who wants her child to roam the neighborhood with friends after school, but there are no kids to roam with because not many kids live in the neighborhood? What is that parent to do when those kids that are nearby have parents who think their child has enough friends already (my favorite is stories of kids who've come home with a playmate and when the neighbor child knocks on the door to play the parent tells them their child is busy playing with Joey, never once considering how the child the door closes on must feel and that 3 kids could have just as much fun as 2)? How easy is to build friendships when each time a child knocks on another child's door the child is away at activities 9 out of 10 times and the child who is being asked for a playdate is not encouraged by his parents to call when he returns or reciprocate?

Think too of how difficult it is for the parent who tries to instill old-fashioned values in their child, but the schools where they spend the bulk of their waking hours give lip service to values through formal programs but when put to it turn a blind eye when it comes to discipline/setting examples when kids are rude in class, bully on the playground, or steal things from other kids' desks?

Many parents sign their kids up for after school activities because, though structured and expensive, it is the best social and athletic outlet their child has when neighborhoods are not child-friendly.

Many of these activities provide their child's only social outlet and they reinforce good social skills such as team work/ cooperation, shared interests, sportsmanship and inclusively, not to mention the great fitness (and time away from TV) kids get from dance, soccer, basketball and the like. Mentoring relationships kids build with adult coaches and scout leaders when grandparents, aunts and uncles live so far away and neighborhood families are so inaccessible fills a great void in many of these children's lives.

So I'd give many of those well educated, professionally successful parents a break. They are using their brains to craft solutions to problems created by a community that doesn't always act much like a community these days.

BTW - A PhD, JD or MD doesn't have a lock on "bad parenting." Parents around here who are challenged in the "it takes a village" mindset include teachers, stay at homers, and sales types too.


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Posted by Simon
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 5, 2007 at 9:28 am

'Sympathy' -- I think you are right that in some ways booking your child into structured programs is a rational choice for parents because too many of our neighborhoods are not child-friendly. But it seems the situation feeds upon itself, too. The more parents book up their kids, the less child-friendly their own neighborhoods become. So we can collectively become 'bad parents,' perhaps, even while doing what is best for our individual children.

I think that also points to the difficulty of getting out of the situation, especially in a community where people have to work so hard just to live here.

Perhaps another reason that it's a tough problem to solve is that, as some other posters have pointed out here, the enrichment opportunities here are amazing and much better than many other generations have had. For children who truly want and need them, that's wonderful. I guess the problem is that not all children really do want or need all the enrichment they get -- they might be victims of the 'trophy child' syndrome that 'AnotherView' talks about. And then there's the reality that parenting is just a plain tough thing to do. Children are ever changing and all unique. It's very hard to apply universal rules to parenting and very hard to stick to even the most sensible, humane and child-nurturing ones when you try.

But even if you get the balance for your own child exactly right, not being available for unstructured, unplanned play still comes the cost of neighborhood cohesion. And I think it's right to think that there's a loss there, even if it's one that we can't easily recover.

On balance, I'm glad to see some push back against a parenting culture that values easily-quantifiable achievements over hard-to-measure values. And I was delighted to see something of that sentiment echoed in our new Superintendent's Weekly editorial this week – explaining that he expects high-achieving students to be both grateful for their intellectual gifts and to feel a responsibility to the wider society of which they are a part. That's leadership that I think we could really use!






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Posted by Winslow Arbenaugh
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 5, 2007 at 11:02 am

There are very deep structural problems present in thet way we raise children in our culture. First of all, when was it in human history that just 2 (and often, in these days, just 1) parents were entirely responsible for the growth and well-being of their children?

We came from tribal roots, where child rearing has been - up until very recently - a community or extended family endeavor.

What's ironic about child-rearing today is that the very thing - in year's past - that used to intorduce a copule to community in powerful ways (the bearing of children), now has the effect of mostly isolating parents and child from community - as thet nuclear family struggles - mostly on its own, without help - to survive the vagaries of modern culture and rapid change.

I don't have any answers to all of this, but statistics on stress, mental illness, and general dissatisfaction by more and more people (every time these measurements are made) suggest that there is something brewing. My sense is that we're due for another "turn" in our culture - around child-rearing, work, and other value structures; where that turn will take us is something I haven't quite figured out.


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Posted by researching..
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2007 at 12:18 pm

Benjamin: That is hilarious..please find one shred of evidence that Europeans are happier than Americans. I will look for it, but I just recently read a survey that showed that, in fact, about twice as many Americans were happy with their lives as Europeans. ( If I remember right). I was surprised by this because I would have thought that with all the time off and shorter work weeks of Europeans, they would be happier, but it turned out that because of our culture, where it is applauded to follow your own dreams, and even change dreams mid-stream, many more of us end up doing what we enjoy, not what we were programmed to do.

I will go look for it...


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Posted by one site for happiness
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2007 at 12:20 pm

"according to the 2002 International Social Survey Programme across 35 countries, 56% of Americans are "completely happy" or "very happy" with their lives, versus 44% of Danes (often cited in surveys as the happiest Europeans), 35% of the French and 31% of Germans."

Web Link


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Posted by free to be me, here
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2007 at 12:26 pm

Benjamin: I am so thankful that I live in a country where 69% of those who live supposedly below the poverty line own their own homes.

Living someplace where only 10% own their own homes? No thanks..too much dependence on the whims of others.

Maybe, in fact, it is a difference in definition..by own, do you mean all paid off, or do you mean to include still paying the monthly mortgage?

In any case, I will be very sad, indeed, if we move toward "the European" way of thinking. No thanks. I can think that way if I want to here...AND my way.


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Posted by Answer to stay at home Dad ( congrats!)
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2007 at 12:32 pm

To stay at home Dad: I think the point of the "tolerance" and "pledge allegiance" barrage was to say that we are losing the ability to pass on, in a public school community, in a way that we used to do through common cultural stories and traditions, the traits discussed in the article..those of values and integrity. I think that the other posters glommed onto that idea, of a shift in culture in such things as re: 2 parent and/or stay at home parents, etc.


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Posted by Simon
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 5, 2007 at 1:07 pm

Talking about the comparative happiness of different national groups, 'Researching' says: "it turned out that because of our culture, where it is applauded to follow your own dreams, and even change dreams mid-stream, many more of us end up doing what we enjoy, not what we were programmed to do."

So my question is: if ours is a parenting culture that privileges achievement on narrow metrics against the building of character, does that go against the great American grain of self-realization? In other words, however happy we parents are now, are we setting our children up for unhappiness down the line by requiring that they follow our dreams for them, rather than that they go through the messy process of finding their own (a path that, quite possibly, doesn't always run though an Ivy League school)?


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Posted by yup, agree with Simon
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2007 at 2:20 pm

Complete agreement, Simon. I hope that a lot of the huge push we see locally for kids to hit the Ivies isn't reflective of our Nation as a whole. I would truly hate for us to become a nation which doesn't support who our kids are but instead tries to force them into a mold of what WE think they are. I see too much of that in my European family.

I hope we can be a nice blend of "support for our kids to be all that they can be and to help them do their best" with "support them to follow their passion and they will be happy"


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Posted by ProudParent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2007 at 3:19 pm

We're not the worst parents, just the most neurotic. Look at how many people viewed this thread in the two days it's been up. Close to 1,100. Most parents desperately want to do the right thing.

It's good to see dissenting views in support of parents and children. My own kids, although far from perfect, are well-adjusted nice people. They bike to get around, don't own cars, are smart enough for the Ivies but weren't pushed and primed against their will, are following their own ever-changing dreams, get solid grades--no tutors involved, are respectful of elders, take responsibility for their actions, etc. etc. etc. And get this.....they have lots of friends & classmates who are just like them!!

We limit the number of after-school activities based on their interest levels, homework requirements and a belief that unscheduled free time is to be protected. Our neighborhood experience isn't quite the Beaver Cleaver idealistic dream, but we make do on our street of mostly retirees. One we call Granma, another we brought dinner to until he passed away, another we talk with often and pat their dogs. Then a new neighbor moved in with 2 kids the same gender and nearly the same age as our youngest. It was our big chance at a neighborhood experience, except that the mom felt that the age gap wasn't suitable for our kids to mix. One was a year older, the other a year younger. Sigh!

We do protect our younger ones from traffic, our rule being that until they can ride their bikes defensively and make eye contact with drivers, they can't ride unsupervised. As kids get older they entertain themselves more at parks. Pickup games of Frisbee, football, soccer, basketball and volleyball became more and more frequent every year through middle and high school. Contrary to popular belief, enrolling kids in activities and protecting them from traffic at a younger age and does not set them up for an inability to schedule their own time when they're older.

Why focus on hand-wringing generalizations of worst parents ever and stereotypes of spoiled, overscheduled, trophy kids? There are LOTS of great kids--and therefore parents--in our midst.


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Posted by Thanks
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 5, 2007 at 3:26 pm

Great perspective, Proud Parent!


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Posted by Simon
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 5, 2007 at 3:39 pm

ProudParent -- thanks for your positive, corrective input. I do think the negative trend we're talking about here is real, though -- just read Denise Clark Pope's work on stressed out students (researched in schools in our area) for proof. But it's good to know many parents are bucing the trend. I'm guessing that, on the level of always slippery generalization, it is more of a fight to parent in the way you describe than it used to be – your experience with your neighbor hints at that, too. More strength to you for parenting as you do, then.


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Posted by ProudParent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2007 at 4:09 pm

Thanks for your comments, Simon.
This conversation reminds me of Paly's anti-drug campaign from a few years ago. They conducted a survey which found that there was a significant gap between students' opinions of how many did drugs (or was it drinking?) vs. the number who actually did. For example, and I'm making up the numbers here, 20% admitted to drinking, yet they believed that 70% drink. Based on that information, the campaign was centered around letting kids know that not "everyone does it". They hoped to dispel that belief and therefore remove some of the perceived peer pressure.

Do you see the parallels here? Not everyone wants a trophy child at the expense of childhood. The actual number may be far less than what's perceived, and therefore we don't all have to run around competing with a myth.


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Posted by Benjamin
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 5, 2007 at 4:16 pm

on happiness, and Europe:
"The authors also find that over the last century, Americans, both men and women, have gotten steadily—and hugely—less happy. The difference in happiness of men between men of my generation, born in the 1960s, and my father's generation, born in the 1920s, is the same as the effect of a tenfold difference in income. In other words, if my father had little money compared to his contemporaries and I have lots of money compared to mine, I can still expect to be less happy. Here, curiously, the European pattern diverges. Happiness falls for the birth years from 1900 to about 1950, and generations born on the continent since World War II have gotten successively happier."

Web Link

Looks like we're losing ground. btw, the Pew Foundation reports that inly a paltry 36% of Americans (and falling) still believe in the American Dream.

the Bay Area is a bubble; there's lots of money here - travel around and query, you'll find things not as rosy as here. Look at the big picture


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Posted by Perspective
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 5, 2007 at 6:26 pm

Hmm. Let's all think back about 100 or 150 years ago when most children didn't survive childhood. We want all children today to not only survive, but also to have a good life. Maybe getting to that place where everyone survives in our modern world means some people look neurotic. Maybe they go a bit too far, and maybe then realize they can back off. So what? It's not killing anyone.

We put a lot of attention to making things safer these days, but the world is also getting more complicated (and hazardous) at an ever increasing rate. I mean, who would really instinctively know not to put a child in the front seat of a car with an air bag, which is supposed to make you safer? (Or, I mean, who would know until after the first casualties?) There's all this stuff we're supposed to know that just isn't obvious. Sometimes it's just easier to stick with what parents know is safe-or at least is a good bet- like the after school programs.

I have a parent who grew up in a war-torn, eventually communist country, having daily contact with hunger, death (trucks picked up the dead every morning, apparently), abuse, injustice, and lack of opportunity, education, and loving relationships. I have another parent who grew up in a much more structured, privileged environment. Guess which parent was the neurotic one who tried to shelter us from the world, and guess which one figured it was a safe bet to let us take our chances because independence was worth it? If you guessed that the parent who witnessed all of life's horrors was the one constantly nagging and worried about what could go wrong and the one who was willing to sacrifice to send us to good colleges, you got it. Sure, maybe I'm more neurotic myself because of that parent, but there were key times and events I might not have survived in the course of my life if I had only the influence of the parent who could only focus on independence over safety.

Why demonize people for providing their kids with so much opportunity? I'd have given my eye teeth for that. Are we in such a bubble that we've forgotten what "really bad" means? Like starvation, abuse, neglect, etc., etc.

We do have our share of affluenza here. But I am really more impressed by the concentration of solid, thinking, caring, intelligent parents, and the neat kids they are raising.


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Posted by read the article
a resident of Los Altos
on Oct 5, 2007 at 9:10 pm

Perspective,

Did you read the article that is mentioned ? I did. I was dumbfounded. WOuld you do all the things that some of the parents mentioned in the article do ? Such as e-mail admissions officers at universities pretending that you are your child ? Teach your child how to cheat the SATs or cover for them when they are found to have done pretty bad things ?.... People do that... How does that ultimately help your child ? Maybe it will help temporarily by helping him/her get into your choice of colleges. However, how will they feel about themselves after years of such parental intervention ? My guess is that they won't feel so good... just my guess.


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Posted by anon
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 5, 2007 at 9:20 pm

Simon,

I wouldn't use Denise Clark Pope for any kind of "proof." She correctly understood that nobody will buy a book about a reasonably well adjusted community, but that we have a long tradition of scare-du-jour (remember May Phipher?). So she has successfully exploited it. Good for her, but let's not be completely taken by it.


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Posted by RWE
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 6, 2007 at 12:24 pm

anon, Denise Pope's work is pretty sound; she does a very good job of pointing our propensities and problems present in our youth culture, especially around education.

Mary Pipher? She's not perfect, but she's certainly prolific, and quite insightful. Here's an author that has written some wonderfully expressive books - about many stages of life. One may not agree with all she has written, but Iwould not call what she writes "scare-du-jour", unless one is afraid of learning new insights and gaining perspective on how we are as a culture

Here's more from Ms. Pipher's oeuvre:
Web Link


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Posted by Perspective
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 6, 2007 at 7:04 pm

"read"
Okay, I read the article. Now reread what I wrote, I'd say the same thing.

No, I wouldn't excuse unethical behavior - are you or the author somehow saying that unethical behavior is new in the world and that this generation is the worst? So, this generation of parents is worse than the generation that brought up the kids who were willing to occupy my parent's homeland and, say, cut off people's heads for minor slip ups in order to keep everyone terrorized? How about the whole generation that took part in the Hitler Youth with such gusto, and their parents? Are you saying that we're the first generation capable of raising a bunch of overachievers who might grow up to rule our country like a bunch of amoral, spend-thrift, vindictive frat boys...?

Now I'm going to ask you to read something. How about The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (I believe 1930's era). You can skip to the parts that involve child labor and the schemes to rob working families of their homes. I'm guessing every parent featured or alluded to in that book would have an easy time choosing between sending a child to work in a dangerous factory and offering them perhaps a little too much opportunity. I'm sure the kids who worked 16 hours a day in meat packing plants had LOTS of time for unstructured play.

I don't know anyone like the people in this article, but I'm sure they are out there because I wasn't born yesterday. But I don't confuse the bad apples with the good parents I see everyday at my kids' school. And I wouldn't nearly assume that everyone who is signing their kids up for a lot of activities is also doing their college applications for them.

Rather than criticizing parents for trying to give their kids the best life possible, I would suggest people writing these articles get a life instead. Or maybe focus on how to instill ethics in the next generation, a PERENNIAL problem.


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Posted by read the article
a resident of Los Altos
on Oct 6, 2007 at 10:11 pm

Perspective,

However unfortunate and terrible things were in the countries you are talking about in your posts, those things did not happen in THIS country. How then do they justify the behavior of over the board parents in this country? I don't know... In the end, raise your kids whatever way you want. All I know is that being too soft on your children produces persons who can't deal with any kind of hardship later on in their lives. I don't care if that's what you want to do with your children. I don't do it with mine, and they are doing very well for themselves. They are happy and well-adjusted even though they don't get all the money they'd like from us. Our daughter started having part-time jobs in her junior year in high school, and her perspective on life is wonderful for it...

Anyway, good luck. I'll stick with my method.


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Posted by Perspective
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 7, 2007 at 12:41 am

read,
"...rule our country like a bunch of amoral, spend-thrift, vindictive frat boys...?"
Maybe you could read the Cliff Notes of The Jungle.

I believe I was talking about our country there.

(You didn't know The Jungle was about the United States and what a watershed book this was? Wow, maybe your kids would benefit from a little better education than you had, eh "read"?")

Plenty more examples. You'd just have to look to a different generation than ours -- isn't that your premise, that this is somehow the worst generation of parents ever? Wouldn't you have to actually compare to other generations?

I also haven't said a thing about how I raise my own kids, only that I do not waste breath tearing down other people for making the choice to provide their kids with a lot of opportunity. I'm confused, though, are they "soft" as you say, or too hard/difficult as the article makes it out?

This all strikes me as a big junior high school jealous gossip fest. I believe a recent issue of Vanity Fair had an article in the back asking people to judge their a*&hole footprint. I think writing parenting articles like these calls for a*&hole offsets.

The funny thing is, we probably don't parent that differently, except you're hogging the soapbox.


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Posted by Aleks
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 8, 2007 at 4:45 pm

Regarding happiness in the US vs. Europe. We seem pretty similar according to Pew Global Survey
Web Link

I also think Palo Alto parents are great. Most of the parents I meet here are very committed to their kids, and thoughtful. Compare & contrast to my parents, whose attitude was "if parents are happy, kids will be too", which was not so great from my perspective.

Off-topic: what's the highest "children under 5" density neighbourhood around here? Driving with kids is no fun, would love to have similiarly trapped parents around.


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Posted by from one of the kids
a resident of another community
on Oct 8, 2007 at 7:19 pm

Just for a different perspective...

Perhaps parents assume that setting up their kid at a good school (either because of the student's merit or the wealth of the family) and having a 'good' career is good parenting. That seems to be what my parents thought/think. And yes, being set financially for life is a fine idea. But shouldn't happiness matter a little bit as well? I'd rather be stuck in a job and struggle to get by over having a 9-5 job that I hate but pays the bills.

Palo Alto schools might be giving students a firm education and a path to the Ivy Leagues, but we're also killing students. Staying up until two or three in the morning doing schoolwork doesn't strike me as a lesson worth learning.

Palo Alto isn't like the rest of the US. We're more wealthy and, for the most part, better educated. Seeing how many people in Palo Alto are completely happy, and comparing the kids and parents, that's something worth looking at. But we're comparing apples and oranges otherwise.


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Posted by concerned parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 9, 2007 at 8:57 am

To one of the kids,
I don't think the vast majority of parents are assuming that setting kids up for a good school is the primary goal of parenting. I am sorry to hear that is happening in your family. Please consider writing a note to your parents and letting them know how you feel. Or talk to the counselor at school about how to broach the subject - or at least to find a way to be happy in your own life if there are deficits in your home life or relationships.

Please also forward your perspective to the administration at Gunn. If high school students are staying up until two or three in the morning doing schoolwork, either they have too much schoolwork, or the school is doing a poor job instilling good study habits and life skills for doing well in college.

When I was in college (at a top school, notoriously competitive), the students who learned how to manage their time well so that they could eat regular meals, exercise, take regular time off for relaxation, and most importantly, get enough sleep - they did the best. They also learned the important lesson of setting priorities to lead balanced and happy lives (something, by the way, that my workaholic parents never learned and still suffer from to this day).

The kids who stayed up late studying and didn't develop the discipline to get sleep, develop extracurricular interests, and take regular time off to relax, they didn't do as well.
Yes, it takes incredible discipline - a lot of these students would excuse themselves by saying it wasn't possible because the workload was too heavy. They were looking at it the wrong way. The hardest thing I ever did in school was learn that balance. But once I did, it wasn't that things got easier so much as that I got world's better at handling everything.

When I learned better study habits myself - especially learning to take regular time off to play - I went from being an average to a top student. I also got better sleep and got more done. I can't emphasize how much it really took discipline to take that regular time off to relax. But once I learned how to do that, I worked more efficiently and felt better - and was happier.

The school administration is so key in helping students do this. They do need to communicate this priority, set good examples, monitor how the students are doing, and make it possible for students to try, flounder, and try again at this without ruining their records. Is this happening at all at Palo Alto High schools? If not, I hope you and your friends who are overstressed will bring this to the attention of school administration. They do have students' best interests at heart. (My college learned this lesson after bringing in expensive consultants to understand and combat a high suicide rate.)


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Posted by anonymous parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 10, 2007 at 9:21 am

Concerned parent: I assure you that students with academic classes do stay up until 2AM - that's the way it is.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2007 at 9:49 am

I heard yesterday that a recently published study that found that 1 hour of sleep deprivation can cause the equivalent of 2 grade levels of congnitive impairment. In other words, a sophmore who's missing out on 1 hour of sleep per night is thinking and acting like an 8th grader.

(1 hour less than the recognized healthy amount of sleep - I don't know what that is - about 8 hours?) They also said the effects on cognitive development can be cummulative and permanent.

They also said that teenagers who are having coping and behavioral problems are often attributed to 'hormones' and it actually could be sleep deprivation.

Before you jump down my throat - I heard it on the CBS News radio broadcast, and I didn't catch any of the references or sources.

So, if you think this MIGHT be true...

These kids that are attempting suicide and stuff - maybe its NOT school stress, maybe they are going wacko with sleep deprivation, brought on by pushing the kids too hard in school.

So, instead of our Board and our District Staff trying to solve problems that are killing our kids, they're out there slathering up luxury programs. Good for them.


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Posted by ProudParent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2007 at 9:51 am

anonymous parent,
It doesn't have to be the way it is. I've seen students take a load of AP classes, participate in a team sport AND go to bed regularly by 10 or 11 pm. As concerned parent suggests, these students are more likely to lead balanced happy lives and manage their stress effectively.

The 2AM assumption perpetuates the stereotype that this is the ONLY way that an academically inclined student (or the child of academically bent parents) can succeed.


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2007 at 9:53 am

It is not that they are going to bed too late, but also that they are having to get up too early. I drove my sophomore to school in the rain (instead of biking) today for 7.00 a.m. drivers' ed. There were a lot more students arriving at that time than I expected to see.


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2007 at 9:58 am

My college student, while at Paly, usually came home from school or after school activities (job) and went to bed for several hours before starting homework. This happened so regularly it became the norm for her to do this and eat dinner and start homework at 10.00 p.m. that it continued into the freshman year at college. It is now changing, I am pleased to say.

So, when you hear of kids not getting to bed until 2.00 a.m. ask if they are sleeping after school. It may surprise you.


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Posted by PA mom
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 10, 2007 at 10:25 am

The reality of many Palo Alto students is they feel they must get into certain colleges. This means they have to have better than a 4.0 GPA, take AP classes, have near perfect SAT's and a huge variety of extracurricular activities (all of which they must excel at or be officers in the club.)

Here's the simple math -
Get out of school at 3
After school activities (community service, sports, music, SAT prep, etc.) til 6 or 7
5-7 academic/AP/honors classes equals 5-8 hours of homework
Bedtime is somewhere between 11-2 (without taking time to eat).
Up at 6:30 to start again...


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Posted by ProudParent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2007 at 11:23 am

In response to PA Mom, to demonstrate a different reality--
My oldest kid did get a perfect SAT score in math, had over a 4.0 GPA, did team sports, took the APs (lots each year but not all of them - only the ones of interest), ate dinner with family and went to bed by 10 or so nearly every night by choice. From AP Psych s/he learned that sleep is important for brain function, and that early morning hours are not the best for teenagers. These habits were self-motivated, not parent directed.
Kid is now attending his/her first choice college and it's a perfect match. It has a solid reputation but it's not an Ivy. Did we fail as parents? You decide.

I'll keep my original but somewhat embarrassing ProudParent name for continuity, but I'm not writing to brag. My point is that it's a myth that late nights are the only way to academic success. Enough classmates, friends and teammates had similar habits and even better grades/college admittance, so we aren't a lucky exception to the rule.

Students use the 2AM thing as bragging rights. An occasional late night is necessary, but I'm with concerned parent that learning better study & play habits will serve a child well in life.


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Posted by Palo alto mom
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 10, 2007 at 12:36 pm

Proud Parent -

You should be proud, your child has accomplished a lot! You certainly did not fail as parents.

Just like with runners, almost everyone can run/walk a mile, just at different paces. Same with school work, most kids can get thru it, but some may run, some may jog, some may walk. You can train to get faster (or get better study habits), but your speed is still your own. So for some kids, the late nights are not bragging rights, it is just how much time it takes them to complete the work.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 10, 2007 at 12:47 pm

Isn't a lot of this about the expectations game? Kids have different abilities. Some kids really are able to do college-level work in high school, for others it really is a struggle.

But we're unwilling, as a group, I think, to acknowledge that maybe our kid isn't ready for eight AP/honors courses in high school.


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Posted by RWE
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 10, 2007 at 3:21 pm

I attended a local Denise Pope lecture some years ago. When she finished, many, many parents in the room who had already seen their chiildrenn graduate spoke of the hard wisdom they had learned - i.e. that the level of pressure (peer, academic, and otherwise) was far too costly for what was earned, in return.

Many spoke of "burn out" by the time college began, with a pretty shocking number of returnees after the first year, mostly deciding to take community college courses, or get back on track in a way that resonated with their lives. It was an eye opener.

I don't think there is a "worst generation", because every generation has different challenges.

There certainly does continue to be a disconnect that looms larger between generations, as time rolls on. This is due the accelerating challenge of keeping up with the accelerated rate of change.

Profound shifts are happening right under our noses. Globalization; orders of magnitude increases is the ease and means of communication; universal access to almost everything, and so on.

It's becoming more and more difficult to "hold the center" from the perspective of any one group of mores, or cultural memes.

In all of this we are all doing our best to adapt, and adaptation is the necessary subtext for everything we know as "success".

If anything, we need easier access to some simple tools necessary to make those adaptations.

This is very challenging - and sometimes scary - stuff. Where are we going? All we can do is hang on, and offer whatever gifts from the heart and mind that we think will help our kids.

For what it's worth, things like loving attention (individuatted, by family) , "community" (in all its forms, including this forum), and a sense that the future hold promise and wonder (no matter any one individual's projected travails), are just a few of the things that sustain.

Oh yeah, there's thhose chocolate chip cookies, too.


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Posted by concerned parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2007 at 8:10 pm

To PA Mom - Believe me, I'm sympathetic. Your child probably has better study habits than I did at that age. But I also know from experience that it's just not necessary to get locked into that. You can find a better way, and should for your child's health and future success.

I see a lot of choices in the schedule you provided. Your child can give up some of those things and still get into a good college. Are the activities from 3-6 really essential? Those are some of the best study hours, when kids learn how to really buckle down to study immediately upon returning from school (rather than relaxing then, which is the temptation). If kids get good study in early, it's easier to have a leisurely dinner and a break with friends, and then several productive hours of studying in the evening before a 10pm bedtime. The evening studying goes much more efficiently if the homework has already been substantially tackled earlier.

Maybe this is not an acceptable answer for your child who may not wish to give things up. Perhaps then it would be an acceptable compromise to be more efficient with the extracurriculars and get home in time to study at least an hour before dinner - and eat dinner/rest in order to make the ensuing studies more efficient.

I personally found study time between 4am and 7am to be incredibly productive. If I tackled my work immediately after classes (took huge discipline), then I could take time for sports, dinner, then several hours of study and a good night's sleep and 4am study -- it seemed my brain worked on things then overnight while I was sleeping and the morning study was incredibly productive. This worked for me, but I'm sure is not everyone's cup of tea. The point is that I floundered for a long time thinking I couldn't get more sleep until I changed my perspective and MADE time to sleep. Then I was forced to rethink the rest of my schedule. And being more rested, I was able to be more disciplined about transitioning between activities and doing my studies well.

Believe me, I've heard all the excuses in college circumstances that were far more challenging and stressful. I made them myself before I learned how to prioritize, take regular time off, get good sleep, and be an efficient studier (they go hand in hand).

I didn't learn this lesson until I got to college and maybe your child won't either. S/he can still do well, but it's not nearly as fun and it gets a LOT harder later on. Better to learn the lessons now. I didn't get that kind of guidance until I was in college. I wish I'd had it earlier.


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