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Guest Opinion: Are parents coddling their kids too much?

Original post made on Jan 11, 2019

Consider the following: Teens, in the past couple of years, are complaining more and more that they are stressed out and overworked and feel bad whenever they are criticized in any way. At the same time, many of them, especially those in college, object to listening to people they disagree with because what they hear "hurts" them.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, January 11, 2019, 12:00 AM

Comments (32)

21 people like this
Posted by ItsAllOpinions
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 11, 2019 at 8:28 am

Every generation feels that the next generation is doing it all wrong raising the kids.

From the article - My generation did things differently. We got babysitters so we could go out on weekend nights and never thought of bringing our kids to a party except on Thanksgiving and Christmas. We let our kids go out and play whenever.

The generation before you did things differently. They didn't get baby sitters and kids were expected to self-govern.

The generation after you, brings the kids to the party and makes them a part of the celebrations.

My point is, there is no right way or wrong way most of the time. Its evolution. Folks talk about helicopter parenting .. well take a step back and see why the parents feel the need to be helicopters? Maybe its something they wished for when they were growing up and felt that their parents didn't do enough?

Same thing with homework - is the homework too much/too less - depends on whom you ask. As a parent, I set the boundaries for my kids since I am in a better position to know the personality of my child. Is the focus on getting an "A" vs. is the focus on learning the subject matter? Does it matter that my kid got a "B+" but really learnt to figure out something in the subject, vs. my kid got the A+ due to tutoring that I couldn't afford in the first place




10 people like this
Posted by Another
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 11, 2019 at 8:28 am

Another is a registered user.

To be fair, there has never been a time in modern American history when adults didn't complain about how the current generation of teenagers were hopelessly flawed and deficient compared to the kids in olden times.

Adults complain about teens. This is the way it's always been and always will be. But, as always, the teens will grow up and will be fine. And the world will not come to an end.


17 people like this
Posted by It Starts With Grade School
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 11, 2019 at 8:33 am

Considering all of the parents walking and/or driving their elementary-school aged children to class every morning...even up to the 5th grade, the answer is probably yes. Back in the day, we either took the bus, rode our bikes or walked to school. The afternoon 'pick-ups' from school also create incredible pedestrian/traffic gridlock and residential streets now resemble the parking lot at Costco on the weekends. What is the reason for this...an inherent parental paranoia of weirdos permeating the school zones? There have always been weirdos and we were simply taught to avoid them.

Going back to yesteryear...if any of us (as 9 or 10 year-olds) were seen being walked to school by our parents, we'd be ridiculed and made a laughingstock by our other classmates. Today being escorted or picked-up to/from school has become the norm.

The emergence of countless and future 'weenies' is now in full swing. As always...you can blame the parents.



9 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 11, 2019 at 9:27 am

I don't think homework should be part of this discussion at all. Homework isn't parents domain in that it is assigned by the schools, not the parents. The frenzy to get good grades and get into good colleges causes the homework problems and parenting isn't a solution to this. Schools must teach the kids the material and if every student in the class produces work that is A worthy, then all the students should get the A. The students should not be competing against each other for the 4 or so As that a teacher is going to grade on each particular assignment.

Taking the homework (and tutoring) aspect out of the mix, I agree with the article. Parents are mollycoddling their kids. The reason I know it is because I see some parents helicoptering their college age kids, and even their kids as they go for job interviews.

As each age level approaches, parents should back off a little. A 5th grader can have more freedoms than a 1st grader. Being allowed to walk to school on one's own or ride their bike, should be a rite of passage that comes at a certain age (depending on distance to school). Being able to walk to the park, take the dog for a walk, or walk to the store to buy a forgotten item and allowed to buy a small treat as a reward, are all things that kids used to do and should still be able to do safely.

Some parents appear not to understand that their role is to prepare their kids for being self-sufficient adults. If they can't allow a high school student to go to school on their own steam, how will those kids learn to find their way in college, be able to use a bus, a plane, a train, on their own. Parents need to teach their kids by giving them practical freedoms as they progress in age. Let them work out their own problems and yes, let them make a few mistakes, let them have some time to be bored and to do all this gradually over a period of years where they are guided first on how to do it and then letting go of their hands and seeing how they do.

I feel sure that the kids will grow into responsible adults if they are allowed to behave like responsible teens. If their teen years are still spent in the back seat of the car or having everything provided for them, then they are going to expect that as adults to the detriment of their independence and to us as society as an ultimate result.


7 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 11, 2019 at 9:31 am

As for the aspect of feeling "hurt" or "offended", society as a whole have to grow up. The world is a hard place in which to live and we all have to learn how to deal with others who have different opinions or ideals to us.

"I Disapprove of What You Say, But I Will Defend to the Death Your Right to Say It" Voltaire.


11 people like this
Posted by Homework Overkill
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 11, 2019 at 5:35 pm

Homework should not be assigned over the weekend. Simple as that.

Monday through Thursday is adequate/enough...unless extra credit points are assigned.


3 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 11, 2019 at 11:01 pm

High grades in school classes are the result of a combination of hard work, long hours, innate ability, proper attitude, and in many cases just plain good looks. Also helps to be actually interested in the material.

Adults may notice that the same factors affect compensation in the real world.

In order to better prepare our students for the real world, their grades should be taxed in a progressive manner. Anyone scoring better than average would be taxed say 10% on the excess up to a certain amount, then 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35% and 37% on progressively higher scores. (I've heard recent suggestions for a marginal tax rate up to 70%.) These points would be redistributed to the less fortunate, to achieve a more equitably level academic playing field.


10 people like this
Posted by Define Success
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 12, 2019 at 1:57 pm

The question is...Are parents adequately preparing their children for success?

Now 'success' has many individual definitions & varying interpretations of it may be the core issue/problem.


12 people like this
Posted by The answer is...
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 12, 2019 at 2:31 pm

Yes.

One thing I’d like to see is a return to teens doing part-time work. With all the elaborate, costly parent-paid “activities” to pad one’s college apps ( in past 10 years or so), teens are “too busy” to have a job (unless at mom’s software company she owns).
I’d like a return to authenticity.


8 people like this
Posted by R.Davis
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 12, 2019 at 5:22 pm

R.Davis is a registered user.

Lack of common sense on the part of younger generations leads to more parental coddling.

Those who grew up playing with BB guns, slingshots, firecrackers/cherry bombs/M-80s, jack knives and what not know what I am talking about.

Kids today are more adept technologically...that's about it.


6 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 13, 2019 at 1:18 pm

Diana's article refers to a NY Times article that brings up several issues; economic anxiety, and the outcome of helicopter parents.
The issue of economic anxiety should be for all children as the Times attests,
"It’s about “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps,” said Caitlyn Collins, a sociologist at Washington University in St. Louis whose book, “Making Motherhood Work: How Women Manage Careers and Caregiving,” comes out in February. “It distracts from the real questions, like why don’t we have a safe place for all kids to go when they’re done with school before parents get home from work?”
And the long-term outcome of helicopter parenting is one we should all be concerned about,
"Psychologists and others have raised alarms about children’s high levels of stress and dependence on their parents, and the need to develop independence, self-reliance and grit. Research has shown that children with hyper-involved parents have more anxiety and less satisfaction with life, and that when children play unsupervised, they build social skills, emotional maturity and executive function."
There are parents in the community who are raising children with resilience, and empathy along with emphasizing the importance of education, however; there are too many who are not. This does not bode well for any of us if we want an egalitarian society with healthy individuals.


12 people like this
Posted by Respect Autonomy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 13, 2019 at 3:28 pm

I think it’s always a good idea to have a healthy dose of skepticism about an issue that involves a lot of judgmentalism and schadenfreude, and that affects power balance in a major sphere in our society (in this case, the control of young minds in the educational sphere).

The discussions are usually characterized by a few sensational outlier examples, with completely unsupported broad generalizations made from them. The next time you see someone driving their kid (with the concussion you don’t know about) across town for school, by all means, feel free to pick up some rocks and stone them! Or just gossip about them behind their back. And keep voting for people who make our streets overcrowded with increasing levels of accidents (and who spend lots of money on road window dressing that only makes things less safe), so that you can have more stoning opportunities.

Interesting that when researchers who thought helicopter parents were harming their kid wanted to find out how much harm it did, they had to do a double-take because the kids were actually doing better than their peers:
Web Link
“…a researcher involved with that project, confessed that when she saw those results, her first reaction was, ‘This can’t be right. We have to go back and look at this again.’ But the benefits did indeed prove impressive.’”

From Psychology Today:
The Myth of the Helicopter Parent: Indulgent parents of young adults may actually promote their development.
Web Link

The world is a lot more complicated than it used to be. Throughout human development, children learned with and from watching adults, and working alongside them. Only in the last few hundred years did we have large political constructs that benefitted from taking people away from their families large-scale and attaching them to organizations that mostly could care less if they live or die.

Most of the people who decry what they feel is coddling seem not to understand that couples, as well as parents and children, can act as partners to navigate this increasingly complex world. (There are other studies that bear out the benefits of that.)

I think the examples of homework, or of a student not wanting to be constantly treated as different, are only examples of “coddling” if we ignore specifics and the power issues those examples relate to. Homework goes to a much bigger issue of educational reform and boundaries between home and school; education reform can’t be extricated from power, money, and politics. A child whose skin is darker or who looks different being constantly asked by every new person they meet (because that is usually what happens) “Where are you from?” And if the child answers, “Menlo Park”, and the reply is, “No, I mean, where are you FROM” — meaning the child’s ethnic origins — that’s actually pretty isolating. This isn’t a new problem for kids with certain ethnic backgrounds. And it’s really unfair to bring political shenanigans into this as if that had anything to do with child “coddling”. (Are we coddling the guy in the WH and party operatives more than previous generations? Perhaps THAT ought to concern us more.)

I don’t witness the peer pressure Diane mentions. Quite the opposite, what I witness is lots of local parents falling all over themselves to disconnect from the kids and not seem as if they have anything to do with them, lest they be stoned for it. Parents will brag about how much they don’t know what their kids are doing and that they don’t have anything to do with each other, to show they aren’t helicoptering. I wonder and worry what will happen to these teens when they get out on their own and they feel truly alone for disconnecting so completely from their families on the false idea that it’s necessary for their independence.


9 people like this
Posted by Helicopter Parenting is Not Parenting
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 14, 2019 at 11:14 am

From what I've witnessed, "helicopter parenting" mostly involves outsourcing parenting duties to a series caretakers and institutions, so that busy two-income parents can just drop their kids off get back to their jobs.

It's no wonder the news is full of reports of millennials who are emotional basket cases, easily herded into fads and fringe political extremism. These kids have been herded all their lives, and it's all they know.


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2019 at 1:00 pm

@Respect.

You seem to be making some good points, but at the same time you are assuming that those parents who give more freedoms to their kids don't really care.

I think that as you said, you don't know what parenting is going on in the home by those you scorn as throwing out into the real world.

When you see the parent of a 14 year old who bikes to school every day, you have no idea how many times that parent may have taken said child out on weekends for bike rides with family. You may not know that that family sits down and eats dinner together each day while everyone talks about their day. You may not know that one of the parents has shadowed that child on a bike and routinely checks with the helmet is being worn correctly and that they are not using their phone when on their bike.

What you say as "parents disconnecting from their kids" may actually be the results of years of better parenting than you imagine.

As for coddled kids doing better in the adult world, I find that many people in their late teens and young 20s are completely unable to deal with real life challenges such as getting a part time job, cooking a meal that isn't prepackaged or frozen, use public transport other than Ubers, put a chain on a bike or air in tires of either a car or a bike or even open a bank account.

As for the social skills some of these young people have of being able to interact with coworkers or deal with anything in a job that hasn't been covered in one of their memorized text books, they are failing to be able to put their book knowledge into practical situations.

My kids were taught to be able to solve life's annoyances by using adult skills they have acquired through practice. Parent/child partnerships sound like a fancy way of getting round the fact that the young person hasn't a clue how to solve a life issue by themselves. I would rather my kids asked for help having made an attempt to solve a problem themselves or have a possible solution before coming to me to ask for help or support. I want them to be self sufficient adults and that has been the way they have been raised.

I could drop down dead tomorrow and I know that my kids will survive all that they would have to do to deal with the practicalities of it. I think they are better adults for having had the practice through their teens of working through the ups and downs of life. I don't think I have thrown them into the real world too fast or shown them any signs that I don't care about them. Rather I would like to think that they see that I care about them so much that I have given them the skills to survive in the big bad world outside of our home. At the same time, they have seen me take an interest in them as people with their own likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, rather than as forever dependent appendages. There are more ways of looking at parenting than the wide spectrum you describe and middle ground ways of taking the best part of both extremes.

If you don't agree with me even in part then I think we will have to agree to disagree - and that is also a skill I hope to have passed on to my kids.


8 people like this
Posted by Most Kids Today Are Weenies
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 14, 2019 at 1:53 pm

> "Psychologists and others have raised alarms about children’s high levels of stress and dependence on their parents, and the need to develop independence, self-reliance and grit. Research has shown that children with hyper-involved parents have more anxiety and less satisfaction with life, and that when children play unsupervised, they build social skills, emotional maturity and executive function."

^^^This is so true. Parents who baby their children end-up creating adult babies...whiners & self-professed victims.

Self-preservation, self-perseverance and personal independence are venerable American traditions no longer being emphasized by the majority of parents these days.

A smartphone is now the predominant lifeline for most younger individuals...add social media addictions and what you see is what you get.


42 people like this
Posted by Wow. Judgmental Much?
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 14, 2019 at 2:21 pm

Wow. Judgmental Much? is a registered user.

Diana Diamond, self-appointed expert on EVERYTHING (who, judging from her comments here, hasn't worked with kids in so many years she really has no idea what she is talking about) spouts off and y'all pile on.

The majority of PAUSD students walk or bike or ride a bus to school. Many of them start businesses, work jobs, play sports, pursue many interests and do volunteer work in their limited spare time WHILE they are in local schools.

My kids recently graduated from high school and college. They are both very independent. Their friends also are accomplished and independent. My oldest just graduated college early and got her first full-time job. She has moved into an apartment with roommates and is making a life in another state where she also works an extra job to save money AND does volunteer work with local teens. (She can't afford to move back to the Bay Area.) She's doing great--without help from us.

Diana, what volunteer work are you doing these days? Maybe you should volunteer to work with local kids as I have done. It might be a good education for you. The vast majority of today's kids are terrific, strong, intelligent, hard-working people who deserve more credit than you give them. Their parents aren't so bad either, but they do work too much. It takes two very demanding full-time jobs to support a Bay Area family these days. Balancing family life with the insane demands of today's corporations is very challenging.

To the Weekly---I'm disappointed you printed such a mean-spirited, judgmental, grossly exaggerated piece. Broad brush criticism of families is beneath you.


2 people like this
Posted by 25 is the new 15!!
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 15, 2019 at 12:41 am

Have observed many parents managing their college student’s class schedule and then, after graduation (and beyond) those parents continue to manage their kids lives, finding them housing, organizing moves, and In some cases continuing to bankroll healthcare, car expenses, cell phone bill etc. it’s clear why 25 is the new 15. Coddled kids turn into helpless adults.


2 people like this
Posted by Rameshsoni23
a resident of another community
on Jan 15, 2019 at 2:28 am

Rameshsoni23 is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


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Posted by fahad786k
a resident of another community
on Jan 15, 2019 at 8:42 am

fahad786k is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


6 people like this
Posted by Respect Autonomy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2019 at 11:51 pm

@Resident,

"You seem to be making some good points, but at the same time you are assuming that those parents who give more freedoms to their kids don't really care.”

Um, that’s not what I’m saying at all, not even close. It’s hard to even know how to address your last post because you’ve constructed such a straw man and it’s like you’re talking to someone else that you’ve made up in your mind. First of all, I haven’t said anything negative about kids who bike to school. In fact, I have been consistent in my message being to respect autonomy.

I am saying you cannot assume anything about people based on how their kids go to school. Period. Judge not that ye be not judged. That’s it.

I’m glad that perhaps you haven’t witnessed the curious behavior of local parents here of late, that you so misunderstood and twisted around what I said about parents disconnecting from their kids, but you don’t have to make such wild assumptions, what I said is straight up what is happening: when local parents get in groups these days, they often tend not to brag about their kids like in the old days, they seem to be one-upping each other to brag about just how disconnected they are from their kids, how little they know what their kids are doing, to show that they aren’t helicoptering. The accusations of helicoptering have, in my opinion, become so hysterical and power-based, they are actually causing parents to think that severing ties with their kids is how they help them become independent.

I agree with you very much that many teens and young adults are completely unable to deal with life, but in my observation — and I think the facts and a lot of research back this up — it’s more the result of the education system that inculcates reliance on external direction, and is worse now in that regard than it ever was. Kids get out and can’t do anything for themselves. I heard very recently from a college administrator that generally their homeschooled students do better because they’ve been in charge of their educations and been independent. They might be driven around given the circumstances of their educational needs, but they’re probably also more used to doing their chores, being out in the world and dealing with all ages of people, dealing with things not being perfect, being in charge of their own learning rather than being constantly told what to do/ just getting good at taking tests. Life is usually considered part of their education. Kids in school who just jump all the hoops and take tests to get grades usually have no idea how to think or act independently, and they usually have very little experience with other people who aren’t exactly the same age. Since kids in school spend most of their day in school and most of the rest of the day doing homework, they never get a chance to be in charge of anything.

I don’t think there is any evidence connecting what you broadly call “coddling” to the outcomes you claim. And, you have completely ignored the research showing that supposed “helicoptering” isn’t actually creating the negatives people presume (by researchers who thought they would find the opposite). You just seem to want to judge people based on whether their kids bike to school or not, and generalize broadly from that without any evidence. The idea that being too reliant on school causes dependence is actually a big topic of research in education reform. Our way of educating kids is the primary reason for the dependent behavior. The whole helicoptering thing seems more an attempt to blame parents for everything under the sun and avoid the hard changes that would bring our educational system into the 21st century.

@Helicopter Parenting is not parenting’s post is a case in point. What the poster has described seems more neglect and affluenza, the opposite of helicoptering. No matter, the upshot of the post is to ascribe all bad things to helicoptering parents.

I tend to agree with @Wow. Judgmental Much — I think a lot of the local kids and their families. I think we could do more to make the educational system provide the same quality education and be less burdensome. The first way to support independence is just to give kids control of their own lives and time — and to live and let live instead of throwing stones based on the most superficial and narrow of issues (how they get to school).







1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2019 at 8:46 am

@Respect.

Thanks for coming back again to explain and I am beginning to better understand your position. It sounds that really your gripe is against the school system rather than the families who choose to send their kids to school.

For many of us, public school has to be the only option. Without the skill and dedication to be a homeschool family, or the funds to go private, public school is the only option and it should be a good decision. As a family, we have come across many homeschool families and I have seen varying degrees of success. I have seen some failures where the kids eventually go to public school for at least a couple of years and sometimes end up being homeschooled again, and some families where they have succeeded and the kids are well rounded. The families I call failures are my descriptions and I have little to judge how well they have done, but in and out of public school, being a grade behind, an inability to be part of a large group of peers in an organized fashion, or lacking in close peer friendships have all occurred in my experience. The families where it has succeeded the kids have come through it very well, feel comfortable with larger groups where written and unwritten rules are necessary, have close friends in their sport or church spheres, and have done well in their post high school life. Saying that though, it has as far as I can see been a dedication by all family members, including grand parents, to make it work and in particular the mom who has had to put in much more effort than a parent who has their kids in regular school.

Saying all that, it is only from my narrow experience. I know that my own kids have met home schooled kids and they have their own comments on the subject. I know for our family, it would not have worked for many reasons.

How kids get to school is just one scenario that is apparent to outsiders. One of my kids had a friend who was not allowed to learn to ride a bike because of safety fears and this friend had problems with learning to drive because of having no awareness of road culture having never walked anywhere or even sat in the front seat of the car. This friend is now living as far from parents as possible in post college life and seems to return to childhood on visits home even though several years beyond college.

I am interested in what you say about research and although I am not skeptical of it, I do understand that research is difficult as quite honestly there are times research projects are done without looking at the whole picture.

Helicopter parenting is a label without a definitive meaning. In other words it means different things to different people. To a large extent, we all do some helicoptering at some stage in some areas of our kids' lives. In some ways, the schools expect it and require it. I doubt very much that my parents took as much notice of what was going on in my high school life as we have had to do for ours. In some ways the amount of parental involvement required is good for the kids from an educational and institutional point of view is good. But I tend to think that it takes away from their independence development also. The happy balance of middle ground is not apparent to me.

As for bike riding to school, that is really only being used as a guide because it is very visible. Yes it is hard to tell why it happens when you see a child exiting a car outside a school in an anonymous situation. I find most of my experience is from the friends of my own kids. When a parent of a friend contacts us to get the kids together rather than allowing the kids to make their plans it sends an overall message to me of helicoptering to a serious degree.


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Posted by Mama knows best
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 16, 2019 at 3:36 pm

Football. Rugby. Lacrosse.

Works wonders for boys. Girls too. Lots of other sports as well.


4 people like this
Posted by Respect Autonomy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2019 at 1:30 am

@Resident,
"Thanks for coming back again to explain and I am beginning to better understand your position. It sounds that really your gripe is against the school system rather than the families who choose to send their kids to school.”

No, @Resident, my position is that people should respect the autonomy of others. I actually think we see eye to eye on many things, but no, you’re missing the point.

My invoking the school arena is to highlight the hypocrisy of blaming parents for making decisions for what’s best in their own families' lives when the schools are a dominant force in the lives of teens when it comes to how they spend their time and their ability to be autonomous, and the educational system we have (for the last 150 years) was quite literally designed to inculcate compliance. (You might enjoy this film: Beyond Measure Web Link )

In a way, you are right, I do think the school system is far and away the dominant factor impeding the development of student independence in our culture. And in that belief, I have a lot of company in data, educational researchers, and reformers. I just don’t think throwing stones at parents is warranted. But I see how contributing to the mindset about the helicopter-parent bogeyman gets used in various spheres in our culture against parents, especially mothers, and how that’s nothing new. THAT is what I find unhealthy. It undermines families and their autonomy (ironically).

These conversations around helicoptering are really a toxic mix of judgmentalism, schadenfreude, and power dynamics. They tend to use a few outlier examples to make sweeping, unsupported generalizations. Those generalizations then get used as a kind of cudgel against the power of parents; in the educational sphere, if a child has special needs, for example. (Or if, shudder, they make a choice to drive their kid to school.)

You very clearly still equate bicycling here and now in this place with independence and independent development, and judging anyone who doesn’t behave the way you want as being flawed, deficient, and mollycoddling. You then gave an example of someone you know who you say wasn’t allowed to bike to school because of safety concerns and thus had no awareness of "road culture" and as a consequence, the implication is that person never grew up, can’t ever learn to drive safety as an adult, ever, and has a broken relationship with the parents. All because the parents were helicopters as best exemplified by the choices they made related to their sense of safety/lack of safety with traffic (or maybe that’s what you heard and the real reason is something they would never share with other people inclined to stone them for their decisions). You invoked a ruinous train of permanent developmental damage related to all parents who make that choice, based on one anecdote and utterly ignoring any other aspects of the discussion. It’s ironic that you would denigrate research showing helicoptering isn’t that common and isn’t even damaging (by researchers who admit they had a bias against “helicoptering” parents to start), while making such sweeping generalizations from your “narrow view".

The trouble with anecdotes is that they are just that, you are too willing to use them to make sweeping generalizations. A dear friend was killed just walking across the street locally, someone who walked around town for decades and of whom my last memory was walking with and witnessing just how conscientious that person was when crossing the street or in any way interacting with traffic. That person was absolutely aware of road culture, as you say.

It is not up to you to tell other people where their comfort with safety is and how they should lead their lives. Me, personally, I would sooner let my child fly planes (seriously talked about it) than ride a bike in some parts of town now, and I say this as someone who rode my bike everywhere as a child. But that’s me. If your child was killed in a biking accident, heaven forbid, you would be able to come to terms with it because you feel the risks are worth it. Someone else who gets bullied or talked into doing the same thing despite it being against their better judgment is not going to be able to cope. Again, it is not up to you to decide for other people.

One of the most judgmental people on this issue that I have met is very smug about sending the kids to school very young, but the kids quite literally never even had to cross a street on the way to school. This does not stop the condemnation of other people who may not want their tired, distracted, or even depressed kid daily crossing all of Middlefield, El Camino, Alma, the Railroad Tracks and navigating Arastradero or El Camino Way in the dark. I’m not going to judge someone who chooses to instead learn a language and take self defense with the time they would otherwise be spending dodging entitled frustrated Silicon Valley commuters on their cell phones. Again, it is not for you to make that calculation for others.

As for homeschooling, you say you have “seen some failures where the kids go to school for at least a couple of years and sometimes end up being homeschooled again.” Since you seem only tangentially familiar with homeschooling (again, based on generalizing from a few cases), it is very common for homeschoolers to return to school, especially for high school. This is usually regarded as a “choice” not a “failure”, although it depends on the individual goals. Sometimes students go back to school and it reminds them of why they wanted independent education in the first place, and they leave again. Very often parents will support a child to go back to school; if they choose to leave again, it’s more motivation still to be in charge of their own education. Again, for the majority of homeschoolers who are trying to customize education, the students are in charge of their educational choices in a way that school families can’t imagine, and taking some risks is part of it. It is only a minority for whom homeschooling means doing the school curriculum at home — I know of more than one case where it meant getting a chance to travel around the world with their kids for a year or two, and even something like being behind a grade (that you mention as characterizing failure) is regarded as a choice. Again, it’s not up to you to decide what their lives should be.

Studies of homeschoolers find they tend to actually perform better on standardized tests and as well or better in college, be more independent, better socialized (in society), and more comfortable with adults than their peers. There are students who go to school, too, who fit your description of what you feel is a “failure”, but they don’t get used as examples to generalize to all school kids. (Do you realize in your description of what you think is successful, you have basically decided almost all profoundly gifted students are failures?)

If I were to make a generalization, having spent some time in that world of independent education, it completely opened my eyes to the weird invisible wall that kids who go to school develop because of being sequestered into age-matched peers their entire school lives, which has no precedence in human evolution. You can stand there with a high school kid and their parent, or with a group of high school kids, and the brick and mortar high school kid(s) frequently will act like there’s an invisible cocoon around them that means they don’t have to interact normally with anyone not their exact age. It’s like the adults are the Peanuts teacher wa wa wa wa. It’s maladaptive, and not conducive to independence when kids get out into the world. In fact, this developmental setup is probably a major contributing factor to the disconnect across age groups that hurts the place of seniors in our society. Homeschoolers tend to lose or avoid that, it’s one of the benefits often cited in homeschool circles, and why they are often described as more mature or more comfortable around adults than their school peers.

So, again, you have mistaken what I am saying, even in your homeschooling commentary. I agree with you that public school should be a good decision, but too often it isn’t - it depends on the circumstances. Today “homeschooling” usually means independent education, not education at home. If our local school district were at all capable of handling that kind of independence in and cooperation with families, we could have a great independent study program for homeschoolers who would only be too glad to work with the district (as happens in some other districts around the Bay Area). I’ve heard homeschool parents in Palo Alto talk about wishing they could here. Many homeschoolers educate through public districts.

I agree with you that homeschooling is probably a lot of effort, but as one homeschool parent I know put it, she had to put all her efforts into fighting the school and it was demoralizing and exhausting and didn’t necessary result in getting her child the help she needed; homeschooling allowed her to put her efforts into meeting her child’s needs and she was instead elated by it. Diana's editorial starts by criticizing how much time parents spend with their kids instead of on their own lives, but ignores the burdens today’s schools place on family time and autonomy. I’ve witnessed quite a lot of people whose kids have learning and other disabilities who chose to homeschool because they could put their efforts into meeting their children’s needs.

You are so right that Helicopter parenting is a label without a definite meaning. Your second to last paragraph, I agree with you. When you say the “happy balance” is not apparent to you, I think that’ because there is no easy answer. And because of that, I hope you will consider erring on the side of respecting that other people don’t have easy answers either and are doing their best in the context of lives you are not privy to.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2019 at 8:48 am

I think we will have to agree to disagree.

However, I will take you up on one point, I said the homeschooling may have been a failure, not the child. I would never dream to call a person a failure, let alone a child a failure.

Homeschooling is often an experiment for many families and when they find it doesn't work for them, they send them to school. I know sometimes they plan to do it just for a few years but I wasn't talking about that. It was those families who say they tried it and it didn't work for them. My term failure is the fact that it didn't work for the family, not that the child fails.


4 people like this
Posted by Respect Autonomy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2019 at 11:10 am

@Resident,
I think it's rather obvious that we disagree on a lot of points, hence the discussion.

You wrote: "The families I call failures are my descriptions" - then you went on to make generalizations from very limited cases again. If you wouldn't dream of calling a person a failure, perhaps you will rethink your whole attitude towards this "helicoptering" debate and put your stones down, and spend more time with your mind and heart open to the fact that other people lead different lives and make difference choices than you do, and those choices can be just as healthy or healthier for THEM.

You are right that homeschooling can be an experiment for families. But more often, families make choices as circumstances warrant and going back to school at some point is part of a choice, not because they "failed". True, I think the majority of homeschoolers only make that choice to go back to school because we don't have enough of the right resources to support independent education, and people prioritize different things at different points in time. (I know this from surveys and reading, not just anecdotes.) But I think a lot, probably the majority of homeschoolers would have some kind of hybrid relationships with their school districts if it were allowed. And again, a very common way of homeschooling is through public districts, it is homeschooling through public school. Public school is not defined by brick-and-mortar, it's defined by it being open to everyone and supported equally. It doesn't require keeping kids on a treadmill of homework and grades or sequestering them by exact ages. Teachers in our own district have discovered that.

But the main reason homeschooling is relevant to this discussion is that homeschoolers who approach it as independence/customization of education discover that a lot of what we all assume about development is wrong, that so much comes from this very specific way we have chosen to school in the last 150 years. I think a lot of what people call "helicoptering" is a natural (and as research has found, even positive) way of responding to the changing world and that system.

When you remove the system from the equation, many things change in ways you would never expect, including what would even constitute "helicoptering". Students who learn in a more autonomous way learn to be more independent, often spend more time just learning how to be in the world (balancing their finances, working, doing chores, relating to people of all ages). They tend to do as well or better in college because of leading more independent lives as they develop (physically and intellectually) and if they missed some subject in school or were behind, they do well because they just learn what they need to catch up on their own. This again is borne out by studies of homeschoolers, including those on the most free end called "unschoolers".

You wrote: "How kids get to school is just one scenario that is apparent to outsiders." My point is that you are making superficial judgments as an outsider, based on very limited information, to serve your own pre-existing beliefs.

It may very well be that the case you suggested had the outcome you suggest, but you can neither generalize from it nor can you infer cause and effect. One of the biggest benefits of homeschooling (for educational and life independence) seems to be a different and more positive relationship between the student and people of all other ages, including parents (often cited as a main reason to homeschool). I see people make assumptions about superficial actions of homeschool families all the time, based on what they believe from the framework of brick-and-mortar Prussian model school. There doesn't seem to be any room under the Prussian model school structure to develop the kinds of positive partnerships families who let their kids develop in a more independent paradigm can build. Again, this is the subject of considerable discussion in various education innovation/reform spheres, and has been for a long time.

Any discussion of helicoptering that ignores the influence of the school system on independence and family relationships is, in my opinion, little better than gossiping and picking up stones to pelt whatever family situation you don't understand. Better than we focus on providing support for what we believe in than stoning people if they aren't us.


4 people like this
Posted by Respect Autonomy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2019 at 11:15 am

Sorry for the typo. I meant:

Any discussion of helicoptering that ignores the influence of the school system on independence and family relationships is, in my opinion, little better than gossiping and picking up stones to pelt whatever family situation you don't understand. Better THAT we focus on providing support for what we believe in than stoning people if they aren't us.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 18, 2019 at 5:59 pm

One can have their own biased feelings one way or the other due to their own experience, but what I mostly see in what numbers and stats I do see on this is that the system has become so competitive that it is corruption and dysfunction that drives coddling or the idea that what some parents think they have to do is coddling at all. America simply doesn't work with the vicious class system that comes with some of the characteristic problems of our system that we refuse to face and do anything about.


6 people like this
Posted by Our Kids Aren't Weenies
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jan 18, 2019 at 6:16 pm

My kids still have to earn their allowances. We don't have a gardener to cut the lawn & blow leaves into someone else's front yard. The kids help clean house, assist with the laundry & dinner prep.

They ride their bikes to school (or walk)...no escorts or wussie parental chauffeur services (except for rainy days).

If/when they wanted a dog, it was their responsibility to walk & take care of it (except for vet appointments).

Many kids today are coddled...blame the stupid parents.


4 people like this
Posted by Blue Collar View
a resident of another community
on Jan 19, 2019 at 3:18 pm

It's all relative to class structure...the weenie factor tends to increase with higher professional socio-economic status.

Working class people don't have the time or the expense to raise self-entitled/wuss-like children.


2 people like this
Posted by Respect Autonomy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 19, 2019 at 3:39 pm

@Weenies,
Mine helps around the house and yard as being part of the family, not for being paid, including taking charge of meals when it's turn to cook, etc., including being a full partner, vacuuming, laundry, dishes, and other things all of us do (no housekeepers or yard service).

It is up to the pet owner to take care of the pets here, including vet bills (saving for up front - which is an expectation one of my brothers had of his kids, too).

We teach how to safely use power tools, knives, etc.

From my perspective, your kids are still being treated as kids when they could be stepping up to the plate as a part of the family. I am only telling you this because you are flaunting your kids in order to cast stones at those who aren't you. I personally don't have any issues with how you are raising your kids, it's your choice if you want to "coddle" them that way (coddling being in the eye of the beholder), but if we are casting stones at what you call "weenies", just know that others would be throwing them at what you just described, too.

I have siblings whose kids are even more fully participating in the running of their households than mine. I have one whose kids are much more privileged, and admits to getting pangs when seeing just how much the cousins do. The reality is that these are all really smart kids, and the ones with the privilege are willing to work hard, too. I don't see any of them turning out badly. To each their own.

It's your choice if you want to bike around here, but others may choose to only bike where the traffic isn't this bad and worsening (along with accidents) and where we don't have so much driving with eyes glued to devices. People makes choices that work for their families. You have just called that coddling, when from my perspective, your treating your kids as if they aren't full participants in the household is coddling them. Again, it's not something I would ever say except to provide some perspective on your casting stones at others.

Judge not that ye be not judged.


3 people like this
Posted by Respect Autonomy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 19, 2019 at 4:03 pm

@Blue Collar,
While you certainly have a point when it comes to what used to be called "affluenza", I think you are just wrong.

Some of the most entitled greedy grasping entitled people I know are working class living in red states. Some of the most hard-working, humble, salt-of-the-earth people I know live among them. There's no class connection.

Parents of all stripes are getting accused of coddling their kids. Asking not to constantly be confronted with being told your skin color singles you out as not from here is part of becoming more aware and independent, not a sign of "coddling", and is not a rich vs poor issue. Asking that high-quality education take place at school and family boundaries be respected so that homework doesn't take up every hour of the day even when school is over is just as important to the working class student who has an after-school job. Defining that as coddling hurts them as much or more than anyone else.

I remember listening to the radio when a local Stanford administrator was talking about this "helicoptering" issue, and a SJ State professor got on the air, saying that she thought the administrator's perspective was way too narrow, that if anything the population she served could use way more support and intervention from parents (of the kind being called "coddling"). Those students suffer the most when the helicopter parent bogeyman becomes a way to dismiss parents in educational spheres, for example.


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Posted by Hm
a resident of Ventura
on Jan 20, 2019 at 11:21 am

We live in a highly competitive society we’re no-one can be who they really are without being criticized in some way overtly of covertly. Much of this is transferred into the kids. There is a strong need to be perfect and have that reflected back because there is no validation for just being who you are.

Kids ridicule kids, adults ridicule adults, adults ridicule kids and kids adult either overtly or covertly. There is no real sense of overall community that really will support the emotional well-being of everyone.

Parents are just one factor in this and shouldn’t have to take all the heat. After all it takes a village to raise a kid.


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