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Plea to fellow parents to stop micromanaging kids' lives

Original post made by Paly Parent, Palo Alto High School, on Aug 13, 2013

At the beginning of the new school year, let's start looking at the values we are teaching our kids' through our behavior and expectations of their lives. Let's make them more independent so that they can succeed better as the adults we want them to be.

Let's stop driving them everywhere and start teaching them to use bikes, buses and Caltrain. Let's teach them how to use their legs for transport and not just organized sport or organized exercise. Let's also stop the culture that makes them expect a car for a 16th birthday present and a smartphone for becoming a teenager.

Let's stop giving them money to buy food at whichever "cool" food vendor, but teach them how to make a sandwich or whatever and take lunch to school and make a simple pasta/rice/baked potato meal at home. While we are at it, let's teach them how to sit at a table to eat and to take away all screens while they do so (in my day I was not allowed to take a book to the table, so I realize times have changed).

Let's allow them to be bored and find how to fill their time without our help. Let's allow them to do something because it is fun rather than for college applications. Let's teach them that it is OK to sometimes fail, come second, or not have enough money to see the latest movie or buy the latest fashion.

Let's teach them some manners, particularly how to speak to other adults, friends' parents, teachers, using please, thank you and excuse me, and how not to interrupt an adult conversation thinking that their immediate need requires immediate gratification.

To finish, even if you don't think that these issues are worthy of consideration because of whatever situation you and your family are in, please at least give consideration to what values you are teaching your kids and what values you would like them to have to teach your grandchildren. There is more to education that what is taught and expected at school. It is time that as parents we taught our kids to think and act for themselves rather than act like the privileged Palo Alto kid that we are perceived to be producing.

Comments (26)

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Posted by macro
a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on Aug 13, 2013 at 11:00 am

[Post removed.]

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Posted by This is not the 70s
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 13, 2013 at 11:25 am

Maybe it makes one feel better to post, but it's not going to change the way people parent. And while over-micromanaging can be damaging, "guidance" is helpful and actually teaches children. Example: "Do you have enough money? The movie in the evening costs more than the other hours, so bring more money." You think it's better if the child doesn't bring enough and then has to bum the money off the other child or parents? Or miss the movie? Simply by telling the child the movie will cost more, the child learns.

Times have changed and so must the parenting. I grew up here in the 70s and we had loads more free time to hang out and discover. But there weren't as many activities besides the local sports teams. It was actually quite boring. How I would have loved to be able to develop my talents at a younger age. Our children have so many more opportunities around here now. I do agree that children should be able to find their interests rather than engage in activity for college apps. How many children never touch their piano or violin again after college apps? And yes, children do need some time to be bored. When our pediatrician asked what my children were doing this summer, I told her we had a few trips and a few camps, but otherwise, were hanging out because "I have found that when we overdue the activities and camps, we all end up exhausted at the start of the school year." The reply: "EXACTLY! You are one of the few parents who realizes this point!"

Parents drive their children a lot these days due to crime, traffic, and time constraints. In fact, it's completely out of norm that so many students ride their bikes or walk to school as they do in Palo Alto. In other states with winter weather, they either spend 45 minutes (one-way) to ride the school bus, or are driven to school. In surrounding towns near us, they are driving their children to school more than Palo Altans. And no need to worry, when they attend college and have no car, they will learn to find their transportation, either by public trans or bike, foot; they don't need to learn it now to be competent.

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Posted by Excellent
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 13, 2013 at 12:34 pm

Great post, "This is not the 70s"! Yes, some of the overbearing "helicopter parent" stuff can be overdone, but it's also important not to fall into the tired cliche of the middle-aged and elderly complaining that kids today are lazy/insolent/immature compared to in the good ole days.

Hitting your kids, distant and uninvolved fathers, and an avoidance of real communication between parents and teens were all common a generation or two ago. All these things have changed for the better, and I'd like to think our children are better off because they have.

Having lived in another, less prosperous town in the area, I've noticed a difference between the allegedly over-pampered Palo Alto kids and their less "prosperous" peers. In my old town, I'd frequently encounter groups of teens acting rowdy in public, even loudly shouting out curse words to each other while hanging out next to a playground where small children were playing. The teens I've seen in Palo Alto are noticeably more polite, poised, and articulate.

In my experience, the kids in places like our town, who are raised in comfortable, nurturing families who care about education, are a pretty impressive bunch--in no small part because they are lucky enough to be raised in such families and live in a place like Palo Alto.

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Posted by SAHM
a resident of Duveneck School
on Aug 13, 2013 at 2:03 pm

There is a happy medium for parenting, somewhere in between Tiger Moms and complacent parents. But the most important thing is to nurture and respect children rather than setting up traps as "learning experiences" so the parent can say "I told you so." If parents nurture and respect their children, their children in turn, will respect the parents. If parents make it their priority to allow their children to tough it out and don't help their children, their children, how do they expect their children to care about them when they are seniors? Why even have children if one doesn't care about helping their children?

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Posted by What is legal?
a resident of Walter Hays School
on Aug 13, 2013 at 3:16 pm

What is legal/illegal regarding parenting? I see some [portion removed] parents hitting their children, threatening them with kicking them out on the street, etc. we have a neighbor who locks her daughter (age 3) out of the house, sometimes at night, when the girl diseases her. Another neighbor sent his Son's puppy to the pund in SJ when he got a B minus in math for the second time.

Aren't any of these "punishments" illegal? Are 't they considered abuse? Or does the child have to bleed for abuse to be taken into consideration?

Basically, when should the police be called?

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Posted by What is legal?
a resident of Walter Hays School
on Aug 13, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Typo correction: s/b "when the girl displeases her"; "sent his Son's puppy to the pound"

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Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 13, 2013 at 5:32 pm

Amen and hear, hear, Paly Parent! You advice is wonderfully sensible. How lucky are your children!

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 13, 2013 at 6:40 pm

To What is Legal: Re the neighbor putting a 3 yr old outside - I doubt that's legal. It sounds like it's worth a call to your county's Child Protective Services. The pup going to the pound sounds legal. Since it was a puppy, it's highly likely that it was adopted (paws crossed).

I had excellent luck in contacting my county's Adult Protective Services this year. They returned my call promptly, took an report over the phone & followed up. In fact, there is a positive result that's in the works. We're very, very relieved that the elder subject will be moving soon.

You can report incidents w/out fear of reprisal. I strongly encourage you to call - you may not even have to call the police first - I didn't.

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Posted by parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 13, 2013 at 11:21 pm

Nice Post Paly Parent. Thanks!

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 14, 2013 at 12:40 am

Plea to fellow parents, let's mind our own beeswax. Paly Parent, take a moment to realize that things are not always as they seem to you in your limited line of sight. A child whose free time is filled up with organized sports - perhaps a lonely child who will not or has not found a way to make their own friends on their own. Or an overweight child who will sit in their room and stare at the wall for hours on end to avoid having to just go out and voluntarily run themselves around the neighborhood. And phones for some may be necessary tools for safety and connectivity to parents who may be working, given to kids at the earliest possible age - whatever age they will not lose them or drop them in the toilet. Giving a teen a car of somekind - maybe a necessary convenience factor for the two-parent working family who finally has a third hand in getting things done...

In short, you don't see or know everything you think you see or know, and maybe you ought to first take a look in the mirror and see if 'judgmental' is one of those family values you are teaching your kids.

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Posted by what an odd post
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 14, 2013 at 12:44 am

Paly parent,

As a parent, I fail at much of what you ask for. I drive my kids around, I have absolutely no issues with "cool" food vendors or giving money for their getting something downtown, I don't insist on them making sandwiches instead.

I could agree with some of the more obvious things you mention, but your tone is pretty obnoxious. A preachy arrogance. You invite parents to practice all this stuff, but you really seem to drop the hint that plenty is just not up to par for you and your values. Aren't you the one micromanaging here?

Not sure what kind of kids you encounter, and maybe I'm lucky but in the years of being a PAUSD parent, I can't tell you how many wonderful kids I have met. Polite, engaged, funny, smart, simply adorable kids and some pretty adorable parents too. There is not a single ride, snack or gesture on my part that has not been met with a big please or thank you. K - High School, and I've worked my share of classroom or school activities.

Actually, just by attending our X-large public schools, these kids are quite resilient and on the road to independence. If anything, we need to support them more, instead of spending our time judging everyone.

PS: You don't have to be rich to be supportive.


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Posted by Carrie
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 14, 2013 at 7:47 am

Some common sense ideas. Let's hope it is taken to heart!

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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 14, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Thanks for the support from those of you who agree with my sentiments.

For those who seem to disagree, I am pleased that you are putting some thought into value systems which is the reason I started this in the first place.

I am sorry for those who think that I am not a supportive or nurturing parent. I happen to think that supporting my child by teaching them independence is nurturing. Helping them to use public transit, read schedules and work out routes, is a life skill not neglect in my opinion. Buying a bike, teaching them how to use them safely, keep air in the tires and other maintenance, use of lights and the best routes around town, is nurturing. Letting them walk a couple of blocks to visit a friend or the library is giving them a freedom. Teaching them to prepare food for themselves, consider whether their allowance should be spent on a movie, latest fashion, or iTunes, is a budgeting life skill rather than giving them a handout every time they ask for one. As for phones, I agree that phones are an important safety and communication tool, but a smart phone may not be the best type of phone for a schoolkid.

Some kids do have manners, but many are not showing them as much as they should.

I am appreciative of all the comments and agree that we can disagree and still want the best for our kids. I am just suggesting that the start of a new school year is a good time to look once again at our value systems.

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Posted by what an odd post
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 14, 2013 at 1:32 pm

Paly parent,

"I am sorry for those who think that I am not a supportive or nurturing parent."

Replacing "cool" food vendors, with home made sandwiches is not my way to make kids independent but completely get it if you see it that way. I brought up the rich comment because it sounded like you are uncomfortable with the money or is it something else. Cool food vendors are bad because? Which phone would be "the best" for you? This goes back to what I was mainly trying to point out that after suggesting to not micromanage kids, you put out your own hand in micromanaging.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 14, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Paly Parent - I have no judgement on whether you're a supportive or nurturing parent. Nor do I have comment or reflection on whether your suggested values are brilliant or stupid, or somewhere in between. Be clear, I am not commenting, agreeing with, or disagreeing with, your ideas about how to raise kids.

What I AM reflecting on is that its none of your business to pass judgement how other people are or should be raising their kids. Especially in light of the fact that you don't have, nor can you have, all the information you need to pass such judgements.

Frankly, more than faulty 'values' being imparted to the kids, the thing wrong with Palo Alto these days is precisely this crop of parent who think its perfectly ok to impart this holier than thou attitude on other people. I'd like us to take this 'back to school' opportunity to redouble our efforts as parents to leave other people alone, refrain from judging what's wrong with OTHER peoples lifestyles, and mind our own business.

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Posted by Mama
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 14, 2013 at 7:02 pm

To each her own, but I truly believe that what old-fashioned parents such as the original poster view as "spoiling" are actually parents meeting their childrens needs. My mom thinks I spoil my kids, but I always receive compliments on how polite and caring they are. My mom tried hard NOT to spoil me. Result? I felt unloved and uncared for, not good enough to be worthy of her help. I crawled into a shell and withdrew and had a Hell of a time growing up, trying to figure out everything on my own. Parents who cater to their children and show them love show their children that they are worthy of being loved and the children care for others and care about their parents' opinions. Parents are supposed to believe in their kids; no one else will.

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Posted by anne
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Aug 14, 2013 at 8:12 pm

@Paly Parent,
You have made some very good points. But I actually see in my own experience and circle an unusual number of incredibly independent, loving, confident, caring, smart, and considerate kids, far more so than when I was that age. They have good relationships with their parents and are respectful of others, again, far more than the kids when I was that age. (Though many of the habits you describe, like sitting down to eat without electronics, are our habits and those of most people I know.)

As someone who has organized a community event involving dozens of teenage volunteers from our local schools, I have to comment on how stunned I was at how together, smart, independent, helpful, grown-up, and just plain NICE all the kids were. The other parent volunteers were just as impressed. One parent, a former middle school counselor, said they restored her faith in that age group. I and my friends at that age were nowhere near so accomplished, self-assured, well-behaved, and industrious, and we had all the rope in the world (too much).

Just as we should cut the kids some slack, so should we with parents. I think we are lucky in this town for the parents and the kids.

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Posted by Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 14, 2013 at 9:43 pm

I think you should parent your own children in whatever way you want, and I will parent my own way, according to my family's values.

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Posted by A former Paly parent
a resident of University South
on Aug 15, 2013 at 8:13 am

Wow, Paly Parent, did you ever get some pushback! Guess you hit a nerve! I happen to completely agree with you, and would just like to add this:
To parents of juniors & seniors, when the College Advisors tell you that college is a match to be made, not a contest to win, trust them. It's absolutely true, and you and your student will enjoy these years much more.

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Posted by But, but, but
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 15, 2013 at 8:30 am

What about the parents who value a use, physical and emotional, as a means of getting their kids to perform well on school??

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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 15, 2013 at 8:43 am

On rereading my last post, I should have said I was sorry to those who disagreed with me, not that I was sorry for them. Hopefully you will see the difference the word makes.

The money aspect is only part of the reason for my posts. I don't think all the kids in the same peer group have the same opportunity for spending money for lunch, or anything else, and they should not need to feel left out when their friends buy a $6 cupcake for lunch. I personally feel that with the obesity concerns in this country as a whole, I would prefer our kids to eat a healthy lunch rather than flock to a pizza/burger/cupcake place which is only too easy for our Paly students.

For those of you with different family values to my own as well as those who share mine, I only ask that you look at your values every now and then. Family values are important for our kids and making sure that our kids see that they are valued for who they are by their parents and not by their scholastic or sporting achievements - or anything else that parents may put upon them. I agree that there are lots of very personable young people in Palo Alto, but sometimes outside of an organized activity, manners seem to go away.

I wish the best to everyone who posted here, and thanks for your response even if you don't agree with me.

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Posted by Sam
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 15, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Paly Parent - great ideas. Have you thought about running for school board or maybe even city council?

Love to have some of your ideas for parenting encoded into the city charter as city laws. The City of Palo Alto should make a better attempt at raising its children correctly, unlike the unfortunate way it takes care of its homeless and poor vehicle dwelling folks, Palo Alto is a lousy custodian for those Palo Altans!

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Posted by mom
a resident of Mayfield
on Aug 15, 2013 at 4:12 pm

[Post removed.]

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Posted by parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 16, 2013 at 10:03 pm

You should take your own advice and not micromanage other parents.

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Posted by culture of excess
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 19, 2013 at 10:37 pm

"What I AM reflecting on is that its none of your business to pass judgement how other people are or should be raising their kids. " I see this as more of a conversation about culture and frankly I think the Palo Alto culture overindulges kids with 1%ers easy money and indulgent experiences, cars, electronics, which do not serve well when kids end up in the real world. It makes kids who are "only" the 2% feel inadequate. The driving kids everywhere means little experience with independence and responsibility for logistics when they hit college, plus creates traffic (drive by any school at start/end times). The easy money increases drug and alcohol use. PA was a sleepy little college town, now it is conspicuous consumption and mindless energy like Manhattan. Out of here when the kids are gradauted.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Meadow Park

on Jun 4, 2017 at 4:29 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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