Monday, October 10, 2011

Parents, performance, protection and pressure: a view from a grandparent

I just read an interview done by Sewickley Academy of Pat Bassett, president of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), a membership organization of more than 1,400 independent schools and associations of schools in the U.S. and 250 affiliated schools and associations internationally. Pat was asked "you’re a grandparent, who we’re guessing, might have strong views on contemporary styles of parenting. What advice do you have for parents as they wind their way through the thickets of advice in a high stress world?" His reply? "Read both of Wendy Mogel’s books, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee and Blessing of a B-, and Richard Weissbourd’s book, The Parents We Mean To Be. Then attend the book club meetings your school and parents association should offer, moderated by a school administrator and a local child psychologist. Bottom line – parents are both over-protecting their kids on the one hand, and putting immense performance pressure on them on the other. Kids grow in loving, supportive home and school environments, at their own pace, with stops and starts and long detours, and only get derailed when well-meaning but misguided adults in their lives make a mess of it. The daily message from parents to their kids should not be “I just want you to be happy,” nor “I just want you to be successful,” but rather “I want you to be good.” It turns out our hyper-parenting and obsession with “happiness” and “success” produce kids who are unhappy and stress-riddled. It turns out kids who are “good” (meaning morally good kids with character traits such as virtue, resilience, and perseverance) turn out to be much more likely to be successful and happy adults than do kids who become adolescents and then adults obsessed with being happy all the time or being driven to distraction about some unobtainable, perfectionist definition of success. We have one shot, and it’s now, to redefine “the good life,” and we need parents in that conversation."


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