Chinese Executive Forced Workers To Complete Daughter’s Homework, Employee Says

A bad idea…

The Huffington Post  |  By  Posted: 02/27/2013

Chinese Workers Daughter Homework

Looks like the adolescent daughter of a Chinese executive will no longer be able to shirk her homework duties.

According to the Qianjiang Evening News, an employee of the unnamed Chinese businessman has come forward, exposing his employer’s scheme to enlist workers to do his daughter’s homework.

Identified only by his surname, Chen confessed that his boss asked him and eight other workers to complete a variety of assignments — such as taking photographs or writing essays — for the fourth-grade student. While the assignments were simple at first, recent requests have been more complicated and required more time to finish. On top of that, workers were also instructed to complete the work at a fourth-grade level, according to the outlet.

Since Chen has come forward, the student’s school has warned the father against such future behavior, the Telegraph notes.

For years, students around the world have outsourced their homework to India, using companies that offer online tutoring or homework help, GlobalPost previously reported. While many actually assist students so that they complete the work themselves, other websites have popped up offering to execute the entire assignment.

In January, a U.S. developer came under fire after an internal audit revealed that theman was outsourcing his entire job to China. The employee, who instead spent the vast majority of his workday surfing the Internet and watching videos, no longer works for the company.

“Stop Panicking About Bullies”

An interesting article from The Wall Street Journal on bullying.  The author claims that there are actually many fewer cases of bullying in schools than in previous years.

Childhood is safer than ever before, but today’s parents need to worry about something. Nick Gillespie on why busybodies and bureaucrats have zeroed in on bullying.

By NICK GILLESPIE

[BULLY]Getty ImagesIs America really in the midst of a “bullying crisis,” as so many now claim?

“When I was younger,” a remarkably self-assured, soft-spoken 15-year-old kid named Aaron tells the camera, “I suffered from bullying because of my lips—as you can see, they’re kind of unusually large. So I would kind of get [called] ‘Fish Lips’—things like that a lot—and my glasses too, I got those at an early age. That contributed. And the fact that my last name is Cheese didn’t really help with the matter either. I would get [called] ‘Cheeseburger,’ ‘Cheese Guy’—things like that, that weren’t really very flattering. Just kind of making fun of my name—I’m a pretty sensitive kid, so I would have to fight back the tears when I was being called names.”

It’s hard not to be impressed with—and not to like—young Aaron Cheese. He is one of the kids featured in the new Cartoon Network special “Stop Bullying: Speak Up,” which premiered last week and is available online. I myself am a former geekish, bespectacled child whose lips were a bit too full, and my first name (as other kids quickly discovered) rhymes with two of the most-popular slang terms for male genitalia, so I also identified with Mr. Cheese. My younger years were filled with precisely the sort of schoolyard taunts that he recounts; they led ultimately to at least one fistfight and a lot of sour moods on my part.

As the parent now of two school-age boys, I also worry that my own kids will have to deal with such ugly and destructive behavior. And I welcome the common-sense antibullying strategies relayed in “Stop Bullying”: Talk to your friends, your parents and your teachers. Recognize that you’re not the problem. Don’t be a silent witness to bullying.

Is America really in the midst of a “bullying crisis”? That’s doubtful, says Reason.tv’s Nick Gillespie. He tells WSJ’s Ryan Sager that over-protective parents and a rising wave of laws and regulations don’t really reflect a boom in meanness among kids. In fact, they may be safer and better behaved than ever.

But is America really in the midst of a “bullying crisis,” as so many now claim? I don’t see it. I also suspect that our fears about the ubiquity of bullying are just the latest in a long line of well-intentioned yet hyperbolic alarms about how awful it is to be a kid today.

I have no interest in defending the bullies who dominate sandboxes, extort lunch money and use Twitter to taunt their classmates. But there is no growing crisis. Childhood and adolescence in America have never been less brutal. Even as the country’s overprotective parents whip themselves up into a moral panic about kid-on-kid cruelty, the numbers don’t point to any explosion of abuse. As for the rising wave of laws and regulations designed to combat meanness among students, they are likely to lump together minor slights with major offenses. The antibullying movement is already conflating serious cases of gay-bashing and vicious harassment with things like…a kid named Cheese having a tough time in grade school.

How did we get here? We live in an age of helicopter parents so pushy and overbearing that Colorado Springs banned its annual Easter-egg hunt on account of adults jumping the starter’s gun and scooping up treat-filled plastic eggs on behalf of their winsome kids. The Department of Education in New York City—once known as the town too tough for Al Capone—is seeking to ban such words as “dinosaurs,” “Halloween” and “dancing” from citywide tests on the grounds that they could “evoke unpleasant emotions in the students,” it was reported this week. (Leave aside for the moment that perhaps the whole point of tests is to “evoke unpleasant emotions.”)

And it’s not only shrinking-violet city boys and girls who are being treated as delicate flowers. Early versions of new labor restrictions still being hashed out in Congress would have barred children under 16 from operating power-driven farm equipment and kept anyone under 18 from working at agricultural co-ops and stockyards (the latest version would let kids keep running machines on their parents’ spreads). What was once taken for granted—working the family farm, October tests with jack-o-lantern-themed questions, hunting your own Easter eggs—is being threatened by paternalism run amok.

Now that schools are peanut-free, latex-free and soda-free, parents, administrators and teachers have got to worry about something. Since most kids now have access to cable TV, the Internet, unlimited talk and texting, college and a world of opportunities that was unimaginable even 20 years ago, it seems that adults have responded by becoming ever more overprotective and thin-skinned.

Kids might be fatter than they used to be, but by most standards they are safer and better-behaved than they were when I was growing up in the 1970s and ’80s. Infant and adolescent mortality, accidents, sex and drug use—all are down from their levels of a few decades ago. Acceptance of homosexuality is up, especially among younger Americans. But given today’s rhetoric about bullying, you could be forgiven for thinking that kids today are not simply reading and watching grim, postapocalyptic fantasies like “The Hunger Games” but actually inhabiting such terrifying terrain, a world where “Lord of the Flies” meets “Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior,” presided over by Voldemort.

Even President Barack Obama has placed his stamp of approval on this view of modern childhood. Introducing the Cartoon Network documentary, he solemnly intones: “I care about this issue deeply, not just as the president, but as a dad. … We’ve all got more to do. Everyone has to take action against bullying.”

The state of New Jersey was well ahead of the president. Last year, in response to the suicide of the 18-year-old gay Rutgers student Tyler Clementi, the state legislature passed “The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights.” The law is widely regarded as the nation’s toughest on these matters. It has been called both a “resounding success” by Steve Goldstein, head of the gay-rights group Garden State Equality, and a “bureaucratic nightmare” by James O’Neill, the interim school superintendent of the township of Roxbury. In Congress, New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg and Rep. Rush Holt have introduced the federal Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has called the Lautenberg-Holt proposal a threat to free speech because its “definition of harassment is vague, subjective and at odds with Supreme Court precedent.” Should it become law, it might well empower colleges to stop some instances of bullying, but it would also cause many of them to be sued for repressing speech. In New Jersey, a school anti-bullying coordinator told the Star-Ledger that “The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights” has “added a layer of paperwork that actually inhibits us” in dealing with problems. In surveying the effects of the law, the Star-Ledger reports that while it is “widely used and has helped some kids,” it has imposed costs of up to $80,000 per school district for training alone and uses about 200 hours per month of staff time in each district, with some educators saying that the additional effort is taking staff “away from things such as substance-abuse prevention and college and career counseling.”

One thing seems certain: The focus on bullying will lead to more lawsuits against schools and bullies, many of which will stretch the limits of empathy and patience. Consider, for instance, the current case of 19-year-old Eric Giray, who is suing New York’s tony Calhoun School and a former classmate for $1.5 million over abuse that allegedly took place in 2004. Such cases can only become more common.

Which isn’t to say that there aren’t kids who face terrible cases of bullying. The immensely powerful and highly acclaimed documentary “Bully,” whose makers hope to create a nationwide movement against the “bullying crisis,” opens in selected theaters this weekend. The film follows the harrowing experiences of a handful of victims of harassment, including two who killed themselves in desperation. It is, above all, a damning indictment of ineffectual and indifferent school officials. No viewer can watch the abuse endured by kids such as Alex, a 13-year-old social misfit in Sioux City, Iowa, or Kelby, a 14-year-old lesbian in small-town Oklahoma, without feeling angry and motivated to change youth culture and the school officials who turn a blind eye.

But is bullying—which the stopbullying.gov website of the Department of Health and Human Services defines as “teasing,” “name-calling,” “taunting,” “leaving someone out on purpose,” “telling other children not to be friends with someone,” “spreading rumors about someone,” “hitting/kicking/pinching,” “spitting” and “making mean or rude hand gestures”—really a growing problem in America?

Despite the rare and tragic cases that rightly command our attention and outrage, the data show that things are, in fact, getting better for kids. When it comes to school violence, the numbers are particularly encouraging. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, between 1995 and 2009, the percentage of students who reported “being afraid of attack or harm at school” declined to 4% from 12%. Over the same period, the victimization rate per 1,000 students declined fivefold.

When it comes to bullying numbers, long-term trends are less clear. The makers of “Bully” say that “over 13 million American kids will be bullied this year,” and estimates of the percentage of students who are bullied in a given year range from 20% to 70%. NCES changed the way it tabulated bullying incidents in 2005 and cautions against using earlier data. Its biennial reports find that 28% of students ages 12-18 reported being bullied in 2005; that percentage rose to 32% in 2007, before dropping back to 28% in 2009 (the most recent year for which data are available). Such numbers strongly suggest that there is no epidemic afoot (though one wonders if the new anti-bullying laws and media campaigns might lead to more reports going forward).

The most common bullying behaviors reported include being “made fun of, called names, or insulted” (reported by about 19% of victims in 2009) and being made the “subject of rumors” (16%). Nine percent of victims reported being “pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on,” and 6% reported being “threatened with harm.” Though it may not be surprising that bullying mostly happens during the school day, it is stunning to learn that the most common locations for bullying are inside classrooms, in hallways and stairwells, and on playgrounds—areas ostensibly patrolled by teachers and administrators.

None of this is to be celebrated, of course, but it hardly paints a picture of contemporary American childhood as an unrestrained Hobbesian nightmare. Before more of our schools’ money, time and personnel are diverted away from education in the name of this supposed crisis, we should make an effort to distinguish between the serious abuse suffered by the kids in “Bully” and the sort of lower-level harassment with which the Aaron Cheeses of the world have to deal.

In fact, Mr. Cheese, now a sophomore in high school with hopes of becoming a lawyer, provides a model in dealing with the sort of jerks who will always, unfortunately, be a presence in our schools. At the end of “Stop Bullying,” he tells younger kids, “Just talk to somebody and I promise to you, it’s going to get better.” For Aaron, it plainly has: “It has been turned around actually. I am a generally liked guy. My last name has become something that’s a little more liked. I have a friend named Mac and so together we are Mac and Cheese. That’s cool.”

Indeed, it is cool. And if we take a deep breath, we will realize that there are many more Aaron Cheeses walking the halls of today’s schools than there are bullies. Our problem isn’t a world where bullies are allowed to run rampant; it’s a world where kids like Aaron are convinced that they are powerless victims.

—Mr. Gillespie is editor in chief of Reason.com and Reason.tv and the co-author of “The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong With America.”

To Hover or Hope – Tough Calls in a World of Risk

Are we raising “soft kids”?

Published on January 14, 2013 by Peggy Drexler, Ph.D. in Our Gender, Ourselves

By today’s standards, social services should have taken most us baby boomers away from our parents.

We were raised in a world of lawn darts, BB guns and second-hand smoke; without car seats, airbags or bicycle helmets. We gobbled sugar, swilled fats and consumed mushy white bread with the nutrients pounded out in processing.  We roamed our world freely, gone for hours, told only to be home when the streetlights come on. As a friend said: “I’m pretty sure my parents were trying to kill me.”

Yet: here we are. Aside from a few mended bones and some fading scars from stitches, most of us are little the worse for wear from growing up in a world before dodge ball became organized bullying.

Helmets, car seats and smoke-free homes are the logical outcomes of a smarter society. But for parents today: has common-sense protection crossed a divide to irrational obsession with driving risk from young lives?

That question, of course, must be asked in the chilling context of a very different world.  In the most normal of places on the most normal of days, 20 children went happily off to school in Newtown, Connecticut. They did not come home.

Threats are real. Fears are justified. And the instinct to protect our children is one of the crossbeams in our human architecture. But are those realities combining  to cause us to raise kids so emotionally and physically bubble-wrapped that they are paying a cost in confidence and, ironically, the well-being that we are working so hard to create? Have we lost our sense of the difference between risk’s reality and its mere possibility?

They are questions without easy answers.

A recent study from Norway concluded that playgrounds have become so low, slow and bouncy that kids have lost interest – to the point that there is a causal connection to childhood obesity. Is a slide still a slide if you don’t go flying off the end?

It’s yet another easy addition to the catalog of evidence that “we’re raising soft kids.”

It becomes less easy when you also consider CDC reports that, every year, 200,000 kids under age 14 suffer playground injuries serious enough to send them to the emergency room. A third of them are severe – fractures, concussions, internal injuries and dislocations. Approximately 15 of these injured children die.

How many of those casualties are worth a trade-off in a more formative playground experience?

Reaction to risk plays out everywhere parents gather with children to play. When a child falls, some will race to them like a lifeguard to a drowning swimmer. Others will watch, allowing the drama to play out, allowing the child to find his or her own resolution.

I’ve seen that choice – especially in emotional risk — from an interesting perspective in my work with single and two-mother families; where mothers know that their children start the day outside the norm.

As one lesbian mother told me: “At first, I would charge in to school to do battle every time there was a hint that my child was being taunted or bullied because of the makeup of our family. But I realized, I can’t be doing this when he’s 20 years old. So I started to think more about how to help him deal with it himself. I tried to give him the confidence and perspective to make the decision about when to walk away, when to laugh, and when to push back. He’s very funny, so that was his way in. The fact that he had two mothers became a non-issue. It would have taken a lot longer for kids to get him if they always had to get past me.”

So what’s a parent to do: try to banish risk, or learn to accept it?  Most of us in the mental health field suggest a mix of both. The question is whether a given situation carries a high risk of physical or emotional harm; or whether it is a bump – figuratively or literally – that is part of the invaluable life lessons that come from the  pain of hitting the ground hard, and the thrill of getting back up.

Like anything else in the complex and situational world of protecting the most precious thing the universe has ever created, distinguishing between the two may take a little practice.

Peggy Drexler, Ph.D. is a research psychologist, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Weill Medical College, Cornell University and author of two books about modern families and the children they produce. Follow Peggy on Twitter and Facebook and learn more about Peggy atwww.peggydrexler.com

3 Things You Should Never Do For Your Children

Written by Kim Droze
Thursday, 27 May 201
As parents, we only want the best for our children. But sometimes our judgment is clouded, and our actions can actually impede our kids’ progress. By nature, we want to see our children succeed, even if it means giving them a gentle nudge. Unfortunately for some parents, that nudge often turns into a huge push, and before we know it, we’re actually doing things for our children that they should be doing for themselves.

Admit it. We’ve all been there. You see that sweet little face struggling to tie his shoe, write a Pulitzer-worthy paragraph or even make his bed. When you sense his frustration, your maternal instinct kicks into high gear, and the next thing you know, you’re doing the deed for him. Your intentions may be good, but the end results are not.

You’ve essentially become the dreaded helicopter parent, a mom or dad who gives eagle-eye attention to every aspect of the child’s life. From report cards to recreational activities, you’re the gatekeeper of your child’s affairs. You exact precise oversight in everything he does do to ensure that there is nothing holding him back.

The term “helicopter parent” was actually coined in the 1990 self-help guide Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility. It’s frequently used to describe those parents who sweep in to rescue their children from the perils of higher education. For some, it’s hard to believe that parents would actually appeal to a college professor on behalf of their young adult offspring, but it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

This trend begins long before teens ever don their cap and gown and head off to college. It’s a behavior that we as adults begin even in the earliest stages of parenting. However, helicopter parenting can have some serious implications on our children. While it might seem like we are doing our children a favor at the time, that couldn’t be further from the truth. What we’re essentially creating are children who are reliant on us for everything.

Parenting expert and educational psychologist Michele Borba addresses the trend of helicopter parenting on her personal Web site, www.micheleborba.com. On her blog, the author of No More Misbehavin’ and Don’t Give Me That Attitude points out that children will continue to sink if you don’t teach them to swim. Dr. Borba writes, “Look down the road at the big picture. If you keep on with any hovering behavior now, how will your kids turn out later? Every once in a while, we need to fast forward your parenting and think ahead.

“It just may help that you alter you current response with your kids. And here’s a big reason why: Researchers are seeing this phenomenon of “parental hovering” (aka micro-managing, overparenting or helicoptering) as a dangerous trend when it comes to how our kids turn out. The long and the short is: If we keep the hovering we’ll rob our kids of an essential trait for L.I.F.E. called self-reliance!”

And Dr. Borba is definitely onto something. The ramifications of helicopter parenting are far reaching. Take a recent poll conducted by Harris Interactive for the National Endowment for Financial Education. It showed that 40 percent of American adults aged 18-39 reside at home or have done so in the recent past. That figure also excludes students.

Even more disturbing is the fact that 26 percent of parents with adult children living at home have incurred their own debt to support these adult children, with 7 percent delaying retirement.

While it may seem like a giant leap to take, the point is it’s never too early to teach your children to be independent. You want your children to be able to stand on their own two feet so they can make the transition from impressionable children to responsible adults.

Here are three things you should never do for your children:

1. Homework – How many times have you watched parents do their children’s homework for them? One minute you’re shaking your head in disgust and the next minute you’re holding a #2 pencil in your hand writing an essay on the French revolution. Face it. It’s easy to get sucked in by your child.

Those frustrating cries of “I can’t do it!” can weaken even the most steadfast parent. Sometimes it seems far easier just to do the work for your child. But before you give in, stop, look and listen hard. Your child first should attempt to the work on his own.

If he is genuinely confused about the subject at hand, take a moment to look over the questions. Ask your child what he thinks the questions mean. If possible, show examples of how to solve the problem. Avoid doing the actual problem for your child. Once you feel like he has a grasp on the subject matter, send him back to his desk to finish the work.
Do not sit over him while he is doing his homework, as he will be inclined to ask for further assistance repeatedly. After all of the work is completed, glance over the assignment for any glaring errors. When you find mistakes, have your child redo the problems until they are correct. While it’s fine to show examples, brainstorm and encourage, do not — and we repeat — do not do the work for him. Doing reports, projects and homework independently will actually increase your child’s self-confidence and self esteem. Nothing compares to the sense of accomplishment your child will have knowing that he earned that “A” on his own.

2. Speak for them – It’s far too easy to put words in your child’s mouth. Children are works in progress. As they get older, they come into their own.

However, being a child can often be intimidating. Children are often insecure and, at times, unable to properly express themselves. In many cases, he may expect you to be his spokesperson.Whether it’s asking a neighborhood child to play or requesting a cup of water at a restaurant, always encourage your child to use his voice.

It might be just as easy for you to do your child’s bidding, but how will he ever gain self- confidence if he never has to speak for himself? Oftentimes, we feel compelled to speak on our child’s behalf. For example, in school your child might have issues with a fellow student. If the situation puts your child in danger, it’s understandable that you would get involved. However, if things haven’t escalated, encourage your child to work things out on his own. It’s fine to make suggestions of things he might say to smooth things over and resolve the conflict. However, try not to take things into your own hands unless it’s an absolute necessity.

Keep this important rule of thumb in mind when you are also among a group of people. When your child is asked a question, it might be instinctive to respond for him. Don’t. Give your child a chance to speak for himself. Over time, you will notice him becoming more and more confident in the way he expresses himself. Remember, practice makes perfect.

3. Choose their friends – This one is a real doozy. It’s only natural to want to pick your child’s friends – whether it’s the sweet little boy from Sunday school or that adorable girl from the playground. In your mind, you think you know what – and who – is best for your child. And you probably do. But this is one of those lessons your child needs to learn on his own. While you will probably be responsible for fostering many of their friendships through play dates in the early years, your child will be more and more inclined to choose his own pals as he gets older. This is one of those cases when you should go with the flow.
Just because you might be friends with someone doesn’t necessarily mean your child when be friends with that person’s child. First and foremost, don’t force it. Your child will only resent you in the end if you make him spend time with someone he doesn’t particularly care for. There’s nothing wrong with introducing him to new faces. However, let him take the lead when it comes to building lasting friendships.

At the same time, you still have a responsibility to ensure that your child is playing with kids who have similar values. In other words, you probably want to prevent your children from hanging out with kids who swear, steal, misbehave and have other habits you don’t want your own child picking up. Always be aware of who your child is hanging around.

At the end of the day, what you don’t do for your children is every bit as important as what you do. Sometimes a more hands-off approach actually will benefit your child.

Original article

Beyond Grades and Trophies, Teaching Kids the Definition of Success

Beyond Grades and Trophies, Teaching Kids the Definition of Success

August 24, 2012 | 7:00 AM | By

Flickr:CriCristina

By Amanda Stupi

In her new book Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success, psychologist and author Madeline Levine exposes the pitfalls of over-parenting, and argues for a new definition of success and achievement.

Levine uses the term “authentic success” to differentiate success as it is traditionally viewed: titles, money, good grades, and prestigious schools. In the forward to her book, Levine writes that parents also need to encourage kids to “know and appreciate themselves deeply; to approach the world with zest; to find work that is exciting and satisfying, friends and spouses who are loving and loyal; and to hold a deep belief that they have something meaningful to contribute to society.”

Levine joined host Dave Iverson on KQED’s Forum to discuss her book. Here are some tips that surfaced from the conversation.

1. REMEMBER THE BASICS

According to Levine, research shows that “the four most important factors in parenting are reliability, consistency, stability and non-interference.” She says that most people don’t argue with the first three but that she receives push back on the last one — non-interference. Levine says learning from mistakes (the kind that occur when parents don’t interfere) is an important skill — one that employers say too many young workers lack.

2. BUILD A GOOD FOUNDATION

“We’ve all become these decorators as opposed to construction workers. What kids really need is not the right curtains i.e. the right schools, the right grades, but they need a strong foundation. So many parents are busy paying attention to the decorative aspect of their child.”

3. SPEND TIME WITH YOUR KIDS

Research shows that eating dinner with your kids is a good habit to maintain. But many parents over-think it. When asked about eating dinner with her own kids, Levine says “It wasn’t brilliant, deep conversation with three boys every night about how they felt about things, not by a long shot.” What mattered was that she spent time with them.

Levine says to emphasize play time, down time, and family time, or P.D.F.

“It’s in that quiet space that you actually get to know who your child is and that’s your primary job as a parent.” And don’t worry if progess is slow going. Levine says “Getting to know your child is a quiet, long process.”

4. ESTABLISH INTERNAL DEFINITION OF SUCCESS

Levine says that both parents and children need to shift from an external, performance-oriented version of success to an internal version that embraces “real curiosity about learning and how the child experiences things.”

Instead of equating a high grade with effort and intelligence and a low grade with a lack thereof, switch to questions like ‘Did you learn anything new on the test?’ or ‘What was the test like for you?’”

Encourage children “to go inside and evaluate for themselves.” At the end of the day that’s what I think authentic [success] means,” says Levine.

5. LET KIDS FAIL

According to Levine, letting kids fail is “one of the most critical things” parents can do. She encourages parents to remember how often toddlers fall when they’re learning to walk.

“That’s the model in life, for how kids master things. If we swooped in at the first stumble, a child wouldn’t learn how to walk. She walks because she fails over and over and over again with our continued encouragement and presence.”

6. FOCUS ON CHILD’S STRENGTH

“When you grow up you only have to be really, really good at one or two things. This idea of being good at everything, straight A’s, building water treatment plants in the Sudan and being the captain of the lacrosse team is so unrealistic.”

“We spend so much time with tutors or worrying about a kid who has difficulty in one field as oppose to concentrating on their strengths.”

7. DON’T DROWN YOUR KIDS IN PRAISE

Levine emphasized that one of the most important things parents can do for their children is to hold back the praise – that’s correct, you shouldn’t constantly tell your children that they are great.

“We seem to be under the impression that you can graft self-esteem onto your children if you just tell them enough how special they are. The reality is that self-esteem comes out of competence. How do you get confident about something? You get better at it.”

Levine explains that telling children they’re good at something builds pressure and expectations and that the possibility of not meeting those expectations works against kids.

“The risk for the child then becomes very great.”

Original article

“Raising Successful Children”

An interesting opinion article from the New York Times on August 4, 2012
 
By MADELINE LEVINE

PHRASES like “tiger mom” and “helicopter parent” have made their way into everyday language. But does overparenting hurt, or help?

While parents who are clearly and embarrassingly inappropriate come in for ridicule, many of us find ourselves drawn to the idea that with just a bit more parental elbow grease, we might turn out children with great talents and assured futures. Is there really anything wrong with a kind of “overparenting lite”?

Parental involvement has a long and rich history of being studied. Decades of studies, many of them by Diana Baumrind, a clinical and developmental psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, have found that the optimal parent is one who is involved and responsive, who sets high expectations but respects her child’s autonomy. These “authoritative parents” appear to hit the sweet spot of parental involvement and generally raise children who do better academically, psychologically and socially than children whose parents are either permissive and less involved, or controlling and more involved. Why is this particular parenting style so successful, and what does it tell us about overparenting?

For one thing, authoritative parents actually help cultivate motivation in their children. Carol Dweck, a social and developmental psychologist at Stanford University, has done research that indicates why authoritative parents raise more motivated, and thus more successful, children.

In a typical experiment, Dr. Dweck takes young children into a room and asks them to solve a simple puzzle. Most do so with little difficulty. But then Dr. Dweck tells some, but not all, of the kids how very bright and capable they are. As it turns out, the children who are not told they’re smart are more motivated to tackle increasingly difficult puzzles. They also exhibit higher levels of confidence and show greater overall progress in puzzle-solving.

This may seem counterintuitive, but praising children’s talents and abilities seems to rattle their confidence. Tackling more difficult puzzles carries the risk of losing one’s status as “smart” and deprives kids of the thrill of choosing to work simply for its own sake, regardless of outcomes. Dr. Dweck’s work aligns nicely with that of Dr. Baumrind, who also found that reasonably supporting a child’s autonomy and limiting interference results in better academic and emotional outcomes.

Their research confirms what I’ve seen in more than 25 years of clinical work, treating children in Marin County, an affluent suburb of San Francisco. The happiest, most successful children have parents who do not do for them what they are capable of doing, or almost capable of doing; and their parents do not do things for them that satisfy their own needs rather than the needs of the child.

The central task of growing up is to develop a sense of self that is autonomous, confident and generally in accord with reality. If you treat your walking toddler as if she can’t walk, you diminish her confidence and distort reality. Ditto nightly “reviews” of homework, repetitive phone calls to “just check if you’re O.K.” and “editing” (read: writing) your child’s college application essay.

Once your child is capable of doing something, congratulate yourself on a job well done and move on. Continued, unnecessary intervention makes your child feel bad about himself (if he’s young) or angry at you (if he’s a teenager).

But isn’t it a parent’s job to help with those things that are just beyond your child’s reach? Why is it overparenting to do for your child what he or she is almost capable of?

Think back to when your toddler learned to walk. She would take a weaving step or two, collapse and immediately look to you for your reaction. You were in thrall to those early attempts and would do everything possible to encourage her to get up again. You certainly didn’t chastise her for failing or utter dire predictions about flipping burgers for the rest of her life if she fell again. You were present, alert and available to guide if necessary. But you didn’t pick her up every time.

You knew she had to get it wrong many times before she could get it right.

HANGING back and allowing children to make mistakes is one of the greatest challenges of parenting. It’s easier when they’re young — tolerating a stumbling toddler is far different from allowing a preteenager to meet her friends at the mall. The potential mistakes carry greater risks, and part of being a parent is minimizing risk for our children.

What kinds of risks should we tolerate? If there’s a predator loose in the neighborhood, your daughter doesn’t get to go to the mall. But under normal circumstances an 11-year-old girl is quite capable of taking care of herself for a few hours in the company of her friends. She may forget a package, overpay for an item or forget that she was supposed to call home at noon. Mastery of the world is an expanding geography for our kids, for toddlers, it’s the backyard; for preteens, the neighborhood, for teens the wider world. But it is in the small daily risks — the taller slide, the bike ride around the block, the invitation extended to a new classmate — that growth takes place. In this gray area of just beyond the comfortable is where resilience is born.

So if children are able to live with mistakes and even failing, why does it drive us crazy? So many parents have said to me, “I can’t stand to see my child unhappy.” If you can’t stand to see your child unhappy, you are in the wrong business. The small challenges that start in infancy (the first whimper that doesn’t bring you running) present the opportunity for “successful failures,” that is, failures your child can live with and grow from. To rush in too quickly, to shield them, to deprive them of those challenges is to deprive them of the tools they will need to handle the inevitable, difficult, challenging and sometimes devastating demands of life.

While doing things for your child unnecessarily or prematurely can reduce motivation and increase dependency, it is the inability to maintain parental boundaries that most damages child development. When we do things for our children out of our own needs rather than theirs, it forces them to circumvent the most critical task of childhood: to develop a robust sense of self.

There is an important distinction between good and bad parental involvement. For example, a young child doesn’t want to sit and do his math homework. Good parents insist on compliance, not because they need their child to be a perfect student but because the child needs to learn the fundamentals of math and develop a good work ethic. Compare this with the parent who spends weeks “helping” his or her child fill out college applications with the clear expectation that if they both work hard enough, a “gotta get into” school is a certainty. (While most of my parent patients have graduated from college, it is always a telltale sign of overparenting when they talk about how “we’re applying to Columbia.”)

In both situations parents are using control, in the first case behavioral (sit down, do your math) and in the second psychological (“we’re applying.”) It is psychological control that carries with it a textbook’s worth of damage to a child’s developing identity. If pushing, direction, motivation and reward always come from the outside, the child never has the opportunity to craft an inside. Having tutors prep your anxious 3-year-old for a preschool interview because all your friends’ children are going to this particular school or pushing your exhausted child to take one more advanced-placement course because it will ensure her spot as class valedictorian is not involved parenting but toxic overparenting aimed at meeting the parents’ need for status or affirmation and not the child’s needs.

So how do parents find the courage to discard the malpractice of overparenting? It’s hard to swim upstream, to resist peer pressure. But we must remember that children thrive best in an environment that is reliable, available, consistent and noninterfering.

A loving parent is warm, willing to set limits and unwilling to breach a child’s psychological boundaries by invoking shame or guilt. Parents must acknowledge their own anxiety. Your job is to know your child well enough to make a good call about whether he can manage a particular situation. Will you stay up worrying? Probably, but the child’s job is to grow, yours is to control your anxiety so it doesn’t get in the way of his reasonable moves toward autonomy.

Parents also have to be clear about their own values. Children watch us closely. If you want your children to be able to stand up for their values, you have to do the same. If you believe that a summer spent reading, taking creek walks and playing is better than a specialized camp, then stick to your guns. Parents also have to make sure their own lives are fulfilling. There is no parent more vulnerable to the excesses of overparenting than an unhappy parent. One of the most important things we do for our children is to present them with a version of adult life that is appealing and worth striving for.

Madeline Levine is a clinician, consultant and the author, most recently, of “Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success.”