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On Parenting
Posted at 01:05 PM ET, 03/05/2012

What parents can learn when a child is rejected from school

It’s the season of the rejection letter.

The hands of admissions officers throughout the region are aching from signing so many “We are sorry” notes.

In D.C., the public school lottery results have been released, leaving many out-of-boundary and pre-kindergarten parents with dashed hopes.


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In some cases, the rejections come with a sting because the region has such a dearth of affordable, quality childcare options. In others, the distress is over not getting into the “right” program or the “best” school.

For the latter group, Brigid Schulte’s clear-minded Outlook piece published this past weekend is a must-read. In “What’s so bad about American parents, anyway?” she lays out how American parents may be misguided in their efforts to try so hard to ensure a child’s future success.

Schulte quotes Christine Carter, a sociologist with the University of California at Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center:

“ ‘The underlying American assumption is, if our kids get into a great college, they’ll get a great job, then they’ll be happy,’ Carter said. ‘Our cortex of fear is around achievement. So, in order for our kids to get into a great college, get a great job and be happy, we get them piano lessons, after-school Mandarin class, we think more, more, more, more, more is better. And it blossoms into such pressure that by the time the kids get to college, about a quarter are on some kind of anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication. Our hovering and insecurity as parents breeds insecurity in our kids by teaching them that they can’t handle discomfort or challenge.’ ”

Carter goes on to provide the antidote:

“ ‘What we need to be parenting for,’ Carter said, ‘is not achievement first, then happiness but happiness first.’

This may be my favorite bit of Schulte’s piece:

“To do that, Carter advises parents, when they can, to lose the self-sacrifice and take care of themselves; expect effort and enjoyment, not perfection; savor the present moment; and do simple things together such as have a family dinner. ‘When our children are happy, when their brains are filled with positive emotions like engagement, confidence and gratitude, we know from science that they are more likely to be successful and fulfill their potential,’ Carter said. ‘It does not mean they will be above average if, in fact, they are average children.’ ”

Do you agree? Have you ever caught yourself pushing your kids too much? Or, do you think it’s a parent’s duty to work for a child’s future success?

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By  |  01:05 PM ET, 03/05/2012

Tags:  Childhood Development, Education

 
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