If you could write a letter to the people who will soon be raising the next generation, what would it say?
Dear parents of the next generation:
Don’t stink at it.
I’m thinking about this because of an informative — for some of us, depressing — op-ed piece in the Star Tribune today by William J. Doherty, a professor of family social science and director of the Families and Democracy Project at the University of Minnesota. In Mom and Pop go over the top, Doherty takes on “hyper-parenting,” specifically, attending your children’s sports events:
The mark of a good parent in today’s world is personal chauffeuring rather than group carpooling, cheering loudly from the sidelines at all games, advocating with coaches for their child’s playing time, and backing away from any activity (such as family dinners and PTA meetings) that conflicts with year-round sports schedules that rival those of professional athletes. The top-rated parents become agents for their children’s sports careers; average parents just try to keep their balance in a world that rewards excess.
It’s ironic that parents who would never miss an athletic event often overlook what research and common sense attest are the most important activities that parents do with their children, things like having meals with them and quietly reading to them
Hyper-parenting, according to Dr. Alvin Rosenfeld is full of terrible consequences:
We suspect that this hyper-rearing way of life contributes to the increasing incidence of teen-age depression, substance abuse and sexual acting out. So what should parents do? Cutting back just 5-7 percent in scheduled activities can help families embrace sanity. Character development and interpersonal relationships can become central again, as they should, by de-emphasizing activities and accomplishments.
I have recently entered the phase of my life where my children are grown and — mostly — on their own. Neither of them has stuck up a bank (yet) or joined a violent underground movement to overthrow the country (yet). And so I have more time to reflect on their upbringing by reading articles like Professor Doherty’s. It’s guilt time.
I was one of the baby boomers who took comfort in the salve of the observation of the ’80s that my generation of fathers would be more engaged in the raising of their children than our fathers who, if we read between the lines of the observation, apparently did it all wrong and we turned out as perfect as we were because of (a) our mothers and (b) our own cunning.
A generation later, we are learning that we did it wrong, too, and the correct way of raising children is — as it turns out — the way our fathers and mothers did. Who knew?
Parents of the next generation, here’s tip #1. There’s always someone out there telling you you’re doing it wrong, warning you to change your ways before your kids rob a bank and undermine the government. Be ready for it.
You’ll be constantly bombarded with studies and articles to make you question the quality of your parenting. Let’s just take this week, for example:
My generation is now releasing their over-parented, over-scheduled kids to the world. Our job is (mostly) done. We have more time to sit back and read the reviews above, knowing that we don’t get a do-over. It is a moment of parental passage, and it’s way worse than the “terrible twos.”
So today, I’m calling on the News Cut parenting veterans to compose a letter to the parents of the next generation. Armed as we are with the knowledge we did it wrong, we can nonetheless provide some guidance.
I’ll start, and you can add your paragraph in the comments section below. Keep it positive and base your paragraph only on your own experiences, not on criticizing others.
Here’s my contribution…
Dear parents of the next generation:
Do the best you can.
Oh, by the way, I won’t be blogging much today. I’m taking the afternoon off to go golfing with one of my kids. We may stop at a bank first and a government building later.