Archive for ‘parenting’

May 28, 2015

‘Good riddance’ to school days!

by Grace

Joe Queenan holds no nostalgia for his children’s school days.

… From the moment my children left school forever ten years ago, I felt a radiant, ineffable joy suffuse my very being. Far from being depressed or sad, I was elated. There was a simple reason for this: From that point onward, I would never again have to think about the kids and school. Never, ever, ever.

I would never have to go to the middle school office to find out why my child was doing so poorly in math. I would never have to ask the high-school principal why the French teacher didn’t seem to speak much French. I would never have to ask the grade-school principal why he rewrote my daughter’s sixth-grade graduation speech to include more references to his own prodigious sense of humor and caring disposition, and fewer jokes of her own.

I would never have to complain that the school had discontinued the WordMasters competition, the one activity at which my son truly excelled. I would never have to find out if my son was in any way responsible for a classmate damaging his wrist during recess. I would never again have to listen to my child, or anyone else’s, play the cello.

As I look forward to my youngest graduating from high school next month, Queenan’s words strike very close to home.  I feel relieved that my years of awkward questions and uncomfortable conversations with public school bureaucrats are ending.

Of course, it was not all bad.  Some administrators and teachers are memorable as standing head and shoulders above the crowd in offering the very best to their students.  For them I will be forever grateful.  But to the rest, I find myself nodding in agreement to Queenan’s words.

… The ordeal had ended; the 18-year plague had run its course; the bitter cup had passed from my lips. I would never quaff from its putrid contents again. Good riddance.

———

Joe Queenan, “School’s Out Forever”, Wall Street Journal, May 22, 2015.

May 25, 2015

Half of college graduates expect continued financial support from parents

by Grace

Parents of college grads have lower expectations for their adult children’s ability to support themselves.

… Some 36% of parents say they expected to support their children financially for more than two years, up from just 18% last year, and only 2.8% of parents expect their kids to have a full-time job after college and only one-quarter see them having any kind of job in their chosen field when they graduate….

Their kids are even more pessimistic.

About half of students expect to be supported financially by their parents for up to two years after graduation, according to a new survey of 500 students and 500 parents released Tuesday by Upromise, the savings division of Sallie Mae, the student lender….

Agreement about the “new normal”.

Both students and their parents are more accepting of the new normal, says Erin Condon, president of Upromise by Sallie Mae. “We were pleasantly surprised that parents and students were very aligned in their expectations,” she says. “One could argue that this generation is entitled or spoiled, but you could always argue that they are financially responsible and not biting off more than they can chew by making effort to get off on the right foot to make sure that long-term success is there.”

Related:  “Baby Boomers’ kids are doing worse than their parents”

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Quentin Fottrell, “Half of college graduates expect to be supported by their families”, MarketWatch, May 19, 2015.

April 3, 2015

Some things about education have not changed

by Grace

While I disagree with the title of a recent Huffington Post article proclaiming that “Everything is Different Now” in parenting, I do agree that many things have changed.

•  A higher level of parent involvement is required for academic success.

In the old days, the primary educational duties for parents were reading to your kid and making sure they got into a good school. There was a high level of trust and respect for external authorities -you assumed that teachers and principals knew best and operated with the best interest of your son or daughter in mind.

With sophisticated Internet “research” projects assigned in elementary grades and developmentally inappropriate organizational skills required in middle school, the student whose parents don’t step in to offer hands-on guidance may easily be left behind academically.

•  A college degree offers diminished opportunity for a secure middle-class life.

In the old days, if your kid got into college they could probably find a job. These days it’s not just about grades, SAT scores, and college admissions-the level of young adult underemployment and debt suggests that bargain is broken.

•  Children are more sheltered and given less freedom to learn independence.

… there is a lot less unsupervised play and less unstructured summer roaming. Given rational safety concerns, most kids are more sheltered and scheduled and less like to explore and learn independence….

I disagree that this trend has been driven by “rational” concerns, unless he means the concerns that parents will run into trouble with CPS.

•  Learning options have expanded.

… There has been a linear increase in formal education options and an exponential explosion of informal learning options.

•  Higher education costs have exploded.

… The bad news is that most post-secondary education is more expensive than ever. The good news is that there are more options….


The message of the documentary film Most Likely to Succeed is that these and other changes cry out for “another transformation” in education.

“What I find shocking is that schools aren’t preparing our kids for life in the 21st Century. Surrounded by innovation, our education system is stuck in the 19th Century,” said Ted Dintersmith, producer of Most Likely to Succeed. “The skills and capabilities our kids need going forward are either ignored or outright trampled.” Ted’s movie outlines the broken bargain of a traditional college prep education and employability.

Dintersmith criticizes that students have to learn “regurgitated facts” and take traditional tests like the SAT.  He offers alternatives.

Invent a science experiment, write a creative essay, come up with an interesting historical perspective on an event they care about.

But facts are important.

The point that Dintersmith and others seems to miss is that facts serve as the basis for innovative scientific experiments and knowledgeable historical perspectives.  This inconvenient truth is at the core of the trouble with many education reforms.

Students need a broad base of knowledge before they can become critical thinkers.

Indeed, evidence from cognitive science challenges the notion that skills can exist independent of factual knowledge. Dan Willingham, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, is a leading expert on how students learn. “Data from the last thirty years leads to a conclusion that is not scientifically challengeable: thinking well requires knowing facts, and that’s true not only because you need something to think about,” Willingham has written. “The very processes that teachers care about most — critical thinking processes such as reasoning and problem solving — are intimately intertwined with factual knowledge that is stored in long-term memory (not just found in the environment).”

———

Tom Vander Ark, “Everything is Different Now: Parenting for Powerful Learning”, Huffington Post, March 25, 2015.

Tom Vander Ark, “Most Likely To Succeed: A Film About What School Could Be”, Education Week, March 6, 2015.

March 20, 2015

The advantages of two-parent families are not obvious to everyone

by Grace

… universal preschool is not going to make up for an uninvolved parent …

Megan McArdle writes about the importance of the two-parent family, a social institution offering a type of support for children that government cannot seem to match.

Robert Putnam’s “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis” has touched off a wave of print and digital commentary. The book chronicles a growing divide between the way affluent kids are raised, in two-parent homes whose parents invest heavily in educating their kids, and the very different, very unstable homes in which poorer kids generally grow up.

When the problems of single-parent families are debated, some will “argue that there are lots of good ways to raise kids outside the straitjacket of mid-century, middle-class mores”.

I have been trying to find a more delicate way to phrase this, but I can’t: This is nonsense. The advantages that two people raising their own biological or jointly adopted children have over “nontraditional” family arrangements are too obvious to need enumeration, but apparently mere obviousness is not enough to forestall contrary arguments, so let me enumerate them anyway.

Raising children the way an increasing percentages of Americans are — in loosely attached cohabitation arrangements that break up all too frequently, followed by the formation of new households with new children by different parents — is an enormous financial and emotional drain. Supporting two households rather than one is expensive, and it diverts money that could otherwise be invested in the kids. The parent in the home has no one to help shoulder the load of caring for kids, meaning less investment of time and more emotional strain on the custodial parent. Children will spend less time with their noncustodial parent, especially if that parent has other offspring. Add in conflict between the parents over money and time, and it can infect relationships with the children. As one researcher told me when I wrote an article on the state of modern marriage, you frequently see fathers investing time and money with the kids whose mother they get along with the best, while the other children struggle along on crumbs.

People often argue that extended families can substitute, but of course, two-parent families also have extended families — two of them — so single-parent families remain at a disadvantage, especially because other members of the extended family are often themselves struggling with the challenges of single parenthood. Extended families just can’t substitute for the benefits of a two-parent family. Government can’t, either; universal preschool is not going to make up for an uninvolved parent, or one stretched too thin to give their kids enough time. Government can sand the rough edges off the economic hardship, of course, but even in a social democratic paradise such as Sweden, kids raised in single-parent households do worse than kids raised with both their parents in the home.

The share of American children born to single mothers has grown seven-fold since 1960.

More than 40 percent of American children are now born to unmarried parents, down from just five percent in 1960, according to Pew Research Center. Fifty years ago, the vast majority of adults — 72 percent — were married. The same is true for only about half of adults today. The declines in marriage are especially pronounced in families with lower earnings. Tying the knot is increasingly a marker of class status in America.

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Megan McArdle, “How Hollywood Can Save Our Families”, Bloomberg, March 17, 2015.

Seth Freed Wessler, “What Happened to the Middle-Class American Family?”, CNBC, March 18, 2015.

December 17, 2014

Gifts for college students

by Grace

Do you have a college student on your gift list?

Here’s a list of “20 great holiday gifts for college students”.

This idea caught my attention.

Airplants. These super-cute, trendy plants survive on air — do not plant them in soil — and can be perched anywhere to decorate a dorm room. (Many are under $10).

20141215.COCAirPlant1

 

Holiday Gift Guide: 25 Under $25 for College Students and Young Adults

An electric kettle that boils water in a few minutes for tea or hot chocolate would probably be welcomed by almost any student.

20141216.COCElectricKettle1

 

Another idea is to give the gift of experience.  Maybe something like tickets to a concert or cooking lessons would appeal to your college student.

However, for the recipients in my life, I consider cash to be the best holiday gift for young adults.

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Lynn O’Shaughnessy, “20 great holiday gifts for college students”, CBS Moneywatch, November 24, 2014.

“Holiday Gift Guide: 25 Under $25 for College Students and Young Adults”, Grown & Flown, December 13, 2014.

December 11, 2014

Is sex education more important than mathematics?

by Grace

How important is sex education?

“I think Sex Ed is equally, if not more, important than mathematics or English”

That quote comes from porn star Tasha Reign, so it should be considered in that context.  In any case, parents should not rely on schools to educate their children about this important subject.

We can’t rely on school curriculum to teach future generations about the birds and the bees. This cringe-inducing topic, often considered one of the less serious school subjects (think PE and Driver’s Ed), is glossed over.

On the other hand, another source of sex education probably does more harm than good.

Someone has to tell kids that porn stars are like WWE wrestlers, and that real sex with a real partner isn’t like XXX flicks.

“Pornography is not meant to teach about sexual education, it is meant for adults and has no place in the hands of children,” says porn star and UCLA grad Tasha Reign….

The reality is that 93% of boys and 62% of girls have viewed online pornography by the time they are 18 years old, at least according to one study.

…  If participants in this study are typical of young people, exposure to pornography on the Internet can be described as a normative experience, and more study of its impact is clearly warranted.

But “some parents would rather pretend their kids would never look at that stuff”.

“I think some parents have their heads buried in the sand,” says award-winning porn star and sex educator Jessica Drake. “If they don’t talk about it, then this problem doesn’t exist. I think they underestimate what their kids are looking at online.”

Perhaps surprising to many, clear evidence that porn harms children is not available.

… It turns out that the research suggesting that teenagers and pornography are a hazardous mix is far from definitive. In fact, many of the most comprehensive reports on this subject come to conclusions that amount to “we can’t say for sure” shrugs….

One meta-analysis found no causal relationships between porn and risky behavior.

After sifting through those papers, the report found a link between exposure to pornography and engagement in risky behavior, such as unprotected sex or sex at a young age. But little could be said about that link. Most important, “causal relationships” between pornography and risky behavior “could not be established,” the report concluded. Given the ease with which teenagers can find Internet pornography, it’s no surprise that those engaging in risky behavior have viewed pornography online. Just about every teenager has. So blaming X-rated images for risky behavior may be like concluding that cars are a leading cause of arson, because so many arsonists drive.

Parents have to play the biggest role in teaching the “difference between fantasy and reality”. 

“Porn is fantasy and I think that kids need to be taught the difference between fantasy and reality, just like in video games or certain movies,” says Drake. “Obviously in a perfect world kids aren’t seeing porn when they are that young, but unfortunately the reality is that they do. It all boils down to education just like everything else really. First we need to educate the parents.”

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Aurora Snow, “The Next Frontier of Sex Ed: How Porn Twists Teens’ Brains”, The Daily Beast, Nov. 29, 2014.

Chiara Sabina, Ph.D., Janis Wolak, J.D., and David Finkelhor, Ph.D., “The Nature and Dynamics of Internet Pornography Exposure for Youth”, Cyberpsychology & Behavior, Volume 11, Number 6, 2008.

David Segalmarch, “Does Porn Hurt Children?”, New York Times, March 28, 2014.

September 26, 2014

Women place greater importance on steady employment when seeking a spouse

by Grace

Almost twice as many women as men consider it “very important” that their future spouse have a “steady job”.

… Never-married women place a great deal of importance on finding someone who has a steady job—fully 78% say this would be very important to them in choosing a spouse or partner. For never-married men, someone who shares their ideas about raising children is more important in choosing a spouse than someone who has a steady job.

20140924.COCGenderDifferencesMarriageMate1

Could it be that women still think they’d like to stop working when they have children?  Yes.  One recent survey found that 84% of working women want to stay home to raise their children.

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Wendy Wang and Kim Parker, “Record Share of Americans Have Never Married”, Pew Social Trends, September 24, 2014.

August 28, 2014

Make your college application essay memorable

by Grace

Franklin & Marshall College president Daniel R. Porterfield offers some advice for high school seniors dealing with “college mania”.  His thoughts on how to approach the college application essay seem particularly insightful.

write an application essay that’s so true to you that you’ll want to read it again in ten years as a snapshot of where you were at age 18. What experiences have shaped you? What questions obsess you? What people inspire you? How do you want to give and grow in college?

Approaching the essay this way may be a helpful tactic for applicants, but the piece matters most for its value to you at one of life’s turning points. And, as I’ve learned from my own applications for schools and jobs, when we honestly and authentically present ourselves and then don’t get selected, it doesn’t feel so bad. In fact, we’re often left with a strong sense of personal integrity.

I believe it’s true that most essay readers can tell if an application essay is authentic and genuinely reveals a student’s perspective.  So the advice to “put it in your own words” makes sense.  Thus the challenge sometimes becomes how a teacher or parent can help in editing an essay without changing the author’s voice.  The first time I tried helping with my kid’s essay, I found myself quickly falling into the trap of obliterating his message and inserting what I thought he should be saying.  I learned my lesson, and later I mainly left any editing to his guidance counselor, who seemed to know the right balance between minor corrections and sweeping modifications.

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Daniel R. Porterfield, “Six — Well, Seven — Pieces of Advice for College-Searching High School Seniors”, Forbes, 8/11/2014.

August 22, 2014

Many kids are not emotionally ready for college

by Grace

We already know that many college freshman are academically unprepared for college, but Professor Claire Potter finds that they are also emotionally and functionally unprepared.

By September, one of the biggest topics for discussion — and one of the biggest gripes — among many college faculty will be how emotionally, and practically, underprepared many of your kids are for their freshman year. Although I now teach the non-traditional, adult students who are becoming the majority of undergraduates, for years I welcomed fresh-faced 18 year olds whose academic preparation often far exceeded their ability to navigate school independently of their parents.

The two major changes I observed over those two decades was an increasing lack of emotional separation between parents and children (with an accompanying rise in students having difficulty making their own decisions); and an increasing tendency, on the part of first year students, to presume that college was more or less similar to high school in its expectations and practices.

Academic and emotional development are certainly related in some respects.

Some possible reasons for students failing to develop independence:

Technology has certainly enabled parents and children to remain emotionally close.  Constant texting can mean that young people are relying too much on their parents to make decisions for them.

I think trends in K-12 education have also contributed to this “over-parenting”.  From the early grades, the schools encourage the wrong kind of parental involvement.  Parents feel forced to help their kids with homework that is developmentally inappropriate, like third-grade projects that require sophisticated Internet research skills.  Then, success in middle school often requires advanced organizational skills that drive parents to intercede lest their kid falls behind to a point where he cannot catch up in high school.  Instead of helping develop independent students who will be ready to succeed in college, schools are inadvertently promoting excessive reliance on their parents and other adults.

Potter offers some advice to help parents in making their kid a “strong and independent college student”.  The first suggestion is to “reduce contact” with a college kid.

… If your kid is going away to college, let him go away. This means not texting and talking every day, or even every other day, or every other other day….

I agree with this advice, and have found it surprising when I hear about some parents who are in constant contact with their adult children.  On the other hand, from personal experience I know that some kids are more verbal than others, and are driven to share many details of their lives.  As a parent, I can see the advantages and disadvantages of this.  Obviously there are some nuances to consider in following Potter’s advice.

Complete details on Potter’s recommendations can be found at the link below.

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Claire Potter, “Bye-Bye Birdies: Sending The Kids Away to College”, Chronicle of Higher Education, July 28, 2014.

July 11, 2014

Parents help sustain their adult children’s extended financial adolescence

by Grace

Most parents are providing some financial support to their children even after they graduate from college, thereby promoting a period of sustained adolescence among 20-somethings.

… nearly 85% of parents plan to offer their children monetary aid after graduation, according to a survey Tuesday from Upromise by Sallie Mae. Almost one-in-three parents plan to provide their grad with financial assistance for up to six months, and around 50% plan to foot bills anywhere from six months to more than five years.

The new normal means that adult children continue to rely on mom and dad.

So, what has changed since my son graduated a few decades ago? Sure, new graduates are entering a much more difficult job market than he did, and even those who do secure jobs are unlikely to have the job stability he’s enjoyed. But a difficult job market is only part of the story. Social norms have shifted so that accepting help from Mom and Dad well into your 20s is “OK.”

Psychologists call this trend “emerging adulthood.” As Eileen Gallo and Jon Gallo note in their paper “How 18 Became 26: The Changing Concept of Adulthood,” for a certain socioeconomic set, growing up and moving out—permanently—means downgrading your lifestyle. The authors quote sociologists Allan Schnaiberg and Sheldon Goldenberg as stating:

“The supportive environment of a middle-class professional family makes movement toward independent adulthood relatively less attractive than maintenance of the [extended adolescence] status quo. Many of the social gains of adult roles can be achieved with higher benefits and generally lower costs by sharing parental resources rather than by moving out on one’s own!”

Keeping their 20-something children on the family cell phone plan is one common example of how “sharing parental resources” makes it easier on young adults as they transition to financial independence.  Another example is health insurance, where Obamacare now requires family policies to continue coverage for children up to age 26.  Individually these are small examples, but in total many parents are heavily subsidizing their adult children’s lifestyle.

Retirement expert Dennis Miller says parents should consider tough love instead of risking their own future financial security.

Retiring rich is hard enough without paying for your child’s extended adolescence. The job market may be tough for new graduates, but forcing your child to navigate it anyway might just be the best way to help.

Miller believes it’s possible to be supportive without hindering a young adult’s financial and emotional independence, and has some tips that can be read at the link above.

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Kathryn Buschman, “The New Normal? Some Parents Plan to Aid Children 5 Years after Graduation”, FOXBusiness, May 27, 2014.

Dennis Miller, Paying bills for adult children? Try tough love instead, MarketWatch, July 8, 2014.

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