Editor's Note (The View From Here)

Achieving the Right Balance

I grew up in a very different time. The bar was set high by my parents, my teachers and my school. The expectation was that I would study hard, get the best grades that I could, stay out of trouble and be respectful of others. My parents were strict, loving and there to guide me every step of the way. My teachers were dedicated and fair, not afraid to tell me if I was heading down the wrong path. There were no mixed messages, trouble at school meant bigger trouble at home.

In my opinion, many of today’s students are receiving mixed messages. Schools and parents are not presenting a united front, and oftentimes are not on the same page or even working from the same playbook. Schools increasingly have to deal with parents who believe they are “clearing a path for their child’s success.” They contact their child’s teachers, dispute their grades, do their homework, etc. Some even resort to unethical behaviors such as falsifying data and bullying others (teachers, administrators) to get what they want or think they or their child deserves.

The message being sent to their child is, if you don’t like it, fight it — or better yet, I’ll fight it for you. In some cases, “fighting it” may be the correct action, but in other cases it’s asking the school to change its policies or curriculum “just for you”. These behaviors send the message that what the school expects is not as important as the school filling my personal desires; that the rules don’t necessarily apply to me; that what should be my responsibility is someone else’s problem.

Being an engaged parent is not the problem. Every child needs parental guidance and the knowledge that someone is there to stand up for them, cheer them on and catch them if they fall. Too many children are missing that. Studies show that students with highly involved parents have higher levels of engagement, deep learning, educational gains and satisfaction.

But studies have also shown that taken too far, well-meaning parents end up doing a disservice by impeding their growth, resulting in anxious adults who take few risks.

Nanny-cams, GPS tracking, micro-managed play dates — how far is too far. We all want to see our children safe, healthy and successful. To do that, a balance must be struck between protecting and overprotecting, relying on a parent versus the ability to think for themselves, being self-centered versus taking into account the impact of their actions on others. For students to thrive, we need to stop overprotecting and sending them mixed messages. Growing up is already hard enough!

This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue of School Planning & Management.

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