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The 'Over-Parenting Crisis' in School and at Home (2015) (npr.org)
111 points by Ibethewalrus 12 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 198 comments



As a teacher of ages 4 up until 14, I think parents and people in general need to be concious toward what constitutes "over" parenting. Too often we as teachers see students that are behaving poorly, or having more trouble in school, because they do not have enough help or consistency at home. Parents reading articles like this might take them too literally and step too far from their child's life. Parenting should be a balance. You should know, as a parent, what is happening with your child's schooling, and be there to help. But you should not micromanage the child. Parent involvement leads to more academic confidence and success[1], and more behavioural[2] success.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3020099/ [2] https://steinhardt.nyu.edu/scmsAdmin/media/users/sm6/McCormi...


Let me turn this around.

As a parent, I think that teachers should pay attention to research on homework that says there is on average no academic benefit, but there is a huge cost in family conflict. You have enough time in the classroom to teach and provide practice time. Free family time up for what parents see best.


Teachers often have no say in wether homework is assigned. The district in which my wife teaches and my son attends had a mandatory homework policy put in place by the school board. In addition to mandating that homework be assigned Monday through Thursday they specify that it should contain at least 10 minutes of reading per grade level (10 for k, 20 for 1st, 30 for 2nd, etc) as well as additional materials for other subjects. The homework load for my son has been as little as 20 minutes per night as his teachers and administrators feel the same way about homework as you but are forced to assign it. My niece and nephew also attend school in this district but at a different school. Their homework averages between 45 minutes and 90 minutes. Their principle mandates additional homework on top of the boards mandate. The new board has since voted to change this policy and leave the decision on homework up to each schools administration meaning there will be wildly different policies at different schools and still likely not within the teachers control.


"reading" is technically homework but not the kind of homework that education researchers are opposed to. The bad kind of homework is loaded down worksheets and projects that are high-stakes (perform or fail) and prone to cheating. Telling students to read has none of these problems, it's purely for the student's benefit and has no penalty attacked.


In this case the reading is in addition to other homework. So if you are in 3rd grade you are expected to read for 40 minutes and also complete some other tasks. This might be math worksheets, projects or something else. So for my child for example he was getting homework that took about 20 minutes in addition to his required 40 minutes of reading. My niece would routinely have 90 minutes of homework in addition to her 40 minutes of reading and her brother would have usually around 40 minutes of homework on top of his 60 minutes of reading. I'm not sure when they are expected to go outside and play or do their other after school activities with a full day of school and all the additional work at home.


> it should contain at least 10 minutes of reading per grade level

Dear god, by the time a kid is in grade 5 or 6 they've lost an hour a night to reading alone. In my experience homework was rarely of use - the in class practice was enough, and home time was for the fun you didn't have while in school.


By the time they're in high school, they'll be doing more reading per night than I was doing while working on my master's.

After devoting so much time to education theater, do the kids even have any energy leftover to put into actual learning?


When did reading become "education theater" ?

I hope your master wasn't in statistics, because you made a poor extrapolation from data.


Reading that's strictly there because you have to isn't going to engender a love of reading, it's going to smother it. I also doubt that it'll be effective at teaching the skill of reading - it'll be works that ignored from those who don't care to do it.

I read because I loved it and was exposed to it at a young age from home, not because school required me to read.


For that matter, it's not that I'm opposed to asking the kids to spend time reading. It's an excess of assigned reading as homework that seems worrisome to me, precisely because it might mean that the only exposure some kids get to reading is a bunch of crap busywork reading. As soon as you start regimenting a thing like this, you suck all the joy out of it.

What if, instead, schools simply set aside a chunk of time out of the school day for reading, maybe 15 minutes, maybe 30, and leave it entirely up to the individual kids to decide what it is that they read?


As the parent of a smart 10 year old with ADHD, homework has actually been invaluable. We use the larger assignments to help him learn to manage his time and attention level. For example, we take a 5 minute scooter break after 20 minutes of work. For very large assignments, we also break things up into manageable chunks.

The homework is also very useful to have a chance to review topics and ensure understanding of things that maybe he missed in class due to not paying as close attention as he needed to.

It's been very gratifying to see his confidence levels improve and for him to start to self-manage his time or even decide to skip a scooter break because he was on a roll.

Clearly all of these are probably ancillary to the stated purpose of homework and are my own specific situation.


As the parent of a smart 13 year old with somewhat serious ADHD and a complex home environment (divorced, remarried, 2 houses, multiple children around), homework has been an unmitigated disaster. The best thing about his going on an IEP was that we could get a no homework policy for him. This immediately improved his grades, reduced stress, and made his attitude towards school improve.

So mileage does vary on these things. By a lot.


Are you saying that exposing a child to a complex home environment has 0 impact on their ability to complete homework at home?


No, and I have no idea why you would extrapolate that from what I said.

I listed factors that will make homework harder for him. He is older, so more homework. A complex home environment, so harder to stay organized and consistent. More children, dividing parental attention. The more serious that ADHD is, the harder that staying on task becomes.

Put it all together, and homework becomes a lot bigger issue for him than it is for a normal child.


I wouldn't say they're ancillary, most of what you said is the claimed benefit of homework (regardless of the correctness of that claim). I'd say you're mostly using the homework as a guide for tutoring, which isn't something that actually requires homework to be assigned by the school if you're willing to be proactive.


Some parents need a little nudge to support their children's education beyond "school is daycare while I work".


More practically speaking, most parents do not have the breadth of knowledge to spontaneously tutor their kids in every subject. Homework can provide fodder for parents to engage with their children on academic subjects the parent might not know well, or might not think to bring up.

I know some people are taking offense to your comment, but the reality is that even parents who very much wish to be involved in their child's education often need a nudge on what, exactly, to talk about.

Even parents who home-school their kids usually buy academic materials to use for this reason.


As every parent learns, there is no shortage of assholes who are quick to explain how you are doing it wrong. No matter how you parent, someone thinks that they know better and has no trouble explaining that in an insulting tone.

Thank you for being a case in point. It doesn't matter what else I do, (see http://bentilly.blogspot.com/2012/10/my-sons-flashcard-routi... for example), I can always be accused of being lazy from the peanut gallery.


I wonder how many actually bridge that gap - if education is just something to keep a kid occupied, homework will be same, I'm sure.


You aren't going to find a lot of overlap between homework being done and turned in and parents that view school as daycare.


What homework does is lets the school tell parents, "Your kid's test scores may suck, but you can see that we are trying everything that we can."

In other words, they prioritize visible effort over achieved results.


Yup "we're sapping the joy of life from your kid, clearly their not learning isn't OUR problem".


I'm no homework fan either, but in teachers' defense, when they don't assign much or any homework, the unfortunate outcome is that they get flamed by some parents (not all) for not giving more of it.


Why dont these parents realise they can assign as much 'homework' to their own kids as they want?


Same reason the salesperson at the car dealership (or th hiring manager at your new job) has to "talk to my manager" about your offer. Deferring to a synthetic external authority is a powerful negotiating technique.


No idea... But I could come up with a few hypothesis off the top of my head. Perhaps they were assigned homework as kids and haven't ever wondered if it was good or bad for their own education. Or, slightly more precisely, they think working hard at school (or later in life) means taking and completing work at home. Or, they're not as well informed on the topic as to what the research is suggesting.


Because they feel it's the teacher's job to educate their kids.


My understanding is mandatory homework is all the way up to the university level. If I recall correctly its something along the lines of 2 hours of homework for every hour of instruction at the college level. I could be completely wrong and this might only apply is certain situations but it was a topic of debate in one of my college classes years ago.

I know personally, my grades from about 6th grade on dropped a lot because I stopped doing homework. I didn't need the extra practice to excel in the subject. Funny, because I remember teachers saying it will effect my work habits if I keep not doing homework but in a professional setting I have no problem completing my tasks and researching on my own time.

I personally think homework should be assigned based on individuals grasp of the subject. If the individual needs more practice assign it, if they don't... don't. It incentives learning while still providing resources for those who don't learn as fast or well.


As a semi-academic, practice supervision sounds like a horrible use of limited teacher/classroom time. But I guess that is true at the high end (in universities and higher performing kids) but not at the lower end where professional practice supervision is much more necessary.


My child goes to a very good school and they often teach math "upside down". In this method, the homework is to watch the teacher give a recorded lecture. Then, in class they work on the homework (math problems) while the teacher goes around watching them work and helping them with the parts they don't understand. He loves that method and seems to lean a lot from it.


I thought this was a brilliant idea when I first heard of this approach. It's obviously the correct way to instruct, because the instructor is available to assist when you're actually doing the work where the most frustration and education happens.

Students also need to write down questions about the lecture they didn't understand, which mandates some effort towards integrating understanding before practice the following day.


Flipped classrooms are increasingly common in universities as well, but the 4 hours of outside work for every hour of class still applies.


Why does it still apply?

If the work is assigned in the beginning, what's stopping them from skimming it to make sure they understand it, and if they do, simply not bothering to watch the lectures?


I never believed that "4 hours of outside work for every hour of class" thing one bit. I hardly ever did work outside of class and I graduated with a 3.7.


That's great! FYI, it's called a Flipped Classroom: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flipped_classroom


I tried it when I was teaching Calculus...

Turns out, recording video lectures so that they are lively and watchable is hard.

The students loved the couple of videos I posted, but then I burned out making them - since doing that was in addition to actually being in class, grading, and working on my thesis.

So I went back to the more traditional (and ineffective setting) - one thing I regret about that semester.

However, looking back, I'd need an entire semester just to develop the materials. Of course, that was not an option.


Why did you feel it necessary to invent the lectures yourself? Surely there are world class lectures out there that you could leverage and then use your time more effectively in the person to person setting?

Seems like we are missing the whole potential of the digital (infinitely scalable one to many lectures) by constantly reinventing the wheel.


It's like asking why people still produce music when there are world class records out there.

Or why people still write books.

Teaching is a performance art as well.

That aside, as a graduate student I didn't have that much freedom (or didn't understand how much freedom I actually had) in making changes - and also, it was my first time as an instructor of record, so I was trying different approaches. If I teach again (currently I'm in the industry), I'll know how to direct my efforts better.


Actually you are dead wrong on that.

Homework is unsupervised extra practice. Extra practice is helpful if done right, harmful if done wrong. When done unsupervised it go either way.

According to research, school homework on average is neutral, but when you dig in is helpful to harmful depending on the educational support that the parents can supply. So it helps rich kids, hurts poor ones, depending on how well the parents can teach.

For a book-length treatment of the issue, including references to relevant studies, see https://www.alfiekohn.org/homework-myth/.

That book doesn't go into the university level, but there the situation is simple. There is not enough lecture time to actually teach the material fully, so supervised practice is not an option. So homework is the only option, and it is your problem if you can't figure out how to supervise yourself.


> As a semi-academic, practice supervision sounds like a horrible use of limited teacher/classroom time

Research shows the opposite: lecture is a horrible use of limited teacher/classroom time.


University-education researches also recommend supervised practice. When I got a job as a TA in college, I had the same attitude you did, and the TA lead / education researcher scolded me about it.


Are you in physics? Sections in CS courses are more for discussions and Q&A, they aren’t coding their assignments during that time.


There's actually another way entirely to do it - have the time in class for working and have the time after for actively learning. So the students read and learn new concepts at home and practice them in group settings at school. Unfortunately, that depends on the home environment being conducive to learning.


> Unfortunately, that depends on the home environment being conducive to learning.

So, in practice, does success in traditional school environments, even if the structure makes people think it should insulate from that concern.

The problem with admitting that the home environment is the biggest key to academic success is that it means policy actually needs to focus on improving that environment which lots of people (for different reasons) have ideological objections to. So we pretend that school is isolated from home and that if we can just configure school right, we can get results while ignoring the home environment. And we blame any failures on doing the wrong things to the school environment, not the fact that we are focussing on the wrong environment.


A big part of the idea behind an inverted classroom model is to try and smooth over those problems. If a kid has a home environment that's not conducive to concentration, but they're just reading or watching videos or whatever in that time, then the damage is fairly limited and is something the teacher will get a chance to smooth over the next day.

Whereas if they're supposed to be working on homework during that time, it will not only prevent them from cementing what they're supposed to be learning, there's not really any further recourse, and it will also immediately result in poor marks, which will then engender further trouble on down the line. Especially in the Taylorist nightmare that US schools have become over the past couple decades.


The unspoken distinction you are making is that high-stakes homework is the problem.

> Taylorist nightmare that US schools have become

What's this?

Schools have migrated toward standardized testing uber alles, not homework/classroom grades. Are you referring to the grade-level standards that don't allow students to progress at their own pace below grade level? That's not really a matter of homework vs not -- if a student can't learn the standard material in 6hr/day, then they either need to do homework, "fail" at school, or escape.



> there is on average no academic benefit

What? This sounds BS. If you don’t practice what you learn in school, how will you ever master it? Eg. How will you learn integration if you don’t do some practice problems?


The recent studies that talk about this are slightly more nuanced. But much of it comes down to, what I suspect to be, some combination of the 60hr per week fallacy (that someone working 60hrs/wk creates more value than someone who limits their work to 40hrs/wk), the play trade off, the physical trade off, and the sleep trade off.

The brain needs lots of downtime to properly learn new skills, and if you're trading downtime for studying, at some point you're going to get negative returns on investment. This seems to happen somewhere between 40 and 50hrs/wk for cognitive tasks.

There's also a growing body of evidence that play, hard as it may be to define, really has an enormous impact on learning, as well as mental health. One of my favorite anecdotes is by Richard Feynman who was completely burned out when one day he, for the fun of it, tried to calculate the wobble of a plate being tossed in the air, and this changed his attitude with long lasting effects on his work. http://sistemas.fciencias.unam.mx/~compcuantica/RICHARD%20P.... (search for "throws a plate in the air", though the whole book is a fun read)

I'm convinced, though I've not seen much research on the topic, that physical movement is essential to learning. Something related to stimulating the entire nervous system, or possibly just related to increasing non-circulator fluid exchange in the brain. Hell, it may just be a chance for certain areas of the brain to have downtime, while the centers related to muscle control take their turn. But if you're making this trade off, it'll start to have negative returns.

And then there's sleep. You're doing yourself a great disservice if you switch an hour of sleep for an hour of studying, your long term retention will go to shit, and the odds of you remembering some fact 3 months from now will greatly diminish, which mostly defeats the purpose. This may be the biggest problem with giving homework to highschoolers, who tend to have the habit of both procrastination and staying up late.

So, yes, I can see homework having almost no academic benefit when a student is in class all day. I can already see issues with my daughter in Kindergarten. There's so much pressure to teach too much content, that her school has made huge tradeoffs around play and exercise during the school day. I certainly don't want them forcing even more work on her, especially as she's getting old enough to start to have chores and other responsibilities that have nothing to do with school.


+1. It's been a couple of decades since high school, but I remember making a genuine effort at homework being one of the critical differences between success and failure. I find it hard to believe that there's enough time for all the practice during class.


Parent also wrote "You have enough time in the classroom to teach and provide practice time" so he/she agrees with you but argues that there is enough time for that practice to take place at school.


Exactly right. Practice is essential, but it is essential that it be correct practice. According to research, supervised practice in the classroom is both superior to homework, and sufficient for learning.


Not everyone needs that practice to master concepts. There is a point at which homework becomes a burden with no academic payoff for every person, depending on their understanding of the topic.


In theory, you are right. But experiment trumps theory.


> If you don’t practice what you learn in school, how will you ever master it?

I really don't recall many people mastering anything in normal school. Besides the few whizzes, most people are just bouncing about trying to figure out the easiest way to get an acceptable grade (for various definitions of acceptable, which mostly depend on your parents), and then forget it all by next year.

Some exceptions around math/physics, and people notoriously have difficulty with those.

"master" is a very strong term to use for anything going on in education...


There is a slightly different way to interpret that.

Some students, despite being in your classroom, are really being homeschooled. For example, my wife and I both got extra assignments from our parents. The parents aren't just helping. The parents are teaching. You aren't trusted to teach.

Other students have parents that trust you to teach. Your job is to teach, and these parents expect you to do it. In theory, they are correct.


Not sure what jurisdiction you're in, but I'm in Canada where we generally have good teachers. The problem we're experiencing is a curriculum that we feel is becoming easier over time and shifting away from core fundamentals. Teachers are powerless to oppose or address this, regardless of how they personally feel or want to teach.

Should my 10-yr-old learn coping strategies for anxiety? absolutely, but she should also be learning some Canadian and World geography, be able to multiply numbers beyond 8x8, practice word and logic problems and understand that computers are not just cell phones and ipad applications. If we relied solely on the public education system it would be questionable if any of these were covered.


I notice that The things you list are things that can learn online from youtube and video games.

- Geography Now: https://youtu.be/DxxZOsfsIUM

- Crash Course Computer Science: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8dPuuaLjXtNlUrzyH5r6...

- 6.004 EdX: https://www.edx.org/course/computation-structures-part-1-dig...

- Hearts of Iron, Europa Universalis, Sid Meyer’s Pirates, Railroad Tycoon, bunches of kids games teach geography or arithmetic

Whereas there isn’t really a good digital experience you can build to teach brain-management skills... or is there?


One of Coursera's top courses is a course on learning how to learn, which is really about learning the balance of self-discipline (both how to do it and why it works). It works not just for learning, but also for time management and other things:

https://www.coursera.org/learn/learning-how-to-learn

Don't know about online courses for things like emotional health, but I see no reason there couldn't be.


You know, thats a good course to reference.

Giving it a second think, a lot of CBT is skills-based, so I think I’d like to agree. Though, I suspect that such a mooc for anxiety does not yet exist


Not sure why this is downvoted. Learning facts is the easiest thing to do in any settings. Learning skills like "how to read and manage workloads, and advice on what to rea" is what needs guidance and training.


I don't know Canada, but in the USA:

> learning some Canadian and World geography

Social studies is not part of the multi-state standard, but part of (for example) Washington State) standard

http://www.k12.wa.us/SocialStudies/pubdocs/SocialStudiesStan...

(page 14)

> multiply numbers beyond 8x

is a 3th-grade standard http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Content/3/NBT/

> practice word problems

in the standard http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Content/4/OA/

> and logic problems

This sort of "math enrichment" subject area is a major gap in public education.

> and understand that computers

this is hit-and-miss and mostly ignored by standards, but the standard does get into some pencil-and-paper type algorithmics

http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Content/4/OA/#CCSS.Math.Co...

http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Content/5/OA/

Of course, quality of instruction varies school by school.


I find this perspective interesting and I think this discussion needs to be taken further as I think it is unclear on both sides what the final expectations are to be upon completion of class/grade.

that being said, I am concerned that some parents expect that teachers are also doing the 'parenting' side of things which may be unrealistic. I think that in most public schools (the one I went to) some parenting needs to be executed by teachers otherwise a small handful of kids could derail any teaching getting done in the first place.


The "teachers shouldn't parent; parents stopped parenting" lesson is one I've heard from more than a few.

What if teachers ALWAYS "parented", and as societies grow more tolerant and diverse this obviously doesn't scale (parents disagree with teachers on what should be taught). Thus we decide on this image of teachers giving knowledge and means of learning, while parents give morals and social structures. But has this image every existed in practice? How do we know it is even achievable?

A child is learning from EVERYTHING. Is it truly reasonable to expect that teachers aren't "parenting"? Even if they expressly attempt to focus on intellectual pursuits only, that is just showing a different set of parenting lessons (potentially about lack of accountability, or the division of social mores from everything else). Likewise, if the teachers have turned to this absent form of parenting, are we correct in assuming that other parents aren't doing their "jobs"? (After all, it's never MY kid that isn't getting parenting, it's everyone else's).

I don't have solutions or suggestions, but I want to raise the idea that maybe it's not "who" is or is not parenting, because everyone is, all the time, even if trying NOT to "parent". If so, then simply trying harder to ensuring parenting only happens from parents, and DOES happen from them, is doomed to failure, incompatible with the operating of developing minds?


>A child is learning from EVERYTHING. Is it truly reasonable to expect that teachers aren't "parenting"?

This is precisely why, as a non-religious parent, I actually appreciated attending a Catholic school and sent my son to a non-denominational Christian school. It wasn't about religion, but it was about being in an environment where elements of characters were also emphasized.


this is an interesting point and I think is more valid than many teachers (and adults of all flavors) want to admit due to not wanting to accept the enormous responsibility, thanks for sharing!


> I am concerned that some parents expect that teachers are also doing the 'parenting' side of things which may be unrealistic.

If you are an adult (or even the responsible older child), and you are supervising one or more children when their parents aren't present, you have to do the parenting side of things. It's not optional. Like, literally not optional, not merely morally not optional—if you are in that position you are standing in the place of a parent, whether you intend to be or not, and whether you do it well or not.


> teachers are also doing the 'parenting' side

Isn't this exactly what teachers must do, by law? This is what the term 'in loco parentis'[0] means - they are acting as parental substitutes.

0. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_loco_parentis


Parenting is more difficult for a teacher than for a parent, because:

- the parent has 1 or 2 or 3 kids, the teacher has 20 or 30 at the same time;

- the parent spends plenty of time with kids, the teacher spends 45 minutes, and that's supposed to include teaching and examining;

- the parent knows the child for years, the teacher may meet the teenager for the first time;

- the parent can use a wild scale of rewards and punishment, the teacher... pretty much nothing, other than verbal feedback.

So you can see it is quite unrealistic to expect the teacher to do the same amount of parenting as the parents are supposed to do.

(By the way, in my experience the best behaving kids typically have at least one parent a teacher. I suppose it is because that parent has no illusions about how much parenting a school can do, and therefore does not try to outsource parenting to the school.)


I wouldn't trust every teacher to teach well. The simple fact is, there are good teachers and there are bad teachers. Ultimately, it's the parents job to make sure kids are brought up well. That means helping teach during some years and stepping back more in some years. Parent involvement is a must.


Sometimes parents are unable or unwilling to bring up their kids well. What should happen to those kids?


I don't see how parents failing to do their job changes what I said.

But to answer your unrelated question: Of course, responsible adults, which includes teachers, should help them as well as they can.

Unfortunately, try as they might, only parents can do a parents job. Really, it comes down to providing a good family to as many kids as possible.

Divorce, broken families, single parent homes, foster care, etc... They all fall short of what a good solid Mom/Dad home (with a good relationship between Mom and Dad) can provide a kid. That's where we should be focusing.

Oh, and while I'm at it: World Peace.

*edit - Unfortunately, we can't do anything about people dying or getting sick. But short of that, people really need to be responsible about the situation they are in when they bring kids into the world. And then they need to take care of those kids.


It’s because behavior is an emergent property of a dynamical system, and that means that if you want a particular behavior, you have to know when to provide input and when to let the system process.

If you want a plant to bear fruit, you have to nurture it for a while, and you will never be able to browbeat it into producing fruit before it has developed the facilities for doing so.

Part of effective parenting is resolving the dependency tree for healthy attitude/behavior in your child.


Although I agree, it's not the neglectful parents who are reading books like this...


> Parent involvement leads to more academic confidence and success[1],[...] > [1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3020099/

Half-OT, but you're making a textbook logical error in interpreting the science you're citing. This is an observational study, making claims about associations, yet you clearly indicate a causal effect in your words.


As someone considering starting a family, I have literally no idea what parenting is anymore. When I was younger I was pretty much left to my own devices, sent off to play with my brother and then packed off to school when old enough. My parents were too busy working, cooking and cleaning to do much fancy extra curricular stuff.

I do wonder now what I should be doing to prepare for parenthood. I feel that perhaps it's not the sort of thing that can be distilled down into an easy to read 200 page paperback.


I'm working on kid #2, and my takeaway is this: "parenting science" is like "nutritional science." It's almost entirely bullshit, and little to no progress has been made in the field ever. There is no use paying attention to it, other than doing/not doing the obvious things. (Don't eat too many calories; don't emotionally destroy your kids.)

Your kids will turn out how they are going to turn out. Instinctively, you'll love them and want to keep them alive, so don't worry about that. Other than that, do what you think is right and hope for the best.


This is wholly and categorically untrue. Parenting today is much different than it was 100 years ago. The way we approach children, discipline children, and help them grow into their best selves has changed a lot. And it is based on lots of research. It is also based on all of the work that therapists do with adults after their parents have messed them up so bad with their horrible parenting. Every child will be their own adventure, personalities makes parenting every child different. But to say that there aren't guidelines and that you should just do whatever comes natural is dangerous. Because beating children comes naturally to some people. Being passive aggressive or emotionally blunt with them can come naturally. Being an absent parent and not spending any time with them can come naturally as work gets in the way. If you are unsure then seeking professional help to make sure you have the basics covered is a great way to start.

Parenting is very much an art, but like all art, there is definitely a science backing it up.


The argument is not that parenting has stayed the same. It's that there's no measurable improvement in results from all the changes. So the argument goes, the changes aren't worth much, so don't worry about it.


What about crime rates going down and teen pregnancy going down?


Lets talk about the science then. Has it been published? Has it been reproduced? That second step is the bane of many psychology studies, in that the results cannot be reproduced, assuming someone tries at all. That is a signature step in the scientific process that is often not followed. We see a study and then blindly follow it as fact.


> "parenting science" is like "nutritional science." It's almost entirely bullshit, and little to no progress has been made in the field ever.

Your analogy is a good one, but it goes a layer deeper than I think you realize.

"Parenting science" is like "nutritional science" in that, based on what you can get out of the popular sources, it is almost entirely bullshit. It's also similar in that the science has continued to make progress, but you never really hear of it because very little of what's being discovered is the kind of thing that will sell books or attract advertisers.


I disagree with that characterization, for the reasons stated here: https://www.vox.com/2016/1/14/10760622/nutrition-science-com.... In my view, if you can't develop mathematical models and test them against properly conducted experiments, then your field is not a "science." Nutrition is not a science, neither is parenting, or anything else that relies primarily on observational studies and lacks a theoretical model to connect observations together into a coherent theory.

That is not to say that observational research may not be valuable. Both nutrition and and parenting could, in theory, be developed into sciences. But until then, the fields are just collections of (often unreproducable) observations. They cannot provide general principles for say raising kids, in the same way that fluid dynamics can provide general principles for building airplanes.


It seems like we part ways at the last point in that article, or at least, what you're saying here would seem to be at odds with it.

I'm inclined to agree with it, myself. It's true that these are messy problem domains, and that does make it harder to conduct and draw firm conclusions from scientific research. That inhibits progress, but it doesn't render the whole enterprise a lost cause.


I think this comment says more about your understanding of science in general, than about what science can tell us about raising children.


There is very solid science about how children develop, and what they need from their parents, and it is useful for parents to understand it.

Here are two good places for parents-to-be to start:

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/Pages/default.aspx

https://www.naeyc.org/our-work/for-families

I can recommend books too, but they're at home so I'll have post later.


You just glossed over all the hard, core problems of the field by calling them "obvious", and confusing the great questions of the field with answers for them.

> Don't eat too many calories.

How?

> don't emotionally destroy your kids.

How?

That's like saying "Just follow the law, and you'll have a good life."



Be present. That's about the sum total of it I think. If you are there, you will pick up on what is and isn't working, and you can work to make it better.

Really kids just want someone to love them and teach them how to be a person.


>Really kids just want someone to love them and teach them how to be a person.

This is basically my philosophy. My wife and I have an acknowledged goal of releasing a fully functional human into the wild in about 8 more years. That means teaching him how to be a self-sufficient person. There's a lot to it, but for me it distills down to giving them the confidence to fail, encourage their interests, and setting/adjusting boundaries.


I think that the books and article argue how present you should be. Which is where the above question comes from.

Kids need to fall, need to be able to solve things without parents nearby to be able to grow and make responsible decisions.


I guess to me "Teach them how to be a person" includes letting them make their own mistakes and giving them the space to develop the ability to make responsible decisions.


Two sentences, in, good start sketching the boundaries of the problem space. In 10,000 more sentences you'll start getting into the meaty complexity of these questions.


> As someone considering starting a family, I have literally no idea what parenting is anymore.

I started a family almost 15 years ago, and I'm still wondering myself. On the one hand, I can see firsthand how competitive the world is - much more competitive than it was when I was growing up - and I figure the least I can do is prepare my kids for the tidal wave of adulthood that's going to crash into them in another ten years or so. I'm encouraging them to participate in (and supporting them in, even though it's starting to break the bank) as much extracurricular stuff as possible, so their college applications look good, but on the other hand, I worry about stressing them out so hard that they don't feel like they ever had time to enjoy being children. As a parent, I feel like I'm walking a fine line between preparing them for the world and protecting them from it.


Something that worked for me: survey the parents that you know, and find the ones that seem like they are doing a good job and enjoying themselves. Then get a download of their system, write it down, ask questions, and form a plan. Don't take advice from parents that seem worn down or miserable.


Advice from someone who is a year and a half in: find a volunteer opportunity with the under 3 set, at least weekly, with your partner. The opportunity should include diaper changes and serious interaction with the parents, watching them interact as a triad/dyad with the neonate.

Unless you have had regular interaction with the 0-3 set and how people raise them, you won't know what you're getting into, and you won't have the right perspective.

n.b., I think it is something that can be written down, to a large extent, but you won't find it in the "parenting guide" section, you'd find it in the clinical guide texts for professional nurses and parenting educators.


This "volunteer opportunity" was called "living in a family/clan/society" for thousands of years until the weird sterilized suburbanized modern world.


If you think you were raised well, then by all means reproduce it. If not, fix what's broken. Don't overcompensate for perceived weaknesses in your upbringing, be honest.

For example, were you fat as a teenager? OK, make sure your kids have good eating habits. Notice this is not: put them in crossfit, feed them only vegetables.


You start by choosing the right partner. Seriously. No matter how many smart books about parenting you read, you will not have time and energy to follow them, if you are too busy divorcing at the moment your kids need you.

A single parent is not enough. No matter how much you love your kids... being alone with them all the time will drive you crazy. You need another adult person to share the burden, to provide feedback, to make a joke at the right moment and remind you that there is life after parenting.

Time spent with your children is more important than the toys you buy them. (Though some toys are better than others. That would be a long debate, but the short version is "Lego good, Barbie bad" i.e. the toy should be there to teach your child some skills, not just to be admired for how expensive it was.)

Be there to provide encouragement when your child succeeds at something, and comfort when it fails. Try to encourage your child to try new things, but don't push. Sometimes a child fails at something, and then a few days or months later succeeds; that is natural. Sometimes children evolve in "jumps"; for a few months you don't see any progress at some specific area, and then a huge change happens overnight.

Your children will try to manipulate you; probably before they learn to talk. That is also natural. Resist the manipulation, but don't get angry.

Always reward progress with praise, even very small progress. Be specific with the praise, i.e. describe exactly the progress you celebrate. For overcoming difficult problems, offer rewards.

In teaching, I am a fan of Montessori education: set up an environment where learning happens naturally, and then learning will happen. For example, your child is more likely to learn drawing, if they have pencils and paper always available; more likely to get mechanical skills if they have mechanical toys; and more likely to be good at computers when they have access to a computer. (Computers, that is a separate long topic. But again: don't use them as a device for playing shooting games or chatting online, rather use editors or encyclopedias etc.)

As my RPG-playing friends say: "If your child could do something alone, but you are doing it for them, you are stealing their experience points." Teach kids new skills. Yes, at the first time they will be clumsy and likely do it wrong. That's natural. You are investing in the long-term outcome.

The children will copy what you do. That is a f-ing huge responsibility! But also an extra reward for finally getting your own life in order.

Don't ever believe that the school will fix something. The teacher cannot be a substitute parent; they have dozens of other kids in the classroom, lessons to teach, exams to administer, and most importantly a ton of paperwork to fill.

Accept that sometimes you won't do things perfectly. As long as you avoid the worst mistakes, you are still doing a great job.

...you are right, I could probably go on and write 200 more pages. :D


I'm a little late on this reply, but I'll explain my philosophy for what it's worth. It has apparently been effective with my daughter (who is now nine years old).

Don't treat your child "like a child", treat them like a small person. What I mean by this hopefully will come through in my other points.

Just like every person is a little different, so it is for children. Don't be afraid to try other techniques if something isn't working for your child. A recent example of this in my case is helping my daughter with spelling. It took us a while to determine the best way for learn in this particular case.

If I need my daughter to do something, or I tell her no, I always try to provide an explanation as to why. This isn't easy, but so far it has been fruitful.

By the same token, she can always ask why and I always try to provide an explanation. Now that she's older, if she has a question about why something happens or works, we try to investigate it together by various means.

Don't be afraid to explain complicated concepts to your child, even at a very early age. My wife thought it was pretty funny that I was trying to explain that the string on a balloon is a tether and why you might call something a tether rather than a string. Early on it's not clear how much they absorb, but it seems to have worked (at least for my daughter).

Always let them know that how their opinions/feelings are important, even if you have to explain that they have not understood something correctly. In other words, don't just dismiss what they think or feel just because they are children. I try to use these as teaching moments. Occasionally you will be the one being taught. I think this concept in particular has made my daughter an outgoing person, and one who generally thinks about things before she speaks (well, for a nine year old anyway). One good example of this was when she was five or six, we had some pretty extreme flooding in our area. There was a news story on the local news station about one of the rescuers themselves needing to be rescued during an operation. I chuckled about that and pointed it out to my wife. My daughter who was sitting next to me made this observation: "Maybe he's new". I had to agree with her, once I stopped laughing. My point is she made an astute observation that I had not considered, and one that was extremely plausible.

Back to always providing an explanation, sometimes I don't say no, in particular to activities where she could be injured. Instead, I try to get her to analyze the situation (and help if necessary) to see if she can accomplish her goal in a safer manner. For example, I have a four wheel cart to move stuff around on. She wanted to ride it like a surfboard in the driveway. By asking her what would happen if she falls, she saw the wisdom in wearing knee and elbow pads, gloves, and her bicycle helmet (which she had for riding her scooter). I don't doubt the falls on the scooter while wearing pads helped her make her decision. By the same token, one day when I came home from work, her hands and chin were scraped up. She was reluctant to tell me what happened, but I got her to tell me that she got on the cart without her pads and fell off. I told her that's why I thought she should wear the pads (and that she wasn't in trouble). Kids will be kids after all.

Try to expose you children to new things. When you do, make sure there is some interaction. For example, just this week, I got my daughter to start doing a little astronomy. I recently bought a dobsonian mount telescope because it would be easier for her to use. She wasn't too interested until I told her that she was the one who would be pointing the telescope. I showed her what to do and let her point it at whatever she wanted to look at, helping a little along the way. Now she wants to get out whenever it's clear, despite the bugs (summertime...).

Don't be worried what other parents think. Feel free to listen to their advice. Also feel free to ignore it.

I don't know if any of this helps you or not, and I certainly have forgotten to mention some things, but it's worked for us so far. I can't say for certain (obviously) that going this route has made my daughter the person she is. All I can say is these are some of the concepts my wife and I have applied and that my daughter is an intelligent, thoughtful, outgoing person who has made me a better person just by knowing her.


I'd expect NPR to not use the word "crisis" in this context. There no obvious juncture, no imminent, looming problem that demands decisive action. There's just yet another op-ed pop-psyche piece about kids failing to learn "how to adult."

I'm not surprised by the existence of the article, it's as inevitable as my curmudgeonly response. I'm surprised NPR stooped to publishing it.


Yeah I was also thinking the term crisis was a bit of a stretch here. 'Over-Parenting Crisis' is in quotes, however, so I'm wondering if they've taken that title from one of the books?


NPR is not immune to dramatizing the news. They need listeners (or eyeballs) too.


Recently I watched a report by the US correspondent of the German public television. She spoke with parents who got into trouble because they let their children play near the house. A mom who put surveillance software on their children's phone. Parents who look on video feeds from the day care centres.

I found this shocking and also dangerous in the long run, people are getting used to surveillance might also accept it by the state.


FWIW: A "look at those crazy americans!" color story by a foreign journalist may, y'know, not be the most authoritative source for this kind of thing.

Obviously those products exist (and probably do in Germany too) and I'm sure that parent who got in trouble was a real incident. Nonetheless those of us actually raising children in this country don't actually do that stuff. Chill.


Of course it is colourful, but the reporter was a parent too and neighbours wondered why they let their children play unsupervised outside.

In Germany a court just ruled that a three year old can go alone to the bath room and their parents don't have to check on them. The child set the bath room under water and someone wanted the parents to be liable.

Also some years ago, I saw a video from a school parking lot, where the hundreds of pupils where dropped off by their parents. So instead of building several schools close to the pupils, they build one big school, to which almost no pupil come alone.


With how US geography is, it would be impossible in most communities to build schools such that kids can easily go there by themselves. Even in cities of >250,000 people, it's common for there to be no sidewalks, and possibly not even any proper crosswalks, such that it's very difficult to get around without driving a car.

In denser cities, though, you do tend to see neighborhood schools instead of larger, more centralized schools.


> Even in cities of >250,000 people, it's common for there to be no sidewalks, and possibly not even any proper crosswalks

This seems like a failure at city planning. Anyways shouldn't there be a school bus?


I grew up outside one of these towns. There was a school bus. As a consequence of the communities being so spread out, the route was very long. As I recall, I would have to catch the bus nearly an hour before school started.

Other kids got dropped off and picked up by one of their parents, and, in retrospect, I imagine it was a convenience decision for everyone involved. For one, it probably meant everyone got to sleep half an hour or so later.

This has probably only become worse since then, since the trend seems to be toward people wanting ever larger houses with ever larger yards, thereby making everything even more spread out.

Come to think of it, it's no wonder kids have apparently started opting for staying at home and playing games online with their friends rather than getting together in meatspace. It's probably getting to be just too inconvenient to get together in meatspace.


> In Germany a court just ruled that a three year old can go alone to the bath room and their parents don't have to check on them. The child set the bath room under water and someone wanted the parents to be liable.

Seems like the alternative is to declare the 3yo liable for the damage, which is absurd. Water like that can cause a lot of damage; it's not like they tipped over a glass on the table.


> Seems like the alternative is to declare the 3yo liable for the damage

No. That's an alternative (though not a particularly sane one.) The other alternative is to accept that it's not always socially useful to give people someone to sue for every misfortune.


They wanted the parents to be liable for the damage, claiming they have breached their obligatory supervision to the child.

The judge said that the parents are not obligated to surveillance their child 24/7 in the flat as it would hinder the development of the child.


I would argue that parents (or legal guardians) should be held liable for damage caused by their minor children, period, without claiming that parents have an obligation to monitor their children 24/7. The degree of surveillance is up to the parents, and I agree that continuous monitoring would tend to stifle development, but that does not remove the parents' liability. Someone has to pay for the damages, and it would not be sensible or just for that someone to be the owner of the damaged property.

The alternative to parental responsibility is that property owners simply ban unsupervised minors from the premises. They represent too great a risk to be tolerated in the absence of legal recourse for whatever damage they might cause.


> I would argue that parents (or legal guardians) should be held liable for damage caused by their minor children, period, without claiming that parents have an obligation to monitor their children 24/7.

The idea that having children should be treated as a strict liability tort is...unusual.

Without that treatment, the damages would need to stem from some other tort by the parent (such as negligence by failure to reasonably supervise), or a tort by the child with a rule that parents are liable for the children's torts.

> Someone has to pay for the damages, and it would not be sensible or just for that someone to be the owner of the damaged property.

That's who usually pays for damages not resulting from some failure of a legal duty, so I do think see why a child being involved would change that.

> The alternative to parental responsibility is that property owners simply ban unsupervised minors from the premises.

Well, that's an alternative, and a fairly common one where it's not fundamentally incompatible with the purpose of the property.


> The idea that having children should be treated as a strict liability tort is...unusual.

Yes, but that isn't what I was saying. "Having children" is not the tort. Damaging others' property is the tort. The parents are liable because it was their child that caused the damage. The child is their responsibility. What the child does, they did.

> or a tort by the child with a rule that parents are liable for the children's torts

Yes, exactly this.

> That's who usually pays for damages not resulting from some failure of a legal duty...

The legal duty which was failed in this case is the duty to not damage others' property. (You do have that, right? Or are property owners simply expected to absorb the cost of accidental damage no matter who was responsible?)

> Well, that's an alternative...

I argue that it is the only viable alternative. Why would property owners voluntarily accept liability for the actions of other people's children without some form of compensation? But we don't want this alternative, because it means 24/7 surveillance and stunted development—not out of legal obligation but simply because unsupervised children would have nowhere to go.


> The legal duty which was failed in this case is the duty to not damage others' property.

One doesn't have such a duty, otherwise we wouldn't have specific torts at all, you'd just jump straight to damages.

> You do have that, right?

No, the closest thing to that is general negligence, where you owe a duty of reasonable care. Damages resulting despite exercise of reasonable care (other than where a strict liability tort exists) do not generally create legal liability.

> Or are property owners simply expected to absorb the cost of accidental damage no matter who was responsible?

If no breach of a legal duty occurs that produces the accident, yes, people are, in general, expected to absorb damages.

> I argue that it is the only viable alternative.

But the argument you make for that position is inconsistent with the results in reality.


> No, the closest thing to that is general negligence, where you owe a duty of reasonable care.

So your legal system does recognize a duty not to damage others' property.

I think it is safe to say that flooding the room is a good example of not taking "reasonable care".

> If no breach of a legal duty occurs that produces the accident...

Irrelevant, as we've already established that there was a legal duty which was breached.

> But the argument you make for that position is inconsistent with the results in reality.

Only if you start from the position that parents are not responsible for damages caused by their children, which is itself contrary to reality.


Apparently, this German legal model is that small children are a force of nature, like a tornado or hurricane. That's...one answer, and maybe reasonable in the context of homeowners' insurance and social safety nets, but it's not an indictment of some kind of crazy American helicopter parenting.


> Apparently, this German legal model is that small children are a force of nature, like a tornado or hurricane.

That's pretty much the US model, too; young children are unlikely to be subject to tort liability (under common law, there was a firm cutoff at 7 years for negligence, with a presumption against liability up to 14; now in most jurisdictions it's a balancing test of age, experience, and intelligence.)

And even where a child is liable, they are likely to be effectively judgement-proof and many jurisdictions have fairly limited provisions for parent liability for minors torts (California, e.g., has a quantitatively-limited amount of parental liability, for liability from willful misconduct.)

There may be some cases where there is a negligence action against parents for reasonable care in supervision, but it's not clear that the duty the would be judged that much differently than in Germany.


> Nonetheless those of us actually raising children in this country don't actually do that stuff. Chill.

Except the ones that are?


I mean there are also serial killers. That might not adequately describe the population at large.


You may not do this but it is a trend nonetheless and we should try to understand it, discuss it...


...and kill it, before it grows out of control.


I can attest to parents looking at video feeds being very very common, at least in silicon valley (San Francisco bay area). Its not only day care centers but also parents installing cameras in their home to monitor their child who might be with a nanny. A lot of this is understandable for a parent of a very young kid going to perhaps an unknown day care. Of course there are a lot of ways you can go overboard - and people often do - but the base concern I feel is quite valid.


>Parents who look on video feeds from the day care centres.

I've never done this but I imagine the reason would be to spot times when the teachers are abusive towards the children, not to ensure everything is perfect.


I think a lot of parents don't know how to effectively parent and make up for that with enthusiasm. Too much involvement, not enough parenting. I am guilty of this.


I also think it’s a new form of keeping up with the Jones. Which is why it happens in the privileged set. Stay at home parent? Nanny? Housekeeper? Dad present at all activities? Coaching the team? All things are social signals and increased parental activity is how parents compete with each other.


my wife is a stay-at-home mom except for working at a non-profit for 10-15 hours per week. The stay-at-home mom crowd is about the most vicious group i've ever seen when it comes to status and who is viewed as the best parent.


The fun part of social signals is that you can choose your own. You can hire a nanny and sneer at parents who can't hack high-powered careers, or you can be with your kids and sneer at the gunners who can't raise their own children. Or you can work long days and have no nanny and pass your kid from cousin to uncle to latchkey because you are a normal human being with no time to play status games of the privileged.


Ya I agree. I think the lifestyle signals are the new thing since the old signals (homes, cars, material things) could be faked through debt. The car you drive doesn’t send a signal anymore unless it’s a Bentley or lambo etc.


Which leads to the question of how one teaches general parenting skill.


My wife is a pediatric occupational therapist. My dad's always saying "There's no book on parenting."

My response if always "Screw you, yes there is. But you went to business school." You can pay someone to fix your injuries, or broken pipes, but you can't pay someone to raise your kids.

When my son was born, I went into it with the knowledge of three highly rated books on Amazon I had picked at random.

My wife went into it with years of experience dealing with difficult kids. She worked at a feeding clinic at a research institute, helping parents figure out how to get their kids to eat their vegetables.

I'm so grateful. My 2 year old helps fold laundry, says please and thank you, and knows to put away his toys before bath time.

I don't know what I'd do if I hadn't married this woman. I don't know where I would have gotten the skills I have now.


> My dad's always saying "There's no book on parenting."

This is both literally factually wrong and basically correct in its underlying message.

There are, of course, very many books on parenting and very many being published every day. What there isn't, though, is something correct, clear, authoritative, comprehensive, accessible, and easily filtered out by the layman from the noise of all the stuff published which meets none of those criteria.

Perhaps more on point, there's no general education on parenting.


For an authoritative source, you might try "Caring for your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5", by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

https://www.amazon.com/Caring-Your-Baby-Young-Child/dp/05533...


It's authoritative though less than comprehensive, and more (though, unless I'm conflating it with something else, not entirely) focussed on physical health.

But, yes, I absolutely do think it's a good one.


> but you can't pay someone to raise your kids.

Actually, you can. It's called a nanny. If you prefer a cheaper version, it's called au pair.


I think there's more implied in 'raising' children than keeping them alive and transporting them to their scheduled activities, which is what I'd expect from a nanny or au pair.


Quite the contrary, a nanny will not just keep them nourished and on schedule, but also provide emotional comfort and educational activities.

It is less frequent now in the west, but in many countries kids are raised by nannies or relatives. Kids get very attached to their nannies- see Mary Poppins. It is a fictional tale, but it shows you how it was also the case in the West.

If your expectations are limted to keeping the kids alive and transporting them, your are thinking about a butler and a chauffeur. I would strongly recommend complementing them with a nanny. A good butler can help you select a nanny if you are not sure on which qualities you should hire.


>Quite the contrary, a nanny will not just keep them nourished and on schedule, but also provide emotional comfort and educational activities.

When my son was younger, we had a part-time nanny (about 15 hours/week) who was simply wonderful. She was always "present", focused on enrichment, and truly loved our son. Even though she hasn't been our nanny for many years, we still keep in touch and occasionally get together.

I've also seen the other side, where a nanny or au-pair is literally just an adult ensuring the kids are alive at the end of the day. Definitely one case where you'd want a solid reference!


Exactly why I suggested asking the butler! Solid references matter a lot

I have also had a great experience - as a kid. There was a strong emotional and learning component. I have very fond memories.


So what would you recommend for potential parents who don't have the years of hands-on experience that your wife had?


Be born with genes for incredible self discipline and emotional stamina, and your kids are likely to be born with those genes as well. In fact, all the books I read said that you have to apply the techniques with total consistency and regularity, or the method doesn't work. That's something I'm utterly incapable of doing.


> In fact, all the books I read said that you have to apply the techniques with total consistency and regularity, or the method doesn't work.

Note that's long been a line used when people are selling stuff they know doesn't work, because people don't do much of anything with total consistency and regularity, so when the inevitable failures occur, you've pre-biased the buyer of your woo to find an excuse to blame themselves, rather than the snake-oil you sold them.

Even if it's not knowing fraud, any parenting approach that doesn't accommodate and specifically address the reality that parents are fallible isn't going to work with real people very well, even if it might work for the mythical beasts it must be designed for.


I have a nanny friend. FWIW her advice is always (paraphrasing):

"Kids are like dogs, you reward and encourage behavior you want and punish and discourage behavior you do want."


Typo:

"Kids are like dogs, you reward and encourage behavior you want and punish and discourage behavior you do NOT want."


We simply don't live together enough to observe other parents enough to get the right information. We only see surfaces nowadays.


I mean it's obvious that the vast majority of people, parents and their children, are spending too much time in front of a computer, TV or phone screen. I'm 20 now, growing up I barely had any contact with my father besides maybe an hour around the dinner table a day. That's when we actually sat around a dinner table. For the vast majority of my early childhood and teens we never did.


You can start by reading "Don't shoot the dog" and "Nonviolent communication"; and then perhaps "Games people play". None of that is specifically about parenting, but each teaches an important skill to a parent.


I teach in a college. Many's the time I've been waiting to get into a classroom because the folks in there are wrapping up an exam, and students come out, instantly produce the phone, and I hear, "Hi mom, I did OK on the quiz, I think ..." That's too much.


I taught at a university for a couple of years. TBH, that feels normal-ish. I have plenty of folks including my parents with whom, depending on how often we've been communicating lately, I will share trivia.

If you think that is bad, wait until you have to speak with some 20-year-old's mom who is thinking that her kiddo should be getting an A for C-level work and you have to get litigious about supporting your grades. I had to write a policy into my syllabus saying that I won't (and, IIRC, legally was not permitted) to talk with other folks than the student about grades and assessments.


This is the peril of anecdotes. You took a momentary observation and wrote a whole narrative surrounding it. How do you know that this is a parental tether? Maybe she had spoken to her mother the night before and expressed some worry about that particular quiz. The call you heard was just a follow up and she is otherwise fully independent.

(I catch myself doing this frequently: that couple's marriage is in trouble—they're not even talking over dinner, that driver is on his phone scrolling through Facebook probably, etc. Those stories may be true but there's perfectly reasonable alternatives that would look exactly the same.)


I think this is a symptom that today's children don't have the same type of bond with their peers as previous generations. Yesteryear, kids would have discussed classwork with their friends and classmates. All socialization has been removed from classrooms, outside of 'group activities.'

The only people they know how to talk to are their parents.


> The only people they know how to talk to are their parents.

I believe it. This gets brought up often here, but when you drive through residential neighborhoods you don't see kids playing or travelling to their friend's houses anymore. Either people are having way fewer kids or they aren't allowed to do things autonomously anymore. This undoubtedly correlates with rising obesity. But instead of blaming lack of play, they blame junk food.

I recently drove past a middle school (12-14 yo) and shuddered at the sight of each child walking straight from the door to their parents car, one at a time, like prisoners. When that car pulled away the next car stopped at the same spot before the next child was dismissed. Just a few years prior, all kids were released simultaneously.

I think this is eroding our society.


No, it's sadly a complete lack of kid autonomy around me. Kids aren't afforded any independence around here until mid-teens (15+). I think walking more than a few doors down is absolutely out of the question for most kids these days.

More and more kids are driven to school each day. The school bus was another socialization place for kids that is gone.


The great thing about science by gut feel is you can choose which contradictions you like. In a fitness thread, it's "abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym". But in a parenting thread it's "fat is burned in the street, not the diet"


I'm not saying junk food is good for kids. But kids are growing and their bodies change much more rapidly than adults'. If they slam a liter of soda a day they can still burn those calories off by riding their bikes or playing soccer for 2 hours after school (unlike an adult, they have both the time and energy to do so). They can't burn those calories off by streaming CS:GO on Twitch for 4 hours.

So you're falsely equating an adult's fitness regimen with a child's (kids don't care about showing their abs).


I'm in the EU so can't read the article, but that doesn't feel like over-parenting. My daughter might do that, but she's a pretty independent lass, at age 14 currently wandering around central London or Camden market somewhere as part of her summer holidays - not sure where.


>I'm in the EU so can't read the article

https://text.npr.org/s.php?sId=628042168

The article ID in the link can be used in the text only site.


I don't see anything wrong with a kid (or even an adult) having a strong relationship with their parents.

I had a flatmate who talked with her mom every night. Literally every night. For hours. She was just close with her family. It wasn't like she was at school or anything, we were both grown adults with working lives.


My wife calls her parents every day for a few minutes. I talk to my mom once every couple weeks or an hour or two. Two sides of the same coin.


What's wrong with that?


On its own, not much. But increasingly parents are involving themselves in their college freshman’s education, going to bat for them when they “unfairly” score low, etc.


There is nothing wrong with that!


You really picked the most normal example possible.


That seems strange to me. When I was in school (many years ago) I think I called home maybe once a week, and I don't remember talking about schoolwork much.


Ah, come on, that's a bit rich. Seems reasonable (& healthy even...) to be chatting with mom about an exam coming up, then give her a ring when it's over.

Sure, if mom is still supervising, then that's a bit awkward...


I offer the following hypothesis - competition for entry into "the best" colleges, competition for "free money" through scholarships, and competition for "good jobs" after college has driven parents to micromanage their children's school "career."

The margins for "error" - i.e. achieving suboptimal grades and cultivating interests outside of "school stuff" - have shrunk since I was a kid.

This is, of course, in addition to the need for parents to acquire bragging rights about their children.


We gamified our kids.


> Some schools have an explicit policy against parents doing kids' homework and in favor of kids raising issues and concerns themselves rather than relying on their parents to do so. These schools are part of the solution.

I'd love to see these policies tested, e.g., have five high school kids with class scheduling issues attempt to resolve them themselves, and another five have their parents call, and compare how the process goes.


High school kids have class scheduling issues that aren't just automatically sorted out by the school? Heck. Not my experience for sure!


Turns out a lot of the scheduling software out there was written by people who without formal training or who weren't paying attention in their algorithms course.

E.g., one year:

Me: requests A and B

Friend: requests A and non-honors B

hour 4: Me in non-honors B; friend in gym.

hour 5 (only hour honors B is offered): Me in A; friend in honros B.

Based on a few years of observations, I'm almost certain courses were filled using some variant of this algorithm:

    for each student s sorted by student number:
        for each non-filled course c in hour 1..n:
           if(s wants c and not in c): assign s to c and continue to next hour.
        for each non-filled course c in hour 1..n:
           if(s wants c' and not in c' and c is like c'): assign s to c and continue to next hour.
because students with lower student numbers tended to get their choices (correlated with when student joined district far better than class status) and courses late in the day were always half empty while courses earlier in the day were always filled to the brim.

Things got better each year but never in a way that would suggest someone finally decided to pick up an algorithms textbook.

I suspect by now they've purchased something that works or else managed to prove P=NP and the solution is billions of if statements fixing special cases the teachers/students complained loudly enough about...


I don't know the details, but I know my school had a person from IT with a computer science degree on secondment to the studies department at the beginning of each year to get the timetable sorted out. The phrase "least constraints matching" is something I remember being mentioned when I asked.


n = 1 but my senior year of high school (which was recent-ish) I was put in a ton of freshman classes and it took more than a few phone calls to resolve it (I resolved it on my own without my parents' help).


What school on earth has a policy that allows parents doing kids' homework?


Jonathan Haidt thinks an earlier child abduction scare sparked the overly fragile undergrads that started to appear in 2014.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=snqXOvnHzcQ

We are raising kids lacking conflict resolution skills who can't discuss and would rather coerce someone who doesn't conform to their ideas.


I'm not convinced this is a real problem. The term helicopter parenting was first used in 1990 [0] New Yorker article on same topic from 2008 [1]

Articles and posts like this are chock-full of anecdotes and head-nodding, but short on studies or other data to even correlate against. Seems like this "crisis" has been happening for a long time.

Is there a longitudinal study on children who have been "helicopter parented?" vs those who were raised "free-range"?

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helicopter_parent

[1] https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/11/17/the-child-trap


It’s a difficult balance to strike and it’s easy to judge parents either way. I’m plenty guilty of being on both sides as a parent. My particular challenge, however, stems from PTSD from childhood abuse and neglect, so I feel even -more- pressure to give my child everything she needs and wants because I don’t want her to feel as alone and unwanted as I did. But I do worry that comes at the price of her independence, which is something else I definitely don’t want to take away from her.

The paradoxical thing for me is that much of what I’ve achieved has come about because I was forced to do things on my own and fend for myself. It built a lot of “character” but at the same time I’m not anywhere near happy or content.


One solution I've seen suggested is to let your kids mess up, but be there ready with empathy. For a kid to know that when they fail, their parent will be there to comfort them and encourage them is huge.

Also, you teach them basic safety things, and then name it when they've mastered it; e.g. "You know how to look both ways, you don't need to hold my hand crossing the street anymore." or "You can cook on the stove by yourself now because you know how to be safe around hot things." They are getting independence, but doing so knowing that their parent is concerned about protecting them from dangers they cannot address themselves.

With those two things, a child is unlikely to feel neglected or unloved, but can still develop a sense of independence.


>so I feel even -more- pressure to give my child everything she needs and wants because I don’t want her to feel as alone and unwanted as I did

This is a tough one because I think how we parent is super-strongly influenced by our experiences as a child. I think the keys here are to make sure she knows that you love and support her no matter what and that's as much of a given as that the sun will rise in the east AND to support her on doing things for herself.

It's one thing if you're there to provide encouragement or a bit of help doing something vs. telling her to get it done and walking away. She'll learn the least from having everything on a whim or you doing everything for her. If the answer is "no" discuss why. Be fair and not capricious. Kids are smart. They know the difference between a parent that doesn't care and a parent that's setting limits.


> It's one thing if you're there to provide encouragement or a bit of help doing something vs. telling her to get it done and walking away.

The former is definitely my approach. I never just dump her into a situation and ignore her, nor do I do everything for her. For example, cleaning up around the house is a joint effort. And arguments and power struggles are always followed up by reconciliation and reassurance that I still love her despite us being angry at each other.

My biggest struggle is not knowing whether a punishment or correction is too severe (because all of the ones I received were), so I tend to be more lenient in a lot of situations where maybe I shouldn’t be.


If you find a behavior you don't like, figure out what's causing it. It's probably not random, parents are probably not just being dumb.

Test scores, or minor misbehaviors, or other things, can disproportionately influence someone's future, to extents that are not realistic or human. Children, left to their own devices, will have trouble surviving in a world that runs on rules that don't actually make sense. Parents can sense this, so they try to protect their children, and they play by the rules that they see. There's no advantage to being fair, to doing things the "right" way, because the message has already gotten out that the rules are arbitrary. It's not important what you know, it's important that you pass the test.

Or, as they say, "best predictor of future behavior is past behavior" (very horrible sentiment).

If you don't want parents being overzealous and a bit crazy about their children, stop making society so damn competitive and inflexible. There are so many pitfalls someone can fall down just by accident, just by being human.


The eternal debate continues between the "overbearing fascist helicopter parents" and the "free-parenting grossly negligent degenerates". (I have no horse in this race and find these pieces interesting nonetheless)


Controversy sells/generates clicks. Nobody wants to read a well-reasoned, balanced article when they're jonesing for that next micro-dose of e-dopamine.


Related:

> The research found, on average, children were playing outside for just over four hours a week

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/27/children...


This topic is always a great opportunity to share stories about what childhood was like just a few decades ago, so I'll share mine.

When I was 5-10, a typical day for me was spent alone or with friends outside, from sun up to down, with zero adult supervision. There wouldn't even be an adult who knew where I was going or where I was. They simply gave me the responsibility of returning home before the sun went down, and over those years I always did, mostly because I was hungry. The only exception was one day when I traveled too far, realized too late that the sun was going down, and collapsed from exhaustion trying to get home. My family searched for and found me during twilight. I learned valuable lessons that day.

I recently looked up my childhood home on Google Maps to see how far I would go, and I would regularly travel within about a 3-mile radius. The surrounding area was heavily wooded and mostly vacant.

I would see a black bear probably once a month. My parents just told me to make noise as I traveled, to keep them scared off of my position. I knew never to play with their cubs. I knew never to run from them. I knew to stand ground and be loud and aggressive if I was ever approached or charged by one.

I fell off my bike and skinned my knees probably 40 or 50 times. I have many memories of limping my bike home on foot for a mile while sobbing in pain, and then squeezing my dad's hand as hard as I could while he poured hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol over my bleeding knee. Every time this happened, he would just tell me I was going to heal up fast and get right back on the bike.

A common route for me was to ride my bike along the side of the highway a few miles to a corner store so I could buy chips or candy, or visit a waitress my family knew at a local breakfast spot for some free eggs. Nobody ever stopped their car and tried to "rescue" me. The people at the shops knew how I got there, they were not concerned.

When I was about 10, my family moved to a rich white suburb outside a major city. Their policy of letting me be independent and go wherever I wanted unsupervised continued, but in this new town I was regularly approached by adults asking if I was lost, strangers asking where my parents were, and adults on golf carts with walkie-talkies reprimanding me and sending me home for no particular reason.

I found their concern for my well-being incredibly insulting. I was insulted that they thought I couldn't handle myself, and later I was insulted by the way I realized they were judging my family and my parents. As a result, I was downright rude to a lot of them, and kind of earned a negative reputation. Ended up getting blamed for a lot of vandalism despite never vandalizing anything, and causing problems between my family and other local families, simply by locals assigning blame to me for all kinds of things based purely on my reputation of being out unsupervised a lot and being rude to certain adults.

So I got a taste of both worlds just by moving. I don't think the problem of over-parenting is restricted to time and trend. I think it has a strong geographical and cultural component, too. I suspect that if I went back to my hometown, I might still find kids unsupervised, riding their bikes and skinning their knees in the summer. I've also heard from people outside the country that this helicopter parenting thing seems to be largely restricted to the US.


What kind of parent does their kid's homework?!

Here's an idea. Why not have "how to be a parent" classes taught in high school or college?


>>> What kind of parent does their kid's homework?!

I did, in a particularly subtle way, until I realized it and stopped. I never physically performed the homework task, but I prodded my kids to get it done. As it turns out, the homework was so easy, that literally the only challenge was motivation. By supplying them with the motivation, I was effectively doing the work.

Nowadays, if asked for help, I go into teacher mode, and start asking them questions or providing a gentle nudge towards figuring out something themselves. They know that asking me for help will generally make their task harder, rather than easier. ;-)

>>> Here's an idea. Why not have "how to be a parent" classes taught in high school or college?

Because we don't know what it consists of.


I'm not a parent but maybe this is a result of an increasingly competitive landscape for kids these days. I can easily see parents worried more about their kids falling behind in ways that institutions care about.


I will help with homework. Proofread a paper, point out clumsy sentences or poor reasoning. Suggest ways to improve a project. Help work through a math problem or proof, to the extent I can. Demonstrate that the answers can often be found by simply reading the textbook or other study materials. For one of my kids I even employed a math tutor when he was struggling.

But actually do homework for them? No.


How about schools that assign homework before the kids in the class are able to read? If that's not training parents to do their kids' homework, I don't know what is.


If my experience throughout grade school is an accurate reflection of US schools at large, nearly every upper-middle and above kid has a parent or tutor doing (or proofing) their homework for them.

The poor kids (myself included) don't even necessarily have a person at home asking them anything about their homework, and so often don't do it at all.

The kids with the tutors tended to have test scores that underperformed their homework scores. The teachers usually attributed this to abnormal stress levels due to the student being an over-achiever, or it was hand-waved as "he's just a poor test-taker", etc. A lot of them were given additional time to complete their tests as an accommodation.

The kids who didn't do their homework tended to have test scores that dramatically outperformed their homework scores. The teachers attributed this to a slacker mentality, the student "not applying themselves", the student not respecting the teacher's curriculum, etc. In my case, I was repeatedly threatened with not even moving on to the next grade due to homework, despite never getting anything less than an A on any test, and repeatedly demonstrating that I knew all the material really well, and having all of that acknowledged by the very people threatening the hold me back a grade...

That was a bit of a tangent, but yeah, a lot of kids have parents either doing their homework for them or proofing/correcting it before the teacher ever sees it. A lot of kids have parents doing entire projects for them using what is clearly hundreds or thousands of dollars in materials and equipment. It's a common thing, or at least it was in my districts growing up.


Parents who understand what “tracking” is. If you aren’t, you’re setting your child up for failure.


What is "tracking" in this case?


Kids are separated into different classes based on ability, so there's a fast place class and a slower paced class at each grade level. My elementary school was tracked. My mom made damn sure that my brothers and me were placed in the fastest track, whether we belonged there or not.

Tracking has a lot of ominous implications due to bias, and has been abandoned to a considerable extent, but teachers still unavoidably treat different kids with different expectations. And "involved" parents can influence those expectations.


Tracking (or setting, or grouping) essentially means that the higher level groups are freed from the more distracting characters in the lower groups. Great for them, but terrible for you if you end up in one of those lowers sets and end up with a loud, boisterous and violent class for a year.

Teachers are busy and overworked. I'm sure they try their best to put kids in the correct group for each subject, but you could easily end up in the 'wrong' one with no malice on the teachers part.

My mother was a school teacher and when she found out that I wasn't in the higher group for English she fought tooth and nail to get me up there. She knew exactly what could happen in those lower groups.


Sounds like a pretty wild rat race you're in.


The rat race begins before you're even considered an adult! Sad but true.


"parents are more focused on keeping their children safe, content and happy in the moment than on parenting for competence"




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