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I read a weekly synopsis of education articles called The Marshall Memo (http://www.marshallmemo.com/), and I thought the following synopsis would be of interest to many...
In this thoughtful New York Times article, clinician/consultant/author Madeline Levine offers advice on how parents can strike the right balance between being overly protective and overly permissive with their children. “The happiest, most successful children have parents who do not do for them what they are capable of doing, or almost capable of doing,” says Levine, “and their parents do not do things for them that satisfy their own needs rather than the needs of the child.” “The central task of growing up,” she continues, “is to develop a sense of self that is autonomous, confident, and generally in accord with reality.” Constant parental monitoring and control interferes with this process, diminishing confidence and distorting reality. It’s difficult for parents to hang back and let children make mistakes, especially during the teen years. “But it is in the small daily risks – the taller slide, the bike ride around the block, the invitation extended to a new classmate – that growth takes place,” says Levine. “In this gray area of just beyond the comfortable is where resilience is born.” Many parents hate to see their kids cry. “If you can’t stand to see your child unhappy, you are in the wrong business,” says Levine. “The small challenges that start in infancy (the first whimper that doesn’t bring you running) present the opportunity for ‘successful failures,’ that is, failures your child can live with and grow from. To rush in too quickly, to shield them, to deprive them of those challenges is to deprive them of the tools they will need to handle the inevitable, difficult, challenging and sometimes devastating demands of life.” Levine draws a distinction between authoritative parenting focused on behavioral expectations – for example, insisting that the child sit down and finish math homework – and psychological control – for example, taking control of the college application process (“We’re applying to Columbia”). The first is good parenting, the second is malpractice, she believes: “If pushing, direction, motivation, and reward always come from the outside, the child never has the opportunity to craft an inside.” “A loving parent is warm, willing to set limits and unwilling to breach a child’s psychological boundaries by invoking shame or guilt,” Levine concludes. It’s also vital that parents set a good example in their own lives. “One of the most important things we do for our children is to present them with a version of adult life that is appealing and worth striving for.”
“Raising Successful Children” by Madeline Levine in The New York Times, Aug. 5, 2012, http://nyti.ms/MpIRwo