TRUE TALES of PARENTING 2010

Investment Banker Says No to "Fancy Kids"
On a recent cross-country airline flight, I was seated next to a woman who is a vice president of a major investment banking company. She herself isn't a parent, but she comes in regular contact with young people. She asked what I was doing in L.A. I told her I had just given a speech to parents and faculty at a big and wealthy day school on the west side of L.A.. She confided that she now makes it a point NOT to hire the "fancy kids." She hires only the children of first-generation immigrants. Why? I asked. Because, she said, she has found that the kids of immigrants are resourceful, hard-working, good at figuring things out and at problem-solving. The "fancy kids," she says, always had parents running interference for them or cleaning up a mess in their wake. They're not persevering, not willing to work hard, not clever at problem-solving, not resourceful. The immigrant kids have parents who speak little English and lack the knowledge and ability to manipulate the system on their behalf. They are forced to learn to bring in their homework on time and to handle life on their own. Their "disadvantage" wound up making them stronger.

The Little Prince
Ladies and gents, straight from an email I received from a friend, about her friend:
My friend L__, one half of an upper east side lawyer couple, has a son the same age as mine (2 1/2).  J__ is a beautiful boy with big brown eyes and rosy cheeks. I always think of him as a little doll, and that's how he's always been treated--as a doll, not as a child. As an infant, she carried him around everywhere and when on the couch propped him up with little pillows so he would sit in place. He was never allowed on the floor on his own and never learned to crawl--he was always sitting. In fact, after his first birthday, he still hadn't crawled and he lacked the ability to hold himself up. It turned out that the muscles in his legs were underdeveloped--even when holding him up he didn't have the strength to stand.  She was
finally advised by her pediatrician to take him to physical therapy--he needed 3 weeks of physical therapy to work the muscles in his legs.  After three weeks he built up his strength and learned to walk quickly after that.

This is the same mother who took her son to the pediatrician the first time he ate solid food.  She wanted the doctor to be present when she gave him his first Cheerio, to be sure that he didn't choke. He didn't.

Baby in the Bubble Wrap
The image on the front cover of my book, taken from the original article I wrote for Psychology Today, is a photograph of a child wrapped so completely in bright yellow CAUTION tape that he is immobilized. A close runner up--also from the magazine article and equally iconic but a bit less colorful--is a photo of a kid bound head to toe in bubble wrap. Both immediately and clearly--and wittily--flash the message that kids are being so overprotected they are not being allowed to function as children. The children in the pictures are models, and I know for a fact that the art director of Psychology Today invented these images, posing the models and hiring the photographer. It is a measure of the blinding grip anxiety has on today's parents that you would be hard-pressed to invent what isn't already being done in some fearful corner, and in more extreme form than you believed possible.

I confide we at PT thought the bubble wrap an incisive metaphor. The operative word here is metaphor. But it is a metaphor no more. Which brings me to a casual living room conversation that took place in December. It centered on children largely because a pre-child-bearing couple in their early 30s was visiting a set of new parents, also in their early 30s, to whom I am related, which is why I was also in the living room. The guests recounted their own recent experience with visiting family. A couple and their toddler had come from Nebraska to spend time with them in L.A. On their way from LAX to their hotel, the arriving couple asked their taxi driver to stop off at the nearest Home Depot and wait. They ran in and purchased a roll of, yes, bubble wrap. Then they checked into their hotel and proceeded to line their room with bubble wrap. What an effective way to deliver to the child the crippling message that  the world is a dangerous place, and--the biggie--you're too fragile to cope with it. I might add that most hotel rooms are not very dangerous places.

There's room for your stories HERE.


7 Comments

It's not just parents! The Principal of my granddaughter's school refused to let me cook latkes in her Third Grade classroom because the electric frying pan is too dangerous. He refused to let the children hammer nails to punch holes for a bookbinding project. I work with day care folks, and hear horror stories of licensing reps making them get rid of pets, declaring shaving cream too dangerous for a sensory activity and other such nonsense.It would appear the people in charge are trying for zero risk. Some residents of this very small town were shocked that my grandaughter was allowed to walk to school alone-half a mile with crossing guards at the two intersections. Somehow this all needs to stop.

jwg, I think all this zero risk crap is just of fear of liability.

When I was in 4th grade, I broke my foot on the playground. Without hesitating, my principal carried me to the office where he was met by staff criticizing him for touching me! How was I supposed to walk with a crushed foot?
I wonder today how many teachers would do the same. All it takes is one idiot parent to sue a public school for something minor to ruin it for everyone.

I am a parent and have been a principal. While I agree it is not just parents, principal's only enforce those regulations that have been put upon them by the public. My guess is that there is either a health official who came through the school making note of all of the "safety" violations or a fire inspector who said the same. Any snacks in school must be peanut free and kept in containers that a child (and insect proof). The regulations are maddening. I hated enforcing most of them because they were mostly micromanaging safety. But, in this litigious day and age I opted to enforce if for no other reason than self-preservation. Ugh.

I'm a young first year teacher who worked as a preschool aid last year and I HATE THESE REGULATIONS. Its true that it is because our super-sensitive litigating culture. Because of it our school is not allowed to put up ANY decorations inside the class. Let me repeat. ZIP, ZERO, ZILCH.
I had setup a beautiful paper tree that extended to the ceiling, in my library corner. The fire martial is now requiring i take it down along with any piece of paper/decoration hanging on any walls/doors/windows.etc. We are even limited to what and how much we can post on our bulletin boards. So much for promoting a healthy learning environment. Our classrooms seems more like prisons! And why has it come to this you ask? Quite simple... Evidently the children born in recent generations are made of porcelan and too precious and easy to break.
I can't wait for the leaders that will arise from these misguided, horribly raised generations.

I am a college instructor and was shocked to encounter what my colleagues and I now call helicopter parents. Failed a 25 year old and suddenly had parents in my office asking "what we can do to make this good." I looked at them and said "the time for that passed 15 years ago."

At a recent conference was even more shocked by an employer relating similar experiences with parents coming to see them when their child received a poor performance appraisal. I honestly don't know how I survived my parent's neglectful child rearing practices. Spent a large part of my childhood playing on riverbanks and in the bush nearby. Dreadful, I learned about plants and animals, and watched the seasons change . . .

I worked as a teacher and had a student pass out drunk in my afternoon class. As I marched him to the office he again passed out and then finally threw up all over the principal's office. This resulted in a suspension, but the next morning his father showed up with a lawyer in tow arguing that the other boys had poured the alcohol down his throat. One of my great regrets in life is not being there to face off with the lawyer and call the police. After all, the poor boy had been the victim of a serious assault... I'm certain that the look on his face would have been priceless...

I teach Elementary School music in the Denver area, in one of the most "successful" school districts in the country. Being in an affluent, mostly homogeneous school has exposed me to invasive parenting I never imagined existed.

Two incidents stand out in my first year at this school. The first was when the principal called me in to discuss a complaint he logged from a parent about my conduct in the classroom. The offense? I said the word "darn" in front of her child, and this blatant use of "offensive language" has scarred her child and made her afraid of coming to Music class now.

The second incident came after a dress rehearsal for the 5th grade "graduation" ceremony (itself an elaborate affair of $500.00 suits for 10-yr-olds and arrivals in limousines). The children were getting our of control with the talking and, despite my efforts to calm them down, they couldn't hear me over the din. So I tossed the remote control to the stereo system on the ground in front of me, and walked to the back of the room to wait for them to calm down. The principal came into my classroom the following day to ask me what happened. A parent had told him I displayed "violent and dangerous" behavior in front of her child, and the child was now afraid I wold assault them. I was told my job depended on the promise that a repeat of this incident would never happen again.

I now understand why over 70% of teachers quit the profession in their first 5 years.

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