I might be a helicopter parent if…

  • I start a conversation with, “I am not one of those helicopter parents, but…”
  • I read my child’s emails and respond to them.
  • I fill out the visit form for my kid in the admission office lobby.
  • I unintentionally enter my email when I fill out my child’s application.
  • my question during the information session begins with, “My son would like to know if…”
  • my child is only considering universities at least 2000 miles away from me.
  • my child’s Common Application lists his birthdate as 10/21/1972.
  • I would like to see the residence hall I will be staying in.
  • I rub every statue on a college campus for “good luck,” even if it’s not a tradition to do so.
  • I have been banned from contributing to College Confidential.
  • I buy a sticker from every college tour “just in case!”
  • I consider changing my child’s name to something that sounds like the college’s founder.
  • I call colleges when my student is in sixth grade to ask advice on course schedules and extracurriculars.
  • I have accidentally signed my child’s name on a document at work because it’s become a habit.
  • I have any admission office’s phone number saved in my contacts.
  • I text my child a talking point during their interview.
  • I post on Facebook, “We submitted our college applications!”
  • my child’s college essay sounds like it was written by a 45-year-old.
  • I call the admission office pretending to be my child and get their login information for the portal to find out “my” decision.
  • I create a “more important title” for a volunteer group my daughter is on so it sounds better for college applications.
  • I hand out my business cards at the college fair on behalf of my son because he is too busy and couldn’t attend.
  • I am more concerned than my child is about that “dreaded” B-.
  • I hand-write thank you notes to admission officers in obvious dad language and sign it from my son even though no 17-year-old boy writes like that.
  • I ask for advance notice of the admission decisions to “mentally prepare” my child.
  • the phrase, “This is their decision!” is immediately followed by, “But I think they really want…”
  • my child receives an admission decision from a college he didn’t know he applied to.
  • the college counselor recognizes my number…on their cell phone…on Christmas morning.
  • colleges mistakenly address all mailing flyers to me, and not my child.
  • every sentence my child says in college counseling meetings starts with “well, my dad wants me to…”
  • I spend more time on Google Docs working on my child’s college essay than my child does.
  • I have an excel file listing all the people who might write recommendations on my child’s behalf.
  • I’ve directed my child into the extracurricular activities most preferred by elite colleges since they could walk.
  • I show up uninvited to meetings my student has scheduled with their college counselor.
  • I don’t allow my student to take any ownership of their college process.
  • I ask more questions on a campus tour than my student.
  • I compare college lists/decisions at cocktail parties with other parents.
  • I buy a college sweatshirt in my size.

Did you find yourself feeling a little uneasy as you read this list? Did some of these warning signs hit a bit too close to home?

Okay, so some of these are just for fun, but many aren’t a joke. Head to Forbes to read Brennan Barnard’s full article. In it, he provides some thoughtful commentary as well as an amazing reading list, which includes one of my favorites:

Give his article and Lythcott-Haim’s book a read if you have not already!

 

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Reading for the Win

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.” So with this in mind, Brennan Bernard (director of college counseling at the Derryfield School in Manchester, N.H.) asks his colleagues in high school counseling and college admission to recommend their favorite books from the year, and every year, the recommendations are amazing.

Right now I am reading:

“iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood, and What That Means for the Rest of Us” by Jean M. Twenge

There are some older ones here that I can personally recommend, for example:

“Colleges That Change Lives” by Loren Pope, revised by Hilary Masell Oswald

And a few I just read recently that I really liked:

“Educated: A Memoir” by Tara Westover

“The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds” by Michael Lewis

“How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success” by Julie Lythcott-Haims

Read the full list here.  I have already put these on hold at my local library:

“Enough As She Is: How to Help Girls Move Beyond Impossible Standards of Success to Live Healthy, Happy, and Fulfilling Lives”by Rachel Simmons

“At What Cost?: Defending Adolescent Development in Fiercely Competitive Schools” by David L. Gleason

 

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Money Has Ruined Youth Sports

I love sports, but youth sports are wild. I recently read an insightful article by Douglas Brunt that is worth a read by all parents—especially those with young children. He notes:

The problem is that the wealth and fame of sports is a lure for the wrong-headed parenting that specializes kids who are too young to decide for themselves, all for an outcome with lottery odds of success.

The road to professional contracts in all sports is littered with the teenage bodies that made the same sacrifices but fell short and are now largely unprepared for an adult life apart from sports. Our society is about to experience its first full generation of these teenagers entering the workforce, or not.

The answer to this problem lies in the home and in the schools. Some possible remedies are limits on organized off-season sports practice in high school, minimum age requirements in professional leagues, heightened parental awareness of the importance of balanced education and experience for kids.

Brunt also notes that awareness seems to be building, and I agree. I often speak with parents who struggle to get their children/teens to do anything other than sports, even though they know they won’t play in college or professionally. But I also know plenty of parents who think sports is their kid’s ticket to a selective college or university—not hard work and focus academically. All these kids do outside of school and homework is their sport because “they don’t have time” for anything else. Beyond the life imbalance this creates, these families face a major challenge when it comes time to apply to college if their child is not recruited: what concrete value do they have to add beyond their sport? Students are not admitted to schools based on the value they will add to a club or intramural sports team. If you are not a recruited athlete, athletics matter very little. So when that is all you’ve done, you’ll have a much harder time highlighting how you will uniquely contribute to a college or university campus. You simply won’t be a very attractive candidate.

I am all about sports because they help many kids and teens build confidence, learn how to work with others, and simply get them out of the house and moving, but I think it is time to get real about the harm that laser-sharp focus on a single sport can have on the life experience of youth. The same can be said for other fields and areas of focus. As it applies to college admission, you do want to have a specialty, but you don’t need to be—and shouldn’t want to be—a one-trick pony.

To read more about this topic, make sure to check out Brunt’s third book, Trophy Son, available for pre-order now on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1250114802/?tag=timecom-20.

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Book Recommendations from IECA Members

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Recently, some fellow IECA members sent around a compilation of books, and I want to share them. I have read many of these books, and suggest students and parents take a look! Enjoy!

Helping Teenagers & Parents Deal with the Pressures and Stress of the High School Years:

  • How To Be a High School Superstar by Cal Newport
  • College Admissions Together: It Takes a Family by Steven Roy Goodman & Andrea Leiman
  • Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be by Frank Bruni
  • You Are Not Special: …..And Other Encouragements by David McCullough
  • Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain by Daniel Siegel
  • Your Defiant Child: Eight Steps to Better Behavior by Russell Barkley
  • Parenting with Love and Logic by F. & J. Fay Cline
  • Parenting Teens with Love and Logic: Preparing Adolescents for Responsible Adulthood by F. & J. Fay Cline
  • The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families by S. Covey
  • Parenting Teenagers: Systematic Training for Effective Parenting by D. Dinkmeyer & G. McKay
  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck
  • How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by A. Faber & E. Mazlish
  • Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots & Wings by M. Kenneth & R. Ginsburg
  • Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World: Seven Building Blocks for Developing Capable Young People, by S. Glenn & J. Nelson
  • Boys and Girls Learn Differently: A Guide for Teachers and Parents by Michael Gurian
  • The Wonder of Girls by Michael Gurian
  • The Wonder of Boys by Michael Gurian
  • Second Shelter: Family Strategies for Navigating Therapeutic Boarding Schools and Residential Treatment Centers by R. Haid & E. Donnelly
  • Attachment-Focused Parenting: Effective Strategies to Care for Children by Daniel Hughes
  • The Parent Playbook by Russell Hyken
  • Parenting the Hurt Child: Helping Adoptive Families Heal and Grow by G. Keck & R. Kupecky
  • Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishment to Love and Reason by Alfie Kohn
  • The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids by Madeline Levine
  • How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims
  • Teens in Turmoil: A Path to Change for Parents, Adolescents and their Families by C. Maxym & L. York
  • An Unchanged Mind: The Problem with Immaturity in Adolescence by John McKinnon
  • To Change a Mind: Parenting to Promote Maturity in Teenagers by John McKinnon
  • When Parents Love Too Much: Freeing Parents & Children to Live Their Own Lives by M. Meyerson & L. Ashner
  • The Blessings of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children by Wendy Mogel
  • Blessing of a B Minus: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Resilient Teenagers by Wendy Mogel
  • Positive Discipline for Teenagers: Empowering Teens and Yourself through Kind and Firm Parenting by J. Nelson & L. Lott
  • Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High by K. Patterson
  • Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from Myths of Boyhood by William Pollack
  • College that Change Lives: 40 Schools that Will Change the Way You Think About College by Laren Pope
  • Power and Compassion: Working with Difficult Adolescents and Abused Parents by Jerome Price
  • The Journey of the Heroic Parent: Your Child’s Struggle and the Road Home by Brad Reedy
  • The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids by Alexandra Robbins
  • Raising NLD Superstars: What Families with Nonverbal Learning Disabilities Need to Know About Nurturing Confident, Competent Kids by Marcia Rubinstein
  • Boys Themselves by Michael Ruhlman
  • The Good Enough Child: How to Have an Imperfect Family and Be Perfectly Satisfied by Brad Sachs
  • The Good Enough Teen: Rising Adolescents with Love and Acceptance (Despite How Impossible They can Be) by Brad Sachs
  • Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know about the Emerging Science of Sex Differences by Leonard Sax
  • Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men by Leonard Sax
  • Girls on the Edge by Leonard Sax
  • Parenting Your Out of Control Teenager: 7 Steps to Reestablish Authority and Reclaim Love by Scott Sells
  • Parenting from the Inside Out: 10th Anniversary Edition: How a Self-Understanding Can Help you Raise Children by D.J. Siegel & M. Hartzell
  • Not By Chance Tim Thayne
  • How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough
  • The Parents We Mean to Be: How Well-Intentioned Adults Undermine Children’s Moral and Emotional Development by Richard Weissbourd
  • Parenting Your ADD Child: A No-Nonsense Guide for Nurturing Self-Reliance and Cooperation by Craig Weiner

The Transition from High School to College:

  • For Students:
    • The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College by Harlan Cohen
  • For Parents:
    • Letting Go by Karen Coburn
    • When Your Kids Go To College – A Parent’s Survival Guide by Carol Barkin
    • Almost Grown – Launching Your Child From High School To College by Patricia Pasick
    • Emptying the Nest: Launching Your Young Adult Toward Success and Self-Reliance by Brad Sachs
    • The Naked Roommate: For Parents Only: A Parent’s Guide to the New College Experience by Harlan Cohen

The End of Average

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Todd Rose teaches educational neuroscience at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He’s also the co-founder of The Center for Individual Opportunity, a new organization devoted to “the science of the individual and its implications for education, the workforce, and society.” And, a new book on my to-read list, The End Of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness. 

What’s unique about Todd is his past: he dropped out of high school with D- grades, and at 21, he was trying to support a wife and two sons on welfare and minimum wage jobs. Not your typical path to Harvard, right?

In the book, he argues that absolutely no one is precisely average—and that’s a big problem.

“We’ve come to embrace a way of thinking about ourselves as people that was intentionally designed to ignore all individuality and force everything in reference to an average person.”

Offices of admission, in particular, make life-changing decisions based on averages, which is a horrible way to try to understand an individual. Read more in his interview with NPR here, as well as the book review from the New York Times here.

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