Last week Friday, Madeline Levine, renowned author and psychologist on parenting adolescents, spoke to a crowd of 500 parents and educators in the auditorium at Davis High School in Davis. Dubbed as “An evening with Madeline Levine,” who authored The Price of Privilege and recently published Teach Your Children Well, the event was organized by Davis Parent University, a cooperative of citizens who rally community resources to help parents deal with the issues facing children and families today.
“When it comes to raising our children, we parents have such a narrow definition of success,” Levine said in her opening remarks, “And we are anxious about getting it right.”
This is the premise of her book, Teach Your Children Well, which explores how a narrow definition of success stresses out kids who are academically gifted and marginalizes those who have other talents that are not easily measured - and what to do about it.
Levine shared anecdotes from her practice to illustrate why parents may want to reevaluate their own personal motivation associated with their child’s performance in school and future career.
“You can’t raise children from your smart phone,” Levine emphasizes as she recites examples of adolescents tethered to parents via mobile phone and depend upon mom or dad for basics, such as what class is next on their new schedule.
According to Levine, we are nervous because it is a terrible economy and we fear that our children will grow up and not be employable. So we focus on the wrong things; we micromanage the things children can do for themselves, and we hyper-focus on short term (academics) and ignore the big picture of lifespan outcomes.
Levine cautions that depression is epidemic among youth because in the process of being micromanaged the kids are not experiencing their own capacity to cope with circumstances, events and challenges. After all, when parents are available by remote via smart phones, children can be easily conditioned to consult mom or dad for things they are actually equipped to handle themselves.
Herein lays the crux of the matter.
Kids who are micromanaged into adulthood don’t make good employees. “U.S. children are entitled. They need constant direction and reassurance,” she said.
Levine left the audience with some suggestions.
- Don’t put your issues on your children. Praise progress tied to their effort not achievement. When your child achieves something, then congratulate her, but do not tie it to parental pride.
- Stop “over parenting”. Don’t do what your children are capable of doing for themselves; don’t do what your child can “almost do”. Remember that teenagers can think like you. They just don’t have the experience or judgment yet and they won’t get it if you keep doing it for them.
- Peer support. The Parent University model of the Davis community is an excellent example of how to begin to create a culture where parents support one another to break the bond of fear.
- Make adulthood look attractive. Make your life satisfying. As one child put it, “Please help my mom get another hobby besides me.”
- Banana Moments: Help for Parenting in the Network Culture
- The Authority In Me: Parental authority in the network culture
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