Parenting Thought

Parenting Thought October 15, 2012

From Brink Lindsey: (At the link you can read the whole article).

Today’s hyperventilating “helicopter parents” are comic fish in a barrel. Playing Mozart to their babies in utero and dangling Baby Einstein gewgaws over their bassinets. Obsessing over peanut allergies, turning school science fairs into arms races of one-upmanship, and hiring batteries of private tutors to eke out another 10 points on the SAT. When we stop giggling, it’s only to cluck with disapproval….

Well-educated parents of means these days do have their own distinctive way of messing things up. And so it’s entirely appropriate for those of us in this group to mock and admonish ourselves into lightening up a bit. Yet when we extend our gaze beyond the relatively narrow confines of college-educated parents and their college-bound kids, things look very different.

Examining American society as a whole and the role of family life in shaping that society, a good case can be made that the main problem with helicopter parents is that there aren’t nearly enough of them….

The deliberate practice that is going on constantly in well-educated homes extends beyond purely intellectual pursuits. As they march their kids through the weekly gauntlet of organized activities, the practitioners of concerted cultivation are drilling their kids in a host of skills critical to academic and economic success. Skills like managing one’s time by making and keeping schedules, getting along with other people from different backgrounds on the basis of common interests, and deferring gratification in order to maximize rewards down the road. All of these, as well as fluency in the three Rs, are vital components of “human capital” – economist-speak for economically valuable skills.

So by all means, keep making fun of helicopter parents. The delusion that drives them off the deep end — that, with enough exertion and planning, the crooked timber of their little ones can be lathed to perfection – is, after all, risible. But keep in mind that the excesses of concerted cultivation are of little account when compared to the deficits that now afflict so many homes. Those deficits are a major factor behind some of the thorniest problems in American society today, from multi-generational poverty and mediocre and worse schools to stagnant wages for large segments of the workforce. Policymakers tasked with addressing these problems face the daunting challenge of designing bureaucratic substitutes for the hovering, loving harassment supplied by Mom and Dad. A tall order, indeed.

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