With school now begun all over the country, parents are gearing up for another round of “My student must excel.” This goes beyond the desire all of us have to see our children do the best they can with the skills and abilities God has given them. Many parents are sure that if they just help their child to succeed in school (elementary to high school), their child will attend the right college and find the right job.
However, the “right” college degree that doesn’t guarantee the “right” job. Today’s sad truth is that more Millennials—the current generation of college graduates—are living at home with pricey college degrees without work entirely or without a job in their chosen field of study.
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In a Washington Post opinion piece published this summer, Robert J. Samuelson wrote about this newish phenomenon of graduates, but his focus was on how the parents of these Milliennials felt about having their sons and daughters boomeranging home after graduating from university. He wrote about how baffled these parents are, especially given that “as parents, our sense of self-worth depends heavily on the success and happiness of our children.”
The problem with that mindset, that our parental self-worth is closely tied to our children’s success and happiness, is that it doesn’t make anyone happy or successful. That sense that our self-worth as parents depends on the success of our children drives our parenting decisions of today. But what many parents miss is that tie-in makes it more about the parent than the child, more about appearances than about character, more about the superficial than the ever-lasting.
The expectations we place on children from kindergarten (my child must be reading before entering kindergarten or he’ll be behind!) to high school (my child must take advanced classes or she’ll not get into the college she wants to attend!) form the basis for our own parental happiness and our children’s success, or so we think. What I would posit is that we need to return to a time not so long ago when parents realized that school success—or lack of success—wasn’t a reflection of their parenting but a picture of how their children choose to use the gifts and abilities they have. Some kids will squander their talents while others will soar to the heights. Most will scamper along in the middle, which should be perfectly acceptable to us and to them as long as they are not sliding along but doing their best.
So let’s all scale back on our scholastic expectations for our children and become more relaxed about the beginning of the school year. By not acting like the world will collapse if our children are not at the top of their class or taking all the accelerated courses possible, all of us should enjoy the academic year a lot more—and possibly have more fun, too.
Until next time,