Sunday, September 17, 2017

On Overparenting

I am a huge fan of MindShift, a project from KQED.  "MindShift explores the future of learning in all dimensions," and is a part of the public radio family in Northern California.  This summer, I discovered they put out a weekly podcast, and immediately subscribed.  This week's installment spoke to me as a Superintendent, and as a parent.

It started with a former Stanford Dean, Julie Lythcott-Haims (@DeanJulie) describing what she saw in her role as freshmen dean at one of the most prestigious schools in the United States.  It was staggering to hear some of the stories Dean Julie told - parental involvement in roommate situations, in academic situations, in decisions that should ostensibly be made by or handled by college students were full of parental involvement.  In some cases, over-involvement.

As I reflected on my professional practice, I can note a rise in parental involvement, and in come cases, over-involvement since I began teaching in 1996.  There will always be a need for parents to be in contact with teachers and leaders of schools and districts.  But the question is when is it too much?  It's a fine line and one that needs careful reflection and thought before being answered.

One of the most compelling parts of the podcast was the honesty of Dean Julie.  She noted that as she was aware of the college students at Stanford who lacked self-efficacy, she herself was struggling with over-parenting her own children.  Dean Julie remembered specifically a moment when she was cutting her own child's meat, and it made her pause.  It reminded me of a post that I wrote last year about cutting my own child's French Toast.

There was freedom in that honesty - coming from someone who was in a position of asking parents of college students to step back - and then noting that own tendency in herself.  While I am not a Dean at Stanford, I feel the tension that Dean Julie speaks of.  I feel myself wanting parents in Montpelier Public Schools to step back at times and allow their children to fail more and I do not always consistently allow for that in my own parenting.

Life is about mistakes - making them, learning from them, and doing everything we can do not to repeat them.  Just this week, we learned about a mistake made printing the professional soccer jerseys in Montpellier, France.  As a result of that misprint, we will be receiving those jerseys in Montpelier, VT, for our own soccer players.

All MPS children need the age-appropriate freedom to make mistakes, at times free from the watchful eyes of their parents.  The two Ricca children need the same age-appropriate freedom.  I'll promise to be vigilant for your children's freedom.  Will you do the same for me?

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