Parenting Advice: Let’s Just Chill

This past week or so I’ve been bombarded by parenting advice and analysis – Maybe if you are on Facebook, you saw this article:


If you missed it, here’s a summary: “A recent study has shown that if American parents read one more long-form think piece about parenting they will go fucking ape shit.” 30127406.html

Now that we’re all fed up with snow forcing way too much family-togetherness,  everyone has an opinion about our parenting styles – what we do wrong, what we do right (mostly what we do wrong.)    Let’s take a sampling:  

Don’t Help Your Kids With Their Homework
And other insights from a ground- breaking study of how parents impact children’s academic achievement, by Dana Goldstein


Because guess what?  It doesn’t make any difference in their long-term performance and success.

Then there’s this one that analyzes what we’ve been told a million times already:  Helicopter parenting isn’t good for anyone.  Our kids need to take risks, get out there, be unsupervised.  Good thing none of US are helicoptering around!  This from the article by Hanna Rosin, “Why not just leave our kids alone.”


And then this one, by Christine Doran, reminding us to let our kids explore the great outdoors:

Don’t get me wrong – I love reading (skimming) these articles.  What I don’t love is how easily I feel condemned, or like it’s already too late for me, since my kids are now 14 & 16.  But then I realized: “tried and true” practices of parenting change every decade, if not more often.  Believe it or not, our grandparents made it through their childhood.  Remarkably, people have been parenting in all sorts of different ways and homo sapiens sapiens haven’t died out yet.  Chances are your kids – and mine – no matter what we’ve done right (letting them play unsupervised football in the neighborhood for hours – yay me!) and what we’ve done wrong (let my daughter hang in her room, unsupervised, for hours and hours on-line with her phone and my computer – boo) our kids are going to make it.  In spite of our anxiety they won’t play the right sports or instrument or learn a second language or make the right friends or go to the right preschool or get high enough SATs to get into a competitive college to have a successful career.  Research shows that’s not what the current batch of 18 – 35 year olds want, anyway, and no one knows what it will take to be successful in this brave new world.  No one ever does, and it’s always a brave new world.  

In 1899, parenting expert Granville Stanley Hall suggested, “We need less sentimentality and more spanking.”  When we shifted from nannies to mothers, women were warned not to “coddle.”  Then 1930s permissiveness shifted to the “self-sacrificing, indulgent TV mothers of the 1950’s” followed by the benign neglect of the ’60s.  (From Brigid Schulte’s book “Overwhelmed.”) 

Now look at us:  North American parents spend not only more time at work, but more hours in hands-on parenting than most any other era or country.  

So, when these articles get you feeling bad about what you have or have not done, take heart.  Next year, there will be different advice.  But here’s some advice for right now:  Don’t parent out of fear or anxiety.  What values have staying power?  In our house, the mantra is, “Be kind.”  Find what your family’s motto is, keep it short and simple, and stay true to that.  Don’t worry about the best GPA, academic success, travel team, college acceptance.  What really matters now and for every tomorrow?  For me, it’s “Be kind.”  What is it for you?