Friday, September 14, 2012

Parenting Tips: Don't Rescue Your Kids

by Deborah Pace Rowley

Over a year ago I read the book Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Our Technology and Less From Each Other. Many of the ideas and concepts in this great book have stayed with me and I was reminded of it again when I took my second daughter to her college orientation. The new freshmen were led off in one direction for a campus tour while the anxious parents were left in the auditorium for a presentation by the dean of student life. 

The presentation lasted about an hour but the main thing that I learned can be summed up in 4 words: Don’t Rescue Your Kids. Both the book and the college presentation emphasized the changing dynamic of parent and child relationships as a result of the cell phone. 

Prior to this current generation of kids who regularly walk around with cell phones, young people went through a similar rite of passage. This rite of passage often involved being “grown up” enough to take a bus ride across town to see a movie or get an ice cream cone. The child was essentially on his or her own and had to be resilient enough to solve any problem that arose.  Not so today. Today kids are always tethered. Their parents are always a phone call away and are usually too quick to swoop in and solve any potential problems for the child. Kids today do not learn to solve their own problems or figure out things on their own. 

This is even true for college students. In the past, new freshman called home on a dorm phone once a week. Now parents expect to hear from their child daily and often try to fix everything that goes wrong for their homesick and nervous student from a distance. 

Imagine my horror when I learned that my oldest daughter was recently “lost” and separated from her group in Shanghi, China for 4 hours on her college travel study trip. She didn’t have a cell phone, she didn’t speak the language and she wasn’t completely sure where she was or where her group should be. (Lucky I didn’t know until two weeks later when said daughter was safely home!) 

Needless to say, Mom wasn’t able to rescue her but it turns out she did a magnificent job of rescuing herself on her own. She didn’t panic, she figured out the subway system and was reunited with her group before any lasting damage was done. 

I say “lasting damage” but actually a tremendous amount of good came from this experience. In the few months since this happened, this same daughter has drawn on the experience several times. She has said to herself, “If I can handle being lost in China, I can handle this. No big deal.” 

She has gained so much confidence and courage from facing her China crisis. I hope I will remember this and give my other children the opportunity to solve problems on their own.   

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1 comment:

  1. this is a really good point. I have started to wonder how i ever made any arrangements before i had a mobile phone. It didn't occur to me that the same applies to our children. Great post, I'm pining this to our Sunday Parenting Party board. Thanks


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