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How Parenting Became a Blood Sport

March 23, 2013, 12:00 AM
Blood_sport2

When we think of the problem of over-parenting, we often mistakenly link it to wealthy people. The problem is much more pervasive than that, says the psychologist Madeline Levine, author of Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success. Levine says that kids from all backgrounds and at all educational levels are dealing with immense school pressure, or "the idea that you have to be an excellent student to do well."

In other words, students are told their lives will be determined by how well they perform in school, and by which school they go to, even though research tells a different story. 

So where is this myth coming from? Parents aren't simply making it up. As Levine points out, there is a multi-billion dollar tutoring industry that is pushing this myth really hard. The corresponding myth that helps the College Board sell its products is that "every child has to be special."

"Are our kids incredibly special?" Levine asks. "Absolutely, in deep and profound ways." However, the simple reality is that "most of us are average, too." Most of our kids don't get straight As and don't belong in Ivy League schools. That doesn't mean they aren't good at other things, and that certainly doesn't mean they won't succeed in life. 

And yet, the myth persists, and parents subject their children to tremendous pressure to succeed in a very narrowly defined way. "We sort of lionize a small group of our kids and push these other kids out to the margins," Levine says. And in doing so, we "miss tremendous opportunities for them to become major contributors to our society."

Watch the video here:

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

More from the Big Idea for Saturday, March 23 2013

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