A New Approach for Parents? Help Your Child Be Happy, Not Just Successful

What if overeager parents took a step back from pushing their kids toward good colleges?

At least one impassioned mother thinks it’s time to re-envision how we parent our children.

Catherine Pearlman, writing for The Huffington Post, boldly states that she’s not at all interested in which colleges her children end up at. Instead of pushing her kids into the extracurricular activities and volunteering that could get them a ticket to an Ivy League, she says she’s more interested in allowing her children to explore their own pathway and the world around them, and in nurturing family time together.

Pearlman knows that she’s in the minority when it comes to the expectations of middle- and upper-middle-class parents. Indeed, a recent Atlantic article asks the question: Why do affluent parents put so much pressure on their kids? Youth from affluent families are showing signs of depression, anxiety, and delinquency at much higher rates than average, and researchers hypothesize that high-pressure home and school environments could be part of the problem.

But the article also warns that parents aren’t the only ones to blame. The very American economy is set up to lift up individuals educated at elite college and universities. And this knowledge entices highly educated parents to instill competitive qualities in their kids to help them get ahead. If our society didn’t have the issue of a shrinking middle class, parents might put less pressure on their kids to perform at such a young age in ways that will get them into the best schools.

Still, could we push the envelope even further? In Pearlman’s article, she still assumes that her kids will go to college, even if not immediately after high school, perhaps taking time off to travel or find themselves first. Would parents be able to also embrace a kid who isn’t even interested in going to university? Perhaps a child goes to a technical high school and decides that she just wants to be a welder for the rest of her life. Can we accept when children’s choices don’t put them on a pathway to be as “successful” as their parents, at least when it comes to monetary benchmarks or societal status?

For upper-middle-class parents who have achieved the American Dream, maybe the next step in life isn’t passing their same goals down to the future generation. Maybe it’s about helping their children cultivate true joy and peace with themselves exactly as they are.

Image Credit: XiXinXing/Shutterstock


Stefani is a writer and urban planner based in Oakland, CA. She holds a master’s in City and Regional Planning from UC Berkeley and a bachelor’s in Human Biology from Stanford University. In her free time, she is often found reading diverse literature, writing stories, or enjoying the outdoors. Follow her on Twitter:@stefanicox

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