I have three children, one in college, one in high school, and one in elementary school. I am on a parent’s Facebook page for my daughter’s university which was created by parents years ago and now has over 2K followers.
I look to it occasionally with a question about housing, financial aid, or parents’ weekend – basic information. Some parents use it to post something funny their kids said or experienced or to brag (and I don’t mean that negatively) about something wonderful their child did. I read most of the posts and respond if I can answer the question of another parent – you know because I’m an expert now being the parent of a sophomore.
There are things that I see posted on this parent Facebook page that blow my mind though. For instance, a parent posted something similar to the following this morning:
Yesterday, my daughter went to her biology lab. She had forgotten her protective goggles and the professor told her to leave in front of everyone! She was very embarrassed and I don’t think it was fair or justified. Do you think this was right? Do you think I should contact someone to report this professor’s behavior or do you think I should contact the professor directly? Do you think she should drop the class?
Let me just provide a few comments regarding this mother’s post before I go too far. I am willing to bet money that the professor made the requirements for this class known. I am also willing to bet the professor clearly stipulated that students would need to be prepared with certain materials and likely even explained the consequences for not being properly prepared. So, let’s examine what really happened here in very basic terms-
Little (18+ year-old) Suzie went to biology lab without her protective goggles. Her professor had, as all professors at this level do, filled the syllabus with all sorts of very important information including what materials were required. When Suzie had no protective goggles to put on, her professor told her to leave.
Was it embarrassing? You betcha! Will little Suzie ever forget her goggles again? I would highly doubt it. Will little Suzie be more prepared for all of her classes in the future? I can almost guarantee that Suzie will be much more thorough when reading the class syllabus to prepare for future classes. What should this mother do? Well, (warning-sarcasm approaching) what she should really do is send the professor a card thanking him for teaching her daughter the lesson of responsibility and accountability she should have taught her long ago.
Where did this mother go wrong? Unfortunately for this mother, you would have to rewind long passed this event to find out. Below are scenarios that I have witnessed in my 19 years of parenting that would lead to a similar event.
Little Suzie’s mom was told by the preschool teacher that Suzie had hit another child and had to sit in “time-out.” In response, Suzie’s mom made excuses for her daughter, reported what the other child had done to "make" Suzie hit her, thought the teacher was mean, spoke to the director about the “mean” teacher, spoke to other parents about the “mean” teacher in front of her daughter, asked for her daughter to be switched to another class, or pulled her out of the preschool altogether.
Flash forward to elementary school…
Little Suzie is assigned a project requiring her to make a poster about her family. Days pass and the project doesn’t get started despite the upcoming due date and reminders from mom. It is now the day before the project is due but Suzie has dance class and they had planned to meet friends for dinner. Little Suzie goes to her dance class and enjoys the planned dinner. She is bathed and tucked warmly into bed at 8:30 PM. Mom, in turn, stays up until midnight printing pictures and making the most beautiful poster that would be turned in the next day.
Flash forward to that dance class I mentioned…
Little Suzie’s dance teacher is giving out solos for the upcoming performance. Among 10 ballerinas, 3 are chosen for solos and Suzie is not one of them. When climbing into the car, Suzie begins to cry about not being chosen for a solo. Mom consoles Suzie agreeing how unfair it is. Suzie’s mom calls the dance school director from the car complaining and requesting information about how the selections were made. At dinner, with Suzie sitting next to her, mom proceeds to tell the story to their friends and adds how much better of a dancer Suzie is than the girls whowere chosen. She concludes with a huff that it’s favoritism. Suzie’s mom switches her daughter to a new dance school.
Flash forward to middle school…
Mom gets a panicked text from little Suzie shortly after being dropped off at school that she forgot her PE clothes. Mom is late to work because she is searching Suzie’s very messy room for the missing PE clothes and racing them up to school so Suzie doesn’t have to face a zero for the day in PE.
Flash forward to high school…
Suzie is very busy shopping for the most perfect dress for the upcoming homecoming dance. Every day after school, Suzie is exhaustively searching for dresses and shoes online and in stores, bookmarking hairstyles, and setting up appointments to get her hair, nails, and make-up done. The event is Saturday night and Suzie has a big math test on Monday. She reports this to mom who is exacerbated that a teacher would schedule a test for the Monday after homecoming.
Mom writes an email to the teacher expressing her frustration that a teacher wouldn’t be more thoughtful in realizing that the weekend would be dedicated to homecoming events. Getting an unsatisfying response from the teacher, Suzie’s mom lets her stay home from school on Monday to avoid having to take the test and giving her extra time to prepare. Suzie goes to school on Tuesday, and despite everyone else having studied and completed the test the day before, Suzie is allowed to take the test a day late with no penalty because she says she was “sick” and her mother wrote a note to this end.
Finally, flash forward to college and reread the story about little Suzie forgetting her lab goggles. This situation makes perfect sense now.
My background is in education, particularly child-development. I have taught public school and was a preschool director for a long time. I’ve experienced many “Suzie mommies” in my time both professionally and personally. I've seen the process and the outcome of the way Suzie was parented.
We are obligated as parents to prepare our children to survive without us. I get it, I’m a parent – our instinct is to want to protect our child from pain, rejection, and disappointment. But, what are we really accomplishing when we do this? We are raising children/adults who are insecure and unable to deal with the obstacles they WILL have to face eventually.
If we don’t deal with rejection, we can never truly find pride in being chosen. If we never experience sadness or disappointment from failure, we can never really find joy in success. If we never have to long for something, how can we ever appreciate what we have? If we are rewarded for doing nothing, how do we gain the drive and motivation to do something that doesn’t provide instant gratification? If we are protected from criticism, how do we learn to better ourselves? If we are never allowed to lose, winning has no meaning. If we are taught that accomplishments are always rewarded with praise from others, where will we learn to be productive no matter what environment we find ourselves in? If we are never required to work hard and work even harder when we don’t achieve our goals, we learn to give up in the face of adversity.
I can guarantee you (I searched Facebook to make sure), there is no “Parents of Google Employees” page where moms and dads are complaining about their children’s mean bosses, harsh deadlines, and unfairness in the workplace. Protecting our children in this manner is crippling them in the long run. You cannot run interference for your child for the rest of her life. Provide her with the skills and experiences needed to survive successfully on her own in the real world.
While a high school teacher might entertain your complaints and even fold to your demands, a college professor WILL NOT. College professors do not want to hear from parents via email, phone, or any other method. Legally, your child’s college and its employees cannot even speak to you unless your child expressively gives permission because they are over the age of 18.
They are called, “life lessons” because we learn them throughout our lives. They are not called, “lessons I'll teach you after you go away to college” because that simply does not work.