Stanford Radio just aired this interview with former dean of freshmen and author Julie Lythcott-Haims on the dangers of overparenting and how to avoid that behavior. But she also takes the time to acknowledge that the overparenting phenomenon is present primarily in upper middle class families with parents who have disposable time and money and can invest resources to direct and manage their kids’ lives. A working class family holding down multiple jobs doesn’t have the same amount of time and money to invest in what she calls “cultivation of childhood.”
So what did she notice in both groups of kids when they arrived at Stanford? This portion starts about 28 minutes in:
“…as dean, I saw first-gen kids, kids from working class or poor backgrounds, come to this campus with such a sense of self. When they had a problem, they would say, ‘How am I going to handle it?’ They would come to me for advice. But they spoke with a strong letter I. I’m going to try this and I’m going to try that. I’ll come back and see you and follow up. Whereas their more affluent counterparts were more likely to text their parent and expect their parent to jump in and handle the problem, whatever it was. So they [under-resourced kids] basically came to campus…with an extra tray in their toolkit.”
If you’re a parent who isn’t able to spend time and money to shadow, cultivate, and orchestrate every moment of your kids’ lives, you can take some pride and comfort in the fact that you’re likely helping them learn some of the important skills they’ll need to be successful as young adults.
And parents with time and money to invest should be proud and appreciative of the life you’re creating for your family. But remember that if you can step back and embrace the opportunities for your kids to find their own way, to make and learn from their mistakes, and to manage their own challenges, you’ll be helping them add a tray to their toolkit, one that money can’t buy.