by Bernie Noe, head of school
It is a complex and even confusing time to be parents and guardians, whether your children are three years old or 16! Should you be a helicopter parent, hovering around your children and orchestrating the most significant aspects of their lives; or a laissez-faire parent, letting your children make their own choices and mistakes and learn from them? Does social media help your child maintain friendships and build community; or is it a waste of time that weakens their ability to focus? What is good and bad stress for your student, and how do you know the difference when you see it? Does your child really need to go to a highly selective college to live a happy life? (To the latter, the answer is a definite no, but many will not believe it.)
It indeed takes a village to raise a healthy and centered child, and today’s village is populated by a host of experts who have advice, often conflicting, on every contemporary educational issue. Just recently — and contrary to all previous articles — I read my first article on why helicopter parenting is good for your child. There is a constant stream of advice coming to all of us from online forums, newspaper and magazine articles, parenting books, expert speakers, and consultants. It can be challenging to know whom to listen to and what to believe.
Lakeside was evaluated this year by the Northwest Association of Independent Schools and the visiting team’s number one commendation was for “…the wraparound student and family support at Lakeside School that is thoughtful, comprehensive, ever-evolving, and, frankly, stunning.” Having lived in the Lakeside village for 20 years now, and being one of the village elders, I add my voice to the mix regarding what is best for Lakeside students and children of Lakeside alumni.
First, helicopter parenting is not good. Some recent research indicates that it can lead to higher standardized test scores, but students are not the sum of their test scores. They are so much more than those numbers, and if we manage all, or most, of the important details of their lives, they will never develop resilience, a growth mindset, or independence of thought and action. Life and work in 2050 will require resilient, flexible, adaptive problem solvers who know how to work collaboratively. Helicopter parenting will not get children ready for that world!
Second, for parents and guardians there is no shortcut for spending time with their students. Parents and guardians just need to be there when students have something they want to share, and it’s good to have built up a track record of open-minded listening. This sharing may be infrequent, especially for parents of boys, but is critically important when it happens. It is important for students to be grounded in their families, as well as in school and their social life. I realize that as adults we are very busy with work and life, and that family life varies considerably from family to family, but in my observation, there is no substitute for adults’ hours logged with students.
Third, parents, guardians, and schools need to continue to encourage a growth mindset in students rather than a fixed one. We all need to continue to praise effort, not outcome. Praising effort leads students to believe they can and should improve, regardless of how challenging they find a task. A growth mindset is important now and will be even more important in the world of the future, where, according to a recent McKinsey study, half the jobs our students and your children will hold have not yet been created.
And finally, and most important, we all need to continue to stress that living a life of integrity is more important than any other kind of success in life. We want to graduate students who will view it as their responsibility to make the world a better place for others, not to use their considerable talents merely to make their own lives interesting and prosperous.
We all need to stress, both at home and at school, that doing the right thing in all circumstances is the most important task.