Our kids need us to get out of the way

When my son started a job in New York this summer, a manager told all of the new hires: Call your parents regularly — otherwise they will call us to check on you.

We laughed about it. I can’t imagine my parents calling my boss when I was a young adult in the 1990s, and I would never do it to my sons now. The fact that corporate managers even have to say this is completely bizarre to me.

Last week, I relayed that story to some folks who work in college admissions and counseling, and they were unfazed. One of them told me that some elite corporations are now running parent orientations during recruiting season — to keep parents out of the actual interviews.

How have we come to this? And where will it end?

I know a lot has been written about helicopter parenting, probably too much, but we really need to focus on solutions if we’re going to produce competent young adults.

Schools and teachers bear some of the responsibility here. We tell parents: Be involved, be involved, be involved! “Involved” is good, but at some point in a child’s education, we need to shift our focus from the parents to the students.

It’s fine to contact parents of elementary and middle school students to discuss how their children are doing, but when a high school-aged student, particularly a 17- or 18-year-old, is struggling, we need to talk straight to the source: the student.

When we have parent conferences to address the performance of juniors and seniors, they should be present. Why are we talking about near-adults rather than talking to them?

When parents email me now to ask questions about assignments, I ask them to please have their child contact me directly. Isn’t it more likely directions will be confusing if relayed through a middleman? (Think of the game “telephone” we played as kids.)

In the name of doing what’s best for kids, we are undermining young Americans’ ability to develop confidence, resourcefulness and even resilience. Yes, there are exceptions and emergencies — young people who are dealing with chronic physical and mental illnesses — but most kids just need us to get out of the way and let them grow up.

That way, when they are 20-somethings, they’ll not only be able to manage their own job search, but they’ll be mature enough to remember to call their parents.

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