This weekend, I offered my son a trip to Toys R Us if he played more aggressive defense in his flag football game. Shame on me. He just wants to have fun on the field. I just want him to try hard and do well. I, like most parents today, want my son to be great at something. I want scholarships for him, awards, recognition...
We are all so busy, working longer hours, tethered to our laptops and PDA's. Not enough hours in the day. Yet, as an article in the Weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal notes, we are making time for intense highly involved parenting to turn our offspring into prodigies.
The WSJ article highlights Josh and Zach Martin who were 6 and 8 when they began a series of focused practices, lessons and games aiming to become the two best young golfers living under the same roof. The boys, now 11 and 13, play as many as five rounds each week and have scads of trophies. Their father says he forced his kids to concentrate on a single sport and gave them top instruction. Dad and mom devote hours of their time to taking their kids to tournaments and keeping calculations. Can we blame them for being obsessed with turning their kids into the next Tiger Woods?
Apparently, parental involvement, or over-involvement, in the minutiae of our children's lives is as widespread as it has ever been. Why this trend? The journal says it is because today's families are smaller and parent have greater resources that they are putting into raising exceptional children. "Working parents have dealt with their limited family time, and their guilt about leaving their kids at home, by being more intensely involved when they are with their kids," psychologists say.
An article in Money Magazine says, " for most of us, pushing our kids even a little reflects terrible anxiety about our children's future. We fear that if they are not among the few big winners in society they will end up with the many losers. The job for parents--some seem to think--is making sure their kids wind up in that ever-elusive winner's circle. So they press their children hard to cultivate their native talents and shape every childhood activity toward some immediately tangible success."
I see parents making great financial and time sacrifices for their children -- running them to practices or recital halls before the start of the work day or late into the evenings. For many parents, this is what it means to balance work and family.
Before I get caught up in it, I have to step back and ask: Are parents simply steering our kids in the right direction, encouraging them to be their best because we know the great rewards it can bring them? Is this the best use of our time? Or have highly involved parents gone too far, turning hobbies into anxiety-producing obsessions?