Pressure, a follow-up

9 Sep

Last week’s post generated a fair amount of reaction from readers who either commented publicly on the blog or privately by email.  Thank you all for your responses and know that I appreciate them and please keep them coming.  Many encouraged me to have a follow-up conversation with my daughter when the chance came up again; some reminded me that silence can be golden.  An experienced parent noted that this will be an on-going dialogue.

A friend, M, who recently shepherded her son through his college admissions and is about to do it again with her daughter, wrote the following observation:

“Going through this process again, I can tell you that the pressure they feel this year will not only come from their peers, but most of all from parents.  Parents seem to measure how successful they’ve been by what schools their child gets into and eventually goes to.”

The uncomfortable truth of her statement pierces me.

It’s too easy to believe that my child’s success reflects well on me.  I remember my mother telling me as a youngster to behave lest it made my parents look bad.  This method of using shame to control behavior (popular in the Chinese culture) worked; the idea of bringing embarrassment to my parents held my childish shenanigans in check.  And the converse also worked – years later my aspirations to attend an Ivy League school was fueled in part by a desire to bring pride and honor to my parents, to give them bragging rights.

M continues:

“I think it’s how you respond and treat this process, how you come to accept your child’s grades, . . . their SAT scores and how you help them through it will determine how difficult this year is for them.  They are taking cues from us and as parents we have to help our children see that . . . if they’re less than perfect, it really is ok.  Our success in raising our children is not in the college sticker people post on their car window, but how we raise our kids to be happy, independent, kind and decent people.”

I’m grateful to friends who can keep me honest through this process.

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2 Responses to “Pressure, a follow-up”

  1. Sue September 9, 2010 at 11:36 AM #

    M shares words of wisdom indeed. A good reminder for us all. With my oldest now entering middle school, my goal for him is not perfection, but challenging him to reach his full potential, using the talents, skills and knowledge he has to the best of his ability.

  2. Rufus September 14, 2010 at 11:52 AM #

    Kudos to “M” on some very sage advise. It should not be pride a parent might experience due to their son or daughter attending a specific college, but rather in what their child takes away from what ever college he/she attends that truly matters. Not all students will make it into one of “The Big Ten” or an “Ivy League” college. Competition is fierce and there are only a relatively limited number of spots available. Take pride in the fact that your child has had the tenacity and dedication – usually with your plentiful guidance & support – to realize your shared goal of finally becoming a college student, and take it from there.

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