A Cure for Hyper-Parenting Platitudes?

Hyper-parenting landed atop the New York Time's Most Emailed this week. A Cure For Hyper-Parenting worked its way right past the chicken wings boomlet.The general, largely anecdotal parenting article comes from Pamela Druckerman, author of Bringing Up Bébé, now an authority on raising children. I agree with some of her ideas. And yet. There might be a cure for hyper-parenting. Someday. If we could agree what it is. Despite its significant pop-cultural appeal, as an empirical phenomenon it's not particularly well-studied, conceptualized or even defined. 

Who exactly are hyper-parents? 

American. Overwhelmingly. 
Stressed out.
Work-force drop-outs.
Emotionally distant. 
Helicopter parents.
Intensive parents.

All these terms have been slapped on so-called hyper-parents. In academic research it's been assessed in a number of ways too, pinned mostly on mommas, of course. Researcher Holly Schiffrin studies it as a mom meddling too much in her kid's life. No surprise she's found meddling moms and college-aged kids of meddling mommas are depressed. 

I had some issues with the Cure for Hyper-Parenting, mainly figuring out what specifically most of it had to do with hyper-parenting as opposed to regular parenting or how the French, the paragons of parenting, do it. Druckerman lists her solutions for preventing hyper-parenting from getting worse. The list is really her rather random general parenting recommendations (I've paraphrased unless I've used quotes):

1. Teach your kids manners. 

2. Enjoy free-time without your kids.

But I can't summarize the next one because I really don't get it:

3. "Don’t just parent for the future, parent for this evening. Your child probably won’t get into the Ivy League or win a sports scholarship. At age 24, he might be back in his childhood bedroom, in debt, after a mediocre college career. Raise him so that, if that happens, it will still have been worth it. A Dutch father of three told me about his Buddhist-inspired approach: total commitment to the process, total equanimity about the outcome."

Carpe diem?
Chill out?
Live in the moment?
Eat donuts for dinner?
Enjoy watching your kid do homework tonight?
Don't worry about homework tonight (or if you kid does it)?
Don't mention college to your toddler?
Embrace your child's strength and weaknesses?
Lower your expectations? 
Become a Buddhist?

 4. Get enough sleep.

5. Have less stuff and keep it neat because a messy home is stressful.

(Organized, clean, neat spaces make me nervous. I can’t live like that!)

6. "Don't worry about over scheduling your child."

Madeline Levin probably disagrees.

Alvin Rosenfeld, definitely disagrees. See his The Over-scheduled Child: How to Avoid the Hyper-Parenting Trap

There has been plenty of debate over whether kids are over-scheduled, that is, suffering from too many activities.

7. Don’t sweat the perfect work-life balance.

8. Teach emotional intelligence.

9. "Transmit the Nelson Mandela rule: You can get what you want by showing people ordinary respect." 

10. "It really is just a phase. Unbearable 4-year-olds morph into tolerable 8-year-olds." 

In other words...

Well that clears up everything. Now stop it. The hyper-parenting. 


Andrea Riley said...

Been thinking about this article today, too. May rant about it later. In summary I think Americans feel they have to hyper parent because they see what's going on around them and don't want their kids to end up on the losing end of the wage gap, which may not be so obvious for someone who penned this from her Parisian perch where there is more of a safety net. Dunno. I just think if there were better opportunities for kids who aren't college inclined (or even for college grads) like there were decades ago we could afford to be more Zen and process oriented, YKWIM?

Andrea Riley said...

...and I completely missed the point of your post. Looking at the "cure" it seems to have so little to do with the disease... manners? EQ? Keep overscheduling? Wait, what are we talking about? It's 9 and I should put my kid too bed, but angry birds... isn't a better cure sheer laziness? (Maybe not but I do enjoy it).

Polly Palumbo, Ph.D. said...

Correction: 11. Get lazy!

Hey Andrea!

I guess Bébé's mom mentions the French safety net. Of course economists focus on the economy or income inequality, but surely there are many factors that drive this thing, or the many things we call hyper-parenting. It's certainly become a placeholder for so much of what parents are supposedly doing wrong.