Do you envision your child going to college someday—whether that’s very soon or years from now?
The recent headlines about celebrities and their shady shenanigans to get their kids admitted to their colleges of choice brought to mind this article from a few years back written by Michelle Rose Gilman, who is founder and leader of a private school in California. She has some pointed words for parents, even saying that getting your kids into college should be the least of your concerns.
Preparing kids for college gets such a huge emphasis these days, and not just from wealthy parents. Some of that is good because education is very important, and it’s vital that we dads are involved in that area of our kids’ lives. But for many parents, getting their child into a great college becomes their highest goal; that’s how they measure their success as parents.
And so this drives many of these parents’ decisions throughout their children’s youth. It often starts with good intentions and is probably motivated by love. They want “the best” for their child: the best teachers, coaches, summer camps and music instructors. Then maybe they start pushing their children into advanced classes, student leadership roles and competitive sports, even when a child isn’t naturally gifted or passionate about that. Sometimes they’ll micromanage their kids’ school projects and homework assignments to make sure report cards and aspects of their college resumes are exemplary.
Once again: education, student leadership, drama, debate, music and sports can all be positive pursuits. But in some situations you start to wonder:
Is this really about the parents’ goals and interests, or the child’s?
It’s easy to lose that perspective sometimes.
Getting accepted into a certain college doesn’t make a young person successful, and the pressure to get there can bring about other problems along the way.
Ms. Gilman offers 7 questions to ask ourselves, which really reveal more about our parenting focus than our child’s test scores or what college they attend. Take these to heart:
- Does your child have compassion?
- Does your child have a healthy dose of curiosity?
- Is he resourceful and independent?
- Is she happy with who she is?
- Can your child creatively solve problems?
- Is she passionate about something?
- Can your child sit with himself and enjoy his own company?
And maybe we could add a few:
- Is your child developing positive spiritual disciplines?
- Can he or she see needs in other people and respond selflessly to help?
What others would you add … ?
Bottom line, our children need to find their own way in the world—whether they go to college or choose another path. As fathers, there’s a lot we can do to help that process, but we have to make sure we aren’t placing pressure on our kids to achieve at a certain level or follow our desired path for their lives. There has to be a balance between letting kids be kids and preparing them to be responsible, productive adults.
Yes, we do need to be highly involved in our children’s lives. We just have to make sure we’re really helping them prepare for life, not just college.
How are you preparing your kids for college and life? As always, you can connect with us and other dads on a wide range of topics on our Facebook page.