Watchful Eye

Caitlin Flanagan has a great column about the importance of parental watchfulness on teens:

I am amazed at a strange hole in the safety net of contemporary parenting that seems to gape wider and wider each year. Today’s parents will chopper into school if they think their child has been given an unfair grade on a quiz; they will spend hours manipulating coaches to re-jigger the roster of an all-star team if their kid has been passed over; and they will take over simple school fundraisers – like wrapping paper sales and car washes – that are supposed to be the teenagers’ responsibility. In other words, they build a firewall between their children and all of the old disappointments and aggravations that are meant to prepare them for the big league disappointments and aggravations that are the stuff of adult life. But then when it comes to teenage drinking, to teenager partying in general – when it comes to the kinds of experiences in which kids can get into a huge amount of very real trouble, parents suddenly disappear into the wallpaper.

Easier said than done, as any parent can attest, but crucial nonetheless.

4 thoughts on “Watchful Eye”

  1. It’s a little sad that one phone call to that residence would have confirmed that there were no parents around.

  2. She seems a little naive. Yes, some parents go too far in interfering at school and with sports. However, she is awfully confused if she believes teen drinking is something new. I assume I’m at least ten years older than her and kids were definitely drinking when I was in school and I’m sure there were some who drank to excess and some who drowned in their vomit back then. We are a country of three hundred million people. Just to be clear that is a whole lot of people. To hear of two teen drinking deaths is not incredibly surprising. No doubt, those deaths were tragedies to their families and friends. However, two out of the tens of millions of high school kids is hardly a trend or a sign of any change in parental oversight. Parents may be less vigilant now a days, but the anecdotal evidence she provides tells us nothing.

  3. I agree with Crank on this. There is far too little willingness to let children experience the consequences of their actions when they are young and the consequences are not too significant. Then, when the child/teen does something for which the consequences are high, it is almost impossible for a parent not to step in and try to protect the child.
    I really think a lot of this stems from parents placing too much of their own self-esteem in thier childrens’ achievements. The seemingly endless chatter about which school your child attends, which “travel team” he or she plays on, etc. is sickening.

  4. Largebill.
    I agree. It’s definitely nothing new, and it is not connected to any current trend of shielding kids from negative consequences. It’s also easy to go too far in the other direction: don’t give your kids any freedom, and then when they get some in college, they go completely nuts. It’s a fine line.

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