If I were to be completely honest in my reply, the answer to the question would be to pay tuition, only. But that would be snarky advice and not taken well by every parent who wants only the best for their children. So let me really answer – A parent’s role should be balanced guidance. But even that is a bit tricky in concept. What is balanced? What is guidance? There probably isn’t a straightforward answer that will be acceptable to everyone.
There are certainly horror stories. In fact, I just read about a counselor who had been working with a student on her essay for six weeks. The counselor felt the essay was one of the best she had read in over two years. Yet, the mother thought it was not intellectual enough and decided that she, the mother would write her child’s essay. Wrong! So, wrong!
In our profession, we have lots of derogatory names for parents – helicopter parents, lawnmower parents, tiger moms and so forth. Each and every one of the parents who fall into each of these categories is well-meaning, but are they really being helpful? I have parents who come into my office and tell me they have registered or applied to this thing or that for their children. I have to remind them that it is their child who is going off to school and they are taking away teaching moments for their children. As an example, when a parent tells me they registered for the SSAT or SAT, I remind them that their child now has no idea how to complete a form. This is something we all need to learn how to do, as adults. So instead of doing it for the student, maybe do it together first. Then supervise them next time. It’s a moment of growth for everyone.
I shared this information with a group of parents at a seminar last week in Beijing. And while it was given lightheartedly, and received as such, I could tell there were parents who thought, not for my kid. I’ll do it!
The horror stories continue. Google now has a support team to answer phone calls from parents whose children work for Google. Seriously!? There was an article last week talking about tent cities that crop up at Chinese universities for parents while their children move into school.
Back to my point – balanced. So what is balanced? I have no idea but in terms of my own child, who is now a freshman at university, I have to look at her questions and assess what is the teaching moment here for her and for me. I want my daughter to rely on me appropriately but I also want her to make her own decisions. She is an adult now. But even when she was younger, I tried to get her to think about how she would manage a situation and give advice. She could take that advice or not. If she failed, we talked about the consequences. If she succeeded, great!
But when it comes to choosing schools – boarding, college we need, as parents to begin to let go. Our children need to learn how to make choices. We as parents can guide and direct, offer advice and weigh in. All good. I definitely get and completely understand the anxiety that comes along in the application and admission process. It is natural for everyone to feel anxious. We must remember, that our children are the ones who have to engage, participate and grow in the end. We are not helping if we control nor are we helping if we take no stance whatsoever.
So, in the end, I think balance comes from what are the teachable moments in the process, where can we let go, where can we push a little harder and having a little faith that it will all work out.