Today’s kids don’t know how to read a map. They can Google the answer to any question at lightning speed. If a teen forgets his homework, a quick call to mom or dad has it hand-delivered in minutes. Fueled by the rapid pace of technology, the Instant Gratification Generation not only expects immediate solutions to problems—they’re more dependent than ever on adults. Today’s kids are being denied opportunities to make mistakes, and more importantly, to learn from them. They are being taught not to think.
In Teaching Kids to Think, Dr. Darlene Sweetland and Dr. Ron Stolberg offer insight into the social, emotional, and neurological challenges unique to this generation. They identify the five parent traps that cause adults to unknowingly increase their children’s need for instant gratification, and offer practical tips and easy-to-implement solutions to address topics relevant to children of all ages.
A must-read for parents and educators, Teaching Kids to Think will help you understand where this sense of entitlement comes from—and how to turn it around in order to raise children who are confident, independent, and thoughtful.
Clinical psychologists and international speakers, DARLENE SWEETLAND and RON STOLBERG have decades of experience working with children and their families as well as consulting with teachers, counselors and administrators. They are married and facing similar challenges of raising children and teens of this generation.
The time has come that you have been thinking about, worrying over, and planning for many years. Your young adult is off to college. Many parents spend so much time preparing for this day that they don’t think about what the ground rules will be when they get there. Often parents feel that their son or daughter earned the right to go to college, so he or she must have the responsibility to make it work. Other parents hold their breath, send off their student, and hope for the best.
We have spent many years working with families of teens on their quest for college. We have also counseled them through unsuccessful first years. If we take out the factor of unaffordability, there has been a very consistent pattern of why students struggle to complete the first year. First and foremost, they took for granted that going to college is not a given, it is a privilege. Therefore, the following five essential guidelines will set families up for success.
It is extremely important that students go to college with a budget. In addition, this budget should be tight. Under no circumstance should a student be given an open credit card or bank account. They should be given an agreed upon monthly allowance to manage on their own. When the money runs out, it runs out. This forces the student to learn how to plan, organize, and limit their spending. Some families choose to have an emergency card, which is fine. However, what constitutes an “emergency” needs to be very clear.
After the first year it should be expected that the student has an additional responsibility besides classes. For most families, a part-time paid job is a real help financially. However, an internship, volunteer position, teaching assistant position, extra-curricular activity (sports, clubs, etc.) works as well.
Students need to know before they begin college what the expectations are around grades. Parents need to be very specific. For example, do they need to maintain a C (maybe B, you know your child) or better in every class? Students need to be reminded that going to college is a privilege. Not everyone attends college, and those who are there need to continue to earn it. Many students approach college as a way to postpone getting a job. They need to understand before starting college that succeeding there is their job and with it comes expectations. Just as with any job, there are going to be challenges and students are going to need help and guidance to deal with those challenges. For example, college coursework is often really difficult. If there is a class that is particularly challenging and there is a risk of the student not meeting the expectation you’ve set for them, they need to have a conversation with you.
Most college students have challenges and need their parents’ help. That is to be expected and should be supported. However, it should also be expected that any challenges are discussed with parents as they are occurring. Set an expectation that when problems arise, your children must deal with them responsibly and communicate with you accordingly. Then if he or she does not meet your academic expectations, it is not a surprise and you were informed of the ways he or she was taking responsibility. The expectation is not for your children to be perfect students. It is for them to be responsible students. You will find that if you make this clear and have a sample conversation before your child even leaves for college, he or she will be much more open about grades during
Commonly when college students comes home for a holiday or summer break they expect the same freedoms they had at school. Yes, they were able to make their own decisions, stay out as late as they want, go to parties, and spend time with whomever they wanted. However, at home there are other family members that worry and need to be respected. Therefore, curfews, checking in, and limits on substance use are very reasonable rules of the home. We often tell parents that when their adult children are in the home is like living in a boarding house, not their own apartment. Reasonable ways to support their son or daughter’s independence is encouraged, but not at the expense of those living in the home. For example, if they don’t want a curfew, they can find somewhere to stay for the night so Mom and Dad aren’t up worrying.
Putting it all Together
We all hope that our children are ready when it is time to leave the house for college. These Five ground-rules will help structure that time with support and guidance. The ground-rules shared here are a great way to increase the odds of a successful transition to the next phase of life for your child.
(1) As They Grow Up Reader will win a copy of Teaching Kids To Think