Tuesday, March 19, 2019

What All Parents Can Take Away From The "Varsity Blues" College Scandal

Of course you, my regular readers, knew I would have to write about this scandal. There have been more than enough articles on it already, and I don't want to rehash what has already been said. What I want to do is find a way to make this all useful for you. This particular scandal is a 1% problem. These parents have access and privilege to almost anything they want, and in this case abused their power and influence and committed a crime, and thought they were too untouchable to get caught.  I think though there are good lessons here for all parents, that can generalize regardless of income and privilege.

Basically we all love our children to death, and want the absolute best for them. But when we troubleshoot, problem solve and negotiate for our teens and young adults, we take away the opportunity to develop self esteem, independence and the maturity they will need to become competent adults. Who amongst has not made the call to our old college roommate who runs a successful company for our teen to do an internship that might look good on a college application; or found the volunteer job that your kid needs to fulfill their school's community service requirement (that was me); or called a teacher or coach when you felt they were being unfair to your kid; or gave them wayyy to much help on completing some school project that was frustrating them; or edited/wrote a paper or college essay to make it sound better; or bought them something or let them do something that cost more money than deserved to be spent without expecting then to work for it; or helped them to "get out of a mess" of their own making to protect them from what you may feel are consequences that are too harsh or might jeopardize their future in some way. We ALL do some of these things, because we love our kids, and sometimes it feels right to help them. But many times, (and I have worked with enough parents to know this)we go overboard, cause it's just easier and you know that if you take it on, it will get done right!! So might I suggest here that you teen become a partner, not a recipient of all your loving help. Make sure that they are in charge of the implementation of any strategy you two come up with for whatever the circumstances might be. Let them do the research, make the calls, put in the time, and pay the consequences when they don't. If the paper doesn't get in on time...oh well their grade might be bad, and yes there may be a consequence down the line in a term grade, but then how else will they learn to get things done when they need to get done!

Also it is important to know that whatever college your teen attends will only be good for them, if and only if, THEY put int the effort and work to make it meaningful. Name brand colleges DO NOT guarantee success. Early advantage does not necessarily make a difference unless the person has taken ownership of that advantage and turned it into something very personal. I have worked with many parents who have "given their child everything" only to find that when the structure of school and daily parenting is over, they are at a loss to figure out how to be an adult. This becoming an adult thing needs practice!! Overcoming struggles and hardships and using their own creativity and grit, and learning to be patient with the process of maturing is what makes people become successful.

I found these comments at the end of the many New York Times articles I read about the scandal. I think their messages are meaningful.

My parents both attended Stanford and made modest donations over the years. I applied (mid-eighties), and wasn't admitted because I didn't deserve to be - I didn't have the grades. They were furious; they'd expected the legacy system to work. I knew I didn't earn it and was secretly relieved, but also saddened by their attitude. It wasn't about me; they wanted bragging rights and to have their pedigree stamped and verified. That other students had excelled and deserved to be admitted didn't seem to matter to them. Entitlement. (nytimes reader response)

Our children are not trophies for us to show around. They need to find the right niches for themselves and parents should help them do that. 
scrim1, Bowie, Md.

The real losers in all this are the children of these wealthy parents, who learn that cheating is the way to win in life. They have been failed by their parents and lost something precious: their self-respect. Their entire life, people will wonder if what they achieve is a product of honest work and skill or another cheat — even if they end up being presidents or senior White House advisers. — 
Jim Brokaw, California

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