The Pendulum Continues To Swing Back

It’s been a continual drumbeat here at The Diner: The helicopter parents. Those hyper-achieving (re: resume filling, not necessarily enjoying the ride) teenagers all after scholarships and top-10 and championships. And, lately, I’ve been seeing books and articles that are starting to point out the downfalls of this type of lifestyle.

And, browsing through the extra-special Sunday-only miracle that is The New York Times delivered each Sunday to my driveway encouraged me a bit that some degree of sanity is returning to parenting.

First, in the sports section, in response to whether or not the U.S. men’s soccer team’s run in the Confederations Cup was a defining moment in U.S. soccer, there was an opinion that read, “But until our children’s first choice for fun is to play soccer unshod in the streets simultaneously toughening their feet and softening their ball touch, with no structure imposed by grown-ups, we are years behind the competition.” Did you catch that? Unstructured soccer PLAY, like those who learn the game in the rest of the world in streets and fields as children, develops great soccer PLAYERS. Not travel teams with great uniforms who play on manicured fields with adults trying to teach them strategies and such. Just kids actually playing and learning all by themselves…kind of like when we played pick-up basketball, football or baseball because we had time to.

Then, an article entitled “Say Hello to Underachieving” had a few quotes that might show that things are slowly but surely changing:

First, on the reality that coveted, high-paying summer jobs and internships are dwindling in the current economy: “They were always given trophies for just showing up. Now they’re being told ‘no’ when they really want a job or internship.” The idea is that they’re losing a sense of entitlement their parents gave them through all the years of constant stroking and praising. Now, they’re not getting everything they want, and they’re struggling.

Second, from later in the article:

“In the short term, the lost summer of 2009 might actually be a blessing, some psychologists said, especially because members of this generation have lived their lives like track stars trying to run a marathon at the pace of a 100-meter dash — their parents typically waiting at every turn with a stopwatch.

‘Parents have really put a lot of pressure on the kids — everything has been organized, they’re all taking A.P. courses, then summer hits and they’re going to learning camps,’ said Peter A. Spevak, a psychologist in Rockville, Md. Now, he said, with opportunities for achievement at a minimum this summer, ‘there is something to be said about sitting out on a warm evening and looking at the stars — they need more of this contemplation and self-evaluation.’

Is it me, or does it look like we’re at the beginning of coming to our collective senses?