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How Much is Too Much?

Last week our school newsletter included a message from our Head of School that I wanted to share with the world. If I was a gazillionaire I’d take out a full page ad in every paper (I know… no one reads newspapers). Every time our Head of School speaks I find myself nodding in agreement and feeling grateful that the school found this person. Of course it takes a special school to attract great talent so it becomes a chicken/egg discussion.

If you’re local to LA and school shopping I absolutely will tell you where the kids go but Alexander has two more years there so if this blog still exists in two years I’ll update it with the Head of School’s name and give proper attribution. For now, it doesn’t really matter who shared these words. Just give this a good read and let me know your thoughts when you’re done.

Very often I am asked questions about teaching and parenting elementary and middle school kids. Specifically, the over arching question generally revolves around “how much is too much.” Parents want their children to be properly nurtured, engaged, and successful. But where is the breaking point? Where do we as the adults go into overdrive, no matter how well intentioned?

I suggest three areas where adults might want to take a step back and reflect before acting. First, we risk too little. Over-protecting and insulating children from too much actually has a statistically adverse effect on them. “Children of risk-averse parents have lower test scores and are slightly less likely to attend college than offspring of parents with more tolerant attitudes toward risk,” according to a study conducted recently.

Second, we rescue too quickly. I just read a true story about a girl who earned a C- on a history paper. She immediately called her mom, in the middle of class, who insisted on speaking with the teacher right then so the grade could be negotiated! Students who do not learn to take responsibility and solve their own problems using conflict resolution skills don’t “grow.” Like muscles atrophy due to disuse, so do kids’ social, emotional, and intellectual skills when they are consistently rescued.

And last, we rave too easily. I am fully supportive of high self-esteem, but it has to be genuine. A vaccine exposes us to small doses of the disease it is intended to fight. At that point, we develop immunity. Similarly, kids need doses of challenges and inconveniences in order to build the necessary strength to cope with them.

Obviously, negative risk-taking (alcohol, drugs, etc.) should be avoided at all cost. However, failure at a given task is often a very good thing. It is so important to learn from one’s mistakes rather than to be shielded from making them.   Fragile children become fragile adults. The world that awaits our children demands their ability to be resilient. The greatest harm adults can do is not offer the learning opportunities that come with failure.


2 thoughts on “How Much is Too Much?”

  1. I’m nodding vigorously – the point of bobble-headedness.
    Yes. Yes. Yes.

    I’ve had this same conversation with several friends, and several teacher-friends over the past few weeks. Your head of school is wonderful.


  2. Yes! This conversation has been wide spread lately. Clearly it’s time for parents to step back a little. Myself included. Thanks for sharing!

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