By trying to provide the perfectly happy childhood, a generation of parents may be making it harder for their kids to actually grow up. Learn how our preoccupation with choice, self-esteem, and happiness may be yielding a generation marked by entitlement, materialism, narcissism, and an inability to face the challenges of adult life.
How to Land Your Kid in Therapy: Over-Parenting and Its Perils
THE ASPEN INSTITUTE
ASPEN IDEAS FESTIVAL 2012
HOW TO LAND YOUR KID IN THERAPY:
OVER-PARENTING AND ITS PERILS
Hotel Jerome Ballroom
330 East Main Street
Monday, July 2, 2012
LIST OF PARTICIPANTS
Vice President and Director of Public Programs;
Editor in Chief, The Aspen Idea magazine
Award-Winning Journalist; TV Personality;
Cancer Advocate; New York Times Best-Selling Author;
Special Correspondent for ABC News
Psychotherapist; Author, Marry Him: The Case for
Settling for Mr. Good Enough; Contributing Editor,
The Atlantic; Written for The New York Times, TIME,
People, Elle, Slate; Contributes to NPR's All Things
Considered and This American Life.
Psychologist; Lecturer on Child and Adolescent
Issues; Author, The Price of Privilege, Viewing
Violence, See No Evil: A Guide to Protecting Our
Children from Media Violenceand Forthcoming Teach
Your Children Well
Jungian Analyst, Psychologist, Speaker, Meditation
Teacher; Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry,
University of Vermont; Consultant in Leadership
Development, Norwich University; Author, Women and
Desire, The Resilient Spirit, The Cambridge
Companion to Jung, The Self-Esteem Trapand
Forthcoming Love Is Not a Feeling
* * * * *
P I O C E E D I N G S
MS. MILLER: My name is Jamie Miller. I'm with the Aspen Institute. And welcome to the last evening of the Aspen Ideas Festival, 2012. It's my great pleasure to be here this evening to welcome this panel on an interesting and important issue. So I'll start at the end. This is Polly Young-Eisendrath. She's a Jungian analyst. She is a professor at the University of Vermont, a frequent speaker and author on parenting issues and author of The Self-Esteem Trap.
In a pattern share, here is Lori Gottlieb. She is a therapist based in L.A. She's also the best-selling author of Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, which is --
MS. GOTTLIEB: But it's not about (inaudible).
MS. MILLER: Ask her about -- at another time.
MS. MILLER: She's also been an advisor to our program and we're very grateful for all the expertise that she has offered us in conversations throughout the year. So she's really contributed a lot and we're grateful.
Next to her is Madeline Levine. She's a psychologist practicing in Marin County in California. And she is the author of The Price of Privilege, which is relevant to this conversation and also the author of the forthcoming Teach Your Children Well. There are some cards about that. It's coming out -- this month? Is that right? It's out? It's here.
MS. LEVINE: Today.
MS. MILLER: Today? Today? Congratulations.
MS. MILLER: There are some cards about it with lots of interesting parenting insights and expertise. And then here on my left is Katie Couric. If you don't know who Katie Couric is --
MS. MILLER: -- you can find me after the program and we will talk.
MS. MILLER: She is currently serving as a special correspondent for ABC News. And she has a new show coming out in September called Katie -- daytime talk show -- which will be the next big thing. We are positive and we love having her at the Ideas Festival. So thank you all for being here and enjoy this evening's discussion.
MS. COURIC: Hi, everyone. Good evening. It's great to be here. This is going to be a fun panel because I've had two glasses of rosé and combined with the altitude it's going to be a lot of fun. Unfortunately, my panelists cannot say the same despite the fact that I encouraged them out there before this panel.
But I'm very interested in this topic as the mother of two daughters, 16 and 20 now, which I'm sure makes many of you feel very old out in the audience. But this is something that really got my attention a decade ago and sort of the whole notion of over-parenting and how baby boomers are -- in particular are parenting their kids. So I'm very excited to be moderating this panel.
I did a panel -- I think it was yesterday, yesterday morning -- with Anne-Marie Slaughter about Can Women Really Have it All. And I made this pronouncement. I said I thought over-parenting was gross. It was very articulate and got ticked off on -- in the Twitter sphere. So I'd like to just preface this conversation by saying that I'm often guilty of over-parenting myself.
So I don't -- I'm not preaching and I'm not being holier than thou tonight. But first, I wanted to ask -- the basic question is when we talk about over-parenting, what does that mean exactly to each of you. Madeline, why don't you start?
MS. LEVINE: I think of over-parenting as having three components. So when you do something your child can already do, you've over-parented because you've taken away the opportunity to do something the child's capable of -- that means he feels confident, that means he has true self-esteem, not this sort of bastardized idea of self-esteem.
So don't do what your kid can already do. And don't do what is just outside of your kid's area of expertise. We call it the zone of proximal learning because that's where a kid pushes themselves a little bit. And if you need to step in, if they can't get it, you can step in but let them have a shot at it.
And I think the third idea about over-parenting that I have is when it's really your own needs that are being met as opposed to your kid's needs. And I'd ask Katie if it was okay to tell you this very quick story. So sitting in my office. And I've got a dad and a very bright son sitting in the office with me and the kid is trying to decide where to go to college.
And he's -- and really smart. He's going to a top tier school and he's listing all the schools that he's interested in. And he's leaving out the Ivy League, it's kind of noticeable. And finally he says, well, it may be Harvard. And the dad jumps off the couch and says, I will give my left testicle to get my son into Harvard.
MS. LEVINE: And that's an example of -- that's the father's need. The kid has his own developmental needs of growing up and going to school and figuring out who he is. He doesn't have to worry about his father's gonads. So --
MS. LEVINE: When you find yourself sort of putting your own something as opposed to really listening to your kid, that's over-parenting too, like, try (inaudible).
MS. GOTTLIEB: You know, I agree with everything Madeline said. And over-parenting really comes from a place of anxiety like this father with his testicle.
MS. GOTTLIEB: And an example of it -- I think sometimes it's easier to describe with example is -- so I wrote this article called, "How to Land Your Kid in Therapy: why our obsession with our kids' happiness may be dooming them to unhappy adulthoods" for The Atlantic. And one of the examples in that piece was a preschool teacher that I interviewed said, you know, the parents are the ones who are so anxious.
So a kid comes into preschool, the parents are signing the kid in. Kid runs over to the sandbox, picks out a dump truck that he likes. The other kid in the sandbox grabs it from him. They kind of, you know, have a little back-and-forth over the dump truck. The kid finally gives him, like, this other crappy truck and says, no, this one's for you.
And so the mother has a fit over this. Mother is, like, that's not fair. The good one was his. And the preschool teacher has to kind of talk to mom down, not to go over there and try to orchestrate this thing between the kids. Well, that's what over-parenting is, what Madeline said. The kids could handle it. The kid was resilient. The kid was flexible. The mother was not.
MS. COURIC: Polly.
MS. YOUNG-EISENDRATH: Yeah. Actually, I agree with everything that's been said already. And I would only add a couple of kind of maybe refinements of that. One would be that that kind of interfering or running interference deprives kids of learning from their direct experience. They're learning, instead, some kind of distraction.
And that distraction might be the parent-running interference in a situation in school. It might be what I call junk praise where the parent says, great job, that was terrific, when it really wasn't or that's just a statement for filling space. And when you take in a lot of junk praise, you want more junk praise; it's like junk food.
And so you can build a kind of an atmosphere of interfering with the child being able to concentrate by doing this kind of junk praise. I have my own little story to tell, which is a very good example from my side of the -- where I live in Vermont. So I get a call from a woman who is a nurse and obviously feeling kind of desperate about her son.
And she says, you know, I've read your book and I'd like to come in and talk to you about my son because I'd like him to see you in therapy. And so I say, well, how old is he? Thirty-nine.
MS. YOUNG-EISENDRATH: I say, you know, I expect he probably could call me himself and probably could come in and talk to me. And she said, well -- she said, you know, I think I need to come in and kind of set it up and tell you what's going on. I said, well, therapy is a confidential relationship. She said, but you wouldn't have to tell him, you know.
MS. YOUNG-EISENDRATH: And I said, I would only do that if -- you know, if you were -- if you had a dependant child. She said, well, he moved home when he was 31. He is a dependant child.
MS. YOUNG-EISENDRATH: So it was, you know -- and this -- this is an absolutely true story. And I felt for the mom. I mean she was really desperate. He was a kid who had graduated from an elite university -- computer programmer, had done very well and then kind of crashed and burned, moved home and had not moved out. So that's my story on over-parenting.
MS. COURIC: So when did this whole trend of over-parenting start? Did it start with kind of the Free to Be -- You and Me, everybody-gets-a-trophy, it's soccer practice. And you know, and when -- and can you pinpoint a moment in time where this seemed to develop? Because I was raised very differently than the way I'm raising my kids. And was it in the early '90s? When was it, Madeline?
MS. LEVINE: I think it was a little earlier than that. I think it -- look, I am an old, old baby boomer, but it's younger baby boomers. You know, what did we have on our walls? We had, you do your thing, I do my thing, I'm not here to live up to your expectations, you are not here to live up to mine. It was sort of like this highly individualistic, we're so special, never trust anyone over 30.
And -- so that's the '60s. And then the '70s you have greed, you know, Wall Street -- greed is good. And so I think there was kind of a shift away from a collective feeling about what parenting was. And people were moving all over the place. The rabbi or the priest didn't stop by anymore. And there was just a shift in what was value.
And metrics became incredibly important. So how much you made, did your kid get an A -- any way that you could measure yourself. Because the old way of measuring yourself was kind of within the community, you know, the pillar of the community. That was the good guy. Now it's the guy who makes the most money. Every kid knows how to figure out the cost of the housing, stuff like that.
So I think it's somewhere around the intersection of our own sense of incredible specialness and entitlement and a deteriorating culture that has become increasingly reliant on metrics for measuring how are you doing.
MS. COURIC: Polly, I know you've studied the self-esteem movement.
MS. YOUNG-EISENDRATH: Yeah.
MS. COURIC: When did that happen and what was it exactly?
MS. YOUNG-EISENDRATH: Well, it was in the '70s, you know. I mean in the '70s there was a movement. That was an educational movement. It was in the schools. It was a parenting movement. And it was kind of, like, you know, you can do anything. You are great. And I actually went to graduate school during that time. And so when I came into graduate school I had young children.
And I was parenting them more or less the way my mother had. And I came from a strict background, working class background. And then I went to graduate school. And I changed everything. And I was praising them and putting the stuff on the refrigerator and all the gold stars and so on.
And I think that was really the shift over -- it's when my children start identifying me as a person who didn't really want to be a parent, wanted to be a friend. And I think there was that kind of shift in the culture. By the way, I think all of this is really cultural. I don't think there's any blame for it. I don't think there's any reason why parents should feel ashamed or sort of self-conscious about it because we did it together and we did it for good reasons.
And I also think what was happening there in the '70s was the baby boomers', you know, desire to correct what happened in our childhood where we weren't mirrored and we weren't seen and we wanted so much to raise a child who would be like a perfect flower, would just open up, and you know, bring sunshine to the world. And it just worked out to be quite the opposite actually.
But I -- that movement then kind of segued into the things that Madeline was talking about in terms of other effects in the culture. And then I think to top it off, one of things that I have observed is that we're sort of short on miracles in this culture. And so childbirth, having a child and raising a child has become the biggest miracle.
And so people are investing in their children as though they were God, you know. I mean this is the miracle and it -- this I think is a fairly recent thing, that particular -- the miracle aspect which --
MS. COURIC: And we'll talk about sort of how this has been manifested more. But you guys have some funny stories. I mean I gave the graduation address at UVa this year. And I talked about the fact that Teresa Sullivan, the reinstated president of UVa, told me a story about how a kid who graduated from the Darden School of Business went on a job interview and brought his mother with him.
MS. COURIC: So I mean, obviously you have all sorts of stories. Entertain us for a minute, will you? And tell us some funny stories about, like, parenting on steroids where it's so embarrassing.
SPEAKER: Well, you do know that it's confidential.
MS. COURIC: Okay. Well, you don't have to give any names.
SPEAKER: I'll bet each one in this room --
MS. COURIC: Lori.
MS. GOTTLIEB: Well, I mean this is -- these are some things through my reporting as opposed to my therapy practice, so not confidential. There is a school in Los Angeles where the parents -- one parent complained to the head of school that the kids were getting the comments on their papers in red pen. And apparently this was very traumatizing to this person's child.
The red was -- you know, felt very uncomfortable for this child and asked that the comments would not be in red. And at the same school this -- the headmaster was asked if when a kid got a boo-boo in pre-K or K, if they could use red washcloth so that the kids would not have to see their blood on the washcloth.
MS. COURIC: Red is a big pain here.
MS. GOTTLIEB: And -- there's a red theme with this -- and those were different parents, by the way. But I think that, you know, that speaks to the kind of anxiety that, you know, should our kids experience any kind of discomfort that we're going to go in and solve the problem. And kids who have their problem solved for them don't believe that they can solve problems. And the truth is they can't. They have no experience solving problems because mom and dad have always fixed it.
MS. COURIC: Well, I think baby boomers in particular are living so vicariously through their kids and can't seem to tolerate their kids' unhappiness. I mean what is it about this particular segment of the population that we're seeing this so prevalent in?
SPEAKER: What do you consider to be a baby boomer? Because I think there are people younger than that who are parents.
MS. COURIC: I guess someone -- I -- well, I'm 55. So I'm kind of on the -- sorry, Madeline, (inaudible) the baby boomers. So what is that? I forget the actual age span. But what is it like? Fifty --
SPEAKER: (Off mic.)
MS. COURIC: Sorry?
MS. COURIC: 1946.
SPEAKER: To '64?
MS. COURIC: To, like -- no, like, is it to '64? No. I think it's, like, to '60.
SPEAKER: -- GENEX came in.
MS. COURIC: Right.
SPEAKER: So there are parents out there who are younger than baby boomers. And I don't know -- Lori is, but --
MS. COURIC: Is it '46 to what -- '64?
SPEAKER: Much younger.
MS. COURIC: Those are really young baby boomers. Okay.
SPEAKER: You're -- oh, you're next. Okay. So -- yeah.
MS. GOTTLIEB: But you know, I think that a lot of parents are afraid of having their kids not like them, which is a big thing. You know, they don't want their kids to feel like they are like the mean parents.
MS. COURIC: But why?
MS. GOTTLIEB: Because I think that for a lot of us it's as Wendy Mogel said. You know, she has this great line -- "Our children are not our masterpieces." But I think in a lot of ways we feel like they are, that they're fragile, that they are an extension of us in a way that in previous generations they weren't considered and that, you know, we like to -- I mean can I say something you said from breakfast today about --
MS. COURIC: Maybe.
MS. GOTTLIEB: Katie has a very accomplished daughter. And she was saying that it actually makes her feel good to say that her daughter goes to Yale.
MS. COURIC: It does. I admit it.
MS. GOTTLIEB: But -- and that's so normal. And I think that's the thing is that, you know, there's where is the line between sort of, you know, parental pride and then getting our own sense of -- the holes in our own lives filled by the accomplishments of our children.
MS. COURIC: Right. And what about -- well, Lori, let's talk about sort of the changing social fabric of society and why parents gravitate to their children sort of for their whole world --
MS. GOTTLIEB: Right.
MS. COURIC: -- opposed to what it was like. And Madeline, you can jump in here too.
MS. LEVINE: Yeah. Well, one of the things I think about that is that we're doing a very bad job of presenting adulthood as something to strive for. So -- I have three sons which meant I spent years, if not decades, in the bleachers because that's what everybody did. I mean they were on the select team and -- you see, I got that in.
MS. LEVINE: And so I went like every other parent to see them every week for years because there is a big age difference between them. And at some point, I realized, like -- my husband is in the audience here -- I was going to the East Bay of the Bay Area and he was going up North. And we hadn't seen each other for weekends at a time.
And what did we do? We sort of sat passively in the bleachers week after week after week watching children play a game. And when I realized that and realized I could have had brunch with my husband, I could have spent some time with a girlfriend, I could have learned something about broadcasting or jewelry-making --
MS. COURIC: Or you could have written another book.
MS. LEVINE: I could have -- you know, sort of more downtime for myself. And I thought about it in terms of how attractive does that look as some model of adulthood that your mom has nothing to do every single solitary weekend, but watch you pick a ball.
SPEAKER: And --
SPEAKER: Went to the bleachers.
MS. LEVINE: The bleachers. And if you turn it around, you know, if you think about what would it be like, you know -- like, I like folding laundry, right? So what would it be like if I said to my kids, you know, I really enjoy folding laundry. I'm pretty good at it. So for the next, you know, 6 months on Saturday morning, we're going to watch me fold.
MS. LEVINE: So, you know, we've lost the sense of, I think, what it means to be an adult and have adult pursuits because we're so terrified that if we take a minute off, our kid will not have the leg up that they would had if we were on constant observation of them. And it's a big mistake.
MS. COURIC: And this morning, Lori, we were talking about the fact that -- I mean I think there is probably a happy middle ground, which we can talk about later, between over-parenting and under-parenting and being completely detached --
MS. COURIC: So we were talking about in the '50s and '60s you were sort of -- your social sphere did not revolve so much around your kids.
MS. GOTTLIEB: Right.
MS. COURIC: And now today, it's really so child-centric that a lot of parents don't have a life beyond that.
MS. GOTTLIEB: That's right. And, you know, there's a difference between being loved and constantly monitored. And what we do is we constantly monitor our children. And we think that we're showing them that we love them by doing that. But actually, it doesn't have that effect on them.
And in the -- what we were talking about this morning was that when you look at the divorce rate, when you look at the number of single parents out there, you look at parents who don't have their own lives, as Madeline said, they get a lot of gratification from their children. Part of it is that we are friendlier with our children than previous generations.
There's less of a hierarchy and in some ways that's good and in some ways it can get a little enmeshed. So, you know, we treat our kids like friends and then we don't spend time with our own friends. We enjoy their company, which is nice, but if we depend on their company, that's maybe where we're crossing the line.
MS. YOUNG-EISENDRATH: You know, a long time ago Freud wrote an essay called "On Narcissism." And it starts out saying that parental love is fundamentally narcissistic. That seems to be a surprise to people these days, you know. They think of it as a selfless love, like I'm giving my selfless love to someone. Actually what you're doing is you're sort of producing an extension of yourself that you don't feel bad boasting about, you know.
And so there's this way in which you can indulge your boastfulness about this extension of yourself and you don't seem to be boasting about yourself. And I think there's a kind of cultural setup about that now that makes it -- you know, I have been sitting back not saying anything about my children and I have also a grandson who is really great. But, you know --
MS. YOUNG-EISENDRATH: -- I worked hard not to say that in ways that I think are, you know, not useful, not useful. It's, like, we don't think about the words we use often in conversation about our children. We probably do think carefully about ourselves because it would be embarrassing to boast about yourself, how great you are at folding laundry.
SPEAKER: Yes, but --
MS. YOUNG-EISENDRATH: You know, you don't think other people would like to hear that, but --
SPEAKER: When you look at Facebook and people are posting what they post about their children --
MS. YOUNG-EISENDRATH: Yes, now they --
SPEAKER: -- and that's where you can see what Polly is talking about, which is -- which, by the way, I've done too.
SPEAKER: Look at my son doing this. But you see these, you know, my child -- this is not me, by the way -- but you'd see people who would post things, like, look at my child at the science fair who won this, or look at my child playing the violin at age 4, you know, whatever it is. And then how many likes do you get. And then we get a little narcissistic kick from all the little likes that, you know -- or all the comments that people make because it is a reflection on us.
And if you look at the posts on Facebook and you look at how many people -- you know, do you really want to go to -- if you went to your friend's house in the old days and they got out the photo albums and they started flipping through all these albums and showing you the videos of their kids and all of that, you would think these people are narcissist, they're crazy, what are they doing. But that's what people are doing on Facebook every day.
MS. COURIC: Well, how much have real-world problems fed into this? Because I'd sort of thought about, you know, what's happening in externally that's creating this problem. And, you know, I think about sort of the safety and security issues of raising kids today. You know, I used to ride my banana seater all over Arlington, Virginia, for hours and hours and hours when I was a kid. And my parents were, like, whatever.
And now, I feel like because of all the issues with child safety and pedophiles and predators, you know, you feel that you have to be, for safety reasons, more attached to your child. And also for economic reasons. You know, I think we've heard so many times that our kids are going to be less well off than their parents' generation.
So you feel, gosh, I have to make sure my kid can compete and -- you know, in the future. So I have to give him or her every possible advantage. So aren't there a lot of external factors for creating this anxiety that makes people over-parent?
MS. LEVINE: But one of the really interesting issues that you just raised was it felt safe for you back then. It's actually safer now.
SPEAKER: Safer now. It is safer now.
MS. LEVINE: So the observation that there's pedophiles out there and there's, you know, things to be afraid of, you know, frankly it's the news that brings that to us 24 hours a day that makes people feel --
MS. COURIC: Don't look at me when you say that, Madeline. That's cable news.
SPEAKER: Well, maybe it's also the anxiety that the parent feels that is so much -- you know, my parent's knew that there were things that weren't safe. But they weren't constantly focused on that. They were focused on their own lives and their -- whatever they were about. So, you know, it is the fact that it's safer now.
SPEAKER: Right, but --
MS. GOTTLIEB: But --
SPEAKER: Go ahead.
MS. GOTTLIEB: Well, you know, your kid has -- you know, statistically your kid has more of a chance of being injured in a car that you are driving, that you are actually, you know, driving your child than, you know, having one of these other terrible things befall them.
But I think that because we're -- you know, we're on the Internet all the time, because we're watching the news 24 hours a day, all of those things, we feel like it's everywhere. And so, you know, it makes sense that we want to protect our kids. But the other part of it is we don't have the community protecting us in the same way.
MS. GOTTLIEB: So we're very individualistic now in terms of the way we raise our children. The kids are not going out to play in the neighborhood. We don't have -- because many -- in many households two parents are working, we don't have sort of the moms talking over the fence and you know that kid down the street and you'll protect him, because you know, all the moms kind of know all the kids in the neighborhood. So we don't feel like we have that supervision that we had.
MS. COURIC: What about the economy, Madeline? We were talking about that this morning too, this sort of feeling that, oh my God, my kid's got to compete. We're losing, you know, the race in global competition. And the job market is so -- you know, jobs are so scarce, I have to make sure my child achieves, achieves, achieves.
MS. LEVINE: Right. So everybody is concerned about their child being able to support themselves and get a job. And actually we're doing the exact things that would get in the way of our children being successful that way. And I think I told you I was on a panel with one of the chief engineers of NASA.
And he was quite forthcoming about his three groups of engineers which were Asian engineers, Indian engineers and American engineers. And so I said, you know, the obvious question which is, like, are we really falling behind, or are our skills not as great. And he said it has nothing to do with our skills, our skills are every bit as good as other nations.
What we don't have are the kind of 21st century skills that are mandatory. American kids aren't collaborating. American kids aren't as motivated. They're the first ones knocking on the door saying, I've been here 3 months, where's my pay raise. They're the first ones who say, I can't solve the problem, whereas other kids just will stay all night long if it takes staying all night long.
So I don't -- I think every time we step in unnecessarily, every time we don't allow our kids to have unstructured play, every time we don't allow them to experience what I call an unsuccessful failure, you know, every one of us, is my guess, has been guilty of bringing up the lost homework, right. Has anybody here never brought up the homework -- not left -- I mean, I have, so, you know, I assume most of you have.
In fact, that would be a successful failure. A 10-year-old can cope with the anxiety that comes with, oh my God, you know, ma, I don't have my homework. You'll live, you know. And then the kid has to figure that out for themselves. And we're getting in the way of all those kinds of things that we call at the end of the day resilience and that's what -- creativity, resilience, collaboration, motivation --
MS. COURIC: Right.
MS. LEVINE: -- that's the whole ball of wax that everybody is talking about. The only other thing I'd want to say about that, Katie, is I've been a psychologist for almost 35 years. This idea that our kids should do as well as us, I can't say that affluent people are a particularly happy group of people. I can't say that they are a particularly unhappy group of people.
But this idea that your kid has to -- you know, the American story is every generation does better, right. Well, this generation may not. And the question is, so what? Because it -- you --
MS. LEVINE: Thank you, scattered --
MS. LEVINE: You make $70,000 or more, that makes a difference. You make $700 million, it doesn't make much of a difference.
MS. YOUNG-EISENDRATH: Yeah. The issue about happiness kind of enters into all of this, you know. I mean, I think that parents want their children to do well because they assume that that will increase their happiness, that somehow their sense of satisfaction in life will be deepened. And I have a little story to tell about somebody who came to see me in therapy, somebody I call Jason in the book.
He was 24 years old, in Vermont just for the summer because he was working with a landscape architect. He had graduated from an elite university. He's very, very good looking, had a family name that you'd recognize. And he'd spent a year abroad in China. All these things are sort of requisite these days, I think, for a certain kind of young person.
And he called me up and he said that he wanted to see a Jungian analyst. And, you know, he's a young man and I said, okay, I am one. And he said, okay, can I come in and see you. So he came in, turned out he majored in economics so he was pretty naïve about therapy.
MS. YOUNG-EISENDRATH: And he -- so he didn't present his story in a way that was very glossed over. So he sat down across from me and he said, I suffer from feelings of superiority.
MS. YOUNG-EISENDRATH: Now, nobody had ever said that to me in therapy.
MS. YOUNG-EISENDRATH: And I said, well, tell me more. And he said, you know, I have noticed that when I meet somebody, at first I'm interested in them, at first I'm interested in getting to know them, and you know, I find them attractive or I find them, you know, engaging. And then some period of time passes and I begin to deconstruct them.
And I see every way that they're not as good-looking as I am, as intelligent, as well-educated, they don't have this, they don't have that. And he said inside of 2 months they're empty and I throw them away. And he said because of that I am not -- I have decided that I cannot even meet people socially. I don't go out anymore. So he was feeling ashamed.
He was trying to hang back, cover up this feeling of superiority after all of this privilege. Now, he was one of the reasons I decided to write the book. I mean, I did end up seeing him in therapy. His suffering was tremendous. His parents would not have understood. He was his mother's favorite.
So, you know, in a certain sort of way he's a good example of somebody who everybody wanted to do well. You know, his family wanted him to do well. And over time I've come to know that he became a therapist.
MS. COURIC: Well, there you go.
MS. YOUNG-EISENDRATH: He went to a law school and then -- yeah.
MS. YOUNG-EISENDRATH: And he went through a law school and it didn't work. He tried to do a rock band and that didn't work. So he's become a therapist. And I -- you know, I think now he's relatively happy because he's dealing with the suffering of life. And he's, you know --
MS. LEVINE: But you're also talking about, I think -- is it okay if I jump in?
MS. COURIC: Yeah, go for it.
MS. LEVINE: You're talking about this incredibly narrow version of success that we have.
MS. YOUNG-EISENDRATH: Right.
MS. LEVINE: Like, you know, you listed all his --
MS. LEVINE: Thank you.
MS. LEVINE: -- credentials and stuff like that.
MS. YOUNG-EISENDRATH: Right.
MS. LEVINE: But I think we are so wrong about what we consider a successful life.
MS. YOUNG-EISENDRATH: Yes.
MS. LEVINE: And that so many of the kids that I see -- also, you know, The Price of Privilege opened with a girl who had incised the word "empty" into her arm, you know, cut herself --
MS. YOUNG-EISENDRATH: Yeah.
MS. LEVINE: -- which by the way, 17 percent of kids on, I believe, campuses are self-mutilating. So there is a --
MS. YOUNG-EISENDRATH: Yeah.
MS. LEVINE: -- absolute epidemic --
MS. YOUNG-EISENDRATH: Epidemic.
MS. LEVINE: -- epidemic of kids who are having really significant problems. High school girls, 25 percent are clinically depressed, 25 percent of kids on college campuses are not substance users but substance abusers, 17 percent self-mutilating.
So the -- and I think that part of that has to do with if all you have is that narrow view and if that's all people see about you, if you can't really see the child in front of you, what their talents are, hands-on, creative, all the different things that kids come with, you end up putting kids under enormous pressure and they end up feeling completely unauthentic.
MS. COURIC: You know, and in fact when -- and in Lori's article, "How not to land your kid in therapy," right, you start by talking about a 20-something --
MS. GOTTLIEB: Exactly.
MS. COURIC: -- patient who, you know, unlike patients from yesteryear talked about how screwed up their parents -- parenting was or their parents were --
MS. GOTTLIEB: Right.
MS. COURIC: -- had great parents, had every advantage.
MS. GOTTLIEB: Right.
MS. COURIC: And yet felt incredibly empty.
MS. GOTTLIEB: Yes.
MS. COURIC: Can you talk about that patient a little bit?
MS. GOTTLIEB: Yes.
MS. COURIC: Because you talked about her in the article.
MS. GOTTLIEB: Yeah, yeah. So, you know, usually what you -- when you're in graduate school you're hearing all about, you know, what parents didn't give their kids, you know, the sort of -- the dismissive parent, the critical parent, the neglectful parent. And I was getting all of these kids -- I say kids -- young adults coming in saying, oh, I had great parents, my parents are my best friends in the whole world.
And, you know, they did everything for me. They were at the birthday parties, they did the homework with me, they drove me here, they listened to all of my feelings, they gave me a choice about this, that and the other thing. When -- they let me take guitar lessons when I wanted to take guitar and they let me quit when I didn't like it anymore.
MS. GOTTLIEB: You know, all of those things that they were running interference on and yet here now you got the kids and they're newly out of college or some of them are in their early 30s even. And they feel depressed, they feel anxious, they have trouble making decisions about little things and big things. They have trouble committing to a path because when you make a commitment to one path you're closing off another path.
And they have a lot of trouble not having that option open for them, because when they were younger you don't like guitar, quit it, go do something else. So, you know, you get a lot of depression and anxiety in this group that seems to have really loving, really well-intentioned parents. And they think the problem is that what parents are doing is very loving and well-intentioned, but it's not helping their kids.
It's not, as Madeline said, you know, what is our definition of success. They did all the right things to live up to our culture's definition of success, but inside they never really cultivated those things like, you know, disappointment, failure -- failure is a great motivator, by the way -- you know, humility.
As you want the parents to instill in the kids that you are special to me but not you're special meaning you're better than everybody else. And they get out in the world and they're not better than everybody else and they don't know what to do with it.
MS. COURIC: One of the things we talked about also at breakfast is sort of there's no room today, it seems to me, for an ordinary or average child. It seems if you get a B you're a failure and this kind of hyper, you know, parenting mode or hyper-achievement mode that we've gotten our kids involved with. Tell, Madeline, the story about when you tried to have that seminar for some parents in California.
MS. LEVINE: Okay. So I do love speaking and it's usually fairly well-attended. But I gave a talk entitled "The Average Child" in Marin County.
MS. COURIC: And?
MS. LEVINE: And that's the end of the story -- nobody came, not one --
MS. LEVINE: -- which I guess means there is not a single average child in the entire county of Marin.
MS. COURIC: But the fact of the matter is you guys were saying to me that 80 percent of people, children and (inaudible) are average.
MS. LEVINE: Sure. If you look at -- sure.
SPEAKER: Right. And --
MS. COURIC: But why can't we tolerate people who are not exceptional?
MS. YOUNG-EISENDRATH: Well, there is a pressure now to be extraordinary. And that has come with this whole sort of self-esteem movement in which, you know, kids feel that they have to show up with something very special in order to fulfill the sense that there is something extraordinary about them.
And that puts them in a frame of mind that is really kind of a relentless pressure and an enormous amount of self-focus, like, focusing back on the self again. And the self-conscious emotions, most of which are quite negative, like envy and shame and guilt and jealousy and self-pity, these emotions are very high in this group and it's often classified as depression.
But actually it's more of a shame-based kind of collection of self-conscious feelings. And so -- and these kids that have had all these advantages, they end up actually being obsessed with themselves with a sense that somehow they can't be just ordinary where actually being ordinary is a great relief because --
MS. COURIC: And more pragmatically a lot of the things parents are doing are not effective like the Einstein videos or specializing in a sport, getting a kid to start going to soccer camp when he or she is 3 years old.
MS. LEVINE: Right.
MS. COURIC: And all these kind of hyper-parenting activities. You're telling me early intervention isn't really effective.
MS. LEVINE: Early intervention -- well, I think the culture is earlier is better, more is better. And actually that's absolutely not true. And I know I'm not supposed to be geeky, but the data --
MS. COURIC: No, you can be geeky. I told you, you can use your data.
MS. LEVINE: It is my data. You know, your child watches Baby Einstein. They learn 10 fewer words per hour watching Baby Einstein. You put your child in a play-based preschool, 3 years later they are doing much better academically than if they went to an academic preschool. Child -- early specialization in athletics, you know, talk to any orthopedists and you have repetitive stress injuries on very young children. A child had needed knee surgery by 18 from being a catcher.
So it's as if we think we're going to full development. So what does young -- what does a young child need? A young child needs to play because it's in play that the world gets miniaturized and they learn how to do stuff. They -- and it's social.
You know, you take something as absolutely ordinary as the game of chase which looks like nothing is happening, right. They're just running around. But you got a chaser and a chasee and a negotiation about who's the leader, when does the game -- I don't want to play anymore. Game is over, you know, and now I have nobody to play with.
This is the work of early childhood, not learning words a few months earlier because it doesn't matter. You know, Finland, which is the exemplar of education in the world at this point, doesn't even start teaching kids until they are 7 years old. So I have just a slight thing I want to say about we're always incredibly careful not to say to parents, you didn't do anything wrong, right. And -- because we're all shrinks and we don't want --
MS. YOUNG-EISENDRATH: -- want to make people for worse, you know, it just makes some feel a lot worse.
MS. LEVINE: Well, it just makes some feel a lot worse, but I think -- and I don't know how people feel about this. We have enough data at this point that if you're ignoring it, you know, if your child has no downtime, if your child is not sleeping 9 hours a night, which every single neuroscientist in this country will tell you is necessary for optimal brain development, that's not okay.
It's not to say you're a bad parent. But I think that there is enough information out there at this point that we could -- if we had the will and if we weren't so afraid that it was going to knock our kids down a bit, that we would be more proactive and --
MS. YOUNG-EISENDRATH: Well, it's a little hard to apply a corrective, though. This is what I find in talking to parents because there is this -- within this sort of perfectionism around parenting -- and I like Judith Warner's book, you know, The Perfect Madness, which compares sort of mothers in America and mothers in France and the way we're doing it.
Within that framework, it's, like, parents right away feel like I've got to get it right now doing this. And that is still another level of trying to interfere. I mean I think we have to start a new conversation which is what we're doing here. Bring in the kind of information and then see what we can do to muddle through to change the culture without making anybody feel too bad about what -- because everybody is trying to do their best. That's --
MS. COURIC: One thing I think is important to point out because when I saw Race to Nowhere, you know, I was really -- which is sort of about homework and the pressure kids face today. You know, I wanted to know if these were just problems that were particular to a specific socio-economic level. And I think the Aspen Institute sometimes doesn't -- isn't as inclusive as it could be in terms of lower socio-economic issues in America.
MS. COURIC: And so this really does transcend class because a lot of parents from all different income levels are putting this kind of pressure on kids. Is that right?
SPEAKER: That's right.
MS. GOTTLIEB: And also, you know, the other side of the coin is there is the earlier, more better that Madeline was talking about. But there is also the parents who are redshirting their kids, which means that they are waiting an extra year before they send them to kindergarten so that they will be a year older and that they will have a competitive advantage over, you know, the other kids in the class.
They say that it's because oh, my child just needs more social growth. But what do you do with the parents when we're talking about socio-economics? You know, that's something that you have to be able to afford, first of all, so you can't redshirt a kid if the kid is kindergarten age. And what are you going to do -- pay another -- whatever you're paying for childcare for that year because that's an entire year of expenses.
Well, a lot of families don't have that. So it's kind of a, you know, a high class problem, but again it's because of the edge. And so this never happened -- when you were 5, you went to kindergarten. Now we have 7-year old -- people turning 7 in kindergarten. And they're this tall and nobody thinks that's ridiculous.
The other thing I wanted to say is that about this average idea is that a lot of psychologists nowadays are getting kids sent to them. It used to be that when kids were sent to a psychologist by the school, it was kind of -- you know, it was something that the psychologist was probably going to have to give some bad news, Like, your child has a learning disability or something like that.
Now, that is what the parents want to hear. They want to hear your child is dyslexic. Your child has sensory-processing disorder. Whatever -- your child is a visual learner, but not a spatial learner, whatever it is because that explains the B-plus. That explains why your kid is average even though B-plus is above average technically, but that helps them feel okay about the fact that their child is not the star of the class.
So if they can get this label, then it helps them. And psychologists are really flummoxed by this because why do parents want their kids to have this label, why is it something that kids are -- you know, the parents are hoping for. And it's again because it's just that their kids are not way above average and they can't accept that that's just what it is.
MS. LEVINE: But it's -- I think Katie's point -- and I think it's a really important one is we're talking about issues that affect an incredibly narrow part of society in terms of having the time and the resources and all of that. However, it's also true that we did study at Stanford and looked at anxiety levels around kids taking multiple AP courses and kids trying to pass the high school exit exam.
And the level of stress was equivalent. And so the stress is going -- the resources that people have are very different, but the level of stress at school, which was never the number one stressor as long as I've been a shrink, in a child's life. It was always, you know, think back to your on adolescence. What was your stressor? It was, you know, my parents are throwing pots at each other or --
MS. COURIC: -- or my friend didn't let me sit at the lunch table.
MS. LEVINE: That's exactly right. But now the number one stress, regardless of SESes is school.
MS. GOTTLIEB: But even so, when you look at mainstream magazines like Parents magazine, parenting magazine, when you look at the cover stories nowadays, there are things, like, boost your newborn's brain. And you know, that was not on the cover of parenting magazines when I was a baby because my mother, you know, had different parenting magazines.
So I think that it's all focused on, you know, achievement and success. And again, as Madeline said there and Polly too, this very narrow definition of, you know, what are we trying to do as parents with our children. And that's where the other-parenting comes from.
MS. COURIC: So what are the ramifications of this –- you know, we raise these kids, they get to be in their 20s, so they seem to have a tendency towards depression or emptiness or kind of no sense of purpose, right, because they haven't developed these coping skills yet they feel entitled, which is a bad combo as we discussed.
So what is happening to these kids and what is happening more macro-cosmically in terms of global competition. I think it's behind the childhood obesity crisis because we become short order cooks. And given our kids, whatever they'll eat instead of what my mom did was, you're eating your peas or you're not leaving the table, you know instead we're like saying, oh, well, you want pasta with butter? Let me fix that for you. You don't have to eat what I've already prepared. I mean ,so what is it doing for them personally and also what is it doing to the country at large?
MS. LEVINE: I think the big question is sort of what is it doing for them in terms of their internal world. So we can talk about, you know, what did it do for them, can they choose a career, can they succeed in all these other ways. But I think where it hurts them the most is in their personal relationships.
I think that when we said we want our kids to be happy, we assumed that they're going to have a fulfilling relationship, we assumed that they're going to have a nice group of friends that they can count on and get support from. But if they don't have the tools for that because we've been so focused on these other things, you know, they're really going to suffer in this, you know, what really are the most important realms of life.
MS. YOUNG-EISENDRATH: Well, they suffer a lot in character development, in lying and cheating, and stealing and not knowing what's wrong that because that seems to them to be a kind of victimless crime because there isn't an understanding of the social fabric. Like, you know, I, part time I consult to a military university and they have a very strong honor code.
And it's kind of interesting as a Buddhist to be consulting to a military university because I've learned a lot. And I've really learned how discipline and how training for honor and so on, are very close to a lot of things that I cherish. And one thing that can happen there when I'm there is I can leave my keys in my car. I can leave my computer in the car because actually the honor code works. And that seems a little shocking. You know, I mean this is Vermont.
So, you know, it might not happen in some other place, but I think there is a real misunderstanding among young people about the value of having a social fabric that holds up the whole community and allows you to relax. You know, you could just actually relax when you're with people that aren't lying to you, aren't going to steal, aren't going to cheat. That's kind of a –- almost an unknown right now. Nobody believes that, you know that it could be possible.
And all of the research on ethics and values in young people show this trend and that is developing among all social classes. And so, you know, in a part that might also be related to the fact that, you know, where the churches and synagogues used to be there are shopping malls. So we're also in this kind of period of time where there's a kind of materialism at every level, and everybody suffers from it.
And I think that the parenting trends that we've been talking about that leave children without certain kinds of skills, interpersonal skills, community skills, character skills also then -- those things will translate into them as parents. And they, you know --
MS. COURIC: I want to -- yeah, I want to give the audience a chance to ask questions, but before we do, do you see the pendulum shifting because certainly there are a lot of articles about this and a lot of people writing about it. And is there kind of a middle ground between parenting, like Betty Draper and like the mother --
MS. COURIC: -- and like the mother who goes to the job interview with the Darden,, you know, the UVa business school student. You know, can you give some really sort of practical advice for parents who want to let their child -- let their children fail and, you know –- well, they don't want their children fail, but you know want to give them the opportunity.
MS. COURIC: I want my kid to fail. I do.
MS. COURIC: But no, I mean, you know, who want to teach them resiliency and want to teach them the ability to bounce back from setbacks in life. So what would you tell parents?
MS. LEVINE: You know the research is that the best thing you can do as a parent is to be reliable, available, consistent and noninterfering. And I think that if you keep those four things in mind, you know, it's not so complicated. I mean people have been raising kids like for a very long -- forever.
MS. LEVINE: And we professionalize parenting. And I think the one thing to remember in this discussion, Katie, that hasn't come up is every child is different. And so, one child may need a certain amount of health and another child who may just be getting in the way. So, you know, I don't want to leave the discussion without acknowledging that the best thing you can do is have a clear vision of who your particular child is. And then I think if you're available and consistent and noninterfering and reliable you'll be –-
MS. COURIC: And also you don't see your child -- your child's achievement as your achievements. I mean isn't there sort of the healthy distance, Lori?
MS. GOTTLIEB: Yeah, there is. I think, you know, there is this, you know, –- Winnicott came up with the "good enough" mother and it can be applied to the "good enough" father as well. And we forget that we feel like we have to be the perfect parents and if we're not the perfect parents we won't get the perfect child, and if we don't have the perfect child we're going to feel bad about ourselves.
And so I think we have to remember as Madeline said it's not as complicated as we're making it that you, you know, the "good enough" parent is actually really good for your child as well as really good for you. And the other thing I wanted to say is, it's kind of like building up your child's immune system as a parent.
So if you never expose them to any germs, like failures as a germ or, you know, disappointment or the kid doesn't, you know –- the friends, picks them out of the clique, or you know whatever happens and you don't you know give them an opportunity to be exposed to those germs, then when they are in college or when they are 23 years old –- and this is a true story, a friend of mine who is a producer on a –- the Today Show said, you know, a new person was hired, 23 years old, right out of college and he said, we need this thing right now, we're going live. And she said, oh, just a minute, I'm checking my BlackBerry. And he said, I would have been fired for that, I would have been fired for that.
But these are -- this is what happens this person had no sort of, you know, their immune system was very weak. And so this person had never experienced the kinds of things that she needed to have experienced. And so as parents my advice would be, the best thing you can do is to help build up their immune systems, let them be naturally exposed to the germs of childhood.
MS. YOUNG-EISENDRATH: Yeah, and I would agree with all of that and I would piggyback on that with the research that's out there on how kindness, generosity and gratitude are connected to happiness. And so in cultivating them within the family, not simply getting your kid to volunteer in some country that needs –- that's great too, but within your own family having them pay attention to what's actually going on.
If someone needs help, if someone needs a door opened, teaching good manners, and the kindness, generosity and then finally the gratitude. Just asking regularly and expressing yourself as a parent what you're grateful for, because that actually increases your happiness and very little of it increases happiness quite a lot.
And so I would add to that picture of the resilience and the perseverance that come with the kind of parent that you described and the kind of parent you described, that there is this other thing as well that's been well-established by research too.
MS. COURIC: Well, you're never going to have a cheaper therapy session than today
MS. COURIC: So I sort of suggest that if you like to have some questions we have Lilly, Wahuva Lilly (phonetic), UVa grad, over there who's going to have a mic and also Brad (phonetic) on the other side. So go ahead.
SPEAKER: Yes, the sound –- can everyone hear me?
MS. COURIC: Yeah. You can stand, maybe that would be helpful. Thank you.
SPEAKER: okay. The panel hasn't talked about what the monitoring should be with computers and as kids are spending more time on the Internet. And I'm just curious as to what the panels feels the appropriate monitoring, and what parents can do, and what do you think the right thing to do is with the Internet with kids and being on the computer?
MS. LEVINE: Before I go, let somebody else answer what you do with your kids around that, but I would say modeling for them some boundaries around technology. If you have your BlackBerry when you're tucking your kid in at night and you're checking that, if you have your BlackBerry at the dinner table by telling them ,no, you can't do this that's going to be very confusing for them.
MS. COURIC: What about other kind of monitoring, do you guys have any advice?
MS. YOUNG-EISENDRATH: Well, you know, we learned this warning that children under 2 should have no exposure to this, and that's what the American Academy of Pediatrics says. You know it becomes really hard in adolescents, right. When your kid is going to bed you say good night and you've gone to sleep. And it's 1:00 o'clock in the morning and your kid is still, you know, on Facebook and twittering and stuff like that.
MS. COURIC: And you see the green light under their sheet, yeah.
MS. YOUNG-EISENDRATH: So there are big pluses and big minuses. Technology is here to stay and it's outpaced, it's happened so quickly, it's outpaced, one, the research on it and two, our capacity to know how to deal with it well. So I think most professionals would say, you know, if your kid is spending 2 hours a day between Facebook and whatever screen that's okay. But if at the point where it starts to squeeze out real life it becomes problematic.
So last year at NYU for the first time they did in orientation something called "virtual Facebook." And that was because they had so many kids who felt that they didn't know how to poke somebody in real life, which would be looking at you and saying, you know, thanks for your question.
So when it starts, you know, when your kid is doing 3, and 4, and 5 hours and particularly around what we know is a particular round of aggressive games for aggressive boys that's a really kind of toxic combination. But it's also like the corner store for kids. It's where they hang out. It's part of their culture.
I think when it starts to interfere with other activities, particularly social activities that you need to come in. And parents come in all the time and say but what can I do? Well, take the plug out, you know, really it's not rocket science. So you have to, you know, –- and then expect to tolerating the kid going, you're the worst mother in the world, then you go, okay, so I am. And you know --
MS. COURIC: Okay. I think there is another question. Lilly, yeah. Yeah, go ahead, sorry.
RYAN: My name is Ryan. Thank you very much for speaking tonight, I thought you guys did an excellent job. And I agree with just about everything that you all said. And I'll say this, did you ever the –- drawing a relationship or a correlation between over-parenting and then over –- I guess, welfaring in America as well as their correlation to what we do in America and what the government does and how much support we give to certain people. And if that actually is counterintuitive and doesn't actually help them but hurts them because there's always a safety net underneath them. Have you ever drawn a line or a connection to that or had an opinion on that or not?
MS. COURIC: That's an interesting question.
MS. COURIC: Okay, go ahead.
MS. YOUNG-EISENDRATH: I'll say this I think that when it come -- now this is my view, it's, you know, this is the Aspen institute, this is my own view. If we really want an educated, well-functioning citizenry we do need to support it and it needs to have the underlying foundation for everybody to have education, to have proper health care. Otherwise, you cannot have an individual who functions well. And so, I don't see us in any way as a culture overdoing that piece of it. You know I think we're underdoing it.
MS. COURIC: It was interesting when Lori's article came out in the Atlantic. I thought it was really interesting and I tweeted it. And I thought one of the most interesting responses was, isn't underparenting in America a bigger problem than overparenting?
MS. COURIC: So I mean what do you think of that comment? I mean wouldn't you say –- .
SPEAKER: I think there's a lot of validity to that. You know, I mean I think that's what striking a balance in parenting is something that as a country we struggle with because we have these two extremes. But it's very hard for us to find the middle. On the one hand, it's people who, you know, need to be educated about it and can have choice about it which is all of us here, and then on the other hand, people who don't have the resources. And so that's a different problem.
MS. COURIC: And while the anxiety level, you know, Madeline, may exist across socioeconomic lines, there are certainly so many children in poverty who don't have the benefit of really any kind of adequate parenting.
MS. LEVINE: Absolutely.
MS. COURIC: So that's important to point out. Okay, anyone else have a question?
SPEAKER: Hi, how are you?
MS. COURIC: Good. How are you?
SPEAKER: I'm in the "perfect storm" for all three of your couches because I'm a boomer, and the last time I saw Katie was at the 2002 Olympics when my son won a medal.
MS. COURIC: You just had to get that in didn't you.
SPEAKER: That was a great segue we just did. And –-
MS. COURIC: What was it in by the way?
SPEAKER: Parallel giant slalom snowboard racing.
MS. COURIC: Wow, impressive. Okay.
SPEAKER: Anyway, the point is now I'm in a position of incredible responsibility. And that is I a public school college counselor. And I want to propose a position for parents that I'm working with, and I would like your comments on it. And it's the parenting paradigm shift from true parenting of my parents' generation, the cross between Great Santini and Frankenstein.
SPEAKER: And the new parenting which is that juxtaposition of over and under parenting, to a parent as a partner. Around 16, 17, 18 -- I asked my kids at the public school to ask their parents into this process of a post-secondary option exploration to come in as partners. After all, the parents are paying for it.
The parents have to be consulted. It has a huge impact on the family. And I'm asking for your comments on is there a way for parents to reenter the conversation as perhaps a partner in a process rather than the authoritative figure or the authority or the expert.
MS. COURIC: Can I just ask you a quick question. When you ask parents to get involved, what's the response?
SPEAKER: May of them are here tonight. Parents? Oh.
MS. COURIC: Awkward?
SPEAKER: No, not awkward. These parents are great partners to their kids and I think they do make the shift. And I'm thinking it's a prescription. It does work when it's invited by the kids to come into the process as partners. There's a new relationship, there's a conversation on equal ground of what does this mean to the family if I pick Yale over Colorado Mountain College here. What does it mean?
There is a new grounding and a new conversation that takes place. And I would just like to think there is some ground between over and under, that's called the partnership parenting at a certain age, certainly not at 4, you get into those things -- with them as a partner. But is there a place in your consultation model that allows parents back in as partners.
SPEAKER: I think part of the reason that kids might be reluctant to bring their parents in is that they're at that developmental stage where they are trying to establish themselves and their sense of separation and individuation from their parents.
And what they're concerned about is that while I think they do value their parent's input, but they don't want to get kind of stuck by what their parents wants. They don't want that to override their own desires, they want to be heard, and part of them is afraid that that might happen.
MS. YOUNG-EISENDRATH: Well, I mean I think the biggest message around college is that college is a fit, not a prize, right? And that –-
SPEAKER: It's my -- it's over my door.
MS. YOUNG-EISENDRATH: A lot of scattered applause here, I can't quite –-
MS. YOUNG-EISENDRATH: But you know, I think that clearly it's a collaboration but I think that -- it has to feel like the child's project. I think it's actually better if the child feels I'd like my parents to participate in than if they're sort of ordered to have the parent participate in it.
So and you know, it goes back to the same thing. What happens on panels like this is it's always like there's one red light, bring the parent in, really good idea, or, don't have to bring the parent in, you know, it takes –- and it's not like that. There are kids who really benefit from having their parents collaborate with them, and there are kids who say, you know, it's my space, it's my decision. You went to college already, I need to think about it.
And then, ultimately, if they are given enough space then come back to you and say what do you think about that. So I don't think there's really a single answer. I think it depends on the kid and the relationship that they have with their parents, but I completely agree with you developmentally. It's the developmental stage of independence.
And so the kid has to feel like they own that decision. And that it's not the residue of a parent's disappointment. They never got into Yale, you know the family got divorced or the brothers have had a father where all the kids went except the one father who didn't get in. And goddammit his kid was going to Yale to make up for his, you know, his disappointment in life.
And I think kids are really very sensitive to that. So I think you let them –-ideally, you let them lead and encourage a collaboration.
MS. COURIC: And I will say not getting into your first choice is a really good thing because that is the first thing that ever happened to me. You know, my sisters both went into Smith. They love the sisters in Smith and I got out flat out rejected, not even waiting-listed. It was devastating, but it worked out. So I always tell people it's okay if you don't -- you know, if you –- and my parents were -- they didn't care of one way or the other by the way. They were happy to send me in state.
SPEAKER: I wanted to come back to something that she said because I understood her differently than anyone else did here. I understood you as saying you wanted to bring the family together so that the question about college could be a kind of communal question where people could look at the bigger picture of what it's going to cost the family, what it's going to mean to each member of the family. And so it doesn't end up simply being, here I am, wanting to go to Yale and I don't care about what it means to the rest of my family.
And this the kind of thing that I think is a very good beginning process to introduce the idea back that you become a member of a family by having responsibilities to that family not by being born into it.
MS. COURIC: But also giving the child the real voice in the process.
SPEAKER: Well, yes, giving the child the voice but not the only voice.
MS. COURIC: Right.
SPEAKER: You know, I think we've got this idea now, if you're born into a family you're in that family. There has never been a time historically, where was such a sort of economic and social disadvantage to have children. It exhausts people now. You know, the whole reason for having children originally was that they're actually prepared to work along with the family.
MS. COURIC: Yeah.
SPEAKER: Than it was a neutral and now it's, you know, it exhausts the resources of the parents –-
MS. COURIC: Yeah, could help –- they could help on the farm.
SPEAKER: Yeah. So, yeah, I think she's saying, you know, let's come back to the table and look at the whole family even in relation to one person wanting to go to Yale. And –-
MS. COURIC: Yale is getting a really bad rap tonight I'd like to say. But they'll survive, Madeline.
MS. COURIC: I think we have time for maybe one more question.
SPEAKER: Can I say one thing?
MS. COURIC: Okay. Yeah, yeah, oh, God, yeah.
SPEAKER: I just want you to know because we've done (inaudible) talking today that they did a study and they looked at kids who are accepted at Yale. And those who went and those who didn't go to Yale, and 20 years down the line they don't look any different. So the notion that --
MS. COURIC: Okay. Wait, I think we have a –-
SPEAKER: There's somebody back there.
MS. COURIC: Oh, hi. Oh, hi, Donna (phonetic). My friend from New York, I spent with. Go ahead.
DONNA: When you talked about good enough mothering or parenting, I think it's very valid. I think we all want to strive to be good enough. My issue is I have three children in private school and I don't think the private schools really help with that because they require either AP classes or advanced honors classes. So when you want your child to get that 9 hours of sleep or you want them to do the best that they can, the schools aren't supporting us in that regard.
And I'm wondering how as a parent body, we can get the schools to help us, support us in making it less pressured, less difficult, as is the ways to know where –- which you alluded to earlier. I think it becomes very competitive, like two-fourth of them aren't working together.
MS. COURIC: I agree.
MS. COURIC: I mean the idea of letting –- having my daughter sleep 9 hours a night is such a joke, because she's more self-motivated. I'm not saying study, study, study. She is feeling the internal pressure of competing with her classmates. So what am I supposed to say? Turn off the lights and go to sleep right now? Which I sometimes do by the way.
MS. COURIC: Ms. Madeline is going to say yes, that's why you're supposed to do.
MS. LEVINE: That's a good idea, (inaudible) told her. I co-founded an organization called Challenge Success at Stanford. And one of the things we do is rent about a 100 schools in America and we're trying to get the schools to take all these kinds of best practices which we know, like we know if you have 2 hours of homework, 2-1/2 hours of homework, you learn. And if you have more than that, in general you degrade learning. Okay? So there is no point in doing 4 hours of homework.
But you're exactly right. That's a real hot-button issue in the schools and you can't sleep if you have 4 hours of homework. And I think frankly, that it takes -- as Vicki (phonetic) who is here -- it takes sort of a groundswell of parents saying, enough. You know that was -- this idea that parents and kids are equal participants is just wrong. There has always been a parent child gradient because we've been a lot longer and we know more and we're supposed to guide our children. And so to extent to which parents and their communities gets together and walk into the schools and say, I know you know that 4 hours of homework a night is not my child's best interests. What are we going to do about it?
And I think it really comes from, you know, I'll talk for moms, When they sprayed chemicals in my community, our own apples, every one of us was out with a sign saying, you know, don't poison our children. This is so much more toxic what is going on now. And I think moms and dads and everybody else to get together and challenge it. It's like, you know, take that child or take that piñata. I mean we have to be active.
MS. COURIC: And I also think that you can be active in your home. So a lot of parents will say well my kid doesn't take no for an answer, or, my teenager doesn't take no for an answer. And that's because you're not actually telling them, no. So there is reason that they're not. It's like -- recently I was in a shoe store with this -- with a little kid, and a mom, you know, was saying that I'm going to count to three and if you don't stop that then, you know, we're going to leave right away and you're not going to get any shoes. And so the mom goes, one, two --
MS. COURIC: No, she didn't even say -- instead of saying three she just said, okay, we'll take the sandals and the white ones and we're out of here.
MS. COURIC: You know, so what did the girl learn? That my mom's going to count to three and I'm going to get the shoes anyway.
But we do that with sleep too. You know, like you need to go to sleep, you need to do this but we don't actually enforce that because part of us feels guilty that, well then they're not going to keep up with all their friends who stayed up till 1:00 in the morning to do their homework. And it's confusing because as therapists we find it ironic that often we're telling parents, you know, you need to pay less attention to your kid's school work, you need to pay less attention to their feelings –-
MS. COURIC: –- in a way because they're over invested in their feelings. And then the school is saying, well, you know, actually it's Multicultural Day and you have to cook this -- well, what is that doing, you know, you're -- the parent is doing all the homework. The parent is the one who's worrying about the AP classes and what's due and so there's a lot of pressure on parents.
SPEAKER: And also there may be some -- I mean, to be real for a minute there maybe some disadvantages to telling your child, I'm sorry, honey, it's bedtime. You know, I just went to the Aspen Institute and I heard all these neuroscientists say you better go to sleep, right.
SPEAKER: So there may be a short-term decrement to that. But, you know, we think so short-term. It's like what grade did you get this week, or, how did you do at the end of the semester, or, how did you do at graduation, what's your GPA. It's almost like a business model of -- you know, what's the shareholder return at the end of the quarter.
MS. COURIC: Right.
SPEAKER: I think we have to think way further out than that, you know. My kids are 20 to 30 now and I'm just starting to get a sense of what I did right and what I did wrong. And you want to look at success for your kid then, not whether or not, you know, they got a three/one instead of a three/four or a three -- or a four/one in this group, you know, instead of a four/four --
SPEAKER: -- on their test. It's just way to short-term thinking.
MS. COURIC: I think we have one more question.
SPEAKER: Hi. I want to profess what I -- my question just by saying I believe in everything that you say, but I do want to ask what you all think parents are doing better or right now compared to say a generation ago with perhaps positive consequences for the children?
MS COURIC: That's a nice positive way to end this panel.
SPEAKER: Thank you, thank you.
MS. YOUNG-EISENDRATH: Well, I think that parents actually understand a lot more about child development than they had previously. And there's a lot less harm being done in terms of, you know, treating children aggressively, isolating them, doing so many things that were developmentally wrong for them and mistimed. I think parents are interested in what is the timeliness of child development, how can you sort of cooperate with the natural developmental processes and strengthen those, even though some of the things that we've talked about in terms of over parenting interfere with the natural processes.
Still, I find parents interested in reading, interested in studying child development. And that there is a kind of a knowledge that we have of our children that was not there previously. And if we can combine it with the things that we're learning about, really returning that sort of leadership authority role to the parent, working with the negative emotions so that we don't seem to want to scrape them away, because there really are more negative emotions in toto in life than positive ones. And so if you're trying to protect your child from feeling bad about something this is not good preparation for life.
But, you know, in the framework of understanding more about your child, using this kind of information I think would produce the kind of parenting that, you know, we'd really be sort of looking for and benefiting from as a culture too. So I actually do find parents very, very motivated to understand. They're not necessarily motivated to short-circuit their own narcissism. That's the problem –-
MS. COURIC: Lori.
MS. GOTTLIEB: I think that what parents are doing really well is that they are enjoying their children in a new way.
MS. GOTTLIEB: That they really delight in their children, and I think that that's really lovely that they spend -- they really enjoy spending time with their kids, they really enjoy having conversations with their kids, they really enjoy passing down stories, and sharing moments with their kids that a lot of kids from previous generations didn't have. They don't have those memories with their parents.
And I think when I see a lot of kids now who are in their 20s and 30s, especially maybe in the -- maybe 15 to 25 group a lot of their really nice experiences are how much they really know their parents, how much time their parents spend with them, not necessarily in, you know, the actual increments of time, but how much they devoted to the time that they did spend together that it was really joyful for both the child and the parent.
MS. COURIC: Madeline.
MS. LEVINE: Yeah, I would agree with that a great deal. And I think -- I think communication is good. I think, you know, in the old days like parents didn't really listen to kids. And I think parents now sometimes spend too much time listening to their kids, but that they know their children and that they are interested in them. And that they have a kind of pleasure in their daily development which is, you know, wonderful and lovely. And I think that's a big positive.
MS. COURIC: Well, ladies.
MS.COURIC: Polly, Lori, Madeline, thank you all so much.
SPEAKER: Thank you.
SPEAKER: Thank you.
SPEAKER: Thank you, Katie, thank you panel. That was awesome. We have books for sale which I failed to mention before brought by these three wonderful panelists, for sale and signing. So please pick up a copy on your way out.
* * * * *