I was in my first year on the staff at Lutheran High School of Dallas. I had been hired as school counselor but that was only a half time position. To be full time I needed to fill out my schedule and had to be in the classroom a couple periods a day. I ended up teaching psychology and 7th grade math. With a Masters in counseling, teaching psychology was very much in my comfort zone. Teaching math was another matter. I will admit I was always just one lesson ahead in the teacher’s manual. It was in the middle of the second semester that I had my first experience with “parent wrath.” The head of the math department had informed me that I needed to test the students on their skill level in order to determine which students would take pre-algebra as 8th graders. At that point I was naïve in terms of what this meant. Starting algebra in middle school put students into a college prep track. That did not mean the students who took an additional year of math were doomed to failure, but rather they were not ready for the abstract concepts involved in algebra.
I was not ready for the backlash from parents whose children were not going to be taking algebra as 8th graders. You would have thought I had destined them for life-long failure. The first question most of them asked, after we had moved past “this is not fair,” was what can I do to change this. Some asked for their students to retake the test, others immediately wanted to hire a tutor. The bottom line was most them were willing to do whatever it took to get what they felt their child deserved.
This was not limited to academics. I know there were parents who donated time and money to the athletic program in hopes that it would earn their child a spot in the starting line-up. I know the same thing went on in other extra-curricular activities as well. Parents will go to almost any length, at almost any cost, to insure their child’s success.
I thought of all this as I read about the recent college admission scandal. Some parents are still willing to pay big bucks to get their children in prestigious school in order to guarantee their success. Yes, unfortunately those with wealth have a leg up when it comes to opening the door to certain schools.
When I wrote my book Parenting without Guilt: Avoiding the Seven Things Parents do to Screw up Their Kids I dedicated a whole chapter to living your dreams vicariously through your kids. One danger in parenting is that we see the possibility to atone for our failures in the lives of our children, not realizing the danger involved. They do not always share our dreams and aspirations. During my years both as a DCE and school counselor I tried to help students cast a vision of what they wanted to be. Once that vision was cast, I would help them chart a path to reaching it. Sure, parents played a role in the process. Usually, they provided some financial resources. But, more importantly they were supporters and encouragers. There is no greater satisfaction as a parent than seeing your child realize their dreams