How the Increased competitiveness of college admissions and the gold standard of a college education have inadvertently caused us to undermine our children’s resilience and grit.

Not all cultures value college education equally. I grew up in a culture that recognized the necessity of becoming self-sufficient but college wasn’t necessarily the only path, and in fact, vocations were equally as valued. However, in this culture it is different and parents start thinking about this almost immediately after their children are born. They think about how they can best prepare and help their children gain admissions into the best colleges, and “good” parents are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve this. “Good” parents feel it’s imperative to give their children a competitive edge, and are willing to do almost anything, and in some cases “anything”, if you look at the recent college scandal, to achieve this. Unfortunately, in the process we undermine our children’s competence and self-reliance by doing too much for them, and by being so involved in their lives, we also silently convey the message that their accomplishments are what we value, and their achievements are their worth. They may come to believe that only perfection is acceptable and anything less is insufficient.

Since getting into the “best” college was so desirable we were scared that any misstep would ruin our children’s chances of getting into the most desirable universities. We wanted to protect them from making mistakes that might jeopardize this, and in the process we denied them the experience of natural consequences of their actions. We have therefore raised children who feel entitled to have things go their way and are lacking resilience to withstand the challenges they will have to face alone when they leave the safety of the nest. By being overly protective and fixing their problems, we sadly have robbed our children of the kinds of opportunities necessary to cultivate resilience. Let us begin to make adjustments in our parenting. Let our children experience the natural consequences of their actions on the small things so they don’t suffer the larger ones that can truly follow them into their futures. Let’s teach them self-reliance so they don’t become emotionally dependent and then anxious at the prospect of growing up. Let’s teach them that making mistakes is less important than learning from them and that being imperfect is not the same as being flawed. Finally, let’s teach them to be flexible in their thinking, willing to listen and assimilate new information so the world can be seen as complex and people in it not simply seen as good or bad.

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