Society Dealing With the Negative Consequences of Helicopter Parenting Or a Culture Too Overly Dependent on Learning by Osmosis

Current Trends by Natasha Sapp

That’s the claim by former Stanford University dean of freshman Julie Lythcott-Haims  in her book How to Raise an Adult chronicling the ugly side of stranger danger, choreographing your child’s every move from play dates, to the self-esteem movement, overpraising, over trophy-ing our kids into weak, dependent beings who don’t have life skills. From the child who shows up at college with his boxes not knowing how to ask for help getting his stuff into his dorm to the investment banker who lost his job after his mother called his boss asking why he was working him so hard; it’s nearly 400 pages of what extremely involved parents are doing wrong creating kids, to quote the author who are the smartest people in the world, have book smarts but not the skills to live independently. Art imitating life or life imitating art it’s reminiscent of the hilarious Everybody Loves Raymond episode where Marie tries to bolster Robert’s chances of getting hired by the FBI only for her comments, interference and unwanted meddling to cost him a promotion and a dream.  Honestly, helicopter parenting is nothing new, neither are books on the subject ridiculing parents who do so to predicting societies doom if it goes on, though most aren’t that severe; what is interesting are her stated origins for the phenomenon and her perspectives on the problem, proposed solutions and by extension her assessment of the parents and kids who ended up being the product of those factors given during a CBS This Morning segment. There she blames a convergence of factors in the 1980’s including high profile abduction cases giving us a national fear of stranger danger, the advent of the play date according to her circa 1984, the self-esteem movement praising kids for simply showing up and evidence we were not doing as well as our international competitors sparking more tests, teaching to the test and more homework. Nothing new here either all expounded on in some fashion via multiple morning shows, a litany of blogs, newspaper articles and nightly news segments national or local. But is she right, not only about what sparked the current parenting trend turned downright methodology, also about its results particularly the negative outcomes? Granted some of the stories she tells, stories we’ve heard come across other news outlets detailing just how far parents will go in defending their child’s unruly behavior, making excuses for missing school assignments, late homework, absent school days, in bombarding teachers with questions about grades, demanding extra progress reports to haggling with teachers over grades and why their child deserves a better one, going so far as to call and wake them for college classes, manage their study schedule, remind them of work, choosing their friends and being closely involved in their lives well beyond when they have moved out, the past 15 years certainly support her points. However, she either did a poor job representing her book or, based on her comments, its purported insight and guidance isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on utterly misrepresenting the motives behind parents treating their children as independent research projects as some have called it, making them your independent life project, simultaneously showing a complete lack of understanding about the catalysts that have led us here. Calling into serious question her conclusions about the effects of this hated, shunned parenting style, what she says she saw among college students that compelled her to write the book freeing parents and kids from the over protective parenting trap allegedly creating stronger more independent people with the basic life skills, to quote CBS This Morning cohost Charlie Rose, we shouldn’t need a book to tell us our children need or how to cultivate those skills in our children, naming it common sense. Forgoing common sense isn’t as common as it used to be, if it ever was, Lythcott-Haims seems astonishingly ignorant of exactly how  much the world has changed from whatever pre-present day reference she formed her argument around putting her up there with Tiger mom Amy Chua, American Pamela Druckerman raising children in France, the Alabama football coach handing out life lessons to kids while revealing just what a broken mess he is and who could forget America’s dad, his countless books, speeches and life lectures then the tumbling fall from grace of Bill Cosby, only needlessly adding to the cultural white noise turning parents into nervous, unsure shells serving to exacerbate the very problem they want to eliminate.

http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/01/calling-the-parents-when-a-college-student-drinks/?_r=0

For starters Ms. Lythcott-Haims might want to bush up on her 80’s and 90’s history/news footage if she thinks it was only a couple, even 3 high profile child abduction, missing, harmed children cases that ingrained in us national fear; it’s more like, at minimum, 2-3 a year seemingly increasing as the years and decades went on. No, statistical evidence might not bear out a spike in crime, crimes against children in the 1980’s or 90’s but stacking up these cases and more besides it certainly made parents think I don’t want it to be my child. 1979 Steven Gregory Stayner, Etan Patz, Patz bringing national attention to missing children, leading to faces being placed on milk cartons. Timmy White in 1980,1981 Adam Walsh, Walsh whose death and subsequent parental activism eventually founded the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Jacob Wetterling 1989 whereabouts still unknown. 1991 Jaycee Dugard taken from her bus stop and not seen for the next 18 years, when she emerged telling a harrowing story of abuse and imprisonment including 2 children by her sexual predator abductor. Polly Klaas in 1993 abducted from her own bedroom, Danielle van Dam 1994 under similar circumstances, Morgan Nick 1995 disappearing from a baseball field less the 200 feet from her mother, 1996 JonBenét Ramsey. Elizabeth Smart and Shawn Hornbeck in 2002, Ben Ownby in 2007, Somer Thompson, 2009, Kyron Horman in 2010, baby Lisa Irwin in 2011and the list goes on and on. Far more significant than the number is the cumulative nature of the effect, the escalating, heinous nature of what was done to these children, teens many found dead; anecdotal evidence presented on comment boards discussing current headlines, controversial free range parenting going back to the days of Leave it to Beaver, summers of staying out all day until the sun went down supporting public perception and parenting choice to hover, helicopter. To say nothing of present day, within the last 5 years, cases caught on camera predators attempting abductions in broad daylight someone taking a kindergarten age child from her own house, a man attempting to take a child inside Wal-Mart, mother 1 aisle away, but parents are micromanaging ninnies who need to get out of their own heads. Further make no mistake “helicopter parenting” for safety is different than doing their homework, giving them wakeup calls for work from miles away and choosing their friends, hobbies, extracurricular activities, colleges. The play date was popular, in full swing circa 1994, not 1984, and was never a substitute for ‘free play,’ playing alone or a place for parents to break up typical social squabbles between children stunting their social skills; funny currently we blame social media, Facebook creating the illusion of intimacy, texting, Instagram, Snapchat, a lack of face to face, physical, picking up on social cues, facial expressions, interaction for doing that.  It was, still remains, a more structured way, for parents alone, to organize play between their child and school friends too far away for young kids to walk to each other’s houses, living in busy metropolitan areas, growing cities where walking is really unsafe never mind for children precipitating being driven to the play date, ensure your child, their friend get to pay together on a specific day versus walking all the way there to find them not home, avoid imposing your child on another parent unawares owing to increasingly busy professionals who can’t have the open door, house on the block all the kids come to policy of yesteryear, even a chance for parents to likewise get together and compare notes, have an adult conversation while kids have fun. I’m all for getting rid of this insatiable drive to compete, compete internationally with school systems, economic systems, employment systems vastly different than our own and housing no shortage of their own problems, in-continuities between education and employment; unfortunately the global market is a reality not leaving us anytime soon, only creating more of an impact on how everyone does everything. Regarding the self-esteem movement, ridiculous rewards for simply showing up, hey the phrase 90, a varying high percentage, of life is showing up supersedes current crops of college age teens, students going back 35 years, so you can’t blame them, the 1980’s for that; going forward, her comments and her stories seem to be a contradiction in terms, the investment banker appearing to have no problem with work ethic, hard work, the skills needed to do the job. He was fired because his mother dared call his boss and berate him for overworking her child. Books like How to Raise an Adult, what parents, adults America wide say they want from and for their children, employers want from employees, workers want from bosses, ordinary people want being out in society, handling daily errands files in the face of what several colleges were doing just 5 years ago, what they also said they wanted, less parent involvement, calling the parents of underage college drinkers to deal with their child as opposed to imposing on campus consequences. Calling police to handle drunk and disorderly students, persecuting, demanding payment for property damage or considering making their campus a dry campus; giving kids the impression they aren’t juveniles anymore, they are adults in the adult world, engaging in adult activities and must manage adult issues. Raising the question, who really has the problem here, who really needs a lesson, lessons in life skills; social fears on a national scale largely unfounded chiefly because, helicopter parented or not, many resent it and strike out on their own leaving mommy’s overbearing apron strings behind.

As for solving their problems, concierge-ing children today, providing excessive hand holding, it goes hand in hand, pun intended, with the general consensus stereotyping of these parents pegging them the ones who do their child’s homework, whose pressure has purportedly engineered a school system where teachers aren’t allowed to flunk deficient students anymore, obsessing over grades, arguing over projects and panicked a B in middle school will effect their college chances. I have to laugh when I hear the first 3 out of 4; my friend solves so many of her 10 year old son’s problems because she has to, not because she wants to. His autism diagnosis and notorious anger management problems aside, she ends up solving his problems because we have a worse problem of not listening to children today than we did in the 1950’s; on numerous occasions he has gone head to head verbally with school administrators, lunch ladies over his food allergies to red apples and oranges because they tried to tell him he could not have green apples or apple sauce, which he knows he can have. Her once intervening with a lunch lady insisting he had to have a fruit when his allergies were the only options, and no matter how many times he said he couldn’t have it,  she just would not let up, his mother had to get what adults still call belligerent to get the lady to back off; he was 6. And it hasn’t gotten any better only worse; earlier this year he, frustrated, turned to his aid and exasperatedly asked for help because yet another lunch lady was denying him apple sauce even though food allergies are listed right there in the computer next to the child’s name alongside lunch account information. When he attended a new summer school last month he directly asked his mother to talk to the school about his water bottle and need to drink regularly both due to his medically documented heat sensitivity and medication he takes for mood/behavior issues. Forget you can’t flunk children nowadays, same friend her oldest flunked kindergarten due to a diagnosed learning disability and has been a handful ever since, because rather than putting him on an IEP and sending him to the next grade, they repeated him placing him currently between grades academically; meaning he is bored at the beginning of the year struggling to keep up in the second half. Same elementary school tired the same with her second son, again in kindergarten, until she mandated a special ed. evaluation, who determined him to be right where he should be. Déjà vu with her 3rd child they had re-placed into a kindergarten class for next year despite his mother refusing g to sign paperwork allowing it; kindergarten repeats so high in the modern era due to kindergarten teachers who do not know how to adequately teach or assess children who do not have the benefit of preschool. In managing squabbles between friends she often advises and counsels but doesn’t get what many consider over involved until it was discovered his best friend was avoiding him because her father told her to; now the father is the non-custodial parent all around typical reason women get divorced and her mother has no problem with her being friends with him. However she is caught in the middle of 2 adults giving conflicting commands, a problem that she can’t solve, he can’t solve and needs to be solved by the adults in question. Once more, society has nothing to worry about; by the time kids reach their teen years they don’t go to their parents with problems especially if they routinely try to jump in and play fix it, fix it all the time. Plus what happens when you don’t intervene, not in play date battles over who wants to do what, playground arguments over equipment or social disagreements but when you don’t recognize a squabble has gone to all out bullying, when you fail to realize it’s deeper than 2 little individuals that need to either settle their differences or stay away from each other, need basic problem solving steps given to them, modeled for them; this is the stuff suicides are made of. On talking to an adult, teaching your children to talk to an adult, approach a possible issue with an adult instead of you the parent stepping in, people are increasingly wary of potential confrontation independent of age, situation due to the disastrous outcomes publicized on the news; persons going absolutely crazy when you do try to settle something seemingly benign calmly and rationally.  Additionally complicating things, talk to an adult, children don’t talk to adults, don’t dare ask if an adult might be wrong, don’t question why things are, going all the way back to the 1950’s and the revered community members our author referenced, a respect my authoritah concept we were still teaching kids, to an extent, in the 1980’s she cities as the beginning of the helicopter parenting movement; a concept coming back in the wake of shockingly bratty, out of control youth with no rules, no manners and no boundaries. Example from my own life, toward the end of the year in my later years of elementary school my mother forgot my lunch money; because it was the end of the year all I received was a sandwich even though my mother had no outstanding bills with the school regarding lunch or other items, when my mother found out about this she was furious sending me to school with 75 cents, what she felt the sandwich was worth, as opposed to the 1.25 lunches cost at the time. I was subsequently confronted by the principal, lectured, felt like I was being yelled at, too nervous to tell him my mother’s thoughts or mine, why she’d done what she’s done; then I was yelled at, at home for not sticking up for her. Thinking the whole time hey you’re the one with the problem, you say respect authority; which is it? Why I have routinely in my work spoke out against teaching kids to respect authority or else, respect authority above all else. And if that respectful tactic has worked for a young person throughout their childhood, they were well liked by their teachers, why would they change it; in fact it will carry with them into adulthood. Shocking is how many times my friend has been told by teachers no more than 5 years older than her to respect her elders, not to cuss, or get loud, when she would do neither if they listened the first, second or third time she said something reasonable and relevant to her child, how quickly they forget they are speaking to a fellow adult on equal footing. Lastly here, if you have a teacher, school administrator, coach exc. doing something wrong, unfair, dubious they aren’t going to listen anyway forcing the parent to get involved, something today parents must constantly check for owing to the appalling, headline generating, charges usually filed behavior of said mentors.

We should also be suspicious of experts, deans, teachers claiming parents are doing their child’s homework taking into account a Good Morning America segment from roughly 4 years ago showcasing a homework boot camp for adults so they could better aid their child with homework, looking at 6th grade homework, 6th grade classroom concepts being taught things like torque, heat convection that were never taught at that level when parents were in school; odds are parents understanding of homework hasn’t improved. Let’s also define doing their homework contrasted against helping with their homework, the increasingly elaborate projects foisted on younger and younger kids, supervising the creation of that science class volcano so your kitchen or living room doesn’t look like a wrecking ball went through it, routinely why parents structure actives more than allow ‘free play;’ that and to keep them from pulling out paints, making a mess 20 minutes before you must leave to do something, combatting that ever recurring, sanity leaching phrase heard the time of year, I’m bored, I’m bored.  The difference between checking homework for accuracy, critiquing for meeting the parameters of the assignment, grade level appropriate work on reports, writing assignments, suggestions followed to make it better, enhance structure and actually doing it for them; yet, to that end, I remember my 6th grade country report, being sick the week and a half before it was due and me and my mother marathon-ing through it over 2 weekends, having no idea where to get all the information wanted until invading the public library not the schools, back when there was no Google, Google scholar, yahoo, printing out reams of paper to get what you needed, but you actually had to look it up in an encyclopedia, and it wasn’t Encarta online. My mother vastly improving the quality of the project typing the information I provided since there was no computer in my house, limited school access, her able to run the page numbering, shading, underlining, spacing, column creation options, add blurbs on traditional clothing drawings without messing it up on her multi-featured 1990’s, electronic typewriter, pushing me to add more of this, include that, multi-color the country map. Did I cheat hardly, nor when I dictated and she typed my junior year research paper because the temperamental electric fancy dancy typewriter always worked for her and always messed up the double spacing for me. Yes I got a perfect grade on the former and a B on the latter; ironic I never had to do anything like the report again probably because my interests, electives didn’t encompass science or research. Nor am I without a job because I didn’t learn from that experience how to compile that type of information owing to my mommy doing it for me. Another parent was surprised when her second grade child needed written references for the in class job of board eraser; luckily for him he had 2 parents and 2 older bothers to choose from, was not living in a single parent household. Begging the question, whose homework is it, what about instances where parents are not only encourage to help, to do, it is expected; schools demanding of parents they do their own kind of homework regarding their child, beyond signing report cards, field trip, sex ed. class permission slips, disciplinary and detention reports, initialing reading logs, filling out class assignments on knowing your child or similar things for which their child will ultimately receive a grade. I remember my junior year of high school turning in one such assignment late for half credit because my mother initially refused to do it. Why I have consistently advocated in my commentary for schools to stop giving parents homework for which the child with either be penalized or rewarded. Many doubtlessly have seen the smartphone commercial where the little, obviously elementary school, girl comes out of her room in pajamas and when the mother harried asks why she isn’t dressed announces, it’s dress like a president day, she’s supposed to be Martin Van Buren. What follows is quick search of his name, including photo on the mother’s phone and a comical racing through the house for supplies, a pair of her panty hose, a doyly snatched from under the dining room table vase, one of her husband’s ties, contents of a pillow for his late in life white beard, work on a sewing machine and a pretty cool looking little Martin Van Buren. But there is no way the child was to do that all on their own; dido with in class school plays, other functions requiring food, a costume or large prop be brought by the student. My own country report included a food day where someone bought Taco Bell representing their child’s country and my mother made my dish because she wasn’t turning her, had never cooked before, 13 year old loose in the kitchen.

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Parenting/video/homework-hell-when-parents-fall-behind-13036592

Yes once upon a time teachers, coaches, referees were revered, respected members of the community when they deigned to behave as such, when we were as parents, as a society in the dark about their propensity to belittle, berate, ridicule, humiliate, physically, even sexually abuse children they were charged with educating, mentoring; once upon the olden days, the golden days, we believed these people knew what they were doing, we labor under no such delusion any longer. We’ve seen too many female teachers sleeping with male students the moment they hit puberty and are capable, too many male teachers seducing and coercing female students, when it’s not that, it’s downright forced abuse; remember the California school where the entire staff had to be replaced after a photo print place called police about suspicious photos exposing a veteran teacher, there for decades had been sexually abusing elementary school children duct taping their eyes and/or mouth, letting roaches crawl across their faces, putting his semen on crackers and making them eat it, all depicted in photos. The trend of teacher bating aside, intentionally provoking a teacher to get them in trouble, explosive rants in the middle of math classes, tirades on why they got into teaching that had nothing to do with a love of learning, wishing to educated but rather the health benefits, caught on tape. A teacher who drew derogatory remarks on grade schoolers faces who didn’t meet reading goals, supposed educators caught on audio humiliating a kindergartener in front of the entire class for a minor infraction, simple mistake, inappropriate demeaning comments written on graded papers. Apart from scream, seclusion rooms, restraining bags, dangerous use of restraining holds with tragic results, special needs students ridiculed, yelled at for being special needs, for having disabilities like autism, even dragged around, fingers purposefully slammed in doors. Schools notorious zero tolerance, dress code policies eliminating problem solving, judgment calls, adults having to make a defensible argument about why they did or didn’t choose action X; leaving anyone reading with the question which generation needs problem solving and life skills training? Schools still using corporal punishment, teachers abusing their ability to discipline via corporal punishment paddling a child for failing a paper and without the parent’s knowledge. A different parent livid at the contradiction, because she signed a permission form a coach was allowed to use corporal punishment to the point of leaving bruises; while had she sent him to school with bruises, she would be in jail.  Recently a substitute teacher caught via cellphone video using his own belt, off his pants on a class full of terrified 6th graders, reportedly to break up a fight; how many parents commented the 35 second video did not tell the whole story, alluded to what kids are like these days. I myself often remind readers of the limits of photo, capturing only a moment, video only showing what happened in the seconds, minutes filmed, but all too clear in those 35 seconds is, whatever fight was taking place before had already been broken up, the only chaos, disorder to be seen was caused by the teacher knocking over desks, scattering things in attempts to hit fleeing students with the belt, instead of say, having a student go get administrative help, using a classroom phone to alert the office, having a student armed with their cellphone do the same, even calling police in necessary, anything but going berserk like that. Less serious cases can happen when a teacher has it out of a student they don’t like, doesn’t like the parent and tries to take it out on the child, who could forget another iconic, popular TV show Malcolm in the Middle and family trouble maker, screw up Reese, no stranger to flunking classes who actually tried only to discover through genius Malcolm secretly taking the retest on his behalf his teacher purposefully flunked him for his own agenda. In real life who could forget the teacher’s frank blog that went viral talking about all the nasty, inappropriate, incompetent comments she wanted place in their report cards; in light of such continued incidents, who continues believing teachers should be automatically revered and respected?  Tackling grades, never before has what posh elementary, middle or high school they attended seemed to matter so much in prep for college, chance at scholarships, attending college, where you went to college appeared to matter so much in getting a job, things been so cut throat one bad grade, one mistake seeming to derail all chances; hints why more and more parents are choosing classes, hobbies and extracurricular activities hoping to distinguish their child from thousands of others who have virtually the same things. Unmentioned by fellow admonishing adults, how many students let their parents do this, are choosing activities, pursuits based less on what they like, enjoy and instead solely on what will get them into college, give them an edge. Obviously actually getting physical with administrators teachers, coaches, starting fist a cuff fights with them, other parents needs to stop; looking at the other side though, if I’m paying the little league fees, parks and rec fees, spending the gas money to haul my kids to and from practice, shouldn’t I get to see them play?  If I put them in a local little league, pee wee football, soccer program for the physical activity, fun sports and exercise, shouldn’t they be doing something besides warming a bench no matter how good, or not, they are. Isn’t that the larger point of such programs versus a school team, pre professional camp; also don’t think coaches are immune to ridiculous demands of parents beyond practice schedules. One major league player turned little league coach enacting rules mandating no cheering their children from the stands, alleging no 11 year old wants that pressure, fear of disappointing their parents, huh? It’s right up there with choosing your child’s friends the message for years was, know, monitor who your child’s friends were, avoid bad influences, beware of sudden changes, now this; easily to see How to Raise an Adult is talking about micromanaging your child’s friends according to what you like about them, what you think would be good for your child not who they like, who they feel close to, putting yourself into your child’s relationships, even as adults in an unhealthy way, but let’s not pretend the idea was born in a vacuum.

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/mike-matheny-shares-secrets-success-sports-life-30359453

Independence is a bit dubious to obtain for the college student anyway considering financial aid is based solely on your parents’ information, income you are financially, according to federal student aid programs, a dependent student until age 24, regardless if you live on your own, pay your own bills; though it’s law now, it wasn’t unheard of for college age students in the late 90’s early 2000’s, when the author alleges to have started seeing these alarming attributes, to be on their parents health insurance at least as freshmen creating an extra step in getting a doctor’s appointment, when once more it’s based on your parents’ information. Yet surveys of college students and stress are continually producing results worried about loans, fears of will there be a job out there for me when I graduate, students changing career, job plans to handle debt, and the ones killing themselves over failure and grades are the products of non-western tiger moms, not helicopter moms and an overwhelming fear of lacking life skills. Here again countering parents who are “choosing their child’s college,” when the application process has spawned multitudes of helping industries, parents who can’t afford to pay professionals for items ranging from ACT/SAT prep to expert tutorials on college entrance essays, to application material breakdown end up embarking on a do it yourself version of helping their student themselves; incidentally college application materials that must be filled out in a way as to positively set your student, your child apart from everyone else’s. Making a repeat to the surface of the conversation, the cyclical theme, if I, the parent am paying for part, all of my child’s college shouldn’t I have some say in where they go, what career pursuit I’m willing to pay for; after seeing them through 13 years of public education, spelling tests, math quizzes, science volcanoes, solar system replicas, history dioramas, English midterms, photography class supplies, play costumes, dress like a present day, shouldn’t I have some influence? Next are these Monday morning quarterbacking commentators on parenting, college deans other educators, not all of whom have kids, confusing choosing your child’s college and conversations had about the pros and cons of their options; not to mention how common it was, only one generation ago that college was a place for the lucky, the wealthy, an arena to gain a life philosophy as opposed to a job, so yes parents of the well to do had their child’s future mapped before they left the crib. Go rent the movie Dead Poet Society, then write another accurate book. Telling she mentions seeing her listed negative trends in college students at Stanford beginning in the late 90’s which means these were children born roughly 1980 classifying them the transitional generation born 1980-1995, growing up, spending their formative years as information communication was revolutionizing itself bridging the gap between pencil, paper, the typewriter and the computer, later the smartphone, tablet. Facts also meaning these kids were the least likely of subsequent incoming freshmen classes to have ‘standard’ computer/internet access in the home, cable TV, be equally familiar with Google, Yahoo and utilizing search engines to find common knowledge. Kids parented by plenty of still old school parents who didn’t take their children to play dates, who didn’t have time for, believe in ferreting kids to and from extracurricular activities, didn’t understand their importance to college thus impacting students’ exposure to the world, their accumulated supposed common knowledge. In a culture forever more reliant on the assumption of shared experiences everybody by age X has done this, everyone currently ages X to X grew up in a home having this or that, to disseminate knowledge on how to get a driver’s license, replace lost, stolen social security card, buy a home, buy a car, find a doctor, dentist exc.; in a culture concurrently producing people having increasingly set apart, unique upbringings, the difference between being within walking distance of your school opening up more opportunity to participate in after school activities and being dependent on parents to drive you, perhaps growing up poor in a family unable to afford a car, ready, frequent access to the public library versus not. It is a mistake to singularly blame helicopter parenting for students who, according to haughty adults, don’t have life skills when A- Stanford is a prestigious, well known school attracting the attention of students worldwide, meaning the kid with the boxes could have been a foreigner new to America not just the college. I find it unlikely a true helicopter parent would strand their child there with their boxes and no one to help. And B- disability physical, emotional, mental illness can lead to isolation causing the same problem, neglectful parenting where the parent leaves it up to the school and osmosis completely to give their kids “life skills,” geography growing up in a rural community and coming to “the big city” for school changes peoples frame of reference on how to do things; crossing the street is vastly different in a town of 100,000 people versus NYC, Manhattan, public transit in the same 100,000 people area much more simplistic than San Francisco cable cars, Chicago’s L train, New York’s convoluted subways. If you grew up in a large city housing a mass transit system and suddenly move to a more car centric part of the country for an internship, summer work program or job, ask Elizabeth Wurtzel, famed author of Prozac Nation, you may find yourself needing a state I.D. until you can get a driving license, something you may not instantly know how to do especially circa the 1990’s. A problem we continue wrestling with today as everyone assumes you have not just a cellphone but a smartphone, know 3 times the computer programs you do, job experts says do your research on companies, job titles you want to work, but unless you buy their book they never to you how to do that all important research and a school composition book will have a more comprehensive list of website resources for various forms of information than can be found anywhere else; employers today will either hire people off the street no experience and expect them to learn while doing sans basic tools like being placed on the required company e-mail circuit, given phone codes for long distance work related phone calls or they want every possible skill one could possess before so much as considering hiring you, then when they believe they can’t find anyone hints the 300 million jobs, jobs gap in this country.

Julie Lythcott-Haims is a symptom of that much larger problem, all out of joint, out of sorts she has to help “little freshman” navigate the big bad world, when it used to be young person came in looking for a job, had a question about the application, needed to know the first steps in getting their driving license, how to get a fishing license, receptionists would answer them, help them, recognizing them as someone just starting out, usually happy to help. Now they are presumed stupid, laughed at, their job application thrown in the trash, coming to the boss with already derogatory commentary; people seeking social services, rudimentary licensures are condescended to, patronized and treated like an inconvenience for not already knowing the process, a process that changes routinely every so many years. Why it makes the feel good portion of the news to see Target employees help a young man buy and learn how to tie a tie for his first job interview; conversely is she sure the kid with the boxes wasn’t asking for help and just didn’t get it because everyone else was busy too?  Like people in positions similar to Haims, those who manage interns western world wide, rather than advise and guide will see interns absent soft skills, knowledge of how to motivate people to do things for them, ingratiate themselves to staff such as receptionists, just never inviting them back the following summer or intern cycle shirking their responsibility to confront problems, teach, give skills. I read in a job skills workbook (2007) a scenario about a young man hired for an internship who would do the tasks assigned to him go off in a corner and read; the boss in charge of said intern thus called the mentor who set it up, the latter pledging to talk to him instead of the boss ever telling the intern what to do instead of read his book, tasks he could do when not given specific work that would help out around the office and educate him in all job areas. Further to be challenged is the idea “basic skills” precursors to common life skills were ever taught in the home going back to the 1950’s and 60’s when men majoritively worked outside the home and women worked in it; men didn’t know how to clean, cook exc. and women’s working outside the home largely took on acceptable parameters in teaching, nursing, domestic duties for pay running right into the question which generation is truly at fault the baby boomers who never had the basic skills to teach their 1980’s 1990’s children or the late 20’s to late 30’s set who spawned those baby boomers and didn’t teach them what they needed to know-oh. Trying desperately not to be a helicopter parent, suddenly giving teens crash courses in life can backfire spectacularly; I remember calling the local bus barn to arrange my special bus with smaller steps, accommodating my physical disability my senior year of high school, because I was 18 and an adult according to my mother, and being met with a flabbergasted phone jockey who asked if I was a teacher, student or parent, floored to find I was the student. My mother still having to do it because of school policies; I remember numerous occasions where I was sent into stores to fetch items, having done exactly what my mother said to do then being screamed at when I told her the purchase total and told somewhere it could be obtained cheaper, ranting she should have quoted me a price. Yes she should have because she, not I, routinely bought whatever it was, I didn’t have the stamina to follow her around the store and he work schedule meant she often bought groceries before I got home from school, she controlled the household money, we were poor so I never got an allowance; problems I never had living on my own because I knew what money I had, what bills I had, what toiletries, household items I needed and what extra money, if any I had for fun. Millennials also do things differently using sites like plated to bypass the grocery store, prefer online, mobile banking to an actual bank, Uber for transportation and renting to buying. Meaning you don’t have to cook like your parents to eat; you are talking to the microwave generation and they will still have the expected normal increased appreciation for you when they’re suddenly washing their own dishes folding their own socks.

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About Natasha Sapp

Proclaiming an edgy voice of reason to America,while bringing back the common sense to social issues.

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