Please welcome our guest blogger Linda Rodgers. Linda is the Coordinator of the Parent Involvement Program of the Anoka-Hennepin School District located in Anoka, MN.
Today I went to the Anoka-Ramsey bookstore and picked up books for a class I’m taking. It’s fun to see other students across a wide variety of backgrounds and ages. I had ordered the books online so just had to pick them up. Many other students were going through the fall ritual of scanning dozens of little signs indicating the placement of books for each class. That process is pretty much the same as it was years ago, so I got a kick out of it. I did notice something different, and that was a number students were accompanied by parents. One student was explaining to a clerk how his mother had ordered an extra book and he wasn’t sure why. “Why is his mother ordering his books?” I wondered.
I thought about how over the last five years my husband has seen an enormous difference in the preparation of college students he supervises for summer jobs. Some of these students have parents who work in the company and they located the job for the student, interact with them during the day and run interference for them when the student is late or misses work. These students are adept at texting but unable to perform basic work expectations, nor do they seem to understand that there are basic work expectations. Ten and twenty years ago he did not see this behavior. Students generally had to compete for the job, were glad for the job and understood they needed to apply themselves as best they could.
I thought of the excitement I had going off to college by myself and negotiating new territory and processes. I thought of a number of jobs I held and important life lessons they taught me. I confess that I was fired from one position and that taught me lessons I never could have learned otherwise. My future employers all benefited, too.
Life is flooded with messages about what kids should be and have, and what parents should be and do. But these messages often confuse instead of clarify. Many of the messages are grounded in trying to sell something. If you dig a little you will discover what is being sold– many are hype designed to grab people’s attention to sell a product, magazine or paper or hold attention to a screen. We seem to be short on messages that are grounded in wisdom, experience or research, and unless we’re in crisis we don’t gravitate toward those kinds of messages. They’re not as compelling as those that promise silver bullets or an easy way, or promote a life that resembles a celebrity life.
Here is an example of a message for parents of college students that was crafted with all this in mind, a message that seeks to promote growth of college students and enlists parents’ help in a straightforward way. Emily Lammers, 2013 U of M graduate, writes, “Before you become involved with your student’s issue, however, remember that growth and maturity comes from dealing with decisions, and a big part of college is making choices—even wrong ones—as well as from taking responsibility for both the good and the bad consequences of their decisions.”