“The Blessing of (Bad) College News” by Kate Ramsdell, Director of College Counseling
A number of years ago, Dr. Wendy Mogel, a clinical psychologist and the best-selling author of The Blessing of a B-Minus spoke to Nobles’ faculty, students and the parent/guardian body. Though at the time I was not yet a parent myself, I was captivated by her pragmatic, empathic and often humorous parenting advice—she reminded me of my mother, actually.
As we round the corner into December, a time of year that can evoke a little parenting anxiety with regard to the college process, I turned again to Dr. Mogel for wisdom to share with you—as most of you have a child who is awaiting news about early action and early decision applications. In her article, "Overparenting Anonymous: A 26-step Program for Good Parents Gone Bad," Mogel offers lots of excellent advice. Yet, the following reminders seemed particularly apt regarding the news that is about to make its debut:
Remember that kids are hardy perennials, not hothouse flowers. Let them be cold, wet, or hungry for more than a second and they’ll appreciate the chance to be warm, dry, and fed.
Before you nag, remind, criticize, advise, chime in, preach, or over-explain say to yourself: “W.A.I.T.” or “Why am I talking?” Listen four times more than you talk.
Remember that disappointments are necessary preparation for adult life. When your child doesn’t get invited to a friend’s birthday party, make the team, or get a big part in the play, stay calm. Without these experiences she’ll be ill equipped for the real world.
Don’t be surprised or discouraged when your big kid has a babyish tantrum or meltdown. Don’t confuse sophistication with maturity. Setbacks naturally set them back. They set us back too, but we can have a margarita.
Wait at least 24 hours before shooting off an indignant email to a teacher, coach, or the parent of a mean classmate. …. Sleep on it.
Maintain perspective about school and college choices. Parents caught up in the admissions arms race forget that the qualities of the student rather than the perceived status of the school are the best predictor of a good outcome.
When Mogel wove tales from the stage in Lawrence Auditorium, she deftly captured the notion that we should allow our children to experience “good suffering.” She argued, “If we want our children to learn the skills of good judgment before they leave home, they need to experience good suffering now. This means that parents shouldn’t shield their children from the uncomfortable but normal problems of their adolescence.” She supports a parenting approach that goes something like this:
1. Kid screws up or gets bad news
2. Parent or guardian stands back and waits
3. Kid figures out how to manage the problem
4. Parent sees that giving a chance for a natural consequence to occur allows for growth
In reality, things usually get a little messy somewhere in there, requiring a well of patience. But her point is that we need to allow kids the space to feel and experience the disappointment of bad news—and then be there to help them bounce back.
Someday, I hope my two boys will have the privilege of applying to college. I may or may not still be doing this work, and if I am, I pray that I will take my own advice! Moreover, I hope that I’ll remember Dr. Mogel’s sagacity when she writes: “A paradox of parenting is that if we love our children for their own sake rather than for their achievements, it’s more likely that they will reach their true potential.”
Enjoy the holiday season, and please remember that we in the college office are here to help you celebrate the peaks and manage the valleys of the college process! Please lean on us in the coming month, as we believe our partnership with you and your child is elemental to helping your child reach his or her potential.