Can Schools (and Parents) Be Too Supportive?

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Last week we considered private school admissions, and the anxiety it inspires in parents. For many families, though, all that stress (and money) is worth it, because small, supportive schools nurture students, giving them rigorous, individual preparation for their future college education. But can these students be too supported — too “cocooned,” as one expert puts it?

It turns out that some college counselors are starting to think this might be the case. In today’s “error-averse culture,“students aren’t learning how to make mistakes, so any setback — a rejection from a first-choice school; a botched interview — feels like a complete and utter disaster. Not getting into an Ivy League school may truly be the worst thing that ever happened to these students, so no wonder they sometimes react to rejection as though the very foundations of the earth are being shaken.

In a recent controversial article in the Atlantic, “How to Land Your Kid in Therapy,” Lori Gottlieb argues a similar point — that today’s parents are too good at supporting their kids and shielding them from unhappiness. According to Gottlieb, these children grow up to be young adults who have great relationships with their parents — but an inability to cope with the normal disappointments of life.

So how do we raise kids to feel supported — but to be independent, too?



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