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Hovering Too Low
Mom with a View

Hovering Too Low

Many parents today are hovering over their children and denying them the opportunity to be responsible.


I thought that "hovering" parents had hit a new low when I read the recent Wall Street Journal piece about parents accompanying their children (we can't really call them young adults under the circumstances!) to job interviews and even calling their bosses to ask for a raise.

Then I had lunch with a friend who sends her daughter to a ‘progressive' private school. She described the emails she receives from the administration. "We have a spelling test tomorrow." "Thank you for joining Sheila's math study group."

"What do you mean?" ranted my outraged pal. "I already passed 4th grade spelling. And I am not a member of my child's math study group!"

Is this really healthy for our children? Is this the education we envision for them? The Torah teaches us that everyone should say "The world was created for me." This has been misinterpreted to suggest self-centeredness, complete egotism. Certainly a child whose parents join their study groups, write their college admissions essays and petition their bosses for promotions feel like the world revolves around them.

We infantilize and rob our children of the power to shape their lives by doing everything for them.

But the Torah means something very different and far more important -- and something that all this hovering and fawning and constant hand-holding is in danger of destroying. To accept the idea that the world is created for me is to accept responsibility for our world. A tremendous responsibility. The world is created for me means the buck stops here. It means that war, poverty, racism, pollution, cruelty and injustice are problems that I need to respond to. If they continue, it's my fault. If I ignore them, I am not fulfilling my purpose.

It doesn't mean that the world caters to me; it means that I should cater to the world.

Hovering over our children, denying them the opportunity to be responsible, impedes their growth to adulthood. Babies are dependent. Adults are independent. We infantilize and rob our children of the power to shape their lives by doing everything for them.

The Almighty knows that only through responsibility do we truly grow up. We live in a society where many "adult" responsibilities -- living on their own, jobs, marriage, children -- are being postponed by our children to an increasingly older age.

If the goal of parenting is to raise successful adults, then we need to reevaluate our strategy. It seems that a strong sense of responsibility is more efficacious than a lack of one. And it should begin earlier, not later.

Let that child put together his own study group, and let him choose its members from among his classmates, not his parents.

March 25, 2006

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Visitor Comments: 7

(7) Dave, April 21, 2006 12:00 AM

right on the button

Don't be afraid to fail; a good fighter is not the one who can throw the best punch, but the one who can take a punch and get up and continue successfully.

(6) Anonymous, April 4, 2006 12:00 AM

Parents should not hover over all their children do

I agree basically with the tenets stated.Certainly no e mails from teachers and no joining study groups. Ridiculous. However, the world is a different place than it was even a few years ago. Children are snatched out of their yards. angers we did not grow up with abound. And, there are areas in which our college students are sometimes abandoned too soon - We are not really adults when we reach 18 or 21. Sometimes fatal mistakes can be made at this stage of maturity or lack of it if we do not intervene. Everybody needs somebody - we are not islands.

(5) Tzvi Szajnbrum, March 31, 2006 12:00 AM

Yes but are you doing it differently?

I see this all over and I agree 100% with the article but take a moment to think about what we as religious people who raelly believe in the Tora are doing these days : We are doing exactly the same and worse. It's time the leaders stand up and stop beeing afraid to say: NO this is not the way, the Tora way. It's happening in the US, Bnei Brak and even Mea Shearim. Parents are out of their minds in these days to make a child happy at any prace. G_d help us.

(4) Suzan Roberts, March 27, 2006 12:00 AM

hovering parents....

Dear Ms. Braverman,
I read your article about hovering over our children.
Although I agree with you that our children need to take responsiblitiy in their lives, how exactly you suppose a 15 year old that is looking for a job, just to gain a little responsibility will arrive to the job interview??
Unfortunatly we live in a country that there is so much crime that a concerned parent has a difficult time to let their child go everywhere by themselves.
I grew up in Turkey and than in Israel, while the grocery store was around the corner, here you need to drive to those places. So unless your child is really grown up, which means have the possibuility to arrive everywhere by themselves, I don't see how one can't escort them almost to everywhere they need.

(3) Lesley Hubbard, March 26, 2006 12:00 AM

Absolutely True

If my mom had been told to join a study group in my school, she would have first laughed her head off, then taken me out of that school and sent me to one that put the responsibility on the child to study instead, as it is supposed to be.

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