We all look for insurance - health insurance, life insurance and to some extent "parenting insurance". The challenge with parenting insurance is that we're really trying to affect the outcome of someone else's life and they have more than a little to say about the matter.
Last week, I moderated a lively teleconference on kindergarten readiness. It's available as a podcast and well worth the listen. But the listeners were mostly shocked at the message - that kindergarten readiness is an artificial construct created by upper middle class parents seeking to ensure their children have an edge. Parenting insurance. The research favors starting children on time - and even a little bit on the young side.
Tutoring companies and elite elementary schools prey upon our need for parenting insurance. We legitimately want to give our children all the opportunities and cultivation they need to succeed in life. Measuring success by academic achievement and collegiate acceptances. Which seems to be as much about proving that we are amazing as parents as it is about them knowing how to be successful.
Articles in Nurture Shock (my new favorite book on parenting) aggregate the research and show that intelligence testing of young children is incredibly unreliable - up to 30 points of IQ swing is regularly noted between ages 5 and 14. 30 points in IQ measurement is HUGE. The research also shows that children routinely told they are smart often have a harder time in high school and college - because they think if they don't "get it" instinctively, it's an issue of intellect and not of diligence and hard work. Einstein said - 95% of brilliance is just showing up.
My feeling is that there is no parenting insurance. There's no schools that ensure our children will get into colleges we can brag about. There are schools that teach critical thinking and personal responsibility - but those schools will only have an impact if we as parents value and teach the same thing - which means letting our children make decisions, make mistakes and deal with the consequences of those mistakes. I think it must get very scary when your child is a teenager or young adult and takes many more risks than my young kids...so my philosophy is to instill the values and foundation now that will, hopefully, guide them through the risks that inevitably will come their way.
What's your parenting insurance? Did it work?