In this thought-provoking feature in New York Magazine this week, a parent grapples with the ethics of intervening to give kids a “leg up.”

“The kids who learn the lesson of cynicism may in fact suffer less than those who don’t. What parents are really telling children with their constant intervening is that there’s no way for them to succeed on their own, says Harold Koplewicz, a founder of the Child Mind Institute. “The message to the kid is, You aren’t good enough.” He compares these parents to “fixers,” who illicitly manipulate outcomes for their clients. In their effort to build their children’s success, parents may actually be short-circuiting their self-esteem, and stunting their self-efficacy, making them unable to tell the difference between the things they can accomplish in the world, with the application of hard work and native ability, and the things they cannot. Jason Stevens is somewhat blunter. A fixing parent can make a child, he says, ‘crippled. Or entitled. Or both.'”

Ethical Parenting In the interest of giving kids “a leg up,” ­parents will do almost anything: They’ll call friends on the board; they’ll pull strings to procure internships; they’ll invite the coach over for dinner; they’ll claim strong adherence to a religion or an ethnic identity that is, in fact, weak; they’ll fake recommendation letters; they’ll neutralize their child’s competition for a spot on the hockey team by whispering something about someone’s alcohol use.

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  • pat

    the child that gets extra time on tests gets it because he has a IEP or 504 plan for a learning disability which is not easy to get. A child with a LD does not belong in this category

    • Abbey

      Please see my previous comment…

  • Jennifer Whitney Correa

    I agree that it’s completely inappropriate to include kids with Disabilities in this category. Most schools are fairly unwelcoming to these students in the first place with constantly telling them they are not good enough and should feel lucky to even be allowed to attend a “regular” class. (Look up Neurodiversity in the classroom) . Their whole world is made up by failure. Suggesting that parents should not advocate them is suggesting that parents should just let them become destitute, drug addicted or otherwise self destructive. There can be a lot at stake for some kids.
    There is nothing new about what you suggest. Those who have advantages and can network get better opportunities. Those who have cut out those who don’t. Do you suggest that parents never help their kids find jobs too? Should friends not help friends either? Wouldn’t the world be better if all choices were based on merit? Is that even American?

  • Abbey

    In reply to the two previous commenters, unfortunately, there are some parents who will “find a way” to get more time on tests for their kids having nothing to do with official learning disabilities. Parents raise a stink to the teacher that their child gets so stressed that they need more time. While this can mostly definitely be true for some, a number of parents are lying about it to get their child more time hoping it will make for higher grades in the end.

  • Dr. K

    I do think the author intended for this to become a debate about children with disabilities.

    • Dr. K

      Sorry, “I do not think….. “

  • Laila

    The author also needs to realize that all children do not attend high performing schools that without parent intervention the child’s learning need would not be addressed. In many low performing schools what the author is describing would be called “effective parent involvement in schools”.

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