Let's Hear it for the Average Child

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Damaging Demands

Parents have always wanted what's best for their children, have always dreamed of having kids that were bright and talented, sure to go far in life. And, in truth, this trend to sign up kids for lessons and team sports and private tutors can sometimes stem from a genuine need. When public schools increasingly manage budget shortfalls by cutting out music and art and gym classes, parents may have no choice but to find a way to fill in the gaps themselves.

What's damaging to kids is when parents take the traditional hopes and dreams of parenthood to a new, even absurd, level -- and that's what's happening more and more.

Part of the problem is that parents today are bombarded by advice. We avidly watch every report about intellect-enhancing activities; we pore over magazine articles about how to stimulate our baby's growing brain. As Lisa Cruz, 25, a university information specialist and mother of one in San Antonio, puts it, "If psychologists are telling us that constant stimulation will lead to our child's future success, a lot of parents will try anything."

The one thing we don't want to fail at is being good parents. But since it isn't always easy to know what being a good parent really means, we look for external measures of our success. Working parents who feel guilty for spending too little time with their children can feel vindicated if they have a highly successful child. The child's success becomes de facto evidence that they're successful parents. And, conversely, the stay-at-home mom is under just as much pressure. As one stay-at-home mother of two in Birmingham, Alabama, puts it, "My kids are my responsibility. So it'll be all my fault if I don't do it right."

Continued on page 3:  My Kid's Better than Your Kid


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