The Internet makes a terrible parenting coach

The Internet makes a terrible parenting coach

The parenting article everyone's talking about
[lead dropcap="yes"]There’s one of those articles going around lately, the ones that purport to give you the kind of parenting advice that will lead to your children growing up healthy, well-adjusted and successful. The title of the article is especially promising: “How I made sure all 12 of my kids could pay for college themselves”.[/lead]

Unfortunately, that’s the first of my quibbles. In fact, the article doesn’t really tell you that. There’s lots of stuff about training their kids to do well in school and to have good values and how they made sure there was peace in their home, but the entirety of the advice on how they made sure the kids could pay for college was as follows:

Even though we have sufficient money, we have not helped the children buy homes, pay for education, pay for weddings (yes, we do not pay for weddings either). We have provided extensive information on how to do it or how to buy rental units and use equity to grow wealth. We do not “give” things to our children but we give them information and teach them “how” to do things. We have helped them with contacts in corporations, but they have to do the interviews and “earn” the jobs.

That’s nice, but it’s certainly not a how-to, just a description of what they did. In fact, all the rest of their advice is the same: Lots of bullet points enumerating the things they did, but with no exposition of the principles behind what they did. They all ate breakfast and dinner together every night, at 5:15 am and 5:30pm respectively. Well, that’s fine and good if (a) you can get enough sleep to get up at 5am and (b) your job allows you to be home at 5:30pm.

Other bits of advice were the same. They bought each of their 12 kids a fixer-upper car on their 16th birthday and then provided all the tools and paid for parts. Again, that’s nice if you have a garage and a full set of tools and the money to pay for all that.

I’m not saying that there’s ill will or that there’s anything wrong with what this particular family did, but the article falls into the trap that so many lifehack/productivity/parenting advice articles do, which is that they often present that which works in a particular situation for particular people as if it were universally applicable and if it doesn’t work for you….

The problem is that every family is unique, every situation is unique, every child and every parent is unique. It’s not enough to enumerate why you think you were successful. You have to do a little more work to figure out why it worked, or more importantly what principle was at the heart of the parenting decision that made it work.

Did the author’s kids grow up to be “thin, athletic and very healthy” and (in a somewhat controversial claim) free of food allergies because they always ate the four food groups at every meal, didn’t snack between meals, and were given the foods they hated most first and only other foods when that was gone? Is that a tactic that will work for every family? If not, will your kids grow up to be fat, lazy, and unhealthy with food allergies?

I’ll finish by noting something missing from this article, a glaring omission. No talk of God. The only reference to religion at all was in regard to community service and the requirement to volunteer in the community and at the church. Which leaves me wondering what role faith played in the success of this family’s 12 children and how much perhaps of all the other citations could have been left behind and they still would have ended up with well-adjusted, happy children.

1 comment
  • Yes, interesting priorities: I realized they’re clunkers, but they buy TWELVE cars for their children, but won’t help at all with college?