The Dangers of Being a Perfect Parent

I was reading my latest copy of The Atlantic last night as I was falling asleep and I noticed that an article that prompted me to write a post last spring was one of the magazine’s most provocative pieces in 2011.  This article generated the fifth most comments from readers:

How To Land Your Kid in Therapy

I am swamped trying to meet my Feb. 15 deadline to finish the second edition of The College Solution so today I’m going to rerun my post about perfect parenting. By the way, I’m excited about my nearly complete rewrite of the book (I estimate that about 85% to 90% will be new) and I can’t wait for May 15, which I just learned is the publication date.

The Dangers of Perfect Parenting

Could you be too good of a parent?

It’s not a strange question. A fascinating cover piece in The Atlantic suggests that perfect parenting is prompting young adults to seek therapy.

According to  The Atlantic article, perfect parenting is driving young adults into therapy. Curiously, these twenty and thirtysomethings aren’t complaining to their therapists about their parents. Rather they are gushing that their parents are wonderful. Some say that their moms and dads are their best friends.

The parents of these young adults typically gave their children the freedom to find themselves and encouraged them to pursue whatever would make them feel happy in life. Sound familiar?

What’s Wrong? Children Who Adore Their Parents

It’s no wonder that these grown children adore their parents, but nonetheless they complain of feeling adrift and unfulfilled even if they lead amazing lives. Lori Gottlieb, a therapist and the author of the magazine piece, who has counseled many of these adults, concluded that their parents could be guilty of being too good. Here is an excerpt of what she wrote:

Not Ready for Reality

Children who experience an amazing childhood aren’t necessarily ready for the hard knocks of real life when they leave the nest. Parents, and I’m as guilty as anybody, have raised their kids during a time when everyone gets high-fives and praise for non-accomplishments. It’s no wonder that surveys show that American college students are off the charts in self confidence.

When my 22-year-old daughter was an infant, a friend of mine, who is a therapist, told me that I only had to be a “good enough” mother. I didn’t believe her, but now I think she is probably right.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also writes a college blog for CBSMoneyWatch. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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