‘Snowplow parents’ bully schools

Pushy “snowplow parents” are afflicting schools, writes Ole Jorgenson, head of a  private school, in the San Jose Mercury News.

Gen Xers orchestrate every move of their preschoolers, from perfect play dates and obsessively healthy diets, to instructional flashcards and hypoallergenic socks.

Once school starts, Gen X parents may become upset to discover other students doing more advanced work than their own, demanding a meeting with the principal about why the teacher is “letting their child fall behind.” Of course the parents have done their research, identified the problem, and it’s clearly the school’s fault that their child is “underperforming” — in kindergarten.

“Helicopter parents” hovered. “Snowplow parents” knock  “all potential obstacles out of their children’s paths to pack their young résumés with successes,” Jorgenson writes. And that may mean bulldozing the teacher or the principal.

In the mid-1980s, when he was a young teacher, most parents would cooperate with the school in dealing with a child’s problem behavior. There was a home-school partnership. Now 75 percent of parents resist.

Jorgenson is head of Almaden Country School, a respected private school in San Jose that charges $15,710 tuition at the middle-school level. It has a “whole child” philosophy, but also brags about high test scores. I wonder if affluent private-school parents are pushier than affluent public-school parents.

A guide to Gen X parents

Susan Gregory Thomas offers A Teacher’s Guide to Generation X Parents, who were born between 1965 and 1979,  on Edutopia.

In preschool, we’re the ones anxiously arranging developmentally appropriate playdates for our Siouxsie-and-the-Banshees-T-shirt-clad three-year-olds. In kindergarten, we’re frantic that other parents’ children are starting to read cat and rat, while our Ruby and Dylan are still having trouble identifying lowercase letters. We think the gold-star system and its ilk are archaic and punitive, and we want to have a meeting to present our suggestions for alternative achievement systems.

By grade school, we’re demanding to know why the math program is not challenging enough for our child. We email our complaints about the seating chart. We openly deride the arts instruction and may rally other parents to the point of a coup d’état. By middle school, our kids have schedules and professional support staffs that resemble those of corporate lawyers. Look out, high school: We’re coming.

Gen Xers’ are “so obnoxious, self-righteous, implacable” because they were underparented, she theorizes. Half of their parents are divorced. “We were the first to be raised in record numbers in day care, and some 40 percent of us were latchkey kids.”

We’ve been taking care of ourselves since we started going to school, and we don’t trust authority figures, because they weren’t trustworthy when we were growing up. Our parents didn’t know what was going on at school, and our teachers didn’t know what was going on at home. We’re not going to let this happen to our children — not even for a second. We’ll do whatever we have to do to make sure our kids get what they need.

She has advice on how teachers can work with GenX parents, despite their unrealistic “artisanal” expectations.

Raising rude kids?

Gen X parents are devoted to their kids. But their children are growing up rude, complains Susan Gregory Thomas on MSNBC.

(Gen Xers) are champions of “attachment parenting,” the school of child-rearing that calls for a high level of closeness between parents and children, Many Gen-X parents co-sleep with their children, hold them back from entering kindergarten if they feel their children’s emotional maturity is at stake and volunteer at their kids’ schools at record rates. Gen-X moms have been famously criticized by early feminists for dropping out of the workforce to care for their young children.

Yet, their kids are, well, rude. It may be that today’s parents are so fixated on their children’s emotional well-being that they’re teaching them that the well-being of others is comparatively unimportant, says Dr. Philippa Gordon, a long-time pediatrician in Park Slope, Brooklyn, an urban New York neighborhood famous for its dense Gen-X parent population.

Some researchers say Generation X missed out on nurturing as children. Half came from what used to be called “broken homes.”

“They are trying to heal the wounds from their own childhoods through their children,” says Dr. Michael Brody, a child psychiatrist and chair of the Television and Media Committee of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Are today’s whippersnappers really worse now than past generations? We baby boomers were awfully full of ourselves. Still are, goldurn it. But our parents couldn’t hover and smother because they had too many kids.

My mother, who raised four children, is celebrating her birthday and Mother’s Day today. (We always thought it was exceptionally nice of her to be born near Mother’s Day and to let us combine the celebrations.)  The family ranges from one years old to . . . old enough.