Wednesday’s Parent: How parenting styles help/hurt students

Natural parenting styles

Natural parenting styles, photo by Peter Gronemann

I’ve been mulling over two questions for this week’s post about parenting styles.

1. Parents want to help their children achieve success but do certain parenting styles help or hurt this goal?

2. When higher education is sought, what parenting styles better prepare students?

Parenting styles do not emerge from thin air. Perhaps you mimic your parents or vow to do the opposite. More likely than not, you do what makes sense and feels right to you. This sounds like there is a strong connection between personality and parenting style.

The road to college is bumpy, filled with potholes, curves and unexpected obstacles. Certain personality traits can help or hinder raising college-bound children during the journey:

Easy going The calming influence of an easy-going parent can be helpful. However, there are times when being too laid back may cause problems. Attention to detail is crucial because teachers and college admission officers focus on them.

Control freak Knowing what to do and when to do it is key from daily homework assignments to the college process of getting in and paying for it. The trouble develops when the parent assumes control and the child is going through the motions without owning it. For example, whose idea is it to play sports, study a subject, apply to a certain college or choose a particular major? Parents can’t expect a student to maximize her opportunities if her passions lie elsewhere.

Pessimist Many activities and schools receive applications exceeding the number of available spots. Pessimists can counter-balance unrealistic student expectations. Walk this line carefully because too much negativity can lower a student’s enthusiasm and self-esteem.

Optimist Building and shoring up a child’s self-esteem is a natural fit for an optimist. However, the danger is similar to the pessimist when parents convey unrealistic expectations for their student.

Procrastinator Putting off decisions until ready to make them is right up a procrastinator’s alley. However, deadlines are their death knell. Whether it’s signing up for an activity, class, college admission test, or submitting college, scholarship and financial aid applications, missing a deadline can cost dearly in time and money. In some cases, being one of the early applicants can provide an advantage.

Energizer bunny There is always something to do when it comes to education. From studying to participating in before and after school activities, students have a full day. Helping students get it done is the forte of the Energizer parent. However, too much action and too little downtime can lead to student burnout.

Hammock hugger Teaching children how to relax and savor present moments is a useful tool. But it is also important to plan carefully for the future. Higher education is costly and requirements for admission must be met.

There are many personality traits and parenting styles and they all can help or hinder parenting. It’s a matter of balance and timing. Sounds like life in general.

Read on for Suzanne’s analysis of finding your inner parent coach in her Wednesday’s Parent: Parenting Styles.


Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from to and vice versa.

Wednesday’s Parent: Adding the extras

Writing is my hobby

Writing is my hobby Photo by Charles J Danoffs

Today’s post is about the importance of extra-curricular activities and I can’t get this saying out of my head:

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Idioms, proverbs, and clichés are common phrases because they are built on a basic truth. I am drawn to practical wisdom that withstands the test of time but can this phrase be applied to current kids?

According to college admission officers, the answer is a resounding, “Yes.” Sure higher education emphasizes academics. Wednesday’s Parent: Valuing academics post detailed the importance of studies.

But to get into their college choices, students need more than good grades. Activities, honors, and interests feature prominently on college applications. Recommendation letters are mandated and personal essays required.

Colleges want interesting, motivated students who show commitment to their passions and will not just fit in but will contribute to their campus.

And parents want their children to be happy, full-filled and successful in school and beyond. There are ways parents can help their children explore, learn and thrive with all the extras to make this happen:

Interests There are many fields of study that spark an interest to learn more. What appeals to your student? Is there a topic he asks about not because it’s part of a homework assignment but because he wants to pursue it? Find books, clubs, museums, events and other outings to further develop student interests.

Talents Does your student demonstrate a particular musical ability, artistic talent or athletic prowess and a desire to follow it? Nurture this at home, in school and in the community. Supply the instruments or implements and give opportunities to progress with lessons, performances, shows or games.

Hobbies An interest or talent can become a lifelong hobby. From coin collecting to model building, from kite flying to jewelry making, hobbies give students a chance to express their creativity in an area of great personal interest. Parents can share their hobbies and help their children pick theirs.

Volunteering Performing good deeds without pay to help others is a special interest to support a part of the community. Whether it is a lone venture or part of a group, community service indicates maturity and good citizenship. Parents can suggest local opportunities through religious, scouting, school and community organizations.

Jobs Sometimes interests can be transformed into an enterprise. Does your student love animals? She may find a position at a pet shop or with a veterinarian. Perhaps creating balloon animals is more her speed. She may develop a birthday party business or become a regular at street fairs. Brainstorm ways to take an interest to the next level.

Think of helping your child find and develop his passion as a road trip. If academics pave the road to student success then extracurricular activities are the pit stops along the way that enhance the journey.

Read on for Suzanne’s terrific tips about adding the extras.


Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from to and vice versa.

A key question in parenting

                         Not talking to you. Photo by devra minicooper93402

Child rearing is hard work with long hours, huge expenses and exhausting tasks. It includes giving children the tools necessary to thrive as adults to prepare them for a successful, self-sufficient life. But perhaps the most difficult parental assignment is stepping back and releasing responsibility.

The journey

The journey to independence starts slowly. It may begin with parents teaching good decision-making skills such as encouraging their toddler to choose between a couple of outfits to wear or two snacks to eat. Then there is the potty training: one giant loss of diaper expense; one small step towards independence.

The teen years arrive like the month of March: with a roar. Authority is challenged, teen opinion is asserted and parents are given a peephole into the inevitable future of their offspring jumping off to find their own identity.

It is the cycle of life.

The question

Parents, how would you answer the following question? How would your child answer it?

If you were reading your autobiography, would you, the main character, be a coaster or a catalyst in your life story?

I first wrote this question over a year ago in my post What’s in your college autobiography?

I was inspired by a then homeless Long Island teen, Samantha Garvey, who became a semifinalist in the Intel science competition. Her accomplishment gained national recognition and she was invited to attend President Barak Obama’s 2012 State of the Union Address in Washington, D.C.

It doesn’t matter whether you are out of college, in college or college-bound, the answer to the above question describes whether you are a reactor or actor in your life’s story. It’s about how well you can assume responsibility and maximize opportunities. It’s about being able to able to tackle challenges and self-motivate.

While kids may be happily excited about their new adventure, parents may be tearily (my new word) ambivalent. We know there are good times and bad ahead because the road of life has some potholes along the way. We may not be able to prevent the negative but we can help our children by providing them with the values, confidence and skills to turn their lemons into lemonade.

The goal

For the final lap of the transition from child to adult, parents often look to higher education to share in the preparation. The college-bound will not only receive academic knowledge but gather valuable life experience through internships and cultural opportunities.

This raises the bar on the importance of college choice, majors, etc. And the level of parental stress, when kids veer off in a different direction. Keeping communication open and having a chance to exchange viewpoints is part of parenting an adult child. Setting expectations for college for students is part of the dialogue.

The college years provide a chance for children to practice independence on campus before they leave the family home to establish their own. Will they coast or be the catalyst in their college autobiography?

Parents, you gave your children the tools so be ready when it is time to step back.

P.S. There may be times when you step back in but these will be less and less frequent. Not just because your child has become an independent adult but because you have found plenty of other ways for your time and money to fill your empty nest!

Wednesday’s Parent: Safe v. Sorry

Please be safe sign. Photo by tenioman.

Funny safety sign. Photo by tenioman 

If you ever wanted to enclose your child in a protective bubble, shield him from physical harm, and block her from the stings of barbed words, you are not alone. It’s a natural instinct to want to safeguard the young.

The parental worry about safety does not dissipate with age. My mother still reminds me to drive carefully and put on a sweater–when she’s cold. I find myself saying the same things to my children. In my family, none of us are children in the sense of being little kids but we are all offspring. Parental instincts are powerful.

The auto industry may be making vehicles safer but the world is still full of old and new dangers. Moms and dads can’t wrap their kids in a protective hug at home 24/7. They must prepare their children to step outside, interact with others, and go to school.

Here are six ways parents can help their children of any age learn to protect themselves:

Transportation Parents often teach their children about the right way to cross a street, find their bus, and drive a car. The mechanics are emphasized but what about when things go wrong? The road is blocked, the bus is late or the car breaks down? Children need to have a Plan B and maybe even a Plan C.

First aid Every time a parent calmly puts a bandage on their child’s boo boo, they are demonstrating two important things: how basic first aid helps and there is no need to panic. These are useful skills whether a child is able to take care of himself or needs a school nurse. It may become critical if the child has other medical needs or there is an emergency. This is the importance of clear thinking.

Self defense Just like basic first aid, basic self-defense techniques are essential for everyone. So too, is knowing the safety resources available from a preschooler learning how to call 911 to a coed finding out about a college’s blue light emergency system. Hopefully these things will never be needed, but it is best to be prepared.

Contacts School records require emergency contact information but children need to know this, too. Having a family emergency plan is essential, especially when family members are not together and normal communication channels may be impaired. Also designate an emergency contact located out of the area. He can act as an information coordinator when family members are unable to keep in touch or arrive at a specified meeting place.

Trust It is normal to teach children respect for their elders and authority. However, children also are taught about personal boundaries and stranger danger. These lessons are just as important for a youngster heading off to nursery school as for a teenager going to college. From knowing not to take a ride from a stranger, to not leaving a beverage alone, to walking with a buddy (especially) at night, the concept of trust has to be matched with maintaining personal safety.

Common sense Take the situation where things have gone smoothly in the past. It is not unusual for adults to let their guard down and have a false sense of security. It is no surprise that less experienced young people may do the same. Public service announcements instructing individuals to stay alert, see something, and say something apply to children, too. This is where common sense and open parent-child communication can save the day.

For more important tips, read Suzanne’s Wednesday’s Parent: Safety First.


Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from to and vice versa.

Wednesday’s Parent: Valuing academics

Photo: Studying by ~Thiago082

This post is about how parents can convey the importance of academics to prepare their child for college. It begins with a question:

Was your home “library” filled with baby book toys? The feel me textures, the waterproof ones for the bath, and the fun pop-up books? If your student is college-bound, those book shelves will soon be filled with college brochures.

From the first time parents hold their newborn to the good-bye hug at the college dorm, parents want their child to succeed. Books are often the first formal learning tool parents share with their offspring. Babies may chew on them but children’s minds savor the knowledge contained on the pages.

Children are real learning machines and parents are natural teachers. Parents can show the importance of academics to their children and ignite a life-long love of learning:

Preschool Many parents create a bedtime ritual centered on reading a bedtime story. That’s a great quiet time activity but reading can be also be an exciting adventure. Go to the library and let your child choose some new books and stay at home and search for e-books. Take a lesson from book clubs and discuss the book after reading it. Exercise your child’s imagination and create your own story. Parents can write the words down and children can be the illustrators. Take it a step further and stretch your child’s performance skills. Let him act out the plot in a play or with puppets. Family and friends can be other participants and/or the audience.

Elementary school Schools can supplement classroom learning with field trips, so why not plan some family excursions? Visit air and space, art, cultural, history, science and wax museums. There are children’s and adult theater, concerts, and museums. There are aquariums, botanical gardens, planetariums and zoos. From the local attraction to the large scale exhibits, parents and children can explore together. It’s a great time to find new interests, develop hobbies and have some family fun with learning.

Middle school Check out what local colleges have to offer in cultural activities, classes and camps. It’s a great way for students to get accustomed to being on a college campus and see the variety of fields of study. Libraries, schools, local businesses and organizations can sponsor courses. Show your teen there is always something new and interesting for everyone to learn and take a class together. If homework or a project is involved, enjoy your studies together.

High school Parents and students can form a team to tackle the challenges of college prep. They can work together to find a list of schools for students to continue on to higher education. Next they can tour the choices with a collegecation (college visit+ family vacay). Students can help their parent plot the route, find activities and attractions (see #2) and brainstorm questions to ask college staff.

These things won’t make your children jump for joy every time they have to study rather than play. But they will show them their parents value academics, are ready to partner in the learning process, and support their college dreams.

Read on for Suzanne’s great take on this issue!


Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from to and vice versa.