Cheating Our Children

At my age I considered myself almost “unsuprisable.” It takes a lot for me to be shocked most especially in the category of asinine human behavior but the recent college admission cheating scandal had me doing a deep WTH?

This story of parents paying a company upwards of a half million dollars to help their kids cheat on college entrance exams and/or bribing college coaches to secure their child a coveted spot on a collegiate athletic team (in all of these cases the child either had never played the sport or didn’t play the sport at a competitive level) solely for the purpose of getting admission to an elite university is so 21st century parenting that I really don’t know why I’m surprised.

In fact, I’m almost embarrassed that I’m surprised. All you have to do is endure any school drop off and pick up line and know that it’s full of parents who firmly believe the rules don’t apply to them or their children. Also, as a parent who has recently gone through the college admission process (including USC which is one the schools that had coaches taking bribes) I should be copping a “tell me something I don’t know” attitude.

Getting into college today has birthed an entire industry from college test prep centers to “collegiate coaches” who do everything from fill out your child’s common app to writing the essays and securing letters of recommendation. When your kid is applying to college you hear a lot of stuff thorough the parent grapevine like stories about a former teacher who now “makes a good living” writing “amazing” recommendation letters for kids she doesn’t even know.

It’s almost like you’re a huge loser if, as a parent, you’re not just involved in your kid’s college application process but you’ve taken it over. If you want to suck the air out of room just tell a group of moms that the only thing you’ve done to help your child apply to college is to give her or him a credit card for the application fee.

My husband and I through ignorance or through having very stubborn children had zero to do with their college application process. We never even read or proofed any of their essays. Last year, after I was mom shamed for not even knowing what my kid was writing about I did ask my daughter if she wanted me to take a look at some of her college essays. She did an eye roll and shared that “she had it under control” and then had to add, “Mom, you do realize that I find grammatical errors in almost everything you write so I think I’m good on my own.” Ouch, but also kind of true.

Parents meddling/micromanaging, and ultimately cheating for their children in the college application process is just another symptom of competitive parenting that begins immediately post womb. I remember being sleep deprived and flabbergasted by mothers whose infants were doing “baby sign language” while my four-month old was trying to eat his toes. Then there’s toddlers reading chapter books by age three, doing algebraic math equations by four and my personal favorite parents doing everything including threats of lawsuits to get their child a “gifted and talented” designation. And I’m not even going to touch upon all the crazy sports parents. We’ve taken our kids childhood and turned it into 18 years of plotting how to get our progeny ahead.

What a tragic waste of a childhood and what a waste of what might have been. Our kids shouldn’t be reduced to be our mini-mes nor should they be groomed to be reflections of our perceived awesomeness. We should practice basic human decency and allow our children to be their own person, to achieve something on their own without a parent scheming in the background, and to learn that failure is an opportunity for growth not something that might make us, the parent, look bad. When did parenting become more about us and less about what is good for our children?

10 thoughts on “Cheating Our Children

  1. Tricia says:

    Well said, Snarky. As a counselor at a very competitive high school I’ve seen parents literally tell their children that they are “too dumb” to do their own college applications and then ask me if I can do it for them and if can’t do I know of someone I can recommend. I always reply that if a child can’t do their own college app that maybe a sign that they’re not ready for college.

  2. Syd says:

    My favorite thing you wrote was about the school drop off and pick up lines. You’re right the parents that think they’re too good to follow those rules are the same ones who bully coaches to start their kids and also bully teachers to change grades or give the kid another chance to turn into their assignment. For this group of D bags it’s always about them and getting their kid ahead whether they’ve done the work or not. As a parent and former teacher watching this makes my blood boil.

  3. Katie Gomez says:

    Our children shouldn’t be an advertisement for how great we are as parents nor should we use them to pump up our own ego. #narcissisticparenting

  4. Dennis says:

    Mom, you do realize that I find grammatical errors in almost everything your write so I think I’m good on my own

    I would love your daughters take on that grammatical error 🙂

  5. Proud mother of a suma cum laude graduate says:

    What about the colleges/universities who have “parent groups” so parents can vicariously enjoy the college experience right along with their child? When I was first asked to join (the university has an office that really does this) I could hear the woman suck the air out of the room when I emphatically told her “No! I already had my own college experience!” (I confess I told her what I really thought about intruding on our daughter’s college life.) And they kept asking me to participate- the capper was my daughter’s senior year- I was invited to an expensive restaurant to meet with other parents and the head of this so-called parent group to discuss career opportunities for our children! I kid you not!!! I gave the woman my daughter’s contact information and told her in no uncertain terms to discuss this with her directly. This incredible helicopter parenting is crazy! And it’s being accommodated!

  6. pdx2ogg says:

    Thank you for this post! Sad to say that those parents and later their children are the “adults” we have to deal with in our business on a day-to-day basis.

  7. Betsey Pashayan says:

    No truer words! I “parented” my kids the same way through the college app process – credit card hand over with set limit: 8 application fees. Pick strategically. I never saw my son’s essay, though my daughter let me read her hilariously candid essay about the benefits of turning hardship into learning experience. (It takes a tough cookie to laugh about her false teeth dislodging and flying out during a national academic competition, in front of her boyfriend.)

    Our approach has always been that they have to succeed when they arrive at the next level, so why would you falsify their capability to get them there? I guess some parents feel “rigging” the system at every step will work. But here’s a news flash to those moms and dads – as hiring managers in the real world, we expect young professionals to deliver. Unless you plan on doing their work for them once they land in their careers, you are doing them a disservice. I’ve fired indulged young professionals who just couldn’t figure out how to be productive independently. And they were indignant. Imagine that?

    That is the future these 21st century, ego-driven parents are preparing their kids to face. Like Laurie Laughlin knows now, what they are doing is setting themselves up to look back and say “Oh God, what have we done?”

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