10 Back to School Resolutions for Parents

As kids go back to school, educator and psychologist Madeline Levine offers 10 simple rules to help parents stop overdoing it.

Parents fret. It’s what we do. We wring our hands. Engage in nightly homework wars. Rebuke, bribe, and cajole our kids in the hopes that they will get better grades, higher SAT scores, and more playing time on the field.

Let’s all just relax. There’s plenty of solid scientific evidence that proves backing off a little is the best thing we can for our kids. In fact, our frantic efforts to give our kids “an edge” are harming rather than helping them.

Now that a new school year is upon us, why not just trust the research (and our own better angels). Our kids are getting a fresh start. With the following resolutions, so can we:

I will make sure my child gets a full night’s sleep. Kids need between nine and 12 hours a night. Sleep deprivation impairs concentration, memory, and the ability to accurately read emotional cues. It makes kids crabby and compromises their ability to learn.

I will follow the 20 Year Parenting Plan. The occasional “B” or “C” will not break your child’s future prospects. Stop catastrophizing. You won’t see the final fruits of your parenting until your child is grown and gone.

I will remember the success trajectory is a squiggle ... not a straight line. Few of us become successful by simply putting one foot in front of the other. Most of us encounter a multitude of twists, turns, direction changes, and stops on the way to our goals.

I will love the child in front of me. Appreciate your child’s unique gifts. Children are talented in a multitude of different ways. See your child’s particular talents clearly.

I will not push my child to be perfect. Besides genetics, perfectionism is the strongest predictor of clinical depression. Life is full of mistakes, imperfect days, and human failings. Kids need to learn how to cope with these inevitabilities.

I will do not for my child what he can do for himself. This kills motivation and the ability to innovate. Both are missing from too many young people in today’s workforce.

I will not do for my child what she can almost do for herself. At one time your child could almost walk. Now she can walk. Enough said.

I will not confuse my needs with my child’s needs. This is the most toxic manifestation of overparenting. Get a hobby or a therapist instead.

I will make my child clear the dinner dishes—even on the night before a big calculus exam. He needs to see that collaboration solves problems. This will serve him well in a global workplace. Plus, the world has too many entitled adults already.

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I will honor the importance of PDF (Play Time, Down Time and Family Time). Don’t overschedule. Kids need time to play, daydream, and just hang out. It’s in these precious “between” times that crucial developmental tasks are accomplished.

I will live my own (adult) life and let my child live theirs. Being a happy, fulfilled adult is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child. It makes adulthood look like something worth striving for.