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Adlen Robinson: Teach your child how to handle disappointment
Adlen Robinson

I am sure you have all heard about the current college admissions scandal involving wealthy parents buying their children’s way into prestigious schools across the country. Apparently, there was an organized system where parents paid big money for someone besides their child to take SAT and ACT tests — all to make sure their test scores were high. In addition, parents paid to Photoshop the faces of their children onto bodies of athletes to misrepresent their sports participation.

 I heard numerous commentators express sorrow for the children — and of course I understand how, if they didn’t know their parents did this, it would be humiliating. Forgive my skepticism though … if the parents paid for the children to fake being great at a sport they had never played, how were the children not complicit as well? 

Those young people had to fill out their own college applications — are we to believe they “accidentally” listed their accomplishments that were lies? 

Even if it is ultimately the parents “fault,” the children should definitely not be allowed to stay at the college or university. 

What about those who already have degrees and were a part of this illegal activity? You know they are going to find more people involved in this whole thing.

While this scandal is huge and involves lots of people with lots of money, I think the scandal represents bigger problems in our society. As parents, we all want our children to be happy, successful, fulfilled people. We don’t want them to be sad and we certainly don’t want them to fail. That being said, if we don’t allow our children to fail, they will never experience the powerful feeling of prevailing and being self-reliant.

 I remember when our children were in elementary school and many parents (even a few of my friends) often did school projects for their children. Of course, as adults we could probably do a better job — but that’s not the point. I used to tell our children I had already attended elementary, middle, high school and college — school was their job, not mine.

Remember a few years ago when everybody was talking about “helicopter parenting?” The name represented parents who hovered over their children — at the ready to swoop down and fix anything that might need fixing for the child.

The new name for these parents is “snowplow parents.” They are laser focused on their children and will do anything to ensure success for them. They don’t just hover over their children; they are prepared to bulldoze away (as a snowplow does) any obstacle in their child’s path.

Of course, we all want to be good parents, none of us want to see our child struggle in school or be the least skilled child on a sports team. But still, our job as a parent is to role model the sort of behavior we hope our children will aspire to. Not to help them cheat and lie their way through life, as in cheating to get into a college.

Failure is part of life — nobody succeeds at everything. Teaching your child how to handle disappointment is much more instructive and empowering than fixing everything for them. 

By letting your children make mistakes and persevere on their own, they will learn to trust their own abilities. Children who are protected and never learn how to cope with disappointment, become victims who grow up blaming others instead of taking responsibility for themselves. 


South Forsyth resident Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at adlen@adlenshomematters.com.