Am I “Micro-managing” My Kids?

The “Mom”

The high school my son attends has implemented Edline, a program which allows students and parents online access to assignments, course calendars, grade sheets, absence reports, team practice schedules… essentially every aspect of the high school student’s academic and extra-curricular life. Of course I am thrilled with this new tool! It should help my son to manage his life. But really, I am thrilled because it’s easier for me to keep on top of what’s going on and what my son should be doing. It gives me more material for those daily chats. Instead of asking “What homework do you have tonight? Can you get it done before baseball practice?”, I can say “So, you have Math and Latin homework and a History test to study for, better get moving or you won’t be done in time to go to baseball practice. Oh, and by the way, you’d better plan on starting that Chem project this weekend.” And, to myself I am saying “Haha! There’s no hiding now!”

Again, I am thrilled with this! I am a control freak – and I know it. But I have this nagging concern. I know that my reminders help in the short run, but what about the long run? When does he learn to manage all of this for himself? Am I really doing him a favor when I “manage” this? If he doesn’t learn to juggle these things now, what happens when he goes off to college, where there will be even more distractions?

I certainly never had anyone making sure I got my homework done. Up until now I have sorted of prided myself on being so much more involved than my parents were, but now I wonder if that’s for the best. I know the answer is “a happy medium”…but I’m just not sure where to draw the line for “medium”.

The “Dad”

All too often, our kids see “communication” and “control” as pretty much the same thing, so yes – it’s our job to know what’s going on even if they’re not inclined to tell us, and not just about the juicy stuff like sex and drugs, but about the boring, everyday icky junk like history homework.

We’ve run into the Miracle of the Sliding Grades with all our girls at one point or another, most recently when the Elf, a consistent A/B student, brought home (no, wait – when they mailed home) a B-/C semester report card, and boy, did the fur fly (little Fluffy the Cat has never been quite the same). It wasn’t any major life-crisis, as it turned out; just The Elf easing up and getting lazy, but we were none the wiser until it was a little too late.

Hereabouts we’re not helped much by the schools; where they loved us and begged us to be involved in the classroom and curriculum during elementary school, by middle/high school were useful only as fund-raisers, and then only at arm’s length. It’s time, they tell us, for the kids to take responsibility for their homework and grades or they’ll never learn…and at the same time they’re telling us that grades and academic performance are hugely important, now more than ever, for college and life at large. So, what, we let them fail (and damage their lifetime-chances-options) so they can learn…once again, just a little too late?

I think the grade grubber 6000, or whatever that system is, is a nice compromise: you can spy on them just as you should without being intrusive, and offer help when they really need it, not just when you think they might (or just when you – I mean me – really wants to.) Go forth and kibbutz – guiltlessly!

“The Teen”

It’s cool technology, I’ll admit. But I think it’s a bad idea.

High school students have their whole days planned out by teachers. When we get home, we don’t want our parents telling us that “you’ve got math problems, government notes and that big literature paper due tomorrow, oh, and you’ve got to set the table, help make dinner and babysit the kids across the street later tonight.” That’s a lot, and we know it! But we can handle it. Emphasis on the “we.” We the students. Not we the family.

Teenagers do a lot of juggling, but if you’re going to be juggling it for us… how will we ever learn?

I understand the need to control some aspect of your child’s life, but when it comes to homework. It should be up to them. A little help might be good, but it should be their responsibility to ask for help if they need it.

If you see your child struggling to get things done on time, or if their grades are slipping, ask if they need some help (with time management or studying) – don’t just give it to them.