As an academic advisor, I obviously spend a lot of time talking to college students. Occasionally, though, I’ll get a phone call from a parent.
Often, the parent is concerned about the student’s academic progress and wants to know how they can support their kid during a rough semester. I love getting these calls, and I don’t mind sharing strategies with the parent.
Sometimes, though, I’ll hear from a concerned parent who’s doing everything for their kid: monitoring their daughter’s school email account, texting their son to remind him about every upcoming quiz, even picking out classes for the next semester on their child’s behalf.
I try to be kind but direct with these parents. “Look, part of what we learn in college is how to run our own lives, and that learning process often involves a little failure. It’s really, really important that your child be steering their own ship here. You and I can offer help and advice, but we’ve got to let the student make decisions and learn from mistakes.”
“Oh yeah,” they invariably respond, “I agree 100%. He’s got to do this on his own. Now do you think Greek would be a good foreign language for Adam to take in the fall?”
It’s not just overbearing parents of college students—we’re all poor judges of our own behavior. We fail to see obvious patterns, both helpful and harmful. This is why honest, caring feedback from people we trust is so helpful. If you’re getting it, take it seriously. We really don’t know our behavior as well as others do.