Parent ‘blind spots’ in the network

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

TheFish103.9FM CyberParenting topics, Tuesdays.

(This is a slightly modified excerpt from Banana Moments: Family Business Quarterly, Fall 2008)

Photot credit: Shockingly Tasty (Flickr)

Blind spots are those aspects of our children’s lives that we cannot see or experience.

Since we are not with our children 24 hours a day, there will be much that our children do and experience of which we are unaware. While this was generally the case with our own parents, today there is much more that parents do not know.

Blind spots can be so intense and prevalent and they can influence our relationships with other adults in our children’s lives – in particular, teachers. We are also operating on beliefs, anxieties and assumptions that engage our blind spots and avoid the pursuit of truth when it comes to our children.

And now, more than ever, we need to pursue the truth with what is going on in our children’s lives because there is so much at stake.

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Some examples of blind spots include:

  • My child would never do that (cheat, talk out of turn, hit, ignore deadlines)
  • My child would never publish a nude photo of herself.
  • My child always gets good grades.
  • My child knows how to learn.
  • My child is not smart enough.
  • My child would never abuse prescription drugs.
  • My child would never do or say cruel things to another person.
  • My child is compassionate and good at all times.

One fundamental reason for more intense and numerous blind spots is the advent of the Internet and mobile phones. This technology makes is easy for children to form unsafe relationships, and have access to information, supplies and ideas of which we have no knowledge. And much of the media influence is “no limits” – we can instantly establish a connection to find out how to beat a drug test, for example, or to order a body-building supplement from another country that is not FDA approved and has a dangerous steroid as one of the key  ingredients. So we cannot know everything that our  children say and do. Accordingly, the typical student has been shaped  with trends and influences, which strain the functional relationships between the student, parent and teacher and can lead to the formation of blind spots as described below.

Authority is more earned than ascribed. We do not automatically grant people in positions of title or responsibility authority, including the law, so children are more apt to challenge the direction given by teachers.

“Used to be the majority were ‘good citizens’ in the classroom. Today, classrooms are filled with more bad apples and many more swing voters”…anonymous teacher of 25 years

Accommodation is emerging as a new norm. This “accommodation” refers to the consumer mentality – “it’s all about me”. We live in a world where everything is customized and children tend to be catered to as consumers. This has spilled over into the classroom and can affect how well a teacher can do her job. Often teachers encounter children (and their parents) who believe that their own child’s preferences or circumstances should dictate whether or not the rules and standards of conduct should be enforced.

Media is a major influencer. Beyond what we experienced a generation ago with TV and music, media today is increasingly seductive and omnipresent. We believe that since we love our children and we provide for them, that they will feel worthy. To the contrary, the message our children receive is you are never enough: not good enough, rich enough, or smart enough.

Instant gratification. Children have come to expect results right away. With the advent of the Internet and mobile phones, the speed of communication and the ability to connect for ordering goods and services has skyrocketed. And as a society, we are not saving. We purchase more on credit, so the concept of delayed gratification is lost on many children who have not experienced it. More often than not, children are provided what they want, rather than earning what they desire. And because learning is a process that takes root over time, it requires that our children can embrace the idea that some things take time and you have to invest today in order to reap benefits tomorrow.

Fear of failure. Many educators have reported that there is an  unhealthy fear of failure that can hold kids back from trying new things and/or simply learning from mistakes. There is a hyper focus on getting perfect scores, which can lead students to make decisions about where to focus in life, not based upon  their true talents, but based upon the sure thing of a perfect score.

Global Society. Our children live in a world where the barriers are down. It is a global world, and they must be able to compete in a market that has influences and competition from anywhere in the world. They need to be able to adapt, and persevere. And yet our culture that stresses instant gratification and avoidance of failure is not necessarily preparing our students to thrive in a global society.

Overcoming blind spots

For obvious reasons, blind spots are nearly impossible to detect if we are not proactive. Just like a driver in a car, we need to be aware that at any given moment a blind spot could prevent us from seeing a potential collision.

Photo credit: Nimish Gogri (Flickr)

We look over our shoulder and double check the mirrors. In the case of our children, we must rely upon others to help us identify the blind spots and what is in their path. In this regard, teachers, other parents, coaches, neighbors and your children’s friends are good resources.

So collaborating with teachers, for example, will help us to better understand and support the needs of our children as students. The best approach is defined below.

Step 1. First assume good intent.

Step 2. Listen to the teacher’s point of view and experience with your child (whether or not you believe or like what you hear)

Step 3. Repeat what you heard the teacher say – so that she knows you were listening.

Step 4. Express your concern and ask for his help.

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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna (jullien@surewest.net) and her husband have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from U.C. Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture). Her honors thesis was awarded the Kroeber Prize and funding from National Science Foundation grant. Joanna writes to help parents with the modern-day leadership challenges of raising children. She is a contributing writer for The Granite Bay View, the Press Tribune, the Sacramento Examiner, and editor of Banana Moments.

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