This time of the year I interview over 80 high school students for training positions at my summer camp. These are the students who are very high achieving and can often afford to volunteer or work for a very small stipend. Over the last 5 years there has been a trend of parents who micro manage their teenager’s employment process. About 5% of my applicants have parents who e-mail or call me about their teenager’s application. I am usually rather diplomatic with the first few parents of the year but by May my patience wears thin and replies seem to be curt.
Here is what my e-mail looks like in February:
Thank you for advocating for your teenager. Because your teenager has applied for a position that involves being responsible for other people’s children. Part of the application process requires the applicant to navigate multiple steps, maturely handle communication with a potential supervisor, and manage their interview schedule. They must be able to do this on their own. I have found that most parents are just trying to be helpful, want their teen to have a full summer, and are eager to move the process forward. Please have the applicant contact me with the question and I will be sure to reply quickly.
The Camp Director
Here is what my e-mail looks like in May:
Dear Over Involved Parent:
Your teenager has applied for a position that involves being responsible for other people’s children. Part of the application process requires the applicant to navigate multiple steps, maturely handle communication with a potential supervisor, and manage their interview schedule. By you e-mailing me on their behalf I assume you think they are not capable of handling this process on their own or they are not organizing their summer plans as quickly as you would like. Since YOU are not the one applying for the job, YOU cannot be the one to contact me. We are in the life-skills business of developing responsible adults. You would be surprised how capable and amazing today’s teens are when given the opportunity and not micromanaged by over involved and anxious parents. Please let your teen manage their own affairs, make their own plans, and learn to regroup when the plans fall apart. How will you ever be able to send them away to college if you have not seen them manage on their own under your own roof? Please let them fail while you are still around to offer support when absolutely necessary. Too soon they will be gone and this sort of rescuing behavior you are now demonstrating will have done irrevocable damage to their independence.
Please have the applicant contact me with the question and I will be sure to reply quickly.
The Camp Director
The New York Times had an article about these same over involved parents in the school system. Working in a middle school I see the same anxious behavior with parents and their child’s grades. Children and teens don’t have many ways to rebel and fight back when they feel like their parent is too involved. They may purposely fail or do poorly, not eat, hang out with peers they know their parents don’t like, do drugs, etc. Those who are not outwardly rebellious end up on anxiety and depression medication. If parents don’t learn to back off, we are in for a rash of impaired and broken young adults who are unable to think for themselves, unable to find a career path, and generally unhappy with life.