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Hovering Too Low

May 9, 2009 | by Emuna Braverman

Many parents today are hovering over their children and denying them the opportunity to be responsible.

I thought that "hovering" parents had hit a new low when I read the recent Wall Street Journal piece about parents accompanying their children (we can't really call them young adults under the circumstances!) to job interviews and even calling their bosses to ask for a raise.

Then I had lunch with a friend who sends her daughter to a ‘progressive' private school. She described the emails she receives from the administration. "We have a spelling test tomorrow." "Thank you for joining Sheila's math study group."

"What do you mean?" ranted my outraged pal. "I already passed 4th grade spelling. And I am not a member of my child's math study group!"

Is this really healthy for our children? Is this the education we envision for them? The Torah teaches us that everyone should say "The world was created for me." This has been misinterpreted to suggest self-centeredness, complete egotism. Certainly a child whose parents join their study groups, write their college admissions essays and petition their bosses for promotions feel like the world revolves around them.

We infantilize and rob our children of the power to shape their lives by doing everything for them.

But the Torah means something very different and far more important -- and something that all this hovering and fawning and constant hand-holding is in danger of destroying. To accept the idea that the world is created for me is to accept responsibility for our world. A tremendous responsibility. The world is created for me means the buck stops here. It means that war, poverty, racism, pollution, cruelty and injustice are problems that I need to respond to. If they continue, it's my fault. If I ignore them, I am not fulfilling my purpose.

It doesn't mean that the world caters to me; it means that I should cater to the world.

Hovering over our children, denying them the opportunity to be responsible, impedes their growth to adulthood. Babies are dependent. Adults are independent. We infantilize and rob our children of the power to shape their lives by doing everything for them.

The Almighty knows that only through responsibility do we truly grow up. We live in a society where many "adult" responsibilities -- living on their own, jobs, marriage, children -- are being postponed by our children to an increasingly older age.

If the goal of parenting is to raise successful adults, then we need to reevaluate our strategy. It seems that a strong sense of responsibility is more efficacious than a lack of one. And it should begin earlier, not later.

Let that child put together his own study group, and let him choose its members from among his classmates, not his parents.

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