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Hothouse Parents
Photo: Jarsem
My local store features rows of beautiful red hothouse-grown tomatoes. The controlled environment produces perfection on the outside but bland, unsatisfying taste and texture on the inside. Out under the blazing sun, brushed by the wind and the rain, grow the real beauties that can make any sandwich a gastronomic delight.

We face an interesting parallel in our homes and schools. On one hand, many of our kids arrive each morning at school from home environments that are dysfunctional and at times abusively toxic. School is their stability; teachers their only mentors—thank God for dedicated teachers. Yet there is another extreme that is pushing some towards the ditch on the opposite side of the road.

“Hothouse parents,” as Psychology Today describes them, hover over their children and their children’s schools, even up through the collegiate level. It is a level of protectionism that not only drives teachers crazy, but excuses children from difficult choices and situations. Rather than upset these parents, some public schools have selected 10 to 12 valedictorians. Yet, it seems to me that this political correctness, this desire to insulate children from any sense of failure is counterproductive if we want to raise leaders rather than wimps.

Pushing Achievement more than Character Development

Some in our society, parents included, are pushing student achievement far more than character development. Yet, by forcing kids toward more achievement, parents have eliminated the very process by which children learn to cope with life’s realities, the very process by which character matures. Students arrive at college or even their first job, unable to contend positively with peer pressure or basic ethical issues of right and wrong.

Seems to me a “hothouse” environment is not the ideal place for our children. Shouldn’t character development, training our children to make choices and live with the consequences, be a higher priority than mere achievement? Are they mutually exclusive? What do you think? What are the pitfalls on either side of this question?

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By Steve Vistaunet. Portions reprinted with persmission from the North Pacific Union Conference Gleaner, October 2006. Copyright © 2010 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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