Not Ready for The Real World

Last updated on February 15th, 2016 at 05:47 pm

My best isn’t enough?

I know elementary school teachers, coaches, and your parents told you that all that matters is that you do your best. Unfortunately, they all lied to you.

The professor who wrote this was responding to a fictional (albeit realistic) scenario: how would you respond to a student who asked for a grade change on a project because she “worked so hard on it?” The idea that you could work hard on something and not succeed is frustrating, especially to those with parents who ensure there is little disappointment for their kids.

Similarly, in our household, one of the most challenging conversations we have with our children is when we have promised something but then life happens, and we can no longer fulfill that promise: these discussions are hard from both a fairness and integrity perspective. But, the truth is, sometimes plans have to change. Right?

Imagine children growing up with parents who ensured everything in life was easy, calm, and predictable. From birth to leaving home, these children rarely witnessed or experienced a major life change or critical incident. They want a playdate: a playmate appears. They begin their education: their parents ensure they had the right school, teachers, and classmates. They play sports: they receive trophies just for being on the team. They are bored: some sort of device appears.

Everything is neatly scripted, picture perfect.

As children in this environment grow, here’s a preview of how they might react when they are faced with the harsh reality of life:

– They might ask their parents to get involved with their challenges at college (e.g., having parents ask professors to change grades or calling admissions offices).
– Instead of becoming mature adults, they may delay adulthood. One author examined how perpetual adolecense is somewhat celebrated in our culture today, particularly in the entertainment realm.
– They fail to begin the basics in financial management, from planning to saving for retirement.

In a recent study, researchers found that college students of helicopter parents may have fewer competencies required for success on the job. As summarized in the Washington Post:

The study showed that those college students with “helicopter parents” had a hard time believing in their own ability to accomplish goals. They were more dependent on others, had poor coping strategies and didn’t have soft skills, like responsibility and conscientiousness throughout college, the authors found.

We cannot learn from mistakes if we never make any, cannot learn to deal with disappointment if we do not experience it, and cannot learn to adapt if our circumstances remain the same. I’ll be discussing how learning tough lessons can impact the ability to accept responsibility for financial outcomes in the next post.

Now, how to tell my kids that doing their best isn’t enough…maybe we’ll tackle that tomorrow.



C. Bradley-Geist, J., & B. Olson-Buchanan, J. (2014). Helicopter parents: an examination of the correlates of over-parenting of college students. Education+ Training, 56(4), 314-328.

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