Why parenting is a crap shoot

Report card grades locked in at the beginning of this week, which kicked off a new round of me contacting parents to discuss their children’s grades. Unfortunately, due to the large number of students I have, I only have time to contact the parents of students who are failing. Many of the conversations I’ve had so far, however, go something like this:

Me: “Hello, this is ___________, and I wanted to contact you to let you know that your child is not currently passing Algebra I.”

Parent: “Oh yes, I know. I can’t motivate him to do his homework or care about class. I just don’t know what to do about him. He’s so different from his brother. His brother is getting an A in calculus, you know.”

It’s scary to me, how one family can turn out such different children.

Before I go any further, I want to say two things:
1) This blog is not a critique on anybody’s parenting style. It’s also not my arrogant advice on how to parent.
2) I don’t believe there is any such thing as bad children. Kids are kids. They all have good things about them, and they all have things that could be improved.

I do, however, believe, without any doubt, that every parent has some idea about what they want their child to be like. Maybe they want their kids to get good grades. Or be good at sports. Or be popular. Or be morally conservative. Or be mentally healthy. Whatever it is, every parent wants something for their child.

But the fact is, from everything I have observed, parents do not control how their children turn out. Hands-on parents who do everything they can to nurture their child and teach him right from wrong can raise children who end up in jail. Neglectful parents who can’t be bothered to show up to any of their child’s life events can still raise children who go on to be excellent friends, spouses, parents, employees, etc. I’ve seen that with my own eyes

I do absolutely believe that parenting styles can go a long way in making life better or worse for a child. Show your child more love, and he will feel better because of it and hopefully appreciate you for it. Neglect your child, and he will feel sadder because of it. But in the end, I’m growing less and less sure that parents can drastically alter outcomes for their children.

And that is ridiculously scary to me. I don’t have kids, and I don’t want kids. But I can’t even imagine having someone who I love so much be so out of my control. I can’t imagine pouring my heart into someone and not being able to make sure everything turned out perfectly for that child.

Parents, keep parenting. You’re awesome for what you do. But it takes nerves of steel, and at this moment, and I don’t think I would ever have the guts to roll the dice like that.


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