Q: We're considering enrolling our daughter in preschool this fall, but we're not sure about the idea of consigning her to an institutional setting for hours every week. What do you recommend?
Jim: When it comes to early childhood training, Focus on the Family's primary concern is to encourage a strong parent-child connection. We prefer to toss the ball back to the parents and let them evaluate their own unique situation. Does preschool have the potential to enhance or enrich the bond you enjoy with your daughter? Or do you sense that it might compromise that vital relationship in some way?
Also, check your motives. What's your purpose in sending your daughter to preschool? Are you hoping to provide her with a healthy introduction to the joys of learning? If so, there are probably preschools in your area that can help, particularly with respect to language skills, cognitive development and educational readiness.
However, if you're merely attempting to turn your daughter into a genius or position her in the academic pack in order to "keep up with the Joneses," you should reconsider. This phase of her life needs to be characterized by a strong emphasis on relationships, and you can seriously jeopardize that if you push too hard too soon.
In short, evidence suggests that children reap the greatest benefits, both educationally and socially, when they're protected from peer pressure and a formalized educational setting until they're mature enough to handle it. But there are also situations in which a good preschool might be valuable for a child. Those are questions only you can answer.
Q: My son is almost 20 years old and currently is in college. He has really struggled focusing on his classes the last two years and his grades have suffered in return. It is so important to me that he finishes college, but I don't know if it's appropriate for me to continue to monitor his work. When should a parent "let go" and let their adult child make his own mistakes?
Juli: A lot of parents can identify with your concerns. Ironically, as kids get older, we prepare them most effectively by letting go. You wrote that it is "so important to me that he finishes college." The key is whether or not it is important to him!
Motivation is something that a parent and child can't both equally carry. When your son was little, it was your job to provide the motivation for him to do well and to try his best. Now that he's a young adult, he has to learn to be self-motivated. This means that you have to let go of your goals for him so he can discover his own -- which may or may not be graduating from college.
You can help your son most by making a way for him to succeed in college and by not providing for him to fail. If he wants to go to college and puts forth a reasonable amount of effort, offer to pay for some of his college expenses. However, if he continues to get grades below what you know he should be getting, let him foot the bill or drop out and get a job. Instead of monitoring his work, set an objective standard (like a 3.0 GPA) that he should be able to maintain.
The most valuable lesson you can teach your son is how he must learn to take responsibility for his own choices in life. This may mean giving up your dream of him receiving a college diploma, but it will give him the best chance of succeeding in all of his endeavors.
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