[A version of this was published in CLIPS for May 2007]
Katie and I struggle with parenting as much as any parents do. There’s no instruction book, family life is stressful and complicated, and media conspire against us with questionable messages for children.
On the other hand, we have had the benefit of raising our children while living and working within cohesive independent school cultures and among many of the ablest parents. I have long dreamed of cataloguing the wisdom of those parents as a kind of loose guidebook for the rest of us, a parenting casuistry for the twenty-first century. I don’t know whether such a project is practical or even advisable, but I do feel strongly enough about a pair of issues to suggest some best practices myself.
Among parents of teenagers, there seems to be some tolerance about serving alcohol to minors. I hear occasionally, for example, that “the kids are going to drink anyway, so I’d rather they do it at my house where I can keep an eye on them.” In the extreme, parents host after-parties with kegs and dozens or even hundreds of underage drinkers. Some parents turn a blind eye to smaller gatherings in their homes.
Parents who serve alcohol to others’ children are breaking more than the law; they are violating the trust and sense of community that constitute one of the greatest assets of a private school. Though Campbell Hall administrators have no interest in interfering in families’ personal lives, it becomes increasingly difficult to ignore how such behavior on the part of some parents impacts the rest of us.
I also find it astounding how many youngers students say they have computers and TVs in their bedrooms. Experts are virtually unanimous in recommending that computers be housed in family rooms rather than bedrooms, particular for younger children, though perhaps even through junior high and high school. There’s simply too much unsavory content, and too many opportunities for students to waste time or worse, even with blocking and monitoring software.
I welcome your feedback, via this blog or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Perhaps Campbell Hall will someday undertake to collect best practices from across the grade levels, though I maintain as much respect as anybody for different parenting styles. But frankly, it’s difficult to see how serving alcohol to minors or allowing unmonitored access to computers (particularly to younger children) could be justified under any style of parenting.