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A straightforward, no-nonsense guide to optimizing your child’s college experience from one of America’s top educators
Pop quiz: You’ve just dropped off your freshman at college and are heading home. Do you: A) Call them to see how they’re settling in; B) Text them to tell them you love them; C) Enjoy the drive; or D) All of the above?
According to leading educator and President of Hyde School, Malcolm Gauld, the correct answer is “C – Enjoy the drive.”
A teacher for nearly forty years, Gauld has watched thousands of high school graduates head off to college. After a while, he began to notice some unmistakable patterns—good and bad—relating to students after they hit higher education. About a decade ago, he began giving an annual presentation, called his “5 Rules for College Survival Talk,” to high school seniors in hopes of sending them off to college on a positive note. This led to the book College Success Guaranteed: 5 Rules to Make It Happen (Rowman & Littlefield 2011).
Since writing that book, many parents have asked for tips on how they might optimize their son or daughter’s college experience. Hence, Gauld formulated College Success Guaranteed 2.0: 5 Rules for Parents (Rowman & Littlefield 2014). These five simple rules include:
Rule #1: Make Them Pay . . . For Something
Rule #2: Wait for Their Call
Rule #3: Step Aside . . . and Make Way for New Mentors
Rule #4: Mantra—Is This My Issue?
Rule #5: Get Curious
Written with honesty, insight, and a touch of humor, COLLEGE SUCCESS GUARANTEED 2.0 references several contemporary authors, psychologists, and family therapists on the nature of today’s American family, the current national tendency toward parental overprotectiveness, and some new approaches parents might take toward parenting a student of college age as opposed to a younger child.
“I have taught and coached teenagers for more than four decades and watched thousands of them go off to college. Some just take off like rockets from the get-go. Others either fail to launch or crash-and-burn before midterms,” says Gauld. “Parents can help their children succeed by following these five simple rules, which encourage independence and set up the students for success.”
Gauld hopes the anecdotes from college parents from more than fifty schools, combined with stories from College Success Guaranteed: 5 Rules to Make It Happen, will ensure students “the best four years of his or her life.” Included in the book is a special bonus chapter on how kids and parents might join together to face the troubling angst currently surrounding the annual college application process.
• Five simple, clear-cut rules for parents of college students
• Stories and anecdotes from scores of actual college parents representing more than fifty colleges and universities, all offered in a helpful, nonjudgmental tone
• References to several contemporary authors, psychologists, and family therapists on the nature of today’s American family, the current national tendency toward parental overprotectiveness, and some new approaches parents might take
• A bibliography of relevant books for further reading
• A bonus chapter on how kids and parents might join together to face the troubling angst currently surrounding the annual college application process
MALCOLM GAULD, a lifelong teacher, serves as president of the Hyde School, a national community of public and private schools that exists to help parents help kids develop their character and discover their unique potential. He makes his home in Bath, Maine, with his wife Laura and their three grown children.
Hyde President Malcolm Gauld discusses College Success: 5 Rules for Parents on FOX CT
A SUGGESTED FRAME OF MIND FOR THE READER
During my interviews, I began to notice a common theme expressed by parents who have sent multiple children to college. For example, one mother of three college children said, “You know, by the third child, I learned. I got smarter. I turned more of the responsibility for my kids’ progress, success, and general happiness over to them. I realized that I too had a life and needed to get on with it. I may have learned it the hard way, but I definitely learned to step aside.”
In reading this book, it is my hope that parents will avoid the temptation to compare themselves against the many examples and anecdotes that are offered here. Our current national culture seems to embody a counter-productive pull of a steady pressure to downplay our parenting foibles and missteps. We are supposed to know what to do in any and all circumstances. We are also supposed to make it appear as though we are doing it all effortlessly. It can even be seen as a weakness for us to ask for help.
Anyone who is good at anything—a premier athlete, a masterful courtroom attorney, a gifted teacher, a guitar god—has spent hours and hours learning from and consulting with others who excel at the same activity. Why would parenting be any different?
Asking for help is a sign of strength. After all, anything that will move our kids forward is something any committed parent ought to want to know about. Who cares where or from whom it came?
So, I urge the reader to keep an open mind, and try to draw some wisdom from the experiences presented. Many of the anecdotes provided by parents were offered in the spirit of “If only I knew then what I know now.” Like life itself, parenting must be lived forward but can only be understood in reverse.
I am especially grateful to the parents who gave me the unvarnished truth, who openly described the measures they took which were not effective as well as those that hit their mark as intended. I would submit that, if you are a parent of a child headed to college, you will likely do some of both. It is my hope that this book will help lead you to an approach that works for your child and for you.
Rule No. 4
MANTRA: IS THIS MY ISSUE?
Rule No. 4 is actually a mantra for parents to internalize when they are engaged in communications with their college child. Should a call come in from an exasperated son or daughter regarding an incident involving a roommate, a professor, the food, the dormitory, or the weather, stop and ask yourself, “Is this my issue?”
However, to take it one step further, before you respond with your “final answer,” try “No” on for size. In other words, give “No” serious consideration as your “go to” answer. You may ultimately decide that “Yes” is the proper answer, and sometimes it is . . . sometimes.
Obstacles as Opportunities
In our book The Biggest Job We’ll Ever Have, my wife, Laura, and I present ten priorities designed to help parents build better families. One of these, Priority No. 6, is called Allow Obstacles to Become Opportunities. At the workshops we present, we play an association game where we ask parents to blurt out words that spring to mind when they hear the word “obstacle.” Typical responses are: “problem” . . . “something to fix” . . . “barrier” . . .“hurdle” . . . “embarrassment” . . . “get over.”
Then we ask participants to do the same for the word “opportunity.” Typical responses for that word are: “vision” . . . “positive” . . . “something good” . . . “growth” . . . “potential advantage.”
What a difference! This priority is about letting go of the myth that problems are a sign of weakness and realizing that obstacles come as a result of high expectations. The more you strive to accomplish, the more you will be asked to struggle. Just think what might happen if we chose to attach some of the above words associated with opportunity and applied them to our obstacles!
PARENT ANECDOTES AND STORIES
Boyfriend: 3’s Company
The mother of a Clark University (Massachusetts) student was deeply troubled when she learned that her daughter’s roommate had a boyfriend, a student at another university, who was a frequent overnight guest. Not only did this add up to a lot of nights where her daughter was either finding another place to sleep or would be placed in an uncomfortable circumstance by staying in her own room, it triggered deep anxiety in the mother. The mother told me,
I just knew that I could clear the path so well for her on this. . . .My blood was boiling. In fact, words cannot convey the depth and breadth of the issues that I had with this. But . . . is it my issue?
The fact that my daughter told me that this was going on suggests that she has a problem with it as well. But it is her issue, not mine. Believe me, I thought to call the school, the RA, the mother of the roommate, even the mother of the boyfriend. But it is my daughter’s battle to wage and I have held my tongue, except to say to her that I believe she is being taken advantage of. She did not like that.
I must say that I give this mother a lot of props for her handling of this. She is letting her daughter handle it, but she is also being true to herself by openly telling her daughter how she feels about it. As parents, that’s all we can do.