TIME Parenting

Georgia School Slaps Handcuffs on 6-Year-Old Student

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School said first grader's son posed a risk to himself and others

The mother of a first grade student has expressed outrage at a Georgia school’s decision last week to place her 6-year-old son in handcuffs.

Lakaisha Reid said she found her son, a special needs student at Pine Ridge Elementary school, kneeling on the floor with his hands cuffed behind his back, Yahoo! News reports.

“The first thing I said was ‘Get those handcuffs off my kid,’ Reid said. She said the handcuffs appeared to have bruised her son’s wrists.

(Read more: Why Are 40,000 Children So Harshly Disciplined in Public Schools?)

The school defended its decision to restrain her son, arguing that his behavior posed a risk to himself and other students.

“For approximately one hour, the student was scratching, kicking and hitting school personnel and continued to exhibit violent behavior, running into walls, banging his head on tables and placing his health at risk,” read a statement from Dekalb County School District.

[Yahoo!]

TIME Family

How to Take Risks as a Parent

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4 steps to help you make risky decisions when you have a family

LITG

This article originally appeared on Live in the Grey.

As a parent, the idea of disrupting corporate America, pursuing passion and living in the grey is so exciting. I feel such pride that our generation is fundamentally changing the way our kids will work.

At the same time, I’ve reflected a lot on whether being a parent impacts your ability to take big risks. Naturally, the stakes for parents are higher. It’s not just a personal money issue. The well-being of your family might be on the line.

All of this was running through my mind last year when my husband and I hit a point where we needed a change. I was miserable in my job and couldn’t suppress this nagging feeling that I needed to spend more time with our kids. So we talked about our options:

  • I could quit and stay home with our kids
  • I could quit and pursue my marketing consulting business full time
  • I could find another job and pursue consulting on the side

The conversation ultimately came back to the tension between our desires and how our decisions could impact our kids. But instead of getting stuck in indecision, we came up with a plan that would address our need for change and our family’s well-being. When you find yourself unable to make up your mind about a career decision, try taking these four steps:

1. Clearly outline your financials

First, we needed to be able to compare our options objectively and understand the level of financial risk they presented. I created a spreadsheet with all the relevant factors (income, bills, savings, and spending money). This way, we were able to see the financial impact of each scenario side by side. It helped arm us with concrete facts and made it easier to know exactly what we were sacrificing, which in turn took some of the emotional difficulty out of our decision.

(MORE: 5 Reasons Yoga Can Help You Live & Work Better)

2. Weigh in additional pros and cons

Once we had a good financial comparison, we listed the rest of the pros and cons associated with each option. This included things like the time I would get to spend with our kids, schedule flexibility, contributions to savings and retirement, ability to pay for private school and more. These will be different for everyone.

We also factored in our financial safety net, the sacrifices we’d have to make, how long we could realistically live on one salary, and what I could bring in should I start my own business.

(MORE: From Rock & Roll to Peace of Mind: Meet Meditation Guide Biet Simkin)

3. Set a goal.

Armed with a full picture of our options, we decided to set a savings goal of 6 months worth of income before making any big changes. All of our options were technically possible, but because of our kids we needed a bigger savings cushion.

4. Iterate.

Don’t stop there. We re-evaluate our situation at the end of every month because all of these factors can change quickly.

As of this month, I’m excited to say we exceeded our savings goal and I have officially started a new career! The summer brought a couple surprise expenses which detoured our goal date by a month, but we pivoted as needed and re-established our goal.

I feel motivated by the fact that we’ve become more flexible while still keeping true to our goals. We are working together more than we ever have and are much more in tune with what we ultimately want to get out of our lives. In other words, we are living our grey.

At the end of the day, remember that this is your path. Consider your options and unique challenges, set goals and constantly re-evaluate. This way, you’ll make real progress while cutting down on stress along the way.

(MORE: Tumblr’s Annie Werner Shares Career Advice)

TIME Parenting

Pregnant Woman Says She Was Fired for Taking Too Many Bathroom Breaks

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A supervisor accused her of “stealing” from the company

A woman in Portland, Ore., claims she was fired from her job in 2013 for taking too many bathroom breaks while pregnant with her second child.

People reports that Dawn Steckmann was told by her supervisor at Maxim Integrated Products that “not clocking out to use the restroom is stealing from the company” and she could have been “watching a movie” during bathroom breaks.

Steckmann, who worked for Maxim for ten years, claims she had been told during her previous pregnancy not to bother with clocking out when using the restroom.

Steckmann is reportedly seeking $400,000 in damages in a gender and discrimination lawsuit.

Read more at People.

TIME Parenting

How to Survive Teaching a Teenager How to Drive

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My 16 year old son has earned his permit and I am the one who has the most availability during the week — thus, it’s become my “privilege” to teach him how to drive

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

Possibly one of the worst fights I had with my mother when I was a teenager occurred at the intersection of McClintock and Cornell in Tempe, Arizona. I was making a left turn and had inched her Toyota Camry into position. Oncoming traffic was heavy and my mom was gripping the emergency brake and maybe even looking for an oxygen mask. She was giving a ton of instructions and I thought I heard her say go, so I did.

We missed being in a head on collision by approximately half an inch. I believe our argument went something like this:

Mom: “Oh my God! Are you trying to kill us? F#$%, Crazy, Jesus-H Fu*&%%^, etc. What the heck were you thinking?”

Me-(ego bruised): “No, I wasn’t trying to kill us, Mom, just you because you would have been hit first!”

Mom: “Give me the goddamn keys!”

Me: *Walking home*

Fast forward 27 years. My 16 year old son has earned his permit and I am the one who has the most availability during the week—thus, it’s become my “privilege” to teach him how to drive. I imagine that the previous sentence will be read with glee by mom. I think she’ll share it with her friends and they’ll have a hearty laugh about how what goes around comes around. And they’ll be right.

Here’s what I didn’t understand when my mother was teaching me how to drive. She didn’t see me as a young adult with a sense of responsibility and underlying comprehension of the risks involved in this rite of passage. If she was anything like I am now, she saw me around the age of 4 or 5, holding my blanky and starting the ignition. I know this because when I look at my son, I see him in his OshKosh B’gosh overalls. I see that little cherub controlling a death trap in the guise of a Nissan. In an effort to avoid a public freak out and to keep my son in the driver’s seat, I have compiled a list of actions to be taken in order to survive teaching my teenager to drive. Please use as needed.

Xanax is a-okay.

I’m not saying you should score it on the street, but I mean I can’t see you, so.

Please pay attention: The first time you pull out of a neighborhood or parking lot and onto a main thoroughfare, you will want your anti-anxiety meds to have taken effect. I love my primary care physician. She has a teenage daughter. Solidarity.

Clip your fingernails to the quick.

You’ll be clenching your fists on average of 74,876 times every trip you take with your teenager. Avoid extra pain by removing the possibility of scarring your palms.

Practice your poker face—then apply it to your voice.

Think relaxation tapes from days of yore. Conjure your most boring teacher’s voice. Do anything to remove emotion because even joy will be received with an overreaction.

For example, when my son successfully completed a series of 3 point turns and I praised him, he interpreted my praise as though I had just said, “Dude! You’re like a master driver! Why not go ahead and blast Jay Z or Drake while you navigate the freeway on-ramp! Be sure to try to recline your seat as you hit 60 mph too.”

Every time you are tempted to scream out in total panic and despair at your teen’s lack of judgment, clench your butt muscles instead and apply poker voice. My butt is getting so firm.

Watch a documentary or film featuring European roadways.

The first time your kid begins to drift onto the wrong side of the road, simply say, England.

Resist the urge to let your teenager drive him/herself to school.

There is an invisible cloud of Look-there-are-my-friends-I’mma-act-like-a-jerk — it’s like vapor. You will also potentially be saving your child from the embarrassment of parking on the curb because he/she was trying so hard to be noticed.

When you occasionally stop at a red light while your teenager is driving and look out the passenger window so that your child doesn’t see your tears, be alert enough to notice the older woman giving you a knowing look. Silently curse her when the light turns green because you are deeply envious of how much her car belongs to just her.

Make sure that you and your significant other are on the same page about things like speed limits.

In my state, if you actually drive the speed limit, you will put your life at risk. Hence my fear of my son applying my very safe husband’s advice too earnestly.

Know the habits of drivers in your area.

My son is currently tapping into his psychic abilities because in our town one is supposed to just know when the car ahead plans on turning or merging lanes. Mind reading is a must.

Keep the younger siblings muzzled in the backseat.

My daughter is only a couple of years younger than my son. They are the fiercest friends in the world. The car is not the world. The car is where your daughter will kick the back of the driver’s seat causing your teenager to turn around mid-acceleration to utter profanities you didn’t know he knew while your daughter lobs them back causing your poker voice to vanish. Lightening quick actions you never knew you possessed will be taken in a display of something akin to bionic parenting — such as simultaneously squeezing your backseat-child’s knee to show you mean business, and hitting the hazard lights as the voice of Thor rises from the depths of your body to silence the moment. In the silent aftermath you will demand the keys be removed from the ignition. Using your now-raw-non-neutral voice you will instruct your children to walk home and think about what they’ve done.

My son is improving in his driving skills every day. He dreams aloud about what kind of car he’ll purchase when his 16 birthday rolls around this December. This is hilarious and somewhat adorable. We’ve been discussing things like getting a job and reality.

My husband and I spent a recent Saturday at a team parent meeting because our boy made the JV basketball team. At the meeting, we were informed about the practice schedule among other things. Our boy now has to be dropped off and picked up from school on average of 28 times per week. Suddenly, December can’t come soon enough. Luckily for all of us, the road to school and back is a straight shot, and if he has his own car I can follow him if I feel like it. I think I’m going to feel like it.

Jess Burnquist is a teacher living in Phoenix, Arizona.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Parenting

U.S. Birthrate Declines as American Women Wait

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In troubling sign for economy

U.S. birth rates hit a record low in 2013, federal researchers said Thursday, down 9% from a high in 2007.

The “baby bust,” revealed in a report from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, indicates that women are delaying having children until later in life. The declines were among women under 30, while the rates for women over 35 actually went up. Childbearing among older women has risen over the last three decades, according to the CDC, with rates for women 35 and older at the highest levels in roughly 50 years.

The decline in childbirths is not good news for the U.S. economy. Years of declining populations rates have created economic crises in Europe and Japan, as labor forces contract, the tax base shrinks, and the population gets older.

The good news? Birth rates did fall 10% among teenagers.

MONEY Work/Life Balance

How to Get Ahead in Business Without Leaving Your Family Behind

work-life balance
Ivary Inc.—Alamy

Entrepreneur, husband and dad Sam Bahreini shares the work-life balance strategies that have worked for him.

Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle” may have made more grown men cry than any other song: The story of a father who’s too busy working to spend time with his son cuts to our deepest fears as parents.

Even Chapin himself has said that the song scared him to death.

If you have work that you’re personally invested in and a family you want to spend time with, though, there’s naturally going to be tension between the two as they battle for your limited time each day.

I have an amazing wife and three kids, but I also have two businesses to run. In the first couple years running my startup, vacations were rare, and frequently missing family meals tested my marriage and my character as a father.

The tension you feel as a working parent is not necessarily bad—but if you prioritize the wrong things, you may look back on these years with regret.

Thankfully, you are not doomed to the depressing fate of Chapin’s song simply because you have a demanding job. There are practical ways to make sure your schedule reflects your priorities. Here are four strategies that have worked for me:

Communicate with your spouse

One focused conversation about boundaries can create a compass that keeps you on a path to happiness at work and at home.

Sit down and make a “too much, too little” chart together. Write down guidelines for how much time at work is too much, how many missed dinners are too many, what is considered too little time spent on work, etc.

Protecting everyone’s needs starts with setting clear expectations.

Keep family life consistent

This is especially important with young children.

If dinner is family time, you should be a part of it. Likewise, you should be present at kids’ activities.

Too many career advancements at once can ruin family stability and throw your life into chaos.

Don’t justify slipping away by saying you’ll make up for lost time later on. You can’t and you won’t. Invest in your current relationships with your kids so you still have relationships in the future.

Share the burdens and the vision

Help your family see the value in what you do when you’re not at home.

Include your spouse on work trips, for example. Let your partner help you make business decisions and be a sounding board for you.

Let your spouse have the final say

For the most part, these strategies have helped me keep my work-life balance in check. But when all else fails, my wife draws a line I don’t cross.

She reminds me when I’m putting in too many late nights, taking too many calls during family time, or spending too much time on email when I should be with the kids. When I get so focused on work that I start to drift away from my family, she pulls me back in—and I let her.

We often say a good business is “like a family,” but remember that like a family is not the same thing as having a family. No business should replace your actual spouse and kids. It’s good to work hard and push your limits, but don’t go past them.

If you do, you’ll be tired and alone at the finish line, and there will be no one at home to celebrate with you.

Sam Bahreini, a seasoned operations officer and entrepreneur, is co-founder and COO of VoloForce, a company that helps enterprise retail brands understand organization implementation through automation and simplification.

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program.

TIME

Scooters Leading Cause of Toy-Related Injuries This Christmas

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Toys are leaping off the shelves faster than ever now that we’ve officially entered the holiday season, but a new study finds that many toys cause serious injury to children. The study, out Dec. 1, from the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, found that an estimated 3,278,073 kids in the United States were treated in emergency rooms after suffering toy-related injuries from 1990-2011. Even more alarming, every three minutes a child was treated for a toy-related injury in the year 2011 alone.

Toys foster imaginative learning and creativity, but parents may want to consider the types of toys their children are playing with. Study researchers found that the rate of toy-related injury rose by about 40 percent between 1990 and 2011–– in part because of the increased popularity of foot-powered scooters. From 2000 onward, there was an estimated one toy-related injury every 11 minutes, and children who were injured thanks to scooters were three times more likely to break or dislocate a bone.

“All children should use safety precautions when using a scooter or other riding toys,” says Dr. Gary Smith, study author and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy. “The first three safety tips I give for preventing injuries on those toys are: 1. Wear a helmet. 2. Wear a helmet. 3. Wear a helmet. Buy a scooter, buy a helmet.” He notes that any adult planning on giving a scooter to a child should also make sure to get a helmet that fits. And take worthwhile precautions: only ride scooters on flat, dry surfaces away from motor vehicle traffic.

Hundreds of toys are recalled every year for being defective (Mattel alone recalled 19 million toys back in 2007), and there are numerous other ways kids can inadvertently injure themselves while playing –– from choking on a Lego to getting hit with a rogue baseball. Yet, researchers found that falls and collisions (as opposed to other injuries such as ingestion or aspiration) were the most frequent cause of toy-related injuries among children in all age groups. Falls accounted for 46 percent and collisions were responsible for 22 percent of injuries.

While more than half of toy injuries are sustained by children younger than five, injuries due to riding toys like scooters were shown to increase later into childhood. A whopping 42 percent of injuries in children ages 5 to 17 were attributed to scooter, tricycle or wagon accidents, while only 28 percent of injuries in children under five were attributed to these ride-along toys. (Though, it’s worth noting, that young children are at an increased risk for swallowing or ingesting small toy parts.)

So, how can parents protect their children from toy-related injuries this holiday season? “First, follow a toy’s age restrictions and any other guidelines from the manufacturer,” says Smith. “If a package label says that children younger than 3 years of age should not use the toy inside, it often means that the toy poses a choking risk to young children because of small parts. In addition, parents should check the website, Recalls.gov, to be sure that toys they already own have not been recalled, especially since there have been hundreds of toy recalls in the last decade.”

For more parenting stories and advice on raising a child in today’s world, check out the new TIME for Family subscription.

TIME Race

Why I Brought My Young Kids to a Ferguson Protest

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The consensus was overwhelmingly that it is stupid, if not negligent, to bring children to a protest

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

I was going to do some Thanksgiving prep the other day. You know, make a pie crust. Maybe even some stuffing. That’s what you do two days before Thanksgiving, right? Instead, my children and I spent the afternoon at a Ferguson protest in support of Michael Brown.

On our way to the protest, my teenage daughter shared a photo of herself and her sisters on a local news station’s Facebook page and immediately received dozens of negative comments about bringing children to a protest. Some suggested that Child Protective Services be called while others mocked her for everything from her presumed ignorance to her age to the color of her hair. The consensus was overwhelmingly that it is stupid, if not negligent, to bring children to a protest.

Living in Seattle, I’m nowhere near Ferguson. I’m as lily white as they come. I’ve never experienced racism, and in fact I’ve noted my own privilege plenty of times. I’m not sure that I used to notice it at all, or was even aware that it existed, until I moved to the troubled neighborhood of South Seattle a few years ago.

We were the racial minority in that neighborhood, but we were also the privileged minority. The police were friendly…to us. A young black woman was less lucky when a police officer punched her in the face next door to the Starbucks we frequented. I’m pretty sure that a lawsuit came out of that case, but the Seattle Police Department is no stranger to lawsuits. In a city that’s famous for its progressive values, it’s almost shocking to remember that here, too, was the site of the 1999 WTO protests and that just last month a judge threw out a lawsuit by members of the Seattle PD who felt that reforms designed to curb the use of excessive force violated THEIR civil rights. Seriously, I’m not making that up. They really tried to sue for that.

Last week’s protests were peaceful. Hundreds of high school students joined hundreds of members of the community to march through the streets of Seattle. The groups converged on the steps of the Federal courthouse, where a rally was held. We stood in the rain, hands up, chanting “hands up, don’t shoot,” and “no justice, no peace, no racist police.” We came together to lend our voices to the growing chorus of outrage against a system that rewards violent white men and institutionalizes the murder of black men.

Frankly, I would rather have baked a pie that day than attended a protest. But, as a mother, it’s my job to teach my children right from wrong, and you don’t do that with words. You do that by getting out there in the rain, with nowhere to pee, feeling a little awkward and wondering what you have to add to a racial discussion, but throwing your hands up and making your voice heard anyway. You do it by leading by example, not by ranting on Facebook. You do it by, cliché or not, being the change you want to see, and trusting your kids enough to allow them to be there, too.

Statistically, my kids had a dramatically higher chance of being harmed on the drive to the protest than at the protest itself. I decided not to let fear rule me and I made a parenting decision that introduced my children to social activism.

My young daughters held their hands up and joined in the chants, asked a few questions, and then played on the steps of the courthouse as the protest continued behind them.

Afterward, we walked away from a courthouse lined with police officers, knowing that we were safe and that we wouldn’t be stopped, harassed, or otherwise harmed as we walked. No one would detain or search us. No one would pull my car over for a “routine” traffic stop. No one would pay us any attention at all, unless to smile at my children or perhaps say hello. Unlike Michael Brown’s parents, I have the security of knowing that my children will see the friendly, smiling side of the local police.

A friend once told me that she doesn’t give the homeless money because she’s afraid of her children witnessing someone drunk or mentally ill. While she wants to help the homeless she sees asking for money on the streets, she believes that it’s simply too dangerous for her children to be involved. Although I understand her fear, I wonder how we expect to raise thoughtful, compassionate adults if we shield our kids from every unfortunate situation around us.

There are age-appropriate ways to discuss almost any topic with your kids, and we do our kids a disservice when we treat them as delicate hothouse flowers. Our kids are strong, and they can handle the sight of a man sleeping under a restaurant awning and can raise their hands in support of equality. It is those experiences that have led my children to organize neighborhood food drives and to declare their desire to be a police officer who helps instead of harms.

And, hopefully, it is those experiences that will lead my kids to a nuanced understanding of social issues instead of the simple comfort of a black and white worldview.

Ultimately, who knows how any of our kids will turn out. As parents, the best we can do is our best, and there’s no such thing as a perfect approach. But, today, let’s take a few minutes to talk to our kids about racism, privilege, and oppression, and to remind them that those in power aren’t always right, that the system isn’t always perfect, and that we have a voice to raise. And, then, let’s find a way to take action.

Because, in the end, it’s our actions, not our words, that truly teach our children.

Jody Allard is writer and mother living in Seattle.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Parenting

Pregnancy Is Not a Disability

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Jamie—Getty Images

Bethany Ramos is a contributor to Mommyish.com.

Yes, many women struggle with high-risk pregnancies—and tomorrow's Supreme Court decision may address some of their needs. But the rest of us need to buck up

Within your lifetime, pregnancy is going to happen to you or someone you know. Lots of women get pregnant every day. In fact, there’s probably a woman getting pregnant right this very second, as we speak… Think about it. Pregnancy is coming to a town near you.

I’ve been pregnant twice, and it was hardly my favorite time in life. I am so very glad to be done having babies for ever and ever and ever, praise #vasectomyjesus. With that being said, I have a bone to pick with pregnant ladies everywhere. Pregnancy is a part of life. Pregnancy is normal. Pregnancy is not a unique or particularly difficult experience.

As a side note, I know there are women who fall into the high-risk pregnancy category. That is an entirely different subject, and this friendly pregnancy rant does not apply. I have close family members who have struggled with high-risk pregnancies, and my heart goes out to these women.

But normal pregnant women everywhere need to buck up and sign up for a 5K while you’re at it. It’s a common practice to change your life dramatically once you see those two pink lines on a pregnancy test. Of course, you should make healthy, positive changes in your life while carrying a child — like quitting the blow and eating more vegetables and getting enough sleep at night.

Still, it really chaps my ass when pregnant women complain about their dire circumstances to anyone who will listen (especially on social media). A pregnant woman may look at you with her sad doe eyes in the breakroom at work and sigh about how she wishes she could have a cup of coffee to wake her up in the morning. (Newsflash — unless your doctor said that you can’t have caffeine while pregnant, you can have at least a cup of coffee a day.)

The same sighing-and-hand-wringing routine applies to all of the supposed pregnancy no-no’s: wine, sushi, hot baths, intense exercise, flying, scooping cat litter. Some women may decide to stick to the pregnancy don’ts list to the letter, and that is their prerogative. I have absolutely nothing to say about a pregnant woman’s personal choices — unless she makes them my business by sighing and staring at me while I drink my coffee.

I didn’t love being pregnant, but I didn’t let it change my life for the worse. I still exercised like I normally did, ate all my favorite foods (and drinks) in moderation, and went out to non-smoky bars with friends when I felt up to it. Pregnancy isn’t that hard.

Bethany Ramos is a contributor to Mommyish.com, where this article originally appeared.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Parenting

How Helicopter Parents Can Help Their Kids Apply to the Right Colleges

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Courtney Keating—Getty Images

Marty Nemko holds a Ph.D. in educational psychology from UC Berkeley and is a career and personal coach.

Is a private college worth the money? How about community college? Should you help edit essays?

In previous TIME articles, I used the technique of the internal debate to help readers decide whether to quit their job and, in another article, whether to marry their special someone.

Here, I use the internal debate to help parents resolve common dilemmas about college.

Parent: Of course, Leslie should go to college. These days, almost everyone does.

Alter ego: But so many articles, including one I’ve written for TIME, document how little colleges add to students’ learning and employability. Maybe there’s a better use of all that time and money.

Parent: But Leslie would kill me if I didn’t encourage him to go to college. For years, I’ve pushed college: Leslie asks, “Why do I need to learn this stuff?” and I say, “So you can get into a good college.” Leslie asks, “I hate taking that SAT prep course” and I say, “Don’t you want to get into a good college?” Leslie asks, “I’m sick of crew” and I say, “That’ll help you get into a good college.” And now I’m gonna say, “I’m not sure you should go to college”?!

Alter ego: Remember Longfellow: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Your desire to stick with a bad idea is a lousy reason to spend all that money and have Leslie spend all those years when there may be a better option.

Parent: What better option, community college?

Alter ego: Again, Leslie would kill me. Leslie would say, “I worked like a dog so I can go to a community college while my friends are off to brand-name colleges?!”

Parent: What about the military?

Alter ego: No way.

Parent: An apprenticeship?

Alter ego: I don’t want him to end up blue-collar.

Parent: You should mean Leslie doesn’t want to end up blue-collar.

Alter ego: Right.

Parent: You and Leslie are both being elitist. There’s nothing wrong with blue-collar work. And with nearly everyone going to college, the blue-collar job market may be better than for majors in sociology. And blue-collar jobs can’t be offshored.

Alterego: Blue-collar just isn’t him…nor me. No. No.

Parent: Start a business?

Alter ego: Leslie is no Bill Gates.

Parent: Work for a businessperson or a nonprofit executive?

Alter ego: Too unlikely to be good. Besides, Leslie needs more structure. Leslie is going to college. That’s it.

Parent: Okay then. I need to focus on the college selection and admission process. When I ask Leslie, “Have you narrowed your list?” Leslie tells me, “Leave me alone. I can handle it.” But Leslie is not handling it and may end up in community college after all.

Alter ego: Plenty of people start at community college and transfer to a more prestigious college than they could have gotten into as a freshman. Besides, that would teach Leslie a lesson.

Parent: That’s too costly a lesson. Leslie is just a kid and still needs my support.

Alter ego: Support is one thing but you’re thinking about commandeering the whole process, “suggesting” the colleges to apply to, breathing down Leslie’s neck to make sure the applications are on time, making sure the essays are perfect…

Parent: You know that’s dishonest.

Alter ego: I wouldn’t write the essays. I’d just edit them.

Parent: The amount of “editing” you’d do would deceive the colleges into thinking Leslie is a better writer and thinker than he is. That’s unfair to applicants that do their own work. Maybe worse, it conveys to Leslie that it’s okay to be dishonest to get what you want.

Alter ego: But every parent “edits” their kids’ essays.

Parent: Not every parent. Many parents feel that’s unethical and many others, especially low-income ones, don’t have the wherewithal to do it, let alone to spend thousands on a private college counselor.

Alter ego: Maybe I should hire one, if only to help Leslie pick the right colleges to apply to.

Parent: The school has a college counselor to do that.

Alter ego: The counselor is overwhelmed, in charge of a zillion kids.

Parent: The differences between colleges aren’t that great anyway. It matters far more what the kid does at college than where he does it.

Alter ego: Some things do matter, like, for example, how selective the college is. Leslie gets overwhelmed in the hard classes, is better as the big fish in the less selective pond.

Parent: But Leslie’s diploma will be more respected if it’s from the most selective college possible.

Alter ego: The difference in employability is just not that great. In fact, a too-demanding college could hurt Leslie’s employability: a lower GPA, make Leslie miserable and more likely to join the almost half of kids who don’t graduate even given six years.

Parent: Fine, limit the choices to colleges at which Leslie would be a big fish.

Alter ego: Location matters. Leslie likes the warm weather here in California and would like the option of being close enough to home to have the option of coming home for the weekend.

Parent: Are you sure that’s not what you want?

Alter ego: I’m sure. Leslie is still kind of immature.

Parent: Then there’s the issue of whether the college has the major Leslie would want.

Alter ego: All colleges offer many majors and Leslie isn’t sure what he wants anyway. Like so many kids, Leslie will probably end up changing majors. Sure, if Leslie were hell-bent on something anomalous like entomology or biomedical engineering, fine. But Leslie probably will major in something common like chemistry and if that’s too hard, switch to something like psychology or sociology. Every college has those majors.

Parent: But what about the college’s quality, like its U.S. News ranking?

Alter ego: A review of articles on that makes clear that a college’s U.S. News rank is a poor criterion for choosing a college.

Parent: Okay, public or private?

Alter ego: Mainly it’s the elite privates like Harvard or Stanford that give most students enough cash (not loan) financial aid to make it affordable. For middle-income people like me, other private colleges—unless the student is super desirable–usually give lots of loans but not enough cash. And loans have to be paid back…with interest. And student loans are among the most difficult to discharge, even in bankruptcy.

Parent: Maybe I can make this process much easier: Encourage Leslie to apply to three in-state public—and thus more affordable–colleges at which Leslie would be a relatively big fish in that less selective pond. Because of that, Leslie will probably get into all three. Then, Leslie can visit those colleges, talk to some students, read student reviews of the colleges at StudentsReview, Niche, Student Advisor, Princeton Review’s Best 379 Colleges, and the Fiske Guide to Colleges and pick the college that feels best. And I won’t go broke—I’ll apply for financial aid and compare the deals those in-state public colleges offer. That way, Leslie will be going to a college that’s a good fit, won’t have needed to take an absurdly hard schedule filled with AP classes in which Leslie would have to get mainly As, and not have to get up at 4 a.m. to freeze in his crew boat. And the college would be at least somewhat affordable and one that Leslie and I won’t be embarrassed to tell friends about.

Alter ego: Sounds almost too easy. I need to talk with some parents and the high school counselor.

Parent: Just be sure they don’t whip you into a frenzy. The parents in this suburban school go crazy. Some of them don’t have a life so they turn the college application process into a much bigger deal than it needs to be.

Alter ego: I’ll be careful.

Marty Nemko holds a Ph.D. specializing in education evaluation from U.C. Berkeley and subsequently taught there. He is the author of seven books and an award-winning career coach, writer, speaker and public radio host specializing in career/workplace issues and education reform. His writings and radio programs are archived on www.martynemko.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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