TIME Family

‘Helicopter Parenting’ Hurts Kids Regardless of Love or Support, Study Says

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Sorry, Tiger Moms

So-called “helicopter parenting” is detrimental to children no matter how loving the parents might be, a new study by professors at Brigham Young University (BYU) finds.

The study, a follow up to 2012 research that suggested children of such controlling parents are less engaged in the classroom, surveyed 483 students from four American universities on their parents’ behavior and their own self-esteem and academics, Science Daily reports. This time, researchers explored whether characteristics such as support and warmth might neutralize the negative effects of helicopter parenting. Not only did the study conclude that they do not, but it also suggested that lack of warmth can take the situation from bad to worse, amplifying low self-esteem and high-risk behaviors such as binge drinking.

For the purposes of the study, researchers defined “helicopter parenting” as including such over-involved habits such as solving children’s problems and making important decisions for them, while warmth was measured in terms of availability to talk and spending quality time.

The study contradicts popular parenting philosophies, such as the one espoused in the 2011 bestseller Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

“From our past work, we thought there might be something positive about helicopter parenting under certain conditions, but we’re just not finding it,” study author Larry Nelson told Science Daily. Instead, while the data indicated that warmth reduced the negative effects of controlling parenting, it did not nullify them completely. “Overall, stepping in and doing for a child what the child developmentally should be doing for him or herself, is negative,” Nelson said.

[Science Daily]

TIME Parenting

How to Help Your Kids Say Goodbye

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To school, to friends or before they leave for camp.

It’s hard to say goodbye at any age, whether you’re a toddler getting dropped off at day care, or a teenager bidding teachers and friends goodbye at the end of the school year.
But learning how to navigate transitions is a crucial part of growing up, says Susan Linn, founding director of Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, and a lecturer in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

“What children need is a foundation to be able to deal with change,” she says.
How can parents build that foundation?

By letting kids know that, although no one can stop transitions, everyone has a chance to discover “what you can do to contribute to the experience, to acknowledge, and mark, and take ownership,” says Linn.

And saying goodbye is one powerful way that kids can honor a transition, and make it their own.

So how can parents can start conversations with kids that will help them to say goodbye?

At the elementary level, and even earlier, parents can begin by letting kids know it’s O.K. to have feelings about saying goodbye—and to talk about them. And, Linn notes, it’s important for parents not to make assumptions about how kids must be feeling. Some goodbyes may be hard—but others might come as a relief. Parents can get the conversation started with questions like, “How do you feel when you say goodbye?”

By middle school, goodbyes can still be hard—but being old enough to move from one stage to the next can also be exciting, according to Linn. And those two feelings “don’t cancel each other out,” Linn says. “The trick is to be able to hold a lot of different feelings.” Parents can help kids find the balance between strong emotions with questions like, “What will you miss as you say goodbye? What are you looking forward to as you move ahead?”

As high school kids say goodbye to childhood and begin to become adults, they may need some room just to feel their own emotions independently, without sharing them, Linn says. But parents can help kids at this age mark transitions by encouraging them to take an action that’s meaningful to them, like giving gifts to teachers or sharing special times with friends, with questions like, “Is there anything you’d like to do to say goodbye?”

And at any age, Linn says, what’s most important is for parents to give kids the confidence to move ahead. According to her, the most important thing for any child to hear is, “I believe you can do this.”

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TIME Parenting

How To Explain the Point of Manners to Modern Kids

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It's not about rules

Sometimes it seems like all parents talk to kids about is manners, whether it’s prompting them to remember a “please” or “thank you,” or hurriedly informing them that it’s not polite to point out that their teacher’s new pantsuit is not overly flattering.

Manners can also be a source of conflict: some adults expect to be called “Mr. Smith,” while others offer a breezy “call me Jim!” And when kids aren’t sure what the rules are, manners can be a big source of anxiety.

But when kids understand how to handle themselves, it can give them confidence, says Elaine Swann, a nationally recognized etiquette expert, and the author of Let Crazy Be Crazy: Then Politely Get What You Want, Get Your Point Across, and Gently Put Rude People in Their Place.
That was true for Swann, who moved to the U.S. from Panama as a child, and found the assurance to make her way in a new culture by learning the etiquette.

It’s tempting to just drill elementary school kids on basic rules, Swann says. But it’s more important to help kids of any age understand that manners are about far more than obeying a set of requirements. “Manners are about putting other people at ease,” Swann says. So even at a young age, parents can encourage kids to offer kind words to others with questions like, “What kind of people do you like to be around?” followed by “How can we be more like that?”

By middle school, parents have usually hammered home the message that it’s not O.K. to talk with your mouth full. But Swann says that learning how to hold a conversation at mealtime is actually a far more important aspect of etiquette. Kids will need that skill all their lives, whether they’re interviewing for a job, or meeting prospective in-laws. And they learn best, Swann says, by doing. She encourages families to take every opportunity to sit down for a meal together, and really talk. Questions like “How was your day?” or “What do you think about the recent news?” aren’t just small talk—they’re key training to help kids get comfortable in all social settings.

High school kids can begin to think in terms of what Swann describes as the three core values of manners: respect, honesty, and consideration. A lot has changed since Swann started teaching etiquette 20 years ago, she says, in both culture and technology. But those core values remain the heart of all manners. Teaching kids to make eye contact and put away the phone at mealtimes is important. But it’s even more important, Swann says, to help them focus on what others are thinking and feeling. Parents can help kids think in these terms by asking questions like, “How do you think you would feel in that situation? How would you like to be treated?”

And at any age, Swann says, it’s important for parents to communicate that manners are not “something you turn on and off.” They are a way of life—learning how to be considerate of others, which helps kids feel confident themselves.

This article first appeared in TIME for Parents. Subscribe here!

TIME Family

How to Find a Parenting Balance in the 21st Century

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xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

Nostalgia has its place, but it must also be tempered with a reality check


In “What Would My Mom Do? (Drink Tab and Lock Us Outside),” Jen Hatmaker argues against the “precious” treatment of children in the 21st century and in favor of a more “free-range” style of parenting. Hatmaker discusses the levels of stress that mothers in particular create for ourselves by competing with each other, striving to provide bigger and better experiences for our children’s smallest achievements, and our refusal to let our children have the freedom to explore the world and learn from their own mistakes.

Hatmaker takes accurate and understandable punches at excessive birthday parties, elaborate classroom holiday parties provided by parents, and the provision of expensive video games, summer excursions and “stimulating activities for… brain development.” She argues that we are raising a generation that is discouraged from key skills of problem solving, creative thinking, or having to work for what they want, while also believing that they are the center of the universe whose wants trump all others.

I agree with Hatmaker that children today are catered to excessively, and the “mommy wars” perpetuate unrealistic notions of what we should be doing for and giving to our children, leading to significant stresses put on mothers who aren’t able to provide these things and experiences. Whether for financial or moral reasons, or just not being crafty or interested in devoting the time and effort into such elaborate displays of motherhood martyrdom, not every mother is going to parent the same way.

The cultural currency of shaming mothers who don’t center their children’s wants in everything they do is a significant disservice to both mothers and children. Children of the generation of my now 18-year-old son have certainly grown up feeling entitled to a great deal of individual attention and access to pricey items and experiences that were considered rare treats, if at all possible, when Hatmaker and I were kids.

When I was a child, a trip to Burger King happened maybe once every other month, and it was a big deal. Today children may eat out at fast food restaurants several times a week. Lest we assume this is only poor or lazy mothers who are giving in and judge them, we should recognize how many middle class parents ask their children, “What do you want for dinner?” and then follow the answer of “McDonald’s!” In my childhood we weren’t even asked.

In 2014 we as a nation witnessed numerous examples of police brutality and killings. Excessive police force and violence statistically happen far more frequently to Black and other non-white people, the mentally ill, developmentally disabled, and poor communities. I can’t help wondering about an essay written in 2015 that doesn’t take race and class factors into consideration. Hatmaker writes about parents who, if they are “run[ning] out and backfill[ing] eight antique trunks as a memorial to your third-grader’s life,” are probably solidly middle class, as she is.

In our communities, however, fear for the safety of our children leads us to keep them at home and indoors, even as we reminisce about the days we could wander aimlessly throughout the city. Today we are afraid of other parents, unknown neighbors, strangers, and the police who are supposed to serve and protect. The fears are hardly unfounded, but some people do not personally know the worst of these fears because their community is not the one at highest risk.

Hatmaker refers back to her own childhood to make the point that our generation was raised dramatically differently, with ample outdoor play, lack of supervision that forced us to work through differences with each other, and the opportunity to entertain ourselves in creative ways that challenged our minds and bodies.

I was born in 1974, good readers. It no more occurred to my mom to coddle us Precious Snowflakes than it did to quit drinking a case of Tab a day. If you told my mom to craft a yearly time capsule for each child to store until graduation, she would have cried tears of laughter all the way to Jazzercise.

I too was born in 1974, and had a Tab drinking mother who put us out of the house as much as possible. In fact, because I was a voracious reader and writer, content to sit in a chair by the window in my bedroom for hours at a time, my mom worried about my social skills and need for fresh air. She would regularly take the book out of my hands and tell me that I couldn’t have it back until I spent a few hours outdoors. My mother didn’t lock us out and we were required to tell her exactly where we would be at all times, but the other parents of the neighborhood were like Hatmaker’s mom.

While I agree that we over-coddle our children, cater to their every whim, and create undue competition and stress between mothers, all to our children’s detriment, there are some key pieces that Hatmaker does not seem to have taken into consideration. Specifically, the issues surrounding putting our children outside are fraught with contradictions and risks that impact certain families more than others.

In the early to mid-1980s when Hatmaker and I were growing up, neighborhoods were very different than they are today. My neighborhood was full of homeowners and only a few renters. The renters that were in the neighborhood rented entire family homes rather than smaller apartments and tended to stay for at least a few years. That is to say, I grew up attending elementary through high school with a large number of the same friends over the course of those years.

In such a neighborhood, everyone knew everyone. We knew as children that if we behaved inappropriately or wandered too far outside of the accepted zone, someone else’s mom would call our mom, or even drag us home to explain directly what we had been up to.

For the past 8 years I have lived in that same neighborhood again. The majority of homes are rental properties, and probably half of them have been broken up into 2 or 3 apartments. Most of my neighbors stay for only a year or two. We find it harder to get to know each other, harder to feel comfortable about our children being free-range in the neighborhood of strangers, and are generally less trusting as a society. As a single woman living alone, I don’t even feel secure that I could rely on my neighbors to come to my rescue if something terrible transpired. I don’t blame parents for feeling even less trust in the neighbors to look out for each other’s children.

We grew up in the era of “stranger danger” warnings. We were taught not to speak to strangers, not to take candy or anything else from them, and not to approach cars no matter what the adult in the car claimed, unless we recognized them. I grew up among hushed whispers of my mother and her friends discussing the abduction and brutal murder of Adam Walsh.

No effort was made to warn me that the elderly next-door neighbor whose house I cleaned might harm me. He was a nice old man and no one believes me to this day that he molested me for years.

In a neighborhood where most of us knew each other and parents recognized which house we belonged to, we were taught that if we saw anything amiss we were safe to approach the closest door to seek help. As a pre-teen I took advantage of this more than once to escape grown men who followed me as I walked home from the library or dime store; I would simply go to the door of a neighbor. I have a vivid memory of one friend’s father immediately running outside and threatening with a baseball bat a strange man who had followed me down the street.

Today, the police would pay a visit to my friend’s father following such an altercation and his life would be at risk for having looked out for me. Chances are high that a fellow neighbor would be the one who called 911 on a Black man wielding a bat on his own lawn but wouldn’t have paid any mind to the scared twelve-year-old-girl being followed down the street by a forty-year-old white man.

Today, I would forbid my teen daughter from approaching even a known neighbor if there were no women home. It is not because I would think my daughter is unable to problem-solve, but because I would have taught her about the very real “acquaintance danger” that is so prevalent in our current society.

Today, those of us who experienced trauma we couldn’t name at the hands of neighbors and family friends have grown into alert parents, aware that strangers are not the only danger to our children. We have also grown alert to how racism may result in the wrong person being faulted in a situation, to tragic ends, so we would rather avoid the situation.

We now live in a society in which there are institutional structures in place that underpin parents’ tendency to keep kids indoors and under a watchful eye. Recent stories about children being stopped by police while riding their bikes or accusations of neglect against parents for letting their child walk to the corner store or play in the park unsupervised would never have happened in my generation. In another story that was published the same day as Hatmaker’s essay, Lenore Skenazy shares another mother’s story, which is just one of three incidents the family dealt with in a few short months. This story demonstrates how systems are in place to force parents to become “helicopter” parents who cannot allow their children basic opportunities for play or age-appropriate exploration.

… youngest son (age 6) was accosted by an officer for riding his bicycle on the sidewalk in front of our house (our block is three houses wide — he was riding from one end of the block to the other)… He had apparently received a call from a ‘concerned citizen’ who had seen him riding. In this case, the officer was aggressive and frightened us into thinking we might actually have broken some law. A little research showed that we had done no such thing, but we were shaken.

When I was 6 years old, I was walking to school with my best friend, three blocks from home and across a main street. The idea that your child cannot ride their bicycle on their own sidewalk while you check on them periodically from the window isn’t stemming from over-cautious parenting but excessive systemic meddling. Parents are afraid of losing their children. The neighbors who call authorities out of a supposed concern seem disingenuous. If they are so worried, they could simply approach the parent to let them know of their concerns, or create a network of neighbors watching out for each other’s kids. The fact that the police take such calls seriously enough to scare children and reprimand parents speaks to a larger expectation to keep children penned in.

Hatmaker writes:

We made up games and rode our bikes and choreographed dance routines and drank out of the hose when we got thirsty. I swear, my mom did not know where we actually were half the time. Turned out in the neighborhood all day, someone’s mom would eventually make us bologna sandwiches on white bread and then lock us out, too. We were like a roving pack of wolves, and all the moms took turn feeding and watering us. No one hovered over us like Nervous Nellies.

Hatmaker is right: we had it better. I share her memories of riding bikes miles away from home, walking across town to the larger library with friends, and coming home just in time for dinner. I wish my son shared these memories, but he had a very different experience.

My son was limited to the back yard because of a grandfather who threatened to kidnap him, and my health not allowing me to sit outside to directly supervise his every movement. My son lived in a neighborhood where nosy neighbors called the police when his father came home from work and walked to the back door, claiming there was a “suspicious Black man” wandering up our driveway.

We live in a very different era than when we were kids, and in our nostalgia we also minimize the dangers we lived with then. My son grew up in an era after we discovered that statistically, children are more likely to be harmed by someone close to the family than by a stranger. At the same time, I can’t look back with rose-tinted glasses and forget that these strong neighborhood ties did not extend to my safety when I was being loudly berated, beaten, and abused in my home and going around the neighborhood with the bruises to prove it. Nostalgia has its place, but it must also be tempered with a reality check.

Parents may, in fact, be overprotective but they are reacting to newer cultural expectations and realities. We live in complicated times and solutions will also be complex and varied. We can look back to our childhoods not only in nostalgia but to ask what supports existed then that do not now. Getting familiar with neighbors and bringing back the Neighborhood Watch concept would be a great beginning.

We must also take a realistic look at our changing times and build solutions that are relevant to this new culture. Frank discussions in the neighborhood around issues of community policing, recognition of racial dynamics in policing, cultural exchange and respect, and mental health awareness can prepare neighbors to support each other better and look out for each other. It is possible to create safer neighborhoods for our children so they can get out and play the way we used to.

Aaminah Shakur wrote this article for xoJane.

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 Research

Why Moms Are Better at Baby Talk Than Dads

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Do dads baby talk to their little ones? Researchers recorded hours of audio of parents interacting with their toddlers to find out

Most mothers do it without thinking: cooing to their young children in a sing-songy, high pitched way that seems to help them connect better with their youngsters. But do fathers who spend time with their toddlers do the same?

MORE: Who’s Better at Baby Talk, Mom or Dad?

Mark VanDam, a professor in speech and hearing sciences at Washington State University, wanted to find out in his new study presented at the annual meeting of the Acoustical Society of America. While previous studies have looked at how moms and dads interact with their preschoolers, most of these have been in the rather artificial setting of a lab. So researchers led by VanDam strapped recording devices on both parents and their toddlers for an entire day in order to hear what parents were really saying to their children—and how they were saying it—in a more natural setting.

They found that mothers do indeed adopt “motherese” when addressing their preschoolers, but fathers did not—even those who spent more time with their children. In fact, the fathers talked to their young children in the same way they conversed with adults.

MORE: How to Improve a Baby’s Language Skills Before They Start to Talk

That may be because mothers vary their intonation more and tend to speak in a more infantile way in order to bond better with their toddlers, according to a theory proposed in the 1970s. Mothers are supposed to teach their children how to connect on a more intimate level, and speaking in a more melodic way introduces children to this way of communicating, the theory goes. Fathers, on the other hand, are the bridge for preschoolers to the outside world, and fathers’ more varied vocabulary and adult intonations help to familiarize them with this way of connecting with others. “The basic idea is that moms provide the link to the domestic, more intimate type of talk, while dads provide the link to the outside world,” says VanDam. “In that sense, moms and dads provide different kinds of experiences that give kids more comprehensive exposure to what kinds of language they need in the real world.”

In his present study, both parents lived full time with the child, and in some families, mothers worked outside of the home. VanDam is hoping to extend the study to look at single-parent families, as well as same-sex households, to see if the gender-specific ways of interacting with toddlers stay the same.

TIME Parenting

How To Talk to Your Kids About the Contributions of African American Women

American abolitionist Harriet Tubman (1820 - 1913) escaped slavery and went on to lead the Underground Railroad.
North Wind Picture Archives/AP

No need to wait for Harriet Tubman to appear of the $20 bill

Harriet Tubman recently won a poll to get a woman on the $20 bill. While the poll was unofficial, it has led to a lot of arguing over whether the idea has merit, not all of it predictable: some conservatives have supported the plan and some African American feminists have opposed it. The chances of Andrew Jackson being displaced are still unknown, but you don’t have to wait until a woman’s face crops up on your money to talk about her with your kids.

Parents often tend to focus on the accomplishments of famous men, like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, says Tiya Miles, professor of African American History at University of Michigan, and a MacArthur genius. And when we do get around to women, Miles says, we often miss just how much their skills, creativity, and thoughts affect history.

So how can we help kids see the whole picture?

Elementary age kids often hear stories of figures like Harriet Tubman, who led enslaved people to freedom on the Underground Railroad, or Rosa Parks, whose refusal to give up her seat sparked the Montgomery bus boycott. Miles encourages her own elementary age kids to get curious about the brainpower those women must have had, with questions like, What kinds of skills must Harriet Tubman have had to help all those people escape? What skills did Rosa Parks use to fight for civil rights?

Middle school kids can start to think about the importance of vision. To work for freedom or rights, African American women had to “envision a completely different kind of future,” Miles says. That’s creative work, so poets like Jacqueline Woodson and Maya Angelou can show kids new visions, and help them form their own. Parents can encourage kids with questions like, What is a visionary? What change would you like to see?

High school students can do a deep dive into the history, to learn that Rosa Parks, for instance, didn’t just make one snap decision that swept her onto the national stage. She was a respected community leader who made a difficult choice to serve as a figurehead in the civil rights movement, and spent years of her life to build it. Then students can begin to apply those lessons in their own lives, says Miles, wrestling with questions like, “How have people tried to change the world for the better in the past? What does it take for change to happen? How can we turn a vision into something real?”

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TIME Accident

Massachusetts Man Calls 911 After Leaving His Baby in a Car

He will not face charges and the baby was found safe

A man in Massachusetts frantically dialed 911 on Wednesday after he had already boarded a train to let authorities know he forgot his baby daughter was in the back of his car.

The father had dropped off his older child at daycare and then boarded a T train at the North Quincy station, 7News reports. A half hour later, realizing his mistake, he contacted an emergency dispatcher, who contacted police to sent to officers that would find the vehicle.

“While this was one of the worst days of my life, I know that we were also very fortunate as it was a mild temperate day and I had come to my senses before too long,” the man said in a statement. NBC News reports the child was “never in distress” and was later turned over to her mother. The man will not face charges for leaving the child in the car.


TIME Business

This Is How Successful Leaders Spent Their Teenage Years

Apple CEO Steve Jobs at the 2011 Apple World Wide Developers Conference at the Moscone Center on June 6, 2011 in San Francisco.
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images Apple CEO Steve Jobs at the 2011 Apple World Wide Developers Conference at the Moscone Center on June 6, 2011 in San Francisco.

Spending time alone is really, really important

Answer by Auren Hoffman, CEO of LiveRamp, on Quora.

Note: I don’t think I have ever before been compared with Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, etc. I am no where near as successful or accomplished as most of the people on this list. But for what it is worth, I’ll give you a trait that I think is common among most of these people (including myself).

Lots of alone time
Most of these people spent a massive amount of time alone when they were kids and young adults. And most of these people still spend a much larger percentage of their time alone today than most outsiders would think.

Especially when people are growing up, spending time alone gives one the space to explore, to be weird, to learn, to imagine, and to dream.

Reading is really (REALLY) important.
Read a wide variety of books and articles that stretch your imagination. Don’t just read easy books (like Harry Potter). Read difficult texts that really stretch your mind.

Read fiction and non-fiction. Read wonderful novels written by authors from far-away lands. Read things that challenge your political thought. Read the Bible, the Koran, Buddhist texts, and ancient mythology. And don’t just read conventional things assigned to you in school (like Hemingway, Shakespeare, and more) but try to seek out authors on your own.

Because most of the people mentioned grew up in a different era, they spent a big portion of their time just reading the encyclopedia. Many of them would eventually read every encyclopedia volume letter. These people had an insatiable need to learn new things.

When these people walked to class, they were probably reading a book or a magazine (in those days, it was a paper book). Some of these people even got injured walking into things because they were reading.

Most of these people had parents that asked them to read less.

Today the encyclopedia is free and on the internet. But today the encyclopedia is so big that it would be impossible to read in a lifetime — so today choices about what you read could be a bit harder. But reading is still really important.

Play acting
At an early age, most of these people spent more time play-acting than others. Very few of these people spent their time playing organized sports … they instead were in their bedroom, backyard, or nearby park playing by themselves. They were letting their imagination run wild.

They were imagining themselves as secret agents, slaying dragons, marshaling their toy soldiers to do battle, starting businesses, dealing with family situations, and more.

It is amazing how many successful people lit things on fire, blew things up, captured and studied bugs, built bird nests, and more. My guess is that every single one of the people listed subjected themselves to multiple electric shocks (some on accident, some on purpose).

They were building, creating, viewing, and observing. And they were the ones in charge of the experiment — they were the prodders.

Lots of creative activities
While most of the people listed are known for their right-brained prowess, most spent a very large percentage of their childhood and adolescence doing very creative things. They were writing short stories and plays, painting, sculpting, writing poems and lyrics, writing computer programs, and more.

Creating versus consuming
Reading, watching wonderful movies, listening to music, etc. are all great ways to spend time. But they are passive — these are consuming functions.

Most of these successful people spent a large percentage of their time creating vs. consuming. They were building things, starting things, etc. This is really important.

Today it is harder to spend time creating because there are so many more options to consume. In the days when most of the above people grew up, one would get bored pretty quickly of the consuming options (usually the best option was to read a book or watch bad television) where today there are just so many more options. In fact, the tablet is essentially designed to maximize consumption (unlike the PC which is a better tool tool for creation).

Get away from the social pressures of school
School, especially middle school and high school, is socially incredibly high pressure for everyone. People are jockeying for position and cliques are forming and unwinding constantly. There is a Game of Thrones aspect to the social standing within high school that is ultra competitive and hard to escape.

By spending time alone, people get needed breaks from the high school Game of Thrones. Alone-time allows you to spend time actually exploring yourself (rather than spending time conforming to some sort of norm).

Today, alone-time is frowned upon
Something happened in the last 30 years to encourage parents to spend more time with their kids. Another huge trend has been for parents to give their kids opportunities by enrolling them in lots of sports, weekend classes, summer learning retreats, and more.

While there are so many good things about the trend of more involved parenting, one of the very important unintended consequences is that kids have significantly less alone-time then they once did. And even when they are alone, they have the means to be a part of of the larger group through social networks, SMS, and more. So it is harder of them to escape the social pressures of school.

So we should expect the best strategy for kids today to not be the same as the best strategy for past generations. But most everyone (young and old) — especially those that have good social lives and have been reasonably successful — could use more time alone and more time to themselves.

This question originally appeared on Quora: How did successful people like Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Max Levchin, Steve Jobs, Peter Thiel, Vinod Khosla, Oliver Emberton, Gayle Laakmann McDowell, Auren Hoffman etc. spend their time when they were young, between ages of 10 and 22?

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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

All In is Lean In for Dads

Josh Levs' book is a call to arms for working dads

Men should lean in just as much as women—they should just do it in a different direction.

That’s the gist of Josh Levs’ All In, a manifesto of work and life for men that aims to be for working fathers what Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In was to working mothers: a cogent analysis of the systemic problems in work culture that make it so difficult to be a parent. Levs says he consulted with Sandberg while he was writing the book.

Josh Levs is a CNN reporter who made headlines in 2013 when he filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Time Warner because he said their paid leave policy discriminated against biological dads. At the time, Time Warner offered 10 weeks of paid leave to biological mothers, and to parents of both genders who adopted or had a child through surrogacy, but biological fathers only got two weeks. Levs challenged this rule and won, and went on to become an advocate for better workplace policies for dads as well as moms.

Levs’ central argument is that American culture—especially American workplace culture—doesn’t allow parents of either gender to spend enough time with their children. There’s been a lot of discussion about how tricky that problem is for women, but few have dug deep into what it means for men. “There’s this basic mentality about what men and women are that has held back our policies,” he says. “Our structure is based on the assumption the woman will stay home and men will work, so why would you need paid maternity leave? The women will stay home! Why would you need paternity leave? They’ll work!”

Clearly, that assumptions aren’t true anymore, but Levs argues that workplace policies have not kept up with the changing times. “Our policies didn’t grow up, our policies are stuck in the past,” he says.

The book is a “call to action,” Levs says, not only for long-demanded workplace policies like paid maternity leave, but also for widespread paternity leave and greater flexibility for all working parents. He repeatedly notes that the United States is one of the only nations in the world without paid maternity leave, and that many other industrialized nations have paternity leave on top of that.

Changing American workplace policies isn’t just a question of accommodating parents, its a question of looking out for children, Levs argues. He says that paid leave shouldn’t be considered a luxury—he says it’s no different from “absolute basics” like public schools or medical care for kids. “Another absolute basic is making sure what when a child leaves the womb, its parents, or one of its parents at least, hopefully both, have time to stay home and not hand the child over to strangers and rush back to work,” he says.

“That’s not left or right, that’s not a battle over taxes, its just doing what’s right for kids,” he says. “And whats right for a society’s kids is always best for a society.”

Levs isn’t just calling for better workplace policies, he’s also asking men—and women—to re-examine what it means to be a dad. He argues that the antiquated expectations of a worker-bee dad and a stay-at-home mom have left modern fathers feeling shut out at home in the way some mothers feel shut out at work, even as fathers are increasingly aware of the importance of active parenthood. That’s creating an identity crisis for the American dad. “We are carving out a new role for fathers in America,” he says. “That’s a challenge and an opportunity. There are opportunities that men have now that our fathers didn’t have. So that gives us a chance to define a new meaning of manliness.”

“We’re all in this together, pushing forward for a new meaning for fatherhood.”

TIME Parenting

Surviving That Mad Max Road to High School Graduation

Rear view of female family members walking through field
Getty Images

Susanna Schrobsdorff is an Assistant Managing Editor at TIME. Previously, she was the Editorial Director for Newsweek Digital. She is the winner of a New York Press Club award for Outstanding Web Coverage and three Front Page Awards for cultural commentary and interactive journalism.

I’m starting to suspect that I was covertly enrolled in some sort of secret government stress test to see what happens when you put a woman of a certain age and two teenage daughters in a small Brooklyn apartment with a disgruntled cat and no central air-conditioning.

It’s the perfect hormonal storm: all the angst of middle school, a high-stakes dose of college-application hell, plus a trip through the Bermuda Triangle of women’s health–what doctors so poetically call perimenopause, a condition they blame for everything from ankle acne to homicide–and the irrational urge to get yoga-teacher certification.

Let’s just say there are moments when I think anyone who visits our house should be issued an estrogen dart gun. We run high on laughter but low on impulse control, mood regulation and common ground when it comes to room-temperature preferences and body piercings.

Nonetheless, we have not only survived the past four years, but both daughters will be getting diplomas this month. This was not a given. The usual maladies of puberty are magnified by our frantic digital ecosystem–even the toughest kids can be knocked off track.

Then there are the unexpected tragedies. For us, it was when the girls lost their beloved stepmother in a freak accident. At the time, my eldest had just finished a rocky entry into high school and her sister was in fifth grade navigating the maddening rules of tween cliques. The fragile bridge they were building to adulthood crumbled in a day.

Grief seemed to reshape my girls at a molecular level. One held tight to the tangible evidence of loss, cycling through photos and calling her stepmom’s cell phone just to hear her gentle voice until the account was shut down. The other turned inside herself, shutting out school, shielding herself from the outside pressures to counteract what was going on inside. It was a dark summer.

I wonder, are young hearts more resilient? Do they heal better than an adult’s? Do they become stronger or just accumulate scar tissue? All we can do is wait and see, and that might be the hardest part of being a parent. But for now, for us, the world is back in focus, if in a new, more tenuous way. Every college acceptance letter or drama performance that seemed unlikely or impossible three years ago brings a sweet kind of gratitude.

This week we will get new dresses for graduation, in all new sizes (good news for them, bad news for me). You’ll see us on Facebook looking as if we floated into the frame effortlessly. But know this: if our clothes reflected the reality of our journey, we’d look like extras from a Mad Max movie, sweaty, proud and buttressed by homemade armor.

Come graduation day, I know I won’t be the only parent with invisible armor who worried that a diploma might be knocked out of reach or rendered irrelevant by bigger issues. There is an epidemic of depression and anxiety in our schools–and I suspect we’re only documenting a fraction of the problem. So while there will be tall young women, cool and confident in their caps and gowns, some will have spent eight weeks at grueling wilderness camps foraging for food because they stopped eating at home. There will be brilliant boys who cut themselves, a tangible reflection of wounds they get in the social-media Thunderdome. There will be kids who don’t have safe homes, or homes at all, and others who have everything but a purpose.

And the school auditorium will be filled with the parents who’ve soldiered on, mortgaged houses to pay for substance rehab, spent more time in emergency sessions with teachers than on vacation, who turned the city upside down to get their son a place at that last-chance school. They know about the impossible choices and disappointments that aren’t in any parenting book. And they include some of the people you think have done everything right. Sometimes what looks like indulgent, competitive helicopter parenting is really a desperate fight to be ordinary. For all of them, this rite of passage is anything but ordinary, but you wouldn’t know it.

Sometimes it feels like a secret society. Kid trouble is the last taboo, after all. We confess to infidelity or Botox or grownup mental-health battles, but we cover up or downplay our most visceral fears about our children even when we’re talking to our oldest friends. It’s the topic that makes us most vulnerable. Which is all the more reason to celebrate a diploma.

Plus we’re at the cusp of June, and everything is a few tender days away from full bloom. By August, my family will be back on the Mad Max highway. But until then, the three of us get to argue about tattoos over dinner. One of us will leave the room sobbing (probably me). We’ll take turns turning the air conditioner on and off in our ongoing climate war. No one will clean the cat box unless I yell. And we will all know that this is the good stuff.

This appears in the May 25, 2015 issue of TIME.

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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