What Parents Should Know About Self Help Books
To the Editor:
Re “Cutting the Cord: What Parents and Teenagers Need to Know” (news article, Aug. 23):
Judith Newman’s mention of “adulting” books in her article sends the message to new college parents across America that self-help books are the answer to college preparation. While it is agreeable to get a better understanding of how to send an incoming college student off prepared, the article alludes to a multitude of “adulting” books that act as if they’re qualified to fix the college readiness process. In the end, these idealistic books will not improve the readiness of a new college student. For that to happen, parents need to share their personal experiences and thoughts. .
As a college freshman myself, I have been thrown into the deep end without a self-help book and am learning to swim by experience. As preparation for my first college semester, I relied solely on the experiences and advice my parents gave me as well as the advice of current college students. It has been three weeks into the first semester and I have been able to take care of myself. This includes doing my own laundry, keeping a clean dorm, and feeding myself properly. Additionally, I know that if I ever needed assistance with coping, there are many resources on campus to help me do that.
When beginning the school year, freshman are always informed of the valuable resources available to them. This includes their RA, emotional support at the wellness center, or any department head. I have used these already, but because of my parent’s strong advice, I did not struggle as much as one would expect a freshman would. I can personally say that my mother has used parenting advice from an article and it was too forced. It did not help me at all. The way she phrased the advice was by telling me she read an article and what it suggested parents to say to their children. It was obvious that she couldn’t connect the advice to an anecdote. Without personalization, advice is artificial and ineffective. Parenting should set guidelines to be careful with certain aspects of college, but the rest should be learned by physically doing. Some parents are not in favor of the “experience teaching life skills” approach, but for those parents who are less apprehensive, self help books could suggest risks that have not been considered before. Many of these risks could not be an issue in the first place, but because of the guide books, they have created unnecessary worries.
According to the “Learning Pyramid: Average Retention,” 75% of the information we learn is retained when people practice by doing and saying the actions/steps and 90% of the information is retained when we teach others a specific task. Kinesthetic learning types show to be the best way to retain and learn new information. Reading or being told information from a guide book only encompasses 10-20% of learning retention, which would not be helpful to a new college student living on their own. From living on my own, I can confirm that experience is the most effective teacher because as a people, we learn best by doing it ourselves. If we mess up, we know to try another way and show how we’ve grown from our mistakes.
We, as college students must explain how we would like to be taught valuable life lessons. Parents owe it to their children to give them truthful and natural advice and allow them to experience the world. They must realize that their children are going to be on their own now and there won’t be many more opportunities to share heartfelt advice with them. This could be done in a simple conversation between the parents and their child, as this relationship is the most important people can have. As parents express their concerns about college, their child can assure them of the knowledge and resources that are available to them if needed. Parents will begin to understand the correct concepts and quit using the self help books as a guide to raising their children.