Resisting the Rug Rat Race

The phrase "Rug Rat Race" has to be one of the more alliterative labels for the hyper-parenting we all recognize, bemoan, and debate. When I first heard it, thanks to the recent Wall Street Journal piece,  "Opting out of the Rug Rat Race" I was taken with the cleverness of the term - even a tad jealous not to have coined it myself - and of course immediately hooked into reading the article. 

In the story, author Paul Tough lays out something glaringly obvious yet rarely delineated so scientifically: building strong cognitive skills, through early reading, math, or academic drills does not necessarily lead to lifetime success and hapiness, but qualities like resiliency, curiosity, persistence and self-control do. Having some freedom and autonomy builds life skills. Helicopter parenting does not. The author even goes so far to say, "... it seems, the most valuable thing that parents can do to help their children develop noncognitive skills—which is to say, to develop their character—may be to do nothing." Yes! We've said it before: sometimes it's best to do absolutely nothing. Yet, we could not be more gratified to see it espoused publicly.

With a 7th grader in a new school, with a new mobile phone, and 45 minute bus ride each way, I find myself newly tempted to engage in hyper-parenting. At 2:45pm on a week day, I might find my fingers twitching to text a reminder: "don't forget your gym bag!" but I pause, hear those chopper blades thrumming, and think to myself: put the phone down, you helicopter parent, you. Seems like I'll need to excercise a little self control if I want to foster all those life skills like resiliency, curiosity, persistence and, oh, yes, self-control.

P.S. For the record, the term "Rug Rat Race" was coined in 2009 by economists Garey Ramey and Valerie A. Ramey in a paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research - not that I'm ambitious enough to have actually read such an academic paper on parenting. I just like to give credit where credit is due.


Anonymous said...

I do wonder if RRR is an overeaction to the often absentee parenting of the 60s and 70s. Giving your kids space is not the same as being disengaged in their lives.

EHP said...

Interesting thought, Anonymous. It's so true that giving someone space and disengagement are not the same things. Makes one wonder if Sally Draper should grow up to be a helicopter parent.

Plus, you get extra points for inventing the RRR acronym.

kayce hughes said...

I have a seventh grader at a new school with a new phone too.

EHP said...

kayce, I probably should have specified that my *oldest* child is in 7th grade, at a new school, new phone etc. ... You know how first time moms are... I'll probably be totally over the hovering by the time all the younger ones set off for 7th grade :)

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