When the Rules Change: Learning to Learn from Your Children

By Diane Cole

November/December 2016

Growing Each Other Up: When Our Children Become Our Teachers

By Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot

University of Chicago Press. 270 pages.


The term helicopter parents was still new when, about a decade ago, a national magazine asked me to write about intrusive moms and dads micromanaging their high school kids. I quoted experts who warned about the dangers of parental meddling and overcontrol, and felt smugly confident that I myself had achieved the Goldilocks balance between distance and oversight with my own adolescent son. Famous last thoughts!

Shortly after the article appeared, my son had his first session with his high school college counselor about what schools to apply to. I panicked—on his behalf, not mine—badgering him about everything from raising his grade-point average to getting more serious about the future in general. If he wasn’t going to take control, I told him, then I needed to. But as it turned out, he was the one who needed to help me control myself. “Mom,” he began, with a calm maturity that quieted me immediately. “Maybe you should reread that article you wrote.”

This anecdote kept going through my head as I read the esteemed sociologist Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot’s newest book, Growing Each Other Up: When Our Children Become Our Teachers.

Lawrence-Lightfoot, a longtime professor of education at Harvard, begins her latest book by quoting an exchange with…

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