January 16, 2019

The high school struggle

As parents place more and more importance on their children’s education, it is paramount they make sure to choose an educational path for their children that best fits their kids’ personality, strengths and life goals.

While some parents place all the emphasis on making sure their children get into college, they bypass the influential years of high school. High school is often viewed as just a pit-stop before college, but it can serve as the most transformative years of a child’s life by shaping their social, cultural and religious ideologies.

As a recent high school graduate, I constantly reflect on the past four years. Through the good and bad, the highs and lows, I was happy with my high school decision because I was able to work in tandem with my parents to find the right school.

Parents can no longer coerce their kids and must be on the same page when choosing a high school. When choosing a high school in eighth grade, my parents and I visited several high schools’ open houses, took admission tests, and interviewed with various school administrations in order to determine which would be the best fit.

Communication is key and is imperative to determining collective goals, not only for high school, but also for all major decisions. If a student has decided that they want to take the GED, drop out of high school and start working (while the parents want their child to attend a four-year university) the two must work out their differences in order to create an educational environment that is cohesive fulfilling and not counterproductive.

Kids will often choose a high school based on a flashy mascot or promise of a new gym, when they should choose a high school based on education, personalized attention and preparation for their future after high school. Children lack the perception that parents have gained from years of experience and from knowing the true tendencies of their kids. Parents can often see beyond the initial flash and delve into the true nature of the school’s culture and what it values.

Despite the active role parents should play in a high school decision, they must also allow their child to have some influence in order for them to feel involved and important. After all, they are the ones spending the next four years at the school.

When parents take too much of an authoritarian role in the decision, there are usually two outcomes: children either adapt to the high school chosen for them, or they rebel against their parents' every decree.

Two things can happen when parents try to coddle their child. Parents can either remove their child’s independence, creating a mold for the child to try and fit into, or the child will try to reject that mold, creating a distance between the child and the parents.

The same outcome can happen when parents take too much of a lax role, allowing their children to decide their own academic path without guidance. Children will often take their independence as a cue that they are allowed to walk over their parents and make decisions without asking permission. Instead of ‘illegal’ rebellion against strict authoritarian parents, kids will legally rebel and simply toy with their parents’ lack of will.

As mentioned before, the best way to choose a high school is by utilizing authoritative parenting. By working together with their child while still maintaining clear control, parents can come up with a fair compromise that will produce the best results for their children. Since this approach encourages parents to treat their children like adults, children will learn to respect their parent's opinions. Children will also seek their parents’ guidance in the future and will refrain from making hasty decisions.

Personally, my high school experience was a success because my parents employed authoritative parenting that taught me respect with reason.  After coming to a logical decision about which high school to attend, I enrolled, only to be disappointed in my freshman year. I had thought that the school was going to take a more college preparatory  direction, allowing for student involvement in creating clubs, sports teams and extracurriculars, while the school seemed to be stagnating in development my freshman year.

I vented my frustrations to my parents, who told me to write them a formal essay detailing my complaints about the school and if I thought the problems could be solved without switching schools. After writing the letter, I realized most of the problems could be worked out with a couple meetings with the very reasonable administration. My parents still allowed me to apply to another high school, which I thought would solve my issues; I was even allowed to spend a day at the school to see if I really liked it. My parents were highly supportive–allowing me to air out my complaints without making any rash decisions.

After meeting with the principal, we cleared up my complaints as he pledged to try to make the school more appealing with more college-preparatory classes and clubs. I left the meeting feeling that a compromise was achieved because my principal respected my opinion while still keeping the school’s ideologies intact. The principal followed through on his promise. During the following school year, new clubs, sports teams and elective classes were introduced. Other students followed the initiative and were able to create clubs and other activities that reflected their interests. Most importantly, the changes brought about a new school-wide atmosphere.

There was now an attitude that students could get into top colleges and that students would get in under the school’s new dedication to college preparatory.  I credit the application of authoritative parenting to all facets of education as contributing to my enhanced high school experience and maturity.

The purpose of a high school — to mold a child into an adult — can only be accomplished when parents treat their children like adults.