Parents: there are things you shouldn’t say to your teen during their college admissions process (or ever!). I have heard it all when it comes to what parents say to their children before or during the admissions process, but I can still be surprised. I know that most parents speak from a place of love and concern for their children, but sometimes the message is lost in delivery. Here are a few things you should never say to your teens during this hectic time in their lives—and you should try not to think them, either.
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1. “My child is not so bright.”
I have heard this message too often directed at students. Some parents use it as a form of motivation, but the results tend to be the opposite. As a parent, you are one of two people who are always supposed to believe that your child can accomplish anything and overcome any obstacle. And children tend to know that your beliefs in their abilities can be greater than how much they believe in themselves. Once you verbally diminish your standards, your children will do the same. You do not need to go over the top and be overly enthusiastic, even a gentle reminder that you support them will go a long way.
2. “My younger child is much more .”
Never ever make a verbal comparison of your children! Every child has his strengths—there is no need to flaunt one child’s over the other. Focus on the positives. Also avoid saying, “I don’t know where I went wrong with this one.” I don’t know what you did or said before, but as soon as those words come out of your mouth, I know where you are going wrong. One parent once told me that they are saving their money for a younger child who will get into a better colleges and is worthy of private school—and they said this in front of the older child. Use common sense when discussing your kids!
3. “We only have $XXX,XXX saved up for your education.”
Never tell your children what you have saved up for their educations. Your sense of money and your child’s sense of money vary immensely. While it is important to educate your children about money matters and to have them be aware of the cost of an education, they don’t need to know the details of your bank accounts. Oftentimes these kids develop a sense of entitlement and won’t work as hard because their cushion is already in place. So, be smart about what financial details you share and how you share them.
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4. “You will never get into .”
Yes, getting into a certain college is never a sure thing, but your child should be ambitious. Let them apply to one or two dream schools. If it leads to disappointment later, you are teaching them the skill of resilience. If they get in, they will be elated that you encouraged them to do something outside of their comfort zone.
5. “It’s easy to get into .”
This “easy” school might actually be the best place with the best opportunities for your child. Once you label it as below you or below your child, her or she will never be excited about it. Be enthusiastic about every school on your child’s list for the time being. Once all decisions are in, then you can sit down and weigh the pros and cons objectively.
6. “I told you so.”
As a parent there are many things you will say to your child that they will either not hear or blatantly disregard. They will make mistakes and missteps in judgment. Reminders that you were “right” will simply create an antagonistic relationship. Help them to learn from their failures and hold your tongue even if you saw the future coming.
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7. I will give you $XXX if you get into .”
Children should be driven by an intrinsic desire to succeed and reach their potential, not by a short-term monetary incentive. One parent promised their child a car if he chose community college for two years. Another promised a car if they got into a particularly difficult college. Rather, focus on why community college might make more sense for the time being or how proud you will be of your child if he or she gets into a given school. Give them the car later if you want, or better yet, make them work for it.
It may seem like your teen does not listen to you, but they hear and internalize everything you say, even the things you imply. They are at a time in their lives when they are going to be judged for their choices by the outside world, and they need your support now more than ever. Be their cheerleaders. Push them to believe in all that they can do. And in whatever they accomplish this year, be proud. Just be sure to let them know, too!
Purvi Mody is the co-owner of Insight Education and is an education contributor to the Daily News, Mercury News, and StudentAdvisor. She has been interviewed for several articles and books, as well as radio and television shows. She has worked with students across the United States and other countries including India, China, Korea, Dubai, and the UK on the increasingly complex college admissions and financial aid processes.