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Nurturing Independence: On Being a Proctor Parent

Scott Allenby

Attending boarding school (even as a day student) is a big step for families to take, but one we believe affords students (and parents) incredible opportunities for growth. We’ve written about this before, but an excerpt from Julie Lythcott-Haims’ book, How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success published on reinforces the value of boarding school.

Proctor Academy Community

Lythcott-Haims writes, “As parents, our intentions are sound—more than sound: We love our kids fiercely and want only the very best for them. Yet, having succumbed to a combination of safety fears, a college admissions arms race, and perhaps our own needy ego, our sense of what is ‘best’ for our kids is completely out of whack.” In a complementary piece, Price of Privilege, Madeline Levine describes three ways we might be over-parenting:

  1. When we do for our kids what they can already do for themselves,
  2. When we do for our kids what they can almost do for themselves; and
  3. When our parenting behavior is motivated by our own egos.

This over-parenting in early adolescence has been linked to challenges in development throughout emerging adulthood. Lythcott-Haims writes, “When seemingly perfectly healthy, but over-parented, kids get to college and have trouble coping with the various new situations they might encounter they can have real difficulty knowing how to handle the disagreement, the uncertainty, the hurt feelings, or the decision-making process. This inability to cope—to sit with some discomfort, think about options, talk it through with someone, make a decision—can become a problem unto itself.”

Proctor Academy Community

We are thankful Proctor is able to serve as a safe transition ground as students take a step toward independence. Central to Proctor’s school culture, and wholly integrated into our curriculum, is the often under-appreciated skill of self-advocacy. Understanding where resources and support exist, and knowing how to ask for directions, clarification, or assistance are skills most high school students are not required to develop to the same degree as boarding school students. Whether it is through an advisor, dorm parent, teacher, or coach, Proctor’s on- and off-campus programs explicitly teach students how to manage their newfound independence, while implicitly reinforcing these lessons by asking students to consistently step outside their comfort zones.

Proctor’s motto since its earliest years has been: Live to Learn. Learn to Live. In order to do either, a student must ‘own’ their educational journey. Parents must let this ownership take place. Know that you will not be the first to pull away from campus nervous about your child having newfound independence at boarding school. Know also that you will not be the first to see an absolute transformation in your child’s self-confidence because of the educational journey you have allowed them to take at Proctor. Sometimes it takes a leap of faith to take flight.

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