The College Admissions Scandal: Just One Example of Extreme Parenting
About 130 million babies are born worldwide every year, according to the United Nations. And thanks to the internet, all those new moms and dads have countless articles, videos and blog posts on parenting styles, practices and traditions.
But sometimes, parents defy logic and do some extreme, even illegal, things for their kiddos. What’s been dubbed “snowplow parenting” is when parents do absolutely everything they can to rid their children of obstacles, ultimately making them unprepared for adult life.
Has this trend become too over the top? Well, read on to see for yourself. Here are some of the craziest things parents have famously done for their children. Yes, we’re talking about the college admissions scandal, but that’s just one example of the good, bad and downright odd things parents are capable of when it comes to their kids.
College Admissions Scandal
The college admissions scandal is one of the biggest stories of 2019 — and that's saying something with the Robert Mueller report. If you somehow missed the newsworthy transgression involving famous parents, let us catch you up. “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin and “Desperate Housewives” actress Felicity Huffman were just two of the wealthy parents who were accused of bribing college officials via a middle man to get their kids into elite colleges.
Huffman and 12 other parents caught in the scam plead guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit fraud and received reduced prison sentences. But Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli alongside 15 other uber-rich parents submitted not-guilty pleas, which many believe is because they were also charged with a count of conspiracy to commit money laundering that ups their potential jail time.
The scandal became public when the scheme's alleged ringleader, William “Rick” Singer, was caught by the FBI and agreed to record some of the parents on the phone or by wearing a wire, according to The New York Times.
Potty Training at 6 Months Old
Retired supermodel Gisele Bündchen is famous for her looks, but she also went viral for her unique parenting style that she claims led to a potty-trained baby at just 6 months old.
Bündchen told the media she used elimination communication with her son Benjamin. Basically, she carried her son around naked all the time so she could react immediately when he had to go to the bathroom. She would then hold him over the toilet until he went to the bathroom. We're not sure if you can officially call that being "potty trained," but whatever works!
Feeding Them Like Birds
"Clueless" actress Alicia Silverstone received a ton of attention when she admitted to feeding her son like a baby bird. First, the actress would chew the food for her then-infant son, Bear Blu, and then she'd feed it to him from her mouth. "He literally crawls across the room to attack my mouth if I'm eating," Silverstone wrote on her blog.
While the act sparked outrage among parents back in 2012, Silverstone defended her decision, saying that it was a natural way to introduce her son to solid foods. Plus, it saves her a few extra dishes at the end of each meal.
Cutting Off Communication
Social media makes it so that everyone has more access to what others are doing, especially when it comes to their favorite celebrities. But some famous folks decide to cut off communication as they start their journey into parenthood, and that includes Ian Somerhalder and Nikki Reed. You know, Somerhalder from the show “The Vampire Diaries” and Reed from her role in the “Twilight” films.
The couple has been together since 2014 and welcomed their first child in 2017. To celebrate the momentous occasion, they cut off their own access to social media and turned off their cellphones for a whole month. They also told reporters they wouldn't be having any visitors during that first month as mom and dad.
Can you even imagine? Somerhalder made it nearly 30 days but took to social media four days early to celebrate Reed's new role as a mom. In the years following their daughter's birth, they have kept up the goal of keeping her off social media. "Since Bodhi's birth, the couple has remained very private about their family life. Both Nikki and Ian have yet to share a photo of their baby girl (only her toes!), keeping her out of the spotlight as much as possible," E! News wrote. "Instead, when the couple does post to social media, it's typically to raise awareness about an important cause or share the projects they're currently working on."
Telling the Kids Everything
Next up is Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s "honesty is the best policy" approach, as they claim to tell their kids everything. "We have a policy in our family, no secrets," Pitt said. "I mean, there's an age of understanding, so you've got to present it in a way that is age-appropriate, but we know our children very well [...] We want everything to be on the table and, any questions they have, for them to ask."
The most crucial thing Brangelina shared with their kids when they were younger was Jolie's decision to have a double mastectomy and then reconstructive surgery a few months later. The actress announced it to the world in an op-ed for The New York Times. "We often speak of 'Mommy's mommy,' and I find myself trying to explain the illness that took her away from us. They have asked if the same could happen to me," she wrote. "I have always told them not to worry, but the truth is I carry a 'faulty' gene, BRCA1, which sharply increases my risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer."
So, it's understandable that the couple would need to tell their kids about the role cancer plays in Jolie's life. But most parents don't need to rush to have similar conversations with their kids about all of the issues they could potentially face as adults. Childhood is so short, and there doesn’t need to be a rush to end it early, especially if your family isn't struggling or facing a specific health concern like cancer. If your family is, though, the American Cancer Society says, "The guiding principle should be to tell the truth in a way that children are able to understand and prepare themselves for the changes that will happen in the family."
Showing Too Much Team Spirit
Despite their best intentions, lots of parents have lost their cool at their kids' sporting events. They're trying to support their son or daughter but end up behaving terribly and now, thanks to cameras on our phones, often end up on social media and then the local news.
"Look up ‘out-of-control parent on sidelines’ online, and you'll find hundreds of videos and stories of parental misbehavior at youth sports events," The Washington Post wrote in an article on the topic.
In fact, the issue is so common that the popular newspaper created a video teaching parents exactly how not to lose it, titled "Don't be 'that' sports parent." One of the main reasons we have kids play sports is so they'll learn a variety of things outside of the classroom like how to be a good sport, overcoming challenges and controlling emotions. But when mom and dad get upset over a call or game, we quickly erase all of those useful lessons.
All those years of parent-teacher conferences can be hard to let go of when your son or daughter heads off to college. But parents should never email or call their kids' college professors. "College professors generally tend to regard students as adults. But when the folks start to call, they reassess the situation," said Jeremy S. Hyman and Lynn F. Jacobs in a 2010 report for U.S. News & World Report, titled "10 Reasons Parents Should Never Contact College Professors."
By reaching out to their kid's professor, the parent brands their offspring as a child in the teacher's eyes when really they are adults and should be treated as such. "They start to see that student as lacking the kind of independence and maturity they normally expect of college students. And from then on in, they relate to them accordingly," Hyman and Jacobs wrote.
Making Their Appointments
A new survey by Morning Consult for The New York Times looked at the overwhelming amount of tasks parents complete for their kids aged 18 to 28, and it was bleak. The data showed that 76 percent of them reminded their adult kids of deadlines, including ones related to schoolwork, and 74 percent made appointments for them.
One of the big reasons you'd want to avoid doing this for your 28-year-old child is the same reason you teach them how to do anything: You want your kids to learn. If you're still reminding them of the important deadlines in their life, then they might never learn how to do it themselves. They might never learn how helpful Google Calendar is or the joy that comes from crossing things off a list in a paper planner.
Assigning Extra Homework
While assigning extra homework seems like a good idea to challenge your child, teaching experts agree that assigning it isn't necessary, considering they're already being assigned too much. A study in The American Journal of Family Therapy showed kids in the early elementary school years are being assigned significantly more homework than is recommended by education leaders. In some scenarios, kids are getting nearly three times more than they need.
Saddling kids with too much homework results in higher stress levels and a lack of balance in their lives. Various studies have shown it can also cause physical health problems like migraines, ulcers, sleep deprivation and even weight loss.
"The cost is enormous," the contributing editor of the study and clinical director of the New England Center for Pediatric Psychology Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman told CNN. "The data shows that homework over this level is not only not beneficial to children's grades or GPA, but there's really a plethora of evidence that it's detrimental to their attitude about school, their grades, their self-confidence, their social skills and their quality of life."
Spending Millions to Have Them Travel
Not to harp on Angelina and Brad too much, but the celebrity parents have made the news a lot for their parenting choices, including spending millions so their kids can travel. According to media reports, the couple made it a habit to spend about $5 million a year flying their six kiddos around the world in private jets.
To be fair, the couple makes around $40 million a year, according to Forbes, so the price tag for travel isn't a massive loss for Brangelina. Both mom and dad are world-famous actors who spend that much on private plans so their kids can be with them while they shoot in various exotic locations worldwide.
Not Providing Stability
While travel is an excellent way to see the world, ask any health professional that works with kids, and they'll tell you that what kids need most is stability. "Stability comes from family and community. Ideally, a family remains together in a stable household, but when that's not possible, it's important to disrupt the child's life as little as possible," wrote Harley Rotbart, MD, vice chair emeritus of Pediatrics at Children's Colorado. "Kids and families should be a part of larger units to give them a sense of belonging, tradition and cultural continuity."
Going hand in hand with stability is structure. "Rules, boundaries and limits: Without them, kids are forced to be adults before they are ready, and they lose respect for you and other adults," Rotbart said.
Transforming an Entire City
Now, we wanted to end on an example that's a bit more positive because, after all, some of the extreme things parents do are really what's best for their kid.
Case in point: One family made headlines when their request to help their sick child transformed an entire city. A group of volunteers turned part of San Francisco into “Gotham City” in 2013 to help 5-year-old Miles Scott fulfill his dream of being Batman for a day. Scott was used to battling leukemia, but on that particular day, he was in charge of fighting crime as "Batkid."
Scott's wish touched so many hearts that businesses, the San Francisco Giants, volunteers, police officers and San Francisco's mayor all pitched in to make his dream a reality.