Good parenting walks a fine line

Parenting is an enduring paradox of humankind. It’s considered negative if a parent lives vicariously through his or her child, but an uninvolved parent is also frowned upon.

Ideal parenting in the U.S. features a middle ground between two styles: crazed controlling and easy-going empowering. Crazed controlling parents often pressure their children to the point of social awkwardness and an inability to fail. Easy-going empowering parents encourage their children to a fault, which leads to overt self-centeredness.

A balanced parenting model, unfortunately, is rarely attainable. Unlike many areas of life, parenting styles do not have to be polarized. But they have to be well-defined.

In the case of David Sills, father of the 13-year-old who recently made a verbal commitment to University of Southern California, crazed controlling parenting has failed miserably. Following his son’s commitment, Sills compared the decision to a piano prodigy playing for the Philharmonic Orchestra.

“There are a lot of things that people don’t put a negative stigmatism to because they’re considered prodigies, and all I’m doing is saying David has been recognized as a decent athlete, and I’m allowing him to fulfill whatever opportunities that he can,” he said in an ESPN article. “It’s as simple as that.

There’s no pressure; there’s gentle encouragement. He’s the one that always says dad let’s go to the gym and let’s throw. It’s what he enjoys doing. If he ever got to a point where he doesn’t love what he does, I told him to stop.”

This comment is a sad excuse for a cover-up. Sills uses more first person here than an actress asked about her latest role. “All I’m doing is saying David has been recognized as a decent athlete, and I’m allowing him to fulfill whatever opportunities that he can. If he ever got to a point where he doesn’t love what he does I told him to stop.” The parent is not only making decisions for his son, but telling him when he can and cannot pursue his dreams.

Sills’ comparison between his son’s athletic endeavors and the aspirations of a talented musician does not suffice. When a teenager makes a commitment to play football for one of the most storied programs in the sport’s history, he is under the watchful eyes of millions. The same does not necessarily apply in the musician’s case.

Research has shown that fathers apply more pressure than mothers. According to the 1997 study “Parents’ conceptions of academic success: Internal and external success,” fathers are more likely than mothers “to measure academic success by external standards including high grades, college acceptance, and employment in a good career, which suggests that they support programs fostering the attainment of eminent achievements and may exert more pressure on their children to achieve.” Although the study refers to academic success, it is easy to categorize Sills as a crazed controlling parent.

“I’m just trying to give him every opportunity that I can,” Sills said. “There are people who support the decision, and people who don’t support the decision, and I’m just hoping that I’m making the best decision for my child, and I hope he’s making the right decision for himself.”

Again with the first person.

Wyatt Kanyer is a junior news-editorial journalism major from Yakima, Wash.