Laundry Advice from a College President: Start Sooner

Trust kids with independence -- and laundry -- early on.

A college president and college professor find themselves all too familiar with the granular back-and-forthing on Facebook forums for parents of students at their institutions. And in an article in The Hill this week, they list some of the issues that parents bring up:

…the number and location of washing machines and dryers in each residence hall, whether machines are top or front loading, the best dryer settings, whether high-efficiency detergent should be used, room dimensions and setup (including floor plans, diagrams and photos), bed height, sheet size, mattress toppers, dresser capacity, the utility of bed risers and stackable bins, bike storage, rug size, window size, lighting, cleaning supplies, acceptable wall hangings, the advisability of air purifiers, refrigerators, televisions, microwaves, printers, and fans, and, by the parent of a tall student, the height of shower heads in the bathroom.

Always helping kids is hurting them.

Hamilton College President David Wippman and Cornell American Studies Prof. Glenn C. Altschuler ask parents to take a step back and realize that every time they’re solving a problem for their kids — from how to decorate a dorm room to how to deal with a roommate — they’re depriving their kids of part of their college education. Namely, learning to stand on their own two feet. Perhaps in slightly shrunken socks.

It’s the same M.O. Let Grow recommends parents start many, many years earlier: Instead of trying to make our kids’ lives free from mistakes and small miseries, give them the invaluable experience of learning to live with and learn from those missteps along the way.

No one is suggesting we hang our kids out to dry.

But maybe we can let them do that to their laundry.

Kids know that too much help = no trust in their capabilities.

The most moving part of the lovely Hill article is a reference to the phrase made famous by Pres. Ronald Reagan during the Cold War: “Trust but verify.”

The thing is — Reagan totally did NOT trust the Russians. That’s why verification was part of the equation. You verify when you don’t believe in someone.

For our kids to see that we truly believe in them, we can’t be verifying all the time, checking in to see if they listened to our advice, or are doing exactly what we’d recommend. When we do this, this message comes through: We love you but don’t quite believe you’re capable or honest or mature enough to do the things you’re supposed to.

It is truly hard not to step in.

As a part-helicopter parent myself, I know how hard it is to not jump in, with young kids, with old kids, with kids who aren’t actually “kids” anymore and keep changing their facial hair (not always for the better). The only solution I’ve found to meddling less is to be a little less on top of everything my kids are doing. Not caring less, but trusting them on their own a little more.

Whether your kids are heading to college many years from now, or never, or they’re seeing it in their rearview mirror, our love and trust are the greatest things they can take with them. – L

Want a little help with how to start? Download this Adulting Chart or better yet, give them the link and have them download it themselves!