Robert Kaufmann’s “Annealing Forces”

“06880” has devoted many pixels to today’s parenting styles — the well-known “helicopter,” the less familiar “lawnmower” (they clear away every obstacle their children face), and (we’re mixing and matching here), the result of all that:  “boomerang” kids (they return right back to their place of origin).

I’ve weighed in; I’ve cited Staples principal John Dodig; our chorus of commenters has thrown in their two cents’ many dollars’ worth.

Time now for Robert E. Kaufmann.

He recently stepped down after a year as headmaster at Fairfield Country Day School.  Now in his late 60s, he’d been away from head mastering for 15 years when he took the interim gig.

Before leaving, Kaufmann shared some reflections in the FCDS alumni magazine.

Kaufmann described several “new realities,” along with “the reinforcement of some established ones.”  He said:

Apples fall near the trees on which they grew. “Kids have been, and remain, a reflection of their parents,” Kaufmann wrote.

“Parents who live lives of integrity tend to have kids with the same qualities…. The way we, as parents, take care of our daily obligations, the way we treat others each day, and the way we deal with rules (laws) are extremely important ingredients in raising ethical and moral children.

“Conflicting or inconsistent messages are confusing to kids.  The apple needs to be sure the message from the tree is strong and steady.”

The medium is not the message. Though “technology has altered the entire landscape in which our children grow up” — and kids are extremely comfortable in that environment — Kaufmann worries that “the hours spent on this aggregated electronic pile is being confused with thinking and learning.”

While “Google provides a lot of answers,” it does not offer much training in “thinking or deduction.”  Retrieving information, Kaufmann said, demands “intellectual perspiration.”

The parenting airplane is best flown at 35,000 feet. “Loving parents,” he noted, “run the risk of being too protective.”

At FCDS — and many other places — there is “a sense that all the errors of the young are to be eliminated and all possible blemishes on a student’s record be eradicated, lest they have some impact on college admissions.”  (And remember:  FCDS is a K-9 school!)

“Even loving parents tend to rush to defend; to excuse; to shift causality; to protect their kids in ways that are often counter-productive,” Kaufmann said.

While “records may appear ‘cleaner,'” the youngsters themselves “are denied the learning opportunity of dealing with whatever ‘sticky wicket’ had arisen.”

Crucial life skills can’t be learned, he continued, “if parents run interference too fast, too often.  The focus seems to have become a search for perfect justice in daily events involving children’s interactions with other children and even with their teachers.”

Both parenting and teaching are difficult jobs, Kaufmann said — and they’re probably harder now than before.

“There is no perfect parenting formula,” he acknowledged, and usually no one correct answer.

However, “kids need to be encouraged and enabled to begin to handle more of life’s daily bumps on their own.  Imperfection and occasional failure are annealing forces in developing personalities.

The children, he concluded, will grow up “straighter and stronger.”

And, he promised,  they “will not love their parents less.”

13 responses to “Robert Kaufmann’s “Annealing Forces”

  1. rare commentator

    some of the best parenting “words of wisdom” that I have read in a long time, thanks Robert Kaufman

  2. The Dude Abides

    A vast array of generalities. He needs to write a book. Certainly DNA determination and less time in front of the computer are no brainers but I am not sure hovering at 35,000 feet is a good idea. Perhaps we should ask Cameron Bruce’s parents about that one. Each and every child is unique and should be treated as such. When you group the kiddos into groups and classes complete with labels and levels of academic prowess, you run into trouble. Sort of an advertisement for home schooling, don’t you think?

    • I think you are a complete a-hole for invoking Cam and his parents to try to prove your point. How do you think your comments would make them feel? You bemoan the lack of manners and respect exhibited by the younger generation. How about showing some yourself?

      • The Dude Abides

        My mention of the tragedy to Master Bruce was to make people THINK.
        This has been going on for far too long in this town and is inexcusable. “Slosh the Frosh” belongs in the 1960’s. It is time to drop the political correctness and put an end to this stupidity. If that takes a harshness and candid cruelty, so be it.

    • Interested Party

      It appears that “The Dude” spends numerous hours on the computer since he replies to every article and comment posted and then he bemoans our youth for being on the computer too much? Double speak and double standard in my humble opinion. And many public educators are parents, too, so they have a first hand view and experience with child rearing..

      • Westporter since 1970

        The Dude refers to the character that Jeff Bridges created for the Coen Bros. movie “The Big Lebowski” <> This fictional character’s entire thought process was fueled by alcohol. So is the thought process of the unfortunate but real Dude who posts here. His insensitivity and lack of respect for anyone but himself reveals a completely narcissistic point of view on life despite the evidence that he is a very old alcoholic who completely lacks the wisdom, balance, and restraint that one of advanced age should have acquired. Be thankful you have only this limited exposure to such a grotesque specimen of humanity.

        • The Dude Abides

          Actually Jeff Lebowski, as protrayed by Jeff and Ethan, was a pot head. Your description of my character is as flawed as the article by Kaufman: full of assumptions and generalities, placing judgemental labels on something your truly don’t understand.

      • The Dude Abides

        I make my living on the computer. I don’t see many children doing that. And if the teachers are wonderful parents, why are they doing such a rotten job of teaching?

  3. Spot on. I teach, and he is right!

  4. The Dude Abides

    I am not sure whether Deej is agreeing with me or Kaufman but quite candidly, I am not sure our educators should be giving advice about any child rearing. I know it is a tough job (I taught for a short period after the law) but public education is a joke these days. The drop out rates, literacy rates and overall performace of our students is below par and way down in the world’s chase to be number one. Our universities are number one but certainly not our K-12 grades. Of course, in our tunnel vision, all readers will exclude the Westport public educations system. But they need to to talk with my neighbor who just moved here from India with two girls in Bedford Middle School before they waive off my generality as being non-applicable.

    • Tsk,tsk. Once again the emperor’s new clothes. You can try and shed light on the issue, but the vast majority can’t hear it because they have drunk the BOE Kool Aid.

  5. Westporter since 1970

    Gotta hand it to that Dude. He’s either offensively obvious or obviously offensive. Most times both.

  6. Fan of Dan & the Dude

    Having followed “The Dude” over a number of threads, I’m gonna say he’s “spot on” IMHO…I see “straight shooting” with neither undue cynicism or bleeding heart liberalism…I abide by da Dude 🙂