Letter From The CEO: Sept 2014

Sep 2, 2014, 11:45 AM by

School days are back.

I truly love summer because our Y kids have so much fun, and everything is a little more laid back. However, summer is difficult at the Y. We have around 7,000 kids who come through our programs, and the outdoor pool is extremely busy—but the biggest issue I have with the summer is fear. Ultimately, I have 7,000 kids (who are not my own) in my custodial care during the summer. Obviously the ratio is not 1 to 7,000, but ultimately I am responsible for those kids. I am responsible that our buses are safe, the pools are well guarded, the ropes are in good shape for climbing and so on. It is what you expect of me—you expect that I hire good staff, ensure their training and then have a chain of supervision that creates a fun and safe environment. And your expectations lead us to this question: What is too much and what is too little?

I was reminded of this as I dropped my oldest off at CU this month. For two days, the university staff reminded us that our kids are grown up now and that they were responsible for themselves. The school would not be contacting us about grades, absenteeism or behavior. My first thought as a dad was, “Well, who’s paying for this? I am, so I best get the grades!” That actually changed in the '70s when parents by law no longer received the grades, and I don’t remember my dad or mom crabbing about it. In fact, my mom dropped me off at the curb of my school in Minnesota and drove off; I had to lug my stuff to the room and set it all up. If I forgot something, it was up to me to trot on down to the store and get it with my own money. Juxtapose this image with that of me and my wife setting the kid's room up and making two (that’s two!) trips to the store for things he might require.

This is exactly the opposite of what our kids need. CU recognizes the number of helicopter parents out there, and that's why they had to sit us down and break the news to us. As parents, we need to land the helicopter, and the newly anointed adults need to stop looking for the air cover and realize they are on their own.

My point: Study after study proves that our actions as helicopter parents are not good for our children developmentally, and the “everyone plays, everyone wins” experiment of the '90s and beyond is flawed. All of our children need to lose often and win sometimes (win more if they put the time into practice). They need to hear “no,” and they need to delay gratification. They need to feel some stress and then the reward. They need to do badly on a test and then study a bunch and do better. But most of all, they need for us to land the helicopters and let them take some reasonable risks so they can reap the rewards.

As always if you have a suggestion, please let me know [email protected].


Thank You, 
Chris Coker 
CEO/President of YMCA of Boulder Valley