Panel concludes week on boys with tips on parenting

After a week of lectures focused on issues surrounding young men in America, two speakers came to the Hall of Philosophy on Friday to flip the script and talk about parents.

In a panel moderated by Robert Franklin, director of religion for Chautauqua Institution, both Carol Sutton Lewis and Gregory Hess offered practical tips for raising children in the 21st century. Lewis is the founder of the popular parenting blog, Ground Control Parenting, while Hess is the president of Wabash College.

Although the discussion focused mostly on young men, Hess argued that a rising tide lifts all boats for the genders. He said that Jon Krakauer’s lecture on sexual assault provided a key example.

“One of the things that we can take away from this week is that men and women rise together and fall together,” Hess said.

Wabash College, where Hess serves as president, is one of the few remaining men’s-only colleges in the country. While Hess has no sons of his own, he offered strategies that Wabash uses with its students such as challenging them to challenge one another, emphasizing the importance of gentlemanliness, and teaching resilience — all of which he saw as viable ways to raise upstanding young men.

Given that Lewis’ medium of choice is a blog, she took the reins on Franklin’s question about the merits of social media and technology on children’s lives. She argued that, although there is much to be gained from technology in schools, it is also addictive and makes room for a forum devoid of parental supervision.

Likewise, she argued that parents need to be more observant of their children in the physical world, while also developing ground rules for how they can monitor their children’s online behavior in a non-intrusive fashion.

“The goal in getting involved in this with your kids is not to spy on them or to make them feel like they have no privacy,” Lewis said. “It’s to enable you to have conversations with them about it. Not when they’re in it, but you just get a better sense about what kind of cyber life your child has.”

On the other side of the panel, Hess’ advice for technology and parenting was brief, albeit scathing: Get your kids off of Yik Yak, he said, in reference to the anonymous Twitter-like platform.

In closing, Franklin asked each teacher to give one recommendation to all parents.

Lewis offered a tip for parents to improve on their parenting via the help of their peers.

“Parents should talk to other parents in open, honest conversation about parenting,” Lewis said. “There are a lot of exchanges among parents about how their child is doing, which is great, but the really important work happens when parents talk about their challenges.”

In a similar fashion, Hess said, parents should put more effort toward communicating with their kids.

“I’d encourage parents to think hard about communicating and re-communicating and re-communicating again with your child, with your grandchild, about what is important to you … as a way of informing them,” Hess said.