Yesterday the web exploded with the news of the college admissions scandal. Water cooler gossip overflowed with shock and, for most, disgust. This revelation, honestly, is not a surprise to me. I am horrified … but not surprised. Gaining admission to the college of your choice is no easy task these days. Each year it becomes more daunting. What if my child doesn’t get into college? What if he doesn’t get into the college? Fear and anxiety can lead to desperate measures, like the ones in the news are. Parents, more than their children, begin to worry about getting into college long before the child has even begun high school. No joke, I have sessions with parents who say, “Just tell me the best preschool that will get my child into the best elementary school, that will her into the best high school, that will get her into blankety blank college…because THAT is where I want her to go.” And those parents aren’t kidding. For some parents, the push and supposed preparation to get the child into to the “right” college starts at a crazy young age, long before the child is even aware. Whether a child’s “brand” (to quote Rick Singer, the perpetrator of this scandal) is being created, her resume is being built, her “passions” are being fueled, his handlers—his parents—are on it. Getting into college has become a goal in and of itself. Much of the child’s high school experience is about that goal, the rest of it taking a backseat. The experience of high school? It’s for shaping your brand. Days are filled with tutors; “free” time is jam-packed with meaningful extra curriculars and community service. It strikes me as ironic that this story emerged three days before Los Angeles private middle and high school admissions come out. Tensions in a certain sector are already off the charts. Perfect! This scandal is shocking for many reasons—the deceit, immorality, unfairness, and hypocrisy among them. But that this one is not about the kids, rather it’s about their parents, is the topper. That’s what takes my breath away. Shame Shame Shame! My parenting groups are filled with parents of young children who want to learn how to raise a child to become a balanced, competent, independent adult with strong character traits and stellar values. When your child was 9 years old and lied about a behavior, you were panicked that you were raising a liar. Nothing is more important to us than honesty! you exclaimed. What happened to that lesson? When your child was 6 years old, we agreed on the importance of cultivating a tolerance for frustration and disappointment. I urged you to allow your child to fail; I implored you to let her be disappointed. I said, “Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child.” Did you forget? This is about parenting! To quote Steve Lopez in the LA Times today, “I can’t think of a more corrosive parental lesson than to teach kids that if they can’t quite make the cut, it doesn’t matter, no need to work a little harder…” Remember I taught you that you need to be the person you want your child to be? What happened? Where is the parent modeling? There are so many aspects of this scandal that are ripe and need addressing by the high schools, the colleges, and the businesses that have grown right along with difficulty of getting into college. But the parenting is screaming to me. This scandal is crying out for a kid conversation, especially for middle school age children on up. This is not about lecturing; it is about a genuine, two way conversation. Here are some possible talking points: For younger kids, questions that drive home the lessons you are trying to impart • Why do you think this scheme was so bad? • Who got harmed by the parents’ cheating? • Why was this scheme unfair? • Do you think it was bad for the kids of the parents who participated in the scheme? And for children 11 years and older, go deep: • Who do you think is to blame in this situation? (Why?) • Who was harmed by the scheme? (How?) • What, if anything, should happen to the kids who got into college because of the scheme? • Why do you think the parents did this? • What do you think are the most important lessons from this event? And please remember, your kids are watching you. This is about parenting.