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The Controversy Over Parents Who Eat Lunch With Their Children at School

By The Atlantic

Schools claim it’s disruptive for parents to eat in the cafeteria. But parents crave the quality time, and some say it’s a good thing for them to be involved with their kids’ place of learningRead full story

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  • Paul O'Brien
    Paul O'BrienCEO at MediaTech Ventures

    Good. U.S. education isn't working as a common-standard-no-one-left-behind-parents-can't-be-involved-factory. Disrupt it a bit and get parents back in the door. No, it's not ideal for kids / in schools where parents aren't involved but that's no excuse for lowering the bar so every kid gets the same experience.

  • Ernie Sander
    Ernie SanderDirector of Platform Community at Quartz

    Surprised these parents aren't asking for their own cubbies and desks in the classroom too! Why settle for lunches together when you could just enroll in the school.

  • Christina Passarella
    Christina Passarella Project Manager

    This is super weird. As the article points out in the opening sentences, the school cafeteria is a place where kids learn to socialize, problem solve, and decompress from what is hopefully rigorous morning lessons. You can't do that if your parents are there to hold your hand and coddle you. Yes, family time is important, and most families aren't getting enough of that, but prioritize that time at home. Or, even better, get involved with the school and help the administration plan and host a few

    This is super weird. As the article points out in the opening sentences, the school cafeteria is a place where kids learn to socialize, problem solve, and decompress from what is hopefully rigorous morning lessons. You can't do that if your parents are there to hold your hand and coddle you. Yes, family time is important, and most families aren't getting enough of that, but prioritize that time at home. Or, even better, get involved with the school and help the administration plan and host a few days a year that can accommodate parents - around the holidays or in coordination with parent teacher conferences, so that the school isn't inundated with these requests.

  • Max Lockie
    Max LockiePlatform Editor at Quartz

    Is this like a status thing? Where parents who have the flexibility to eat lunch at their kids' schools do so to brag to their friends and co-workers about how good their relationship is with their kids?

  • The abject horror of having one of your parents join you for lunch at school. I cannot even comprehend having that happen to me, and I really liked my parents as a kid!

    Helicopter parenting has apparently gone further than most of us could have imagined. There are plenty of other much more appropriate occasions to have quality time with your kids while eating. Back in the days of yore, it was called dinner!

    One of the most difficult parts of being a parent is letting your kid begin developing

    The abject horror of having one of your parents join you for lunch at school. I cannot even comprehend having that happen to me, and I really liked my parents as a kid!

    Helicopter parenting has apparently gone further than most of us could have imagined. There are plenty of other much more appropriate occasions to have quality time with your kids while eating. Back in the days of yore, it was called dinner!

    One of the most difficult parts of being a parent is letting your kid begin developing independence, and working their way in a world where you are not always dictating every encounter. It’s hard, missteps invariably occur, but it’s healthy and necessary.

    When it comes to school, let that be their domain. Of course be involved, communicate with the teacher when necessary, but let your kid grow up a bit.

    I just feel for the teachers here. The last thing they need is parents actively looking over their shoulder, and second guessing everything while trying to teach. Make no mistake about it, if parents are showing up to lunch, they’re also actively keeping a critical eye on the teacher as well.

  • Yes this is a new form of helicopter parenting. Reminds me of when a parent called to advocate for their child who was an adult and working at a real job.

    The unintended consequence of being your child’s lunch date — they don’t learn to go it alone. Its Harder to be agile and resilient when you don’t have to be.

  • William MacMonagle
    William MacMonagleCommunity College Instructor

    For untold years teachers have complained that parents don’t show up often enough to show their support for students or their teachers. My advice here is that it is a teaching moment for teachers to embrace this trend. When teachers and parents are shown to be positively united and can meet in a social setting- lunchtime- that’s a good thing.

  • Lindsey  Avena
    Lindsey Avena

    If parents insist on going to their kids' schools for lunch, it shouldn't be an everyday thing. Once a week max, but once a month is preferable. Kids have to develop on their own and become their own people. Socializing at school is very important to that process. As the article states, uninterrupted time with one's kids may be limited, but that's to really figure out outside of school. I also have a problem with kids being excluded when parents decide to bring meals for their kids and their friends

    If parents insist on going to their kids' schools for lunch, it shouldn't be an everyday thing. Once a week max, but once a month is preferable. Kids have to develop on their own and become their own people. Socializing at school is very important to that process. As the article states, uninterrupted time with one's kids may be limited, but that's to really figure out outside of school. I also have a problem with kids being excluded when parents decide to bring meals for their kids and their friends, so maybe... just maybe... schools and parents should work together and set a specific day for parents to come for lunch where the parents host. That way, everyone gets a damn slice of pizza, even if their parents can't come. This is problematic in so many ways, but if you're gonna do it, respect your kids' development and limit the time you spend at their one social environment that's separate from you.

  • These kids will be unprepared for their futures. As a youth you must experience society by engaging it alone, learning to navigate real world situations independently. This will make the plunge towards later facets of life that much more difficult, further contributing to increased levels of anxiety later in life.

  • Jessica Nish
    Jessica NishTechnology Educator

    This disgusts me. As a parent, I think it’s shameful that so many parents are so willing and desperate to intercept any problem or unideal situation that may arise in a cafeteria. Spoon feeding? Hot lunches for a spoiled kid who can’t handle eating cold food because he’s so picky? No wonder there are so many behavioral problems. No wonder there are so many kids flunking out of college. When the going gets tough, the parents get going. Kids don’t know how to struggle anymore. Kids are coddled. Kids

    This disgusts me. As a parent, I think it’s shameful that so many parents are so willing and desperate to intercept any problem or unideal situation that may arise in a cafeteria. Spoon feeding? Hot lunches for a spoiled kid who can’t handle eating cold food because he’s so picky? No wonder there are so many behavioral problems. No wonder there are so many kids flunking out of college. When the going gets tough, the parents get going. Kids don’t know how to struggle anymore. Kids are coddled. Kids are spoiled. Kids are #blessed. And then the second that something doesn’t go there way, there is panic and outrage and despair.

    The world is only getting more scary, more intense, more insane. Are we really arming our children with the correct tools, or are we just shielding them from reality?

  • Ajay Desai
    Ajay DesaiDirector of Strategy at The A.I. Company

    The US education system is worthless, lets be honest. Anyone claiming some sort of holier than thou status for American institutions only has to look at how foreign education has dwarfed America in all of STEM.

  • Indrani Sen
    Indrani SenCulture and lifestyle editor at Quartz

    I’m curious how widespread this practice really is. The data cited in the piece is more generally about parental involvement in schools, not lunch. This “tide” of parents invading cafeterias seems likely to be pretty specific to very wealthy community and private schools.

  • Greg Vetter
    Greg VetterCEO at Tessemae’s

    I understand both sides. The thought of having my parents come into the cafeteria when I was in elementary school would have been horrible. But lunch was different then. Kids could choose where they sat, lunch was 35 minutes and it was actually a break for kids to engage each other. My children’s district has 16 minute lunches and are run like a military trough station. The kids that buy lunch barely get a moment to take a bite of food before they are getting in line to leave. My kids told me about

    I understand both sides. The thought of having my parents come into the cafeteria when I was in elementary school would have been horrible. But lunch was different then. Kids could choose where they sat, lunch was 35 minutes and it was actually a break for kids to engage each other. My children’s district has 16 minute lunches and are run like a military trough station. The kids that buy lunch barely get a moment to take a bite of food before they are getting in line to leave. My kids told me about it but I didn’t believe it...until I went and saw it for myself. Parents going to lunch may be less about helicopter parenting and more about figuring out ways to improve their children’s eating routine.

  • Yan Klats
    Yan KlatsDirector of Sales at Riot New Media

    There are lots of other ways to get involved in your kid’s life, this is just too much.

  • Madeline  Cruz
    Madeline Cruz

    Honestly some parents need to stop with this nonsense. Let your kids experience life without you constantly hovering over them. Kids need to learn skills that they can only learn when they are out there among their peers. First it was participation trophies and now this, so ridiculous.

  • Jenny  Anderson
    Jenny Andersonsenior reporter at Quartz

    This is absolutely crazy. Parents can have breakfast and dinner with their kids; they do not need to join them for lunch. At school. Our job as parents is not to protect them from negative emotions and hard times; it’s to help them be resilient so they can handle it themselves.

  • Patrick deHahn
    Patrick deHahnNews curator at Quartz

    Might as well just take the kid out of school and go out to eat with them or have lunch at home, then bring them back to school...

    This is also a huge privilege for those parents who can just jump into their kids' lunch hour. What about those parents who travel for work? What about those who work multiple jobs?

  • Helen Hoefele
    Helen HoefeleBlogger at HelenHoefele.com

    Family meal time is what dinner time is for. If lunch time is the only "quality" time a parent can find with their child, then those parents need to find another solution to the problem. I'm surprised that schools have even accommodated this request from parents and have allowed this situation to evolve to what it currently is.

  • Corinne Purtill
    Corinne PurtillSenior Reporter at Quartz

    Take a moment to imagine how different your own school experience would have been with your parent or your friends’ parents part of your daily lunchtime conversation.

  • Get. A. Life.

  • Mark  White
    Mark White Founder at White Label Media

    I had no idea this was going on. Sounds absolutely ridiculous, my kids would be mortified if I tried to have lunch with them at school and rightfully so. It doesn’t mean parents aren’t wanted ever —I often chaperone school trips when the teachers asked.

    This notion of parents in the cafeteria, brings helicoptering to a whole new level.

  • Chef Art Smith
    Chef Art SmithCEO-Owner at Art Smith Company

    Oh please they feel it makes other kids not having their parents around? Share the food,love and the parents. Xao

  • Jonathan Greene
    Jonathan GreeneSVP of Marketing at Techstars

    Really feel this is terrible. Kids need space to explore and build confidence and connections.

  • Anthony Duignan-Cabrera
    Anthony Duignan-CabreraCEO at ADC Strategy

    A lifetime ago (actually, a millennial lifetime ago) I had to report on "helicopter parenting", and the absurdity of older baby boomers and GenX-ers ushering their spawn into preschool and kindergarten and how the teachers were appalled at how they meddled with their children—from doing homework to arguing their child "couldn't have done that" over some infantile slight in the playground. And you know what it gave us? Trigger warnings. Safe spaces. And a generation seemingly incapable of taking responsibility

    A lifetime ago (actually, a millennial lifetime ago) I had to report on "helicopter parenting", and the absurdity of older baby boomers and GenX-ers ushering their spawn into preschool and kindergarten and how the teachers were appalled at how they meddled with their children—from doing homework to arguing their child "couldn't have done that" over some infantile slight in the playground. And you know what it gave us? Trigger warnings. Safe spaces. And a generation seemingly incapable of taking responsibility and sloughing off jobs that didn't give them immediate gratification. This is appalling behavior. If you care about your children, volunteer. Join the PTA, vote for candidates that wish to fund public education, or if you're into private schools, follow the money. It's hard to tell who is immature in this scenario.

  • Alan Hitchner
    Alan Hitchner

    Nonsense in taking exception to occasionally visiting a student by parents. This can reinforce higher quality of conduct by staff. And often enough that is good and necessary since leadership submits to often the staff. It encourages responsible conduct among teachers.

  • Cody Callahan
    Cody CallahanCeo/Founder at Positive Platform

    I feel like their many is pros and cons to this..

    What do you think?

  • Margurite Soria
    Margurite Soria

    Good grief....grow up, Parents!

  • Justin Rohrlich
    Justin RohrlichReporter at Quartz

    This is fascinating. I had no idea this was even going on.

  • This points to larger issues: hot healthy food shouldn’t require parent involvement, and project based/experiential learning could offer (helpful) ways for parents who are able and interested to be more involved

  • Cesar Figueroa
    Cesar FigueroaPUNISHER

    The schools find it disruptive because they can't indoctrinate them when the parents get involved and are there to see how our money is being spent and managed, along with how many genders it buys

  • Mo Bhimji
    Mo BhimjiStrataConnex - Strata Mgmt Software

    No.

    Let kids figure out things on their own. My son hated me dropping him off at school, it wasn't cool. Let them learn independence.

  • Dan Colarusso
    Dan ColarussoExecutive Editor, Digital at Reuters

    This is satire, right? Please tell me it is.

  • Lauren Christine
    Lauren ChristineSocial Worker

    My mom ate lunch with me and it was some of the best lunches/memories I had from those times.

  • Thomas Coomes
    Thomas Coomes

    Oh goodie... more coddling!

  • Godwin Bamsa
    Godwin Bamsa

    Jeez guys. Just home school your kid.

    I'm disappointed that schools indulge kids with kids (aka these parents). Just tell them to bugger off to their schools (aka work/life).

    Being a teacher today must be such a nightmare.

  • Most of the comments I've seen making fun of this option are from people who haven't raised kids. This has been going on for decades in flyover country. It's just now becoming a thing on the East and West coasts, so y'all can jump in and critique how we raise the children you've never had. Read my mind you judgemental nobs.

  • Michele Sheridan
    Michele Sheridan

    Parents should not join their kids at school. Let the kids have something that is their own. My daughter had “bring a guest to lunch” day at school once a year which was good. She choose different people each time and loved having a grandparent or a parent or special neighbor join her. Leave them alone!

  • Fred  Parsons
    Fred Parsons

    Let kids be kids. If they stumbled they get their balance and go on. Mom and Dad won’t and can’t be there every minute to fix things. The child needs to learn in the school setting.

  • C. Mitchell
    C. Mitchell

    OK educators, is this a thing? If it is, what are your thoughts?

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