Information for the parents of college students
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Book Review: Don’t Tell Me What to Do, Just Send Money

From time to time, we like to review some of the books available for parents of college students.  There is a wealth of literature available to help parents cope with the transition to college and the changes that occur throughout the college years.  We’ve created lists of recommended reading, and there is something for everyone.  Please check out our Resources and Tools page for suggestions.

Don’t Tell Me What to Do, Just Send Money
by Helen E. Johnson and Christine Schelhas-Miller lives up to its subtitle: The Essential Parenting Guide to the College Years.  This book offers wonderful, helpful advice in an easy to read and entertaining fashion.  The opening chapter, From Supervisor to Consultant, lays the foundation for the understanding that the parental role during the college years is a shift from what has come before.  We especially like the emphasis and background on important communication skills that will help parents make the shift.

For parents who are uncomfortable with their changing role (and this may be almost all parents), there is important advice, “It is ironic that, by giving less advice and allowing your child to have ownership of decisions, your child will more likely seek your involvement in future decisions.  And this, we assume, is your goal:  to be involved in your child’s life as a loving and helpful parent.  In accepting a consulting role, you don’t give up your role as a parent, you merely expand it in preparation for an adult-to-adult relationship with your child in the years to come.”

We like the message in Don’t Tell Me What to Do . . . but we also like the format of this book.  Each chapter covers important topics in the format of parent/child dialogues or a scenario followed by an easily broken down analysis. The straightforward approach of What’s on Your Mind, What’s on Your Child’s Mind, What’s Going On, What to Do, What to Avoid, and What You Need to Know is a useful combination of fast tips and more in depth information for those who want to understand the larger concepts.  Parents of college students will certainly see and hear their students in many of the situations covered.

Two additional features make this book a comprehensive guide for parents.  Unlike many other college transition books, this book includes a section on postgraduate choices.  Parents who are taking the longer term approach, or who have students already in college, will continue to find this book helpful as they consider the next stages in their child’s career.  Don’t Tell Me What to Do . . .  also has a good list of references at the end.  Parents who want to dig deeper into any of the topics covered will find guidance for further sources of information.

We recommend Don’t Tell Me What to Do, Just Send Money as a great reference for college parents or soon-to-be college parents.

About the authors:

Helen E. Johnson founded and directed Cornell University’s Parents’ Program and also directed the parents’ office at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  She has worked in higher education as a writer, career center director, assistant dean of students, and program manager.  She now works as a consultant helping college and universities create programs and services for college parents.  She is a graduate of Wells College and did graduate work at Ithaca College.  She is the parent of two college graduates.

Christine Schelhas-Miller teaches about adolescence and emerging adulthood at Cornell University and coordinates student advising.  She was previously an associate dean of students at Cornell and has worked in higher education for more than thirty years.  She consults with schools and parents on issues related to adolescent development as well as with universities on programs for first-year students.  She graduated from Bucknell University, and also has degrees from Indiana University and Harvard University.  She is the parent of two college and graduate school daughters.

What the authors have to say about the book:

“Now that you can easily communicate with your child all day, every day, it’s more important than ever that you consider how this involvement might affect your child’s progress toward developing his or her own identity and autonomous decision-making. . . While this is rarely a smooth journey, it is a critical period in which you, too, can learn to shift your approach and become a trusted guide and consultant as your child navigates the path to independent adulthood.”

“This book will help you understand your evolving role during the college years.  Through the use of real-life scenarios and dialogues that illustrate the challenges of college life, you will have an insider’s view of the academic and social scene on campus.  The practical, straightforward advice we offer will give you the tools you need to address those challenges appropriately and effectively.  Our perspective, grounded in sound developmental theory and research, as well as in years of professional work with college students and parents, also reflects our personal experiences in parenting our own college-aged children.”

What others have to say about the book:

“Don’t Tell Me What to Do, Just Send Money is down-to-earth, sensible, and wise.  The book offers firm direction, yet it is also full of warmth, humor, and hope.  It is brilliantly organized, useful, and fun.”

Russell Muirhead, Professor, Dartmouth College

“College may look like a great investment, but don’t let your children hit the quad without first making purchase of this wise, advice-filled book.  From helping your child prepare the dorm room through your child’s post-graduate years and the first job, this comprehensive book will provide the reason and reassurance you’re looking for.”

Denver Rocky Mountain News

 “In addition to humorous dialogues that permeate each chapter, this book is chock-full of sound, practical tips for reshaping relationships between parents and their emerging adult offspring and for coping with the challenges families face during this crucial time.”

The Christian Science Monitor

“This wonderful guide leads nervous parents through one of the most difficult transitions of their lives.  I wish a copy of this book could be sent to every parent who’s sending a child to college.”

                                             Susan Murphy, Vice President for Student and Academic Affairs, Cornell University

“This indispensable book provides practical advice to parents navigating the rough water of letting go of their children.  The authors’ honest dialogues and meaty analysis also guide parents who are sending their children to boarding school or summer camp.”

Thomas Hassan, Principal, Phillips Exeter Academy

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