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How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success Paperback – August 2, 2016
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“This is the stuff of the best parenting advice . . . . A worthwhile read for every parent . . . . Our children are engaged in the serious work of becoming an adult. With this book, Lythcott-Haims provides the missing user manual.” ―The Chicago Tribune
“Lythcott-Haims offers anecdotes of parents touring graduate schools, serving as mouthpieces for heir shy, passive children, and submitting résumés to potential employers, sometimes without their children's knowledge. These behaviors do more than mold kids into dependent beings, she argues; they corral and constrict their possibilities and their imaginations. . . . When parents laugh and enjoy the moment but also teach the satisfaction of hard work, when they listen closely but also give their children space to become who they are, they wind up with kids who know how to work hard, solve problems and savor the moment, too. In other words, get a life, and your child just might do the same someday.” ―The New York Times Book Review
“In her easy-to-read prose . . . . the author does a superb job of laying out the facts . . . . Her advice is sound and obviously much needed . . . if parents want to raise productive adults.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Lythcott-Haims presents a convincing vision of overprotected, overparented, overscheduled kids . . . . After presenting the problem in detail (through interviews with college admissions officers, educators, parents, and others), she offers a number of viable solutions . . . . This vigorous text will give parents the backup needed to make essential changes.” ―Publishers Weekly
“Julie Lythcott-Haims is a national treasure. She is a psychologist, sociologist, and anthropologist rolled into one, recording the attitudes and rituals of 21st-century smart kids who can't tie their shoelaces--and of their anxious, hovering parents. Reminding us that we are charged with transforming children into adults capable of meeting the challenges of life head-on, Lythcott-Haims dispenses compassion and a good kick in the pants in equal and appropriate measure. Witty, wise, and dead-on, Lythcott-Haims is a tonic for what ails this generation of kids and parents. A must-read for every parent who senses that there is a healthier and saner way to raise our children. ” ―MADELINE LEVINE, author of the New York Times bestsellers The Price of Privilege and Teach Your Children Well
“Have the good intentions of American parents gone awry? In this timely and bracing work, Julie Lythcott-Haims chronicles the many dangers of overparenting--from thwarting children's growth to hurting their job prospects to damaging parents' own well-being. Then she charts a smart, compassionate alternative approach that treats kids as wildflowers to be nourished rather than bonsai trees to be cultivated. For parents who want to foster hearty self-reliance instead of hollow self-esteem, How to Raise an Adult is the right book at the right time.” ―DANIEL H. PINK, author of the New York Times bestsellers Drive and A Whole New Mind
“I've loved this book from the moment I saw the title. Julie Lythcott-Haims understands that the goal of parenting should be to raise autonomous adults, not have name-brand college admissions to brag about. Her double perspective--as a mother of teenagers and a former longtime freshman dean at Stanford--makes her uniquely equipped to show parents how to do exactly that. Wise, honest, compassionate, and deeply informed, How to Raise an Adult ought to be at the top of everybody's stack of parenting books. ” ―WILLIAM DERESIEWICZ, author of the New York Times bestseller Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life
About the Author
Julie Lythcott-Haims served as dean of freshmen and undergraduate advising at Stanford University, where she received the Dinkelspiel Award for her contributions to the undergraduate experience. She has spoken and written widely on the phenomenon of helicopter parenting, and her work has appeared on TEDx talks and in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. Julie holds a BA from Stanford University and a JD from Harvard Law School, and is pursuing an MFA in writing from California College of the Arts. In addition to nonfiction, she writes creative nonfiction, poetry, and plays. She resides in Palo Alto, California, with her husband, their two teenagers, and her mother.
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It is true that the author's world is that of the privileged elite and that her book speaks primarily to parents in this socio-economic class. However, many of the issues she describes are applicable across all social and economic strata if in slightly different ways.
I worked for many years at a nursing school that admitted students who were solidly middle class, not members of any elite. Because our tuition was less expensive than the universities that surrounded us we also had a fair number of students who would generally be classified as poor but ambitious and upwardly mobile.
My experience with the majority of our students was fine. They worked hard and succeeded according to their abilities. However, there was an appreciable number of students [25-40%] who would have fit very well in Ms. Lythcott-Haims book. I remember vividly one student (21 years of age)who came into her interview with her mother. The mother refused to leave the interview and answered every question for her daughter. The daughter simply sat there. Whenever I asked the applicant a question she looked at her mother and said nothing. This situation was not really that uncommon. Parents frequently showed up at interviews. If they didn't come to the interview - many called. Mostly these parents told me how wonderful their child was, how caring and well suited for the nursing profession they were. Every year you had students who filled out their application to the program saying they wanted to be a nurse because their mother told them it was the right profession for them.
All too usual were the students whose parents threatened legal action because their child failed a course, and the ones who brought lawyers to the school because their child failed out of the program. There were students who thought they were entitled to good grades because they did well in high school, and ones who thought everything that happened at the school was about them and their wishes. If they got a bad grade it wasn't because they didn't study, it was because the teacher didn't like them, or the test was unfair, or it was raining outside. Nothing was ever these kids faults. Then you had the ones we all regretted - kids who would have made great nurses, but who gave up because they couldn't accept any grade less than an A and so they just walked away. You also had plenty of kids who had great grades - they could do anything you asked academically, but when you put them in a clinical setting they froze. Some of these students had to be told over and over again what to do in the clinical setting. They never took any initiative; they never had any confidence. They always had to have an instructor holding their hands. Some of these students grew up in clinical; some of them quit school because the stress of having to act in the clinical setting was just too much.
The problems described in How to Raise an Adult are found in all levels of society now and my fear is that the problem is growing. The issues of immaturity that are common in elite schools are becoming ever more common all along the educational ladder.
The book crosses genres: it’s both an in-depth research-journalism treatment of the problem, as well as a how-to guidebook outlining specific ways to help resolve it.
The first third of the book covers the problem from all angles: historical, sociological, cultural, psychological, and economic. Although there are extensive bibliographical notes at the end, the book covers these concepts in a style that demonstrates good journalism more than in-depth academic research. Well-educated readers will find the book easy to read, entertaining, and compelling. But it’s important to note that Lythcott-Haims is not a sociologist, nor is her book meant to be an academic treatise. She should probably be considered a concerned academic administrator who saw a significant problem in the college-aged population she served and it worried her enough (both as an administrator and as a recent parent) to investigate it further on her own and write a book about it.
The book is definitely aimed at well-educated and affluent parents. As you will learn in the book (and I certainly do not have the time here to explain it further), helicopter parenting is a phenomenon that primarily effects the high-end of the socioeconomic ladder.
In the first third, she outlines the problem, focusing both on the various cultural and sociological phenomena that have caused it, as well as the societal, economic, and psychological damage that it is causing. It is this first section that interested me the most. In it, the author gathers a great deal of evidence to support her ideas. These trends have been playing out slowly in virtually every facet of life in America over the last three decades, pushing us toward this new style of parenting. What I found fascinating about her analysis is that this is almost exclusively an American phenomenon. It is not happening in other highly civilized Western-style cultures. The problem is ours and the damage (to our children and society at large) is our own. The author makes a strong case for this and backs it up with extensive bibliographical notes and interviews.
She approaches evidence more like a lawyer than an academic. She relies heavily on interviews with experts. Perhaps she does it this way because she is a lawyer. After graduating from Stanford, she earned a law degree at Harvard and practiced corporate law. Then she left her law career to return to Stanford where she served in various administrative positions including Dean (and later Associate Vice Provost) of Freshmen and Undergraduate Advising. It was in that position where she became alarmed about the growing number of Stanford freshmen who appeared incapable of maturing into adulthood. It is also at that time that she became a parent herself and felt the intense pressure to conform to helicopter-style parenting.
In the last two-thirds of the book, the author discusses steps that parents can take to raise a child who should have no difficulty mastering adulthood when the time comes. This is the “how-to” sections of the book. The course that is outlined is brave, reasonable, and creative; however, parenting outside the cultural norm will always be an enormous struggle.
[As a side note, it is interesting to know that in June of 2012, Lythcott-Haims left Stanford to enroll in a master of fine arts program. Her goal was to prepare herself for a new career in writing. This is her first book since she switched gears to become a writer.]