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How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success Hardcover – June 9, 2015
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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
“This book is the antidote to helicopter parenting. Lythcott-Haims’ research, combined with a decade of experience as a Stanford dean, makes for some important insights into the state of parenting in America today.”―San Francisco Chronicle
“[How to Raise an Adult] may just be the Black Hawk Down of helicopter parenting. Lythcott-Haims, who brings some authority to the subject as Stanford’s former dean of freshmen and undergraduate advising, has seen varieties of extreme parental interference suggesting not just a lack of common sense, but a lack of wisdom and healthy boundaries . . . .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
“[How to Raise an Adult] is refreshing in many ways, and as parents ourselves, we highly recommend it.”―The News & Observer
“This is such a terrific book. So incredibly timely. Parents will love it and devour it because it’s such a concern . . . instead of thinking about raising children, we need to be thinking about raising adults.”―CBS “This Morning”
“Lythcott-Haims breaks down the source of helicopter parenting habits, and uses studies and stories to illustrate the developmental, emotional, and psychological toll that overparenting can take on children. She also gives parents some constructive tips for stepping back and allowing the next generation of leaders to become fully formed adults.”―MSNBC “Melissa Harris-Perry”
“Julie Lythcott-Haims, I hope my child has a dean, teacher, others like you out there . . . Thank you for spreading this really important and powerful message.”―FOX “Fox & Friends”
“Reveals some terrifying truths.”―Telegraph (UK)
“At last, a parenting book I can get behind.”―The Independent (UK)
“Run, don’t walk to your nearest bookstore and get this book! It’s Malcolm Gladwell meets Paul Tough meets Madeline Levine in a fresh, timely take on raising excellent adults from former Stanford freshmen admissions dean and parent Julie Lythcott-Haims.Never preachy, and oh-so-relatable Lythcott-Haims is spot-on with her approach to parenting, over-parenting, and preparing your children for the adult world.”―Speaking of Apraxia
“How to Raise an Adult is a total no brainer to read if you have a kid in college, about to go to college, has ever gone to college, or will ever go to college. Seriously, if you are a parent with college in your future, current, or past - stop reading this blog post and go and find this book. . . . How to Raise an Adult is a gift to all of us who are educators, and to all of us who are parents.”―Inside Higher Ed
“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
“While the book aims to show us how to better raise adults, Lythcott-Haims also shows how this will make us better adults. . . .The timing of Lythcott-Haims wonderful book could not be better. The pendulum has swung away from helicopter parenting (just this week new research on the damage it does) and parents are looking for the guidance and insight in finding a better way. Lythcott-Haims offers readers just that.” ―Grown and Flown
“Lythcott-Haims ... makes compelling arguments for why we need to break our current habits. Unlike so many other college parenting books, however, How to Raise an Adult contains practical suggestions for an alternative way of parenting and then encourages us that it is possible to function differently.” ―College Parent Central
“This book will constantly be a guide . . . . Now that I have read [it], I will be aware of the fact that as a parent I am going to raise a responsible well-adjusted adult who will be able to thrive in the real world; not a child who will need support all her life.―Diva Likes
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. A mother of two teenagers, she has spoken and written widely on the phenomenon of helicopter parenting, and her work has appeared on TEDx talks and in Forbes and the Chicago Tribune. She is pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at California College of the Arts in San Francisco.
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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.]