How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success Hardcover – Jun 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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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.]
As a former teacher and a resident in one of the most competitive school districts in the country, I've seen first-hand the damage that overparenting and "helicopter parenting" can do, and Julie Lythcott-Haims' book provides a compelling, workable, un-preachy, and thoughtful approach to how to avoid this. In the crazy, pressure-cooker mix of raising kids, it's also incredibly comforting to have an alternative voice in the mix, one that is, at the same time, both pro-parent and pro-kid. I'm recommending it to my parent and teacher friends, as I think it's applicable to both.
I read the book because I love kids and am always interested in learning new ways to interact with them. Parents and grandparents take heed....nothing is guaranteed but this book gives you a way to not only ease up on your kids but also ease up on yourselves.
For those people who are well-informed on the topics of parenting and education, there aren't a lot of new ideas in Julie's book but she does a good job of putting all of the thoughts and concerns of other authors in one place (it has the feel of an author who is well-read on the subjects but who has limited original insights to offer). As the former Freshman Dean at Stanford, it isn't lost on her or the reader that she was part of a university entrance system that appears to be in need of a drastic overhaul. The herculean efforts required to get into brand name Ivy League schools appears to rob many kids of the fun that should be part of everybody's teen years. That an equally good education can be had at non brand name schools that are easier to get into is an interesting point and suggests that attending Harvard, Princeton, Stanford etc. is more about the value society attaches to these schools post-graduation rather than the molding of young minds.
I enjoyed the examples that are used throughout the book of parenting gone awry but it feels like they could have been drawn from a more diverse set of parents and students. It almost feels like Julie conducted interviews while standing on the sidelines of her kids' soccer games.
A good chunk of the book is targeted at people with an interest in the U.S. educational system, thus limiting its usefulness to me as a Canadian whose kids will likely attend a Canadian university. No doubt, there are highly sought after programs at highly sought after schools in Canada but thankfully, standardized test scoring such as the SAT is not a factor. Essays are creeping into the system but are still quite rare. Entrance is almost entirely based on marks from the last two years of high school and possibly a bit on extracurricular activities.
Finally, like so many of these sorts of books, it is probably three times longer than it needs to be. I read the whole book but by the end it felt like a slog. The concepts are pretty simple. We don't need to be beaten over the head repeatedly to get the point.
Would I recommend this to others? Well, I'm hoping my wife will read it, since she's around the kids the most and likely has a bigger impact on their day-to-day lives as a result. But I really am left wondering if the crux of the book is that we should revisit our own childhoods for clues on how to raise our kids. If that is indeed the case, perhaps a long essay in The New Yorker rather than an entire book would have sufficed. My parents would laugh at some of Julie's suggestions for "letting go" and allowing our kids to "get on with it" themselves. What passes for "free range parenting" today was just "'parenting" 40 years ago.
The author, the Dean of Students at Stanford, bemoans the number of kids with helicopter parents who can't cope with life when they arrive. But she doesn't seem to make the connection that most students aren't like that - just the ones that Stanford admits. In other words, the very things she rails against in the book are what her own institution actively encourages by admitting students whose parents do helicopter them.
Physician, heal thyself...