Thursday, August 13, 2015

How To Raise An Adult: The Parenting Book We All Need

I just finished this book and I found a few weeks ago at my favorite bookstore Keplers. I couldn't wait to share it here and it's the perfect timing for it.

 It's back-to-school time and for so many kids and parents it's back to stress, strain and pressure that accompanies life in the overachieving Bay Area and many other parts of the country. Do you want to raise kids that will get into Stanford or kids that are happy? Most of us would say happy, but are we walking the walk? With a college entrance system that is horribly broken, high schoolers jumping in front of trains, and parents who spend their days cultivating perfect people, we need to all take a step back. Thankfully some reason and common sense has entered the fray in the form of this brilliant book:





Written by the former dean of freshman at Stanford, How to Raise An Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success, is the book we need now. During her time at Stanford,  Julie Lythcott-Haims observed each successive freshman class coming in more dependent on parents and unable to cope without without consulting them, often many times daily thanks to a culture of overparenting. She says our job is not to get our kids into a prestigious school, but raise adults who can be self-reliant.

 I could have used this wisdom years ago. As the parent of an incoming senior I cannot tell you how much I've worried, fretted and finally had to jump off the crazy train that accompanies high school college prep. It's hard to see the forest for the trees sometimes though in communities like ours.  Parents can quickly feel they need to do what everyone else is doing or their kid may get left behind and it'll be all our fault for not doing ,'enough.' This book says forget that.

Filling children's days with sports, then select team sports, lessons, and tutoring in a 'checklisted childhood,' as she so rightly calls it, is doing children and ourselves no good and only raising kids with anxiety and unhappiness.  Lythcott-Haims calls this the raising of 'bonsai trees vs. wildflowers.' This cultivation of children sends the message that only grades and achievement matter and free time needs to be filled with mastering things. It's creating young adults who are unable to think for themselves, know themselves and find happiness or success later in life.


Lythcott-Haims says what they need is real life. Kids need some adversity. They need freedom and free-ranging. They need time to daydream. They need failure and they need struggle. Taking this all away and smoothing the path leads to kids who can't cope with life's curve balls.

 It's scary navigating the messed up college entrance system and this book has much enlightening and good thought here as well. It's especially helpful to get high schoolers thinking about the OTHER wonderful school out there, and not aiming for the name brand ones, rather the right one for them.

Parents need to realize the path to a happy life is not perfect grades, an elite college and landing a prestigious job. The most satisfied people may be those who get there via a more crooked path, and are able to enjoy and learn from the journey. This book will help you keep your sanity and your perspective in an age of competitive parenting.

  Thanks Julia Lythcott-Haims for this message and inspiring book.  Let's keep this mind-set going. Please share this book with others!

Kim





Photos of crooked path and wildflower in Big Sur- NorthernCalStyle

8 comments :

  1. I have a senior in HS as well and a sophomore and have many friends on the mommy track of holding on so tight. We've always encouraged and supported their talents and interests we've worked hard at letting them find their paths. While they are very different from each other I am most proud of their values and who they are as people. To me, grades, awards, etc are meaningless if the person is without compassion and gratitude. When I told my cousin, a mom of 2 daughters, that I was having a second son, she said good - "the world needs you to raise good men". That was over 15 years ago and she was right. Our focus - good men, kind, hard working, caring, competitive in a good way - men. The job of being a parent is never done, but it sure does change over time. I think I'll be holding my breath for the health, happiness and safety until the day I die.

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    1. Julie, I totally agree that each kid is wired so different we need to help them find their own special path. I think raising kids with kindness, caring and thoughtfulness means the world and will take them everywhere and lead to a good life. You sound like a great mom Julie! It's especially important we make sure young men have these values as they seem to be the most troubled in this world today.

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  2. Good job, Kim! Thank you for reminding us to trust ourselves and not always worry about what all the crazies out there are doing. We can be so busy keeping up with Joneses that we forget we are NOT the Joneses.

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    1. Nadia, Well said! It's that Jonses thing that is making us all so miserable! Why are we striving so hard to be like everyone else?

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  3. I wish this book was available 8 years ago when my daughter graduated high school. We watched and learned just in time that what was expected was not necessarily the best. She attended a prep school that actually announced at graduation the school each child got into so every parent was panicked that when their name was called no one would clap! She spent her freshman year at a very pretigious and expensive college and thankfully had the guts to tell us that she did not want to return after her first year. Many of her friends who felt the same way were not given the freedom to change their minds, completed school and are now trying to decide what to do with their life and find a job that will enable them to repay those incredible school loans. Our daughter came home, enrolled in the local JC and has still not finished her degree but is working in a job/career that she loves, earns a nice living, is respected at work and by her clients and isnt that what it is all about. While we hope she completes her degree, that is totally up to her. Fortunately we started our child rearing with the goal of producing a self-reliant and self-confident and compassionate adult and that is exactly what she has become. I wish so many parents could learn this lesson in time and maybe this book will help. But school administrators and teachers need to read it as well. thanks for sharing...I am going to order it immediately.

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    1. Wow Diane your letter really says it all. I cannot even imagine that graduation where the colleges were read!! How much pressure was that? Sounds almost criminal. You obviously did a good parenting as your daughter felt she could tell you this was not the school for her. Kudos to her for finding another way and it sounds like she's already on the path to a happy and successful life! Thank you for sharing this story. We need to hear more like it. Yes we also need school administrators and teachers to help fix this culture of perfection. Your school was a prime example of perpetuating the stress with that ceremony. Thanks so much for sharing! Kim

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  4. Parents need to start teaching that little 'Sticks & Stones' saying again rather than always seeking opportunities to take offense.

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  5. Oh how I wish I'd read that book when my kids were younger!!! It sounds like terrific wisdom. We bombarded our kids with activities. Stressed them and us out!!
    Hope your summer is going well.
    XXJen
    Lunch next week?

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