How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success (Holt, 2015), by Julie Lythcott-Haims, is the best book ever written about the kind of overparenting that has produced the struggling young adults of the Millennial generation.
The mother of two young adults and former dean of freshmen at Stanford University knows what she’s talking about. She’s done her homework; the book cites hundreds of studies, interviews, and stories that shock and convince. No other book has so thoroughly identified the reasons for this flawed parenting trend. Parents need to know that by over-managing a child’s path to success, they are making this success impossible.
One of the stories from the book comes from Ellen Nodelman, academic dean at Rockland Country Day School, where she has served for over 40 years: “A good half of the kids who could take the bus are driven by a parent. Rather than just drop kids off, parents of younger students will sometimes come inside the school with their kids, and some want to come right into the classroom with them. We try to keep them from coming beyond the main lobby. If they could do what they wanted they would spend the whole day in class with them. We’ve had some ask.”
What most parents fail to understand is that their child won’t magically engage vital strengths and skills such as grit, resilience and a strong work ethic, simply because their parents managed to get them into one of the “best” schools. A young adult will display these behavior patterns only if they are practiced and reinforced consistently throughout youth, and this won’t happen if parents are intervening and doing the hard things for the child.
In short, helicopter parents may be raising smart adults, but they are weak, indecisive and dependent adults, people in their mid-twenties who still need their parents to be full partners in their success. This is the kind of prospective employee that organizations have no use for.
Fully half of her book focuses on what well-intentioned parents need to do differently:
- Give kids unstructured time
- Teach life skills
- Teach them how to think
- Prepare them for hard work
- Let them chart their own path
- Normalize struggle
- Have a wider mindset about colleges
- Listen to them
How to Raise an Adult is a parenting book for our times. If anything can get the attention of helicopter parents and convince them to take another approach, it’s this book. For another summary, check this interview with the author.
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