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.