How To Raise An Adult | Review & Notes

Julie Lythcott-Haims. How To Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid For Success. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2015. (354 pages) Book Review;


When I mentioned to a member of my church that we were having Julie Lythcott-Haims come to speak on How To Raise an Adult, this person replied to me quite quickly, “Perhaps we can then learn to be adults ourselves.” They perhaps didn’t realize how apropos their comment was.

Lythcott-Haims has written a book, not on parenting (IMHO), but really on humaning.” That is not only a shift in semantics, but a fundamental paradigm shift of approach. It is a way of “doing family” with an eye on the long view, rather than the short-term, and a value for the autonomous human, rather than the dysfunctionally entangled parent/child relationship.

Lythcott-Haims has done extensive research–reading, interviews, articles–and has provided a tremendous guide for anyone wanting a clear and accessible way through the complicated and often anxiety-driven endeavor that is raising children. I greatly appreciate her dispelling of the myths, and the distillation of massive amounts of literature into accessible guides for busy and working families. I mostly appreciate her transparency as a parent herself, recognizing that the theory does not always meet practice when the rubber meets the road. And I deeply resonate and am thankful for the emphasis in the final chapter, summed up in the quip by my parishioner, that we (parents and caretakers) are commissioned to first learn to become adults ourselves.

Below are my notes with a few minor critiques and quibbles.



Caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar. (Traveler, there is no path. The path is made by walking.) – Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

…many of our behaviors also stem from fears; perhaps chief among them is the fear that our kids won’t be successful out in the world. … I’ve come to the conclusion that we define success too narrowly. And what’s worse, this narrow, misguided definition of success has led us to harm a generation of young adults–our children. (1)

In 1983, one shift arose from the increased awareness of child abductions. (3)

Another shift–the idea that our children aren’t doing enough schoolwork–arrived with the publication of A Nation at Risk in 1983 [also:ED226006].

A third shift came with the onset of the self-esteem movement–a philosophy that gained popularity in the United States in the 1980s that said we could help kids succeed in life if we valued their personhood rather than their outcomes. In her 2013 best-selling book The Smartest Kids in the World: and How They Got That Way, Amanda Ripley cites the self-esteem movement as a uniquely American phenomenon. (4)

And a fourth shift was the creation of the playdate, circa 1984. … Once parents started scheduling play, they then began observing play, which led to involving themselves in play. Once a critical mass of parents began being involved in kids’ play, leaving kids home alone became taboo, as did allowing kids to play unsupervised. (4)

Under-constructed. Existentially impotent. (6)

[“self-efficacy” is] …the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations – Albert Bandura

There’s a deeply embedded irony here: Maybe those champions of self-actualization, the Boomers, did so much for their kids that their kids have been robbed of a chance to develop a belief in their own selves. (7)

Why did parenting change from preparing our kids for life to protecting them from life, which means they’re not prepared to live life on their own? (7)

For our kids’ sakes, and also for our own, we need to stop parenting from fear and bring a more healthy–a more wisely loving–approach back into our communities, schools, and homes. (8)


1. Keeping Them Safe and Sound

[“helicopter parenting” is called by researchers,] “the world’s longest umbilical cord.” (14)

Raising a kid to independent adulthood is our biological imperative and an awareness of the self in one’s surroundings is an important life skill for a kid to develop. When we’re tempted to let our presence be what protects them, we need to ask, To what end? How do we prevent and protect while teaching kids the skills they need? How do we teach them to do it on their own? (14)

We perceive that our nation is a more dangerous place, yet the data show that the rates of child abduction are no higher, and by many measures are lower, than ever before. [cf. NISMART study and Five myths about missing children by David Finkelhor] (15)

It is a cruel myth that more and more children are going missing and that most missing children have been abducted by strangers. (15)

Free-Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy

Our definition of neglect has stretched to prevent parents from determining when their children are ready for even a modest amount of autonomy, and sacrifices developmentally appropriate skill building to fears of the unknown. … Ironically–and quite cruelly (if you pause a moment to think about it)–the unexamined harm these days is that our kids grow up believing that an evil stranger, a fellow shopper in the grocery store, or worse, a neighbor offering candy at Halloween wants to do them harm or that their own parent is putting them in harm’s way. (20)

I agree; it’s hard to navigate this cultural minefield. We’re talking about big fears and the overreaching control that follows, but what we’ve really got to ask ourselves is How much freedom does a developing human need? (21)

“the self-esteem movement” | “invasive parenting” [results in ] a “nation of wimps.” (23)

People who work with kids know that relational aggression is developmentally appropriate. Yes, it’s hurtful and mean-spirited and our parental instinct is to protect our children from harm. But kids need to learn how to get over being maligned. When you label another child a bully, particularly a little child, you’re imposing intentions that child simply isn’t developmentally capable of. … When you intervene on behalf of your child, your child becomes the victim. You’re expressing the message ‘You’re incapable, you’re not sturdy enough to resolve this yourself, you need me to come in and take care of this for you.’ – Ole Jorgenson

You are, in essence, disempowering your child. (24)

If you think about it, we worry when we don’t hear from our kids only because it is now possible to be in constant touch. (27)

Yes, we wince even when imagining harm coming to our kids, and it’s our job as parents to keep our children safe. But we should open our eyes to the many ways in which hypervigilance keeps them penned in from the more liberated life they deserve to live and that in turn would prepare them for adulthood. (28)

2. Providing Opportunity

In the kindergarten context, “redshirting” refers to the practice of keeping otherwise academically and developmentally ready child back one additional year to give them advantage in sports. (31)

…in 2000 the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement discouraging the practice of kids specializing in a single sport prior to adolescence. (32)

In 2011 the researchers [by Loyola University Health System] found that athletes who were injured “had a significantly higher average score on a sports specialization scale than athletes who weren’t injured.” Long hours spent pursuing one sport year-round means that sports injuries previously only seen in professional athletes are now on the rise in childhood. (32)

…the number of young children visiting the ER for concussions–whether from football, hocky, soccer, baseball, basketball, gymnastics, or cheerleading–has doubled in the past decade. [cf. Sports-Related Concussions on the Rise in Kids]

[via: I’m curious the kind/degree]

For we regular folk, leaving the office early or arranging to be back from a business trip just in time to get to our kid’s game has become proxy for having our priorities intact. It’s the new face of the 1980s “quality time” mantra. (33)

[via: Is this not a response to the absent parenting that existed, though? Yes?]

Friends often ask me for advice on getting their kid into an elite college. If they’re married or in a committed partnership I joke, stay together. It relieves some of the tension inherent in the conversation but it’s also based on fact; reviewing the forms of my incoming freshmen at Stanford in any given year, 70 to 80 percent of them seemed to come from two-parent homes. My quip about staying together is also a way for me to signal that the loving relationships we model for our kids play a huge role in our kids’ upbringing, sense of self, and ultimate success. (36)

…what matters most is that the activity be in furtherance of their kids’ actual–buzzword “authentic”–interests, that it be a deepening of something the kid is already curious about, or is something new but related to interests the kid already has. (37)

Yes we dream of our selves, of what we will become, but it’s the environment that tells us what is possible. I don’t think our dreams are limitless; they are bounded by the society we live in and its conception of what is respectable and good. – Chi Ling

We speak of dreams as boundless, limitless realms. But in reality often we create parameters, conditions, and limits within which our kids are permitted to dream–with a checklisted childhood as the path to achievement. (41)

As a dean I was getting quite good at telling other parents not to overdirect their kids’ lives, but as a parent, I was having a hard time following my own advice. (41)

[via: I appreciate this sentiment.]

…if we’ve taught our kids that there is one predetermined checklist for their lives, we may be constructing a path that is more about us than them. And a path that isn’t about them may be a path to nowhere. We have dreams for them, but musn’t shape the way they dream. (42)

3. Being There for Them

…today we don’t place much stock in the systems and authority figures governing the lives of kids. So we’ve created a role for ourselves, a position that’s partly personal assistant and partly like the role high-end publicists play int he lives of some Hollywood stars: observer, handler, and, often, go-between. (44)

Put simply, we don’t trust anyone. (44)

Some parents actually can’t stop; “being there” has become hardwired into us. It’s not just how we parent anymore; it’s who we are. (52)

But truth be told, sometimes we like to “be there” for our kids because their need–whether real, perceived, or manufactured–gives our lives purpose and meaning. (52)

…is it (53) our love we’re wearing on our sleeve, or our neediness? (54)

4. Succumbing to the College Admissions Arms Race

…it turns out it’s very hard for all but the most seasoned of teachers to stand up to a well-heeled parent wielding a glue gun. (59)

…anecdotally, school officials say the greatest disparities between the quality of work done at home versus in class–that is, the most frequent and egregious evidence that (65) parents are doing homework for their kids–occurs in honors, AP, or IB classes. Homework quality versus in-class work varies most greatly in classes like these because the stakes are so high–and many of us are doing our kids’ homework for them. (66)

Maybe we made a mistake because our kids are now in their thirties and they still want us to do their job search.

The lesson here is that even though we parents may one day be eager to exit the arms race–realizing, if belatedly, that our adult children ought to be able to handle things–we will have a hard time exiting the field. Our kids–accustomed to our involvement on all fronts–won’t have the wherewithal to handle things if we go. (71)

5. To What End?

Until rather recently an American childhood was filled with a wonderful set of freedoms. Kids not only survived, but grew up and thrived, and led our nation to become the greatest economic power the world has know. (72)

…I feel quite a measure of sadness that our kids are raised within the structures of our fears and expectations rather than with those remembered freedoms. I long for my kids to experience the childhood of the past, sensing that they–we, all of us–might be all the better for such free-(72)doms, even though my daily choices often contravene that desire. I wonder if that other childhood might still exist in pockets of this country–in places where life is less like a treadmill and more like a free run, less like a destination and more like a journey–and whether for the rest of us it is retrievable, recoverable, like retro fashion or furniture. … I think often that our kids’ childhoods are as much about us as they are about them. (73)

There is a side of contemporary American culture–fearful, litigious, controlling–that we do not brag about but that we reveal in our child rearing, and that runs contrary to our self-image as an open, optimistic nation. – Jon Grinspan

“There are two things children should get from their parents: roots and wings,” said German writer, poet, and philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. It’s time to start examining what it means to give our kid [sic] wings. It’s time to imagine what we hope they’ll be able to be and do when they’ve grown, left the nest, and gone wherever the wind takes them. It’s time to ask whether parents and children can love one another forever but lead separate lives, and what can be gained when that happens. (73)

But that isn’t the reality of the world we’re preparing them for. They don’t learn to make choices or to construct possibility from the vacuum of boredom. They don’t learn responsibility or accountability for their own behaviors. They don’t get the chance to stumble or build resilience. They feel supremely accomplished for things they really haven’t achieved on their own or, in the alternative, believe they are incapable of accomplishing things without us. And there’s no buffer from the stress. There’s no freedom. No play. Hell-bent on removing all risks of life and on catapulting them into the college with the right brand name, we’ve robbed our kids of the chance to construct and know their own selves. You might say we’ve mortgaged their childhood in exchange for the future we imagine for them–a debt that can never be repaid. (74)


6. Our Kids Lack Basic Life Skills

…if we think we’re raising children, then what we’ll have at the end is just that–children; instead, [Jim Hancock, in his 1999 book, Raising Adults: Getting Kids Ready for the Real World] urges that our task is to raise adults. It sounds obvious, but I’ve come to ask myself whether I or anyone for that matter knows what “being an adult in the world” actually means anymore, or how a child develops into that person. (77)

In a 2007 study published in the Journal of Family Psychology, researchers asked eighteen- to twenty-five-year-olds which criteria they felt were most indicative of adulthood. Their criteria were, in order of importance: (1) accepting responsibility for the consequences of your actions; (2) establishing a relationship with parents as an equal adult; (3) being financially independent from parents; and (4) deciding on beliefs/values independently of parents/other influences. (78)


1. An eighteen-year-old must be able to talk to strangers

The crutch: We teach kids not to talk to strangers instead of teaching the more nuanced skill of how to discern the few bad strangers from the mostly good ones. (81)

2. An eighteen-year-old must be able to find his way around

The crutch: We drive or accompany our children everywhere, even when a bus, their bicycle, or their own feet could get them there;… (81)

3. An eighteen-year-old must be able to manage his assignments, work-load, and deadlines

The crutch: We remind kids when their homework is due and when to do it–sometimes helping them do it, sometimes doing it for them;… (82)

4. An eighteen-year-old must be able to contribute to the running of a household

The crutch: We don’t ask them to help much around the house because the checklisted childhood leaves little time in the day for anything aside from academic and extracurricular work;… (82)

5. An eighteen-year-old must be able to handle interpersonal problems

The crutch: We step in to solve misunderstandings and soothe hurt feelings for them;… (82)

6. An eighteen-year-old must be able to cope with ups and downs of courses and workloads, college-level work, competition, tough teachers, bosses, and others.

The crutch: We step in when things get hard, finish the task, extend the deadline, and talk to the adults;… (82)

7. An eighteen-year-old must be able to earn and manage money

The crutch: They don’t hold part-time jobs; they receive money from us for whatever they want or need;… (82)

8. An eighteen-year-old must be able to take risks

The crutch: We’ve laid out their entire path for them and have avoided all pitfalls or prevented all stumbles for them;… (83)

If anything, today’s childhood feels dystopian, like some futuristic story where parents’ overprotection, overdirection, and hand-holding have been taken to their (il)logical conclusion. (85)

To live an ‘adult’ life, a meaningful life, it is necessary, I would argue, to engage in a kind of symbolic self-orphaning. – Terry Castle

One of the key life skills our children must develop, after all, is the ability to live without us. (86)

7. They’ve Been Psychologically Harmed

We don’t want our kids to bonk their head or have hurt feelings, but we’re willing to take real changes with their mental health? (87)

The increase in mental health problems among college students may reflect the lengths to which we push kids toward academic achievement, but since they are happening to kids who end up at hundreds of schools in every tier, they appear to stem not from what it takes to get into the most elite schools but from some facet of American childhood itself. (88)

You’re right to be thinking Yes, but do we know whether overparenting causes this rise in mental health problems? The answer is that we don’t have studies proving causation, but a number of recent studies show correlation. (89)

[via: I appreciate this wonderfully fair statement, providing an appropriate context.]

Here’s the point–… The research shows that figuring out for themselves is a critical element to a person’s mental health. Your kids have to be there for themselves. That’s a harder truth to swallow when your kid is in the midst of a problem or worse, a crisis, but taking the long view, it’s the best medicine for them. (92)

…three ways [by Dr. Madeline Levine] we might be overparenting and unwittingly causing psychological harm:

  1. when we do for our kids what they can already do for themselves;
  2. when we do for our kids what they can almost do for themselves; and
  3. when our parenting behavior is motivated by our own ego. (94)

[via: on pages 96-97, Lythcott-Haims discusses “Tiger Parents” and references “Everything My Asian Immigrant Parents Taught Me Turns Out to Be Wrong” by Frank Wu, and “Parent-Child Relations and Psychological Adjustment Among High-Achieving Chinese and European American Adolescents,” by Desiree Baolian Qin et al., in the Journal of Adolescence 35, no. 4. I noted that I appreciated this additional critique as context is critical to parenting results.]

[via: On page 99, Lythcott-Haims uses the term “existentially thin, automated” which I thought was a nice term.]

8. They’re Becoming “Study Drug” Addicts

Doctors and psychologists have had a hard time pinning down what exactly ADHD is. The diagnosis relies heavily upon the qualitative and highly subjective measure of what teachers and parents observe in a kid’s behavior. (103)

The practice of academic doping continues in college. (104)

If our kids are becoming chemically manufactured versions of their otherwise imperfect but quintessentially human selves, if they feel the need to do that in order to succeed in the world, when and where will this drug use end? (108)

9. We’re Hurting Their Job Prospects

None of us took a course called “how to hold your kid back,” but overparenting appears to be seriously poor preparation for life in the work world. (109)

The twenty-first-century workplace is global, fast-paced, and constantly shifting. To succeed requires taking initiative, solving problems, and bouncing back from adversity, now more than ever. (110)

As is often the case, our kids want us to just listen, and knowing we care and love them is enough to give them the reassurance that they can get back out there to do whatever it is they need to do. We can raise them to a healthy, self-actualized independence and still play this listening role in their lives. (116)

10. Overparenting Stresses Us Out, Too

At work we call it micromanaging versus empowerment. If I monitor every single tiny step of a person’s work in the office, they call that micromanaging; if I give someone a lot of rope and let them take risks and make decisions, they call that empowerment. If I’m empowering my employees, why would I not also empower my kids? – Don

Happiness and self-confidence can be the by-products of other things, but they cannot really be goals unto themselves. A child’s happiness is a very unfair burden to place on a parent. – Jennifer Senior

11. The College Admission Process Is Broken

Yes, college matters. But what seems to be causing much of the ramped-up, twenty-first-century stress about college admission is a sweeping misperception of which colleges matter. (130)

Borrowing from Freud, Bill Deresiewicz calls this ” ‘the narcissism of small differences’–the meaningless distinctions people make to feel superior to those who are exactly like them.” [cf. Excellent Sheep] (131)

I asked [Blaike Young] what she means by a restoration of childhood.

Freedom. You can’t have a summer anymore. You have to be working, interning. You can’t just enjoy it. You can’t just enjoy having no homework–that’s impossible. There’s no place where you can just be a kid. You’re tied down by everything. You can’t just have fun, be carefree for even a moment because you’re tied down to your phone, to school, to standards. There’s no room for spontaneity. You can’t go to the pool in the summer. It’s like, ‘No I have to go do work.’ You can’t be happy because you’ll feel guilty that you’re not doing something that’s defined as more important.

She feels like she’s been institutionalized. In some sense, she has. (134)

As for the value of the SAT in the college admission process, it purports to predict a student’s likelihood of success in the freshman year of college. Yet virtually every admissions dean I’ve spoken with takes issue with the SAT to at least some extent because it measures not aptitude but one’s ability to study for the test, which boils down to wealth. (135)

In 2007, PBS NewsHour‘s Gwen Ifill picked up on the brewing criticism of the rankings and interviewed U.S. News editor in chief Brian Kelly. She asked whether his college rankings issue “is a marketing tool … like a Sports Illustrated for academia swimsuit issue sort of thing?” Kelly replied, “You know, from our end of it, certainly we’re in business. We are a journalistic organization. We’re a publication, but we also make money. We sell the journalism that we produce, so we’re not shy about saying that. … But, you know, it’s a little bit out of our hands once the actual rankings are published. [“U.S. News College Rankings Debated,” PBS Newshour, August 20, 2007.] Ifill was wise to equate U.S. News‘s college rankings issue with Sports Illustrated‘s annual swimsuit issue; for each of those publications the fiscal health of the entire magazine franchise rests on that single issue. (137)

It comes to this: the elite have purchased self-perpetuation at the price of their children’s happiness. The more hoops kids have to jump through, the more it costs to get them through them and the fewer families can do it. But the more they have to jump through, the more miserable they are. … You think you’re screwing other people’s kids, but you also end up fucking up your own. – Bill Deresiewicz


12. The Case for Another Way

Parental love is piercing, fierce, and beautiful. It is hard to comprehend that we’ll be able to cope with our kids leaving home, let alone that at times we won’t even know where they are. Yet we gave them life. And life is to be lived. (143)

And we are mammals, after all. We may be mammals with clothing and cell phones; nevertheless, we are mammals. In the wild, our mammal counterparts raise offspring until they can fend for themselves. … In fact, it is the job of a mammal parent to put itself out of a job by raising offspring who will be able to thrive in the absence of the parent, and who in turn will be capable of raising the next generation. This is our biological imperative. But our fellow creatures are much better than we are at letting go. (143)

Self-efficacy means having the belief in your abilities to complete a task, reach goals, and manage a situation. It means believing in your abilities–not in your parents’ abilities to help you do those things or to do them for you. [Albert Bandura] (144)

Self-efficacy is about having a realistic sense of one’s accomplishments (neither overblown nor undersold). It’s about learning that when at first you don’t succeed you can indeed try, try again and you’re likely to make progress perhaps even to a point of recognizable achievement and maybe even to a point of mastery. Self-efficacy is different than self-esteem, which is the belief in one’s worth or value. Self-esteem influences self-efficacy, but self-efficacy is built by doing the work and seeing that success came from effort. (145)

…an adult social role is one that is intrinsically not about you. A wide range of things qualify, including being a parent, having a commitment to a vocation (job), or joining the military. Inherent in these adult social roles is that you have responsibilities and obligations beyond (145) your personal care and pleasure. (146)

The four types are described as follows:

  • AUTHORITARIAN: demanding and unresponsive. …“because I said so”
  • PERMISSIVE/INDULGENT: undemanding and responsive … They “give in” regularly and are reluctant to say no or to enforce consequences
  • NEGLECTFUL: undemanding and unresponsive … “hands off,” and at worst criminally negligent.
  • AUTHORITATIVE: demanding and responsive … These parents set high standards, expectations, and limits, which they uphold with consequences. They are also emotionally warm, and responsive to their child’s emotional needs. They reason with their kids, engaging in a give-and-take for the sake of learning. They give their child freedom to explore, to fail, and to make their own choices. (148)

13. Given Them Unstructured Time

[via: Portions of this section evoked more critical responses from me. For example, it is recommended to “sit on a bench and distract yourself with a book” (153) if you’re at the park with your kid. If this is a correction to helicopter parenting, perhaps. However, should this be the “rule?” It is also suggested to “Give your kid a cell phone.” (154) The rationale that you’ll then know where they are needs to be contextualized with what they will then have access to, and at what age, given our digital culture. There are examples of letting kids play by themselves a far distance from the home, but the example she gives is of a family from Menlo Park.

To be clear, I am all for and fully agree with valuing “free play,” (152), “letting your kid decide how and what to play,” (153) “[developing] a capacity to wince but not to pounce,” (153) “[creating] a culture of free outdoor play,” (154) and “[modeling] play.” (155) I’m also a big fan of creating “flow” (from the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi). I simply felt that some of the blanket suggestions were a bit contrarian to other ideas, and needed tempering with qualified and contextualized perspectives.]

Nancy Cotton…wrote a piece in the journal Child Psychiatry and Human Development that beautifully captures the four ways in which the arena of play develops competencies needed for adult work:

  1. Play provides the opportunity for children to learn, develop, and perfect new skills that build competence;
  2. Play is the child’s natural mode to master anxiety from overwhelming experiences of everyday life, which builds the capacity to cope with the environment;
  3. Play helps build the ego’s capacity to mediate between unconscious and conscious realities, which enhances ego strength; and
  4. Play repeats or confirms a gratifying experience that fuels a child’s investment in life. (160)

Keep a kid safe and create opportunity for a child to think independently and take risks, build character–that’s part of being a great parent. (161) [cf. Should parents let their kids take more risks?]

14. Teach Life Skills

“learned helplessness,” … describes how humans shut down when they feel they have no control over situations. (163)

In addition to lingering concerns about safety, one of the hardest aspects of letting our kids do the stuff of life for themselves is giving up on an ideal of perfection that we can most likely achieve but our kids most likely can’t. … Perfectionism is not only the enemy of the good; it is the enemy of adulthood. (174)

15. Teach Them How to Think

At its most basic, the term “critical thinking” means “thinking” itself, and can be understood simply as “figuring things out” and “applying knowledge to new situations.” (181)

Sure, I had my opinions on the various matters my students presented to me, but it wasn’t my job to come up with answers. My job was to ask a student good questions that opened her further to her self. I’d try to tease out the values underlying her ideas, her sense of her own strengths and areas for development, and her fears and her dreams. Then I’d help her interrogate the choices available in light of what she knew of her self. I was teaching her to develop a rationale for the choice she would ultimately make, rather than letting her fall back on the advice from an authority figure (me) or the rationale that she “should” do such and such because “everyone else is” or because “it’s expected that I will,” which often tumbles out of the mouths of young adults. It was both humbling and exciting to be in the presence of a human unfolding, thinking for herself, figuring things out. (194)

16. Prepare Them for Hard Work

A kid who does chores has a greater chance of success in life,… (197)

Since the 1990s, articles in Parents about chores have tended to focus on how to motivate kids to do chores with external rewards such as “points” to be “cashed in” for spending on toys or other items a child might like, whereas in the past, the articles spoke of chores as ongoing work necessary to the functioning of family life and on children feeling “pride in a job well done.” (199)

A work ethic, though, is about taking care of more than number one. It’s about pitching in to help in a situation even if there’s no direct benefit to you. (200)


  1. Model It.
  2. Expect their help. You’re not a concierge. You’re their first teacher:…
  3. Don’t apologize or overexplain. … But chores are an arena where the authoritative parent articulates the rules and values of the household. … Overexplaining makes you look like you feel the need to justify your request.
  4. Give clear, straightforward instructions.
  5. Give appropriate thanks and feedback.
  6. Make it routine.


  1. Be interested in the work itself.
  2. Be interested in paying your dues.
  3. Once on the job, be proactive and take the initiative.

17. Let Them Chart Their Own Path

…a sense of purpose is essential for achieving happiness and satisfaction in life. He defines purpose as a person’s “ultimate concern,” that which, when known, becomes a person’s ultimate answer to the questions “Why am I doing this?” and “Why does this matter to me?” (212)

Study what you love, and the rest will follow. (213)



  1. Accept that it’s not about you, it’s about your kid.
  2. Notice who your kid actually is
  3. Explore with diagnostic tools.
  4. Be interested and helpful.
  5. Know when to push forward, know when to pull back.
  6. Help them find mentors.
  7. Prepare them for the hard work to come.
  8. Don’t do too much for them.
  9. Have your own purpose.

There is something that’s a great deal more important than parental approval: learning to do without it. That’s what it means to become an adult. – Bill Deresiewicz

18. Normalize Struggle

A lack of resilience is common among addicts. (229)

There is no top. However high you climb, there is always somebody above you…I can tell you right now where you’re going to end up: somewhere in the middle, with the rest of us. – Bill Deresiewicz

In his book generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future, [Tim] Elmore writes about “seven lies” we’ve told to the Millennial generation: “You can be anything you want to be; It’s your choice; You are special; Every kid ought to go to college; You can have it now; You’re a winner just because you participated; and You can get whatever you want.” He asserts that these “lies” have led Millennials to reach adulthood “emotionally unstable and socially naïve.” For Elmore, being honest and straightfoward with kids build resilience. (233)


1. Be present in your kid’s life.

  • Show your love.
  • Take an interest in them.
  • Show them you care.

2. Also, back off.

  • Let them make choices and decide how to do things,…
  • Let them take risks and make mistakes.

3. Help them grow from experience.

  • After the experience, decision, or choice has been made, engage in a questioning dialogue to unpack what your kid learned from the experience.
  • Continue to set the bar higher.
  • Combat perfectionism.

4. Build their character.

  • Notice them being good.
  • Help them develop perspective.

5. Give specific, authentic feedback.

6. Model it.

19. Have a Wider Mid-set About Colleges

The truth is that most of us have no idea how to judge a college’s suitability for our kids. (243)

In my view, the parental thinking that leads to kids being dissatisfied with their college experience for no good reason is itself a product of the perspectives of our friend group, our ethnic and social communities, our professional milieu, and our families. This mountain of opinion about status, prestige, and worth (all couched as quality) makes us feel–fear–we can only really be proud of our kid–and perhaps ourselves–if our kid gets into one of the most highly selective schools. (244)

W’re obsessed with the brand name of colleges as if we’re teenagers obsessed with designer jeans all over again,… (249)

When more of us can start bragging about the great education our kids are getting at schools “no one has heard of,” our peers will start to pay attention and it’ll help them pull back their blinders and give their kids–all kids–permission to survey the fuller landscape of possibility and make the choice that’s right for them. (249)

[via: While I appreciate the sentiment here, I’m wondering if this is really a solution to the core problem. As stated, we’re up against a significant marketing machine, no doubt driven and fueled by the cultural cache that we put on these institutions. But simply “bragging” our way through feels to me, eh, not quite enough.]

College is a match to be made, not a prize to be won. – The Blake School in Minnesota

Indeed. The prize is when our kids go to a place that’s truly right for them and thrive. (261)

20. Listen to Them

The following is based on the APA’s “Communication Tips for Parents.”

Be available for your children

  • Notice times when your kids are most likely to talk — for example, at bedtime, before dinner, in the car — and be available.
  • Start the conversation; it lets your kids know you care about what’s happening in their lives.
  • Find time each week for a one-on-one activity with each child, and avoid scheduling other activities during that time.
  • Learn about your children’s interests — for example, favorite music and activities — and show interest in them.
  • Initiate conversations by sharing what you have been thinking about rather than beginning a conversation with a question.

Let your kids know you’re listening

  • When your children are talking about concerns, stop whatever you are doing and listen.
  • Express interest in what they are saying without being intrusive.
  • Listen to their point of view, even if it’s difficult to hear.
  • Let them complete their point before you respond.
  • Repeat what you heard them say to ensure that you understand them correctly.

Respond in a way your children will hear

  • Soften strong reactions; kids will tune you out if you appear angry or defensive.
  • Express your opinion without putting down theirs; acknowledge that it’s okay to disagree.
  • Resist arguing about who is right. Instead say, “I know you disagree with me, but this is what I think.”
  • Focus on your child’s feelings rather than your own during your conversation.


21. Reclaim Your Self

Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent. – Carl Jung

If you’ve ever mistaken your child’s achievements for your achievements, your child’s happiness for your happiness, your child’s life for your life–even if this confusion happens only every now and then–this chapter is especially for you. (276)

The research shows that kids think of parents as their heroes. They look (276) up to us more than they look up to any other adult figure in their lives. We are their biggest role models. but when they look up to us, can we be proud of what they see? (277)

We humans are at our most capable and are of most use to others when we’ve first looked after ourselves. (277)

All of the previous material in this book has addressed how to successfully raise your kid to adulthood. The question this chapter asks is Are you an adult? Do you take care of your basic needs, think for yourself, work hard, and make time for relaxation? Are you resilient? Do you chart your own path? Can you look past what others think is popular or best and make choices that feel right for you, all things considered? (277)


1. Discover your passion and purpose, and chart your path accordingly. Despite what you may think, your kid is not your passion. (278)

[via: Uh, YES SHE IS!!!! (Boy, I’ve got work to do! ;-))]

2. Learn to say no.

[via: Ugh. More work to do.]

3. Prioritize your health and wellness.

4. Make time for your most important relationship(s).

5. Interrogate your relationship with money.

6. Practice kindness and gratitude.


22. Be the Parent You Want to Be

If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change toward him… We need not wait to see what others do. – Gandhi

[cf. Falser Words Were Never Spoken by Brian Morton, NYTimes, August 29, 2011]

It really can seem to require Gandhi-like faith and fortitude to be willing to be the first in our extended family, our neighborhood, our kid’s school community, or our professional milieu to stray from the herd and stop overparenting. Who among us dares to go first? (287)


As parents our dream was to have a child, but we can’t forget that our children have the right to dream for themselves. (303)

Trust that you have the capacity to make good choices, and figure this parenting thing out largely on your own. Yes, this author of a book on parenting is saying you might want to stop reading so many books on parenting and give yourself a bit more credit–slow down, take a deep breath, look within, hug your partner, and hug your kid: Parenting doesn’t have to feel so hard anymore. You’ve got this. (304)

Join me in doing right by those children by leaving the herd of hoverers, by fostering independence, not dependence, and by supporting them in being who they are rather than telling them who and what to be. Together we can push the parenting pendulum back in the other direction: toward raising adults. (305)



About VIA

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