The Agnes Irwin School's Center for the Advancement of Girls welcomed Julie Lythcott-Haims to Speak About Her Book "How to Raise an Adult: Break Free From the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success."
New York Times best-selling author Julie Lythcott-Haims never intended to write a book about parenting. She earned a B.A. from Stanford University, a J.D. from Harvard Law School, and an M.F.A. from California College of the Fine Arts. She had options, but ‘parenting expert’ was not one of them. While serving as Stanford Dean of Freshmen and Undergraduate Advising, and Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, Lythcott-Haims came to deeply understand high-achieving college kids who were the product of overparenting, or helicopter parenting. She defines “overparenting” in three ways. First, being overprotective, like “bubble-wrapping” kids from life. Second, being fiercely directive about your child’s choices. Lastly, acting as a hand holder, or concierge, by doing too much to make your child’s life easier.
Over the years, she saw more and more high-performing students in front of her. However, in dialogue, she found they were unfamiliar with their true selves. “When I asked students why they chose a certain class or activity, they weren’t quite sure,” she said. “I could see their parents were increasingly involved with the day-to-day management of their lives and making decisions for them. This certain style of parenting is kind of messing up kids. Their mental health is suffering. There’s harm going on where parents feel a kid can’t be successful unless the parent is protecting and preventing struggles at every turn.”
Lythcott-Haims says that parents' hyper-focus about their kids’ choices and paths generally arises from love. “We overprotect because we love them. And we are afraid. We think the world is so impossible and changed. Somehow carrying our children on our shoulders throughout life will prepare them. But it won’t. Instead, we are undermining their sense of agency and resiliency.” There are so many paths to educational and career success. “We have to let the kids find it themselves,” says Lythcott-Haims.
Lythcott-Haims shared her 10-part pledge that she thinks parents today should make to their children:
- “I love you for you. It’s not about your achievements.”
- “It’s your life. Not ours. We are here to support you to figure out what you're good at and what you love and where you find a sense of belonging.”
- “Home is a respite from the noise of our work and school lives. I’ll ask you about what is good in your life, how your friends are, what you’re excited about.”
- “Your feelings are valid.”
- “I will let you solve more of your own problems, unless it’s an emergency.”
- “I’m going to stop getting into arguments with teachers, coaches, and referees. I will teach you how to speak up for yourself with respect.”
- “I am going to stop sharing your private information with the world. I will not put your life out there for others to consume. I will ask you before I share with others.”
- “I am not going to compare you to other kids or your siblings.”
- “What I ask of you is to be kind, work hard, do your chores, come home for dinner, and ask us for help anytime.”
- “I’m going to work on myself so you can have the parent you deserve. I will model what a healthy, vibrant adult life looks like by focusing on my adult relationships, and my own activities and hobbies.”