On September 18, Miami Palmetto Senior High’s PTSA hosted Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of the best-selling book How To Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap And Prepare Your Kid for Success. Published on June 9, this book has started a movement that essentially asks, “Are parents doing this child-rearing thing right when their one and only goal is preparing a child for success above all else?”
During the University of Miami-sponsored 90-minute speaking engagement, more than 250 concerned parents were treated to a fresh look of what parenting should aspire to be and some suggestions on how to get there.
As former Freshman Dean at Stanford University, Lythcott-Haims said she “had been given the gift of seeing thousands of results of modern parenting as freshmen arrived on campus” and that “she, in the interest of human beings, felt she should speak up.” Her message, in both the book and her speech, was hopeful and inspiring that parents could easily shift their methodology of child-rearing to produce far more effective and happy results.
She lamented that today’s kids live a “checklisted childhood”, filled with making certain grades, doing certain activities, joining certain groups and behaving a certain way to reach a “name-brand” college and win a coveted job. “Parents seem to think their job is to hover over their kids to make sure they are safe while they tick things off the list. Then they go to bed and repeat the next day.”
“18-22 year old college students used to hunger for independence,” explained Lythcott-Haims, “now they call, text and seek the help of their parents at every turn of college life.” She went on to say that while trying to be the best of the best, kids are now more interesting on paper than they are in person.
During the speech, Lythcott-Haims teared up a few times, recalling her own kids and how she caught herself doing the very same parenting traps that she now suggests people avoid. She was not the only one tearing up.
“If we are to reverse this trend, we need to learn just one very important process.” She then outlined a four-step process for teaching our kids. First, do it for them (while they watch). Next, do it with them. Following that, watch them do it alone. Finally, give them full independence by going away! “The overall job of a parent is to put yourself out of the parenting business.” She had a similar request of parents who dropped their kids off at collage: (a) trust the student, (b) trust the institution and (c) GO HOME!
Regarding higher education, Lythcott-Haims said parents should not seek “designer label” colleges just for the name. “The Harvards of the world don’t focus on undergraduate teaching. It is often a better situation to go to a second tier school that will turn out far better for the student.” She also took questions from the audience and answered with incredible insight. “Your question is not unique, there are thousands of parents in the same situation with their child. Remember, this is not about you…its about the will of your child and what makes them them.”
She further suggested that rather than following the U.S. News and World Report about the best colleges, we might find a better resource in 40 Colleges that Change Lives, a list of schools who's focus is on undergraduate education and has a track record of doing amazing things for their students.
Lythcott-Haims says a 2013 study of 100,000 students proves we need to do something different. Statistics show 84.3% of them felt overwhelmed and 60.5% consider themselves chronically sad. "We are smothering the life out of them," she claimed. "As parents, we shouldn't be messaging that our kids need us. We should instead focus on play time, down time and family time...the rest will work itself out."
You can read more about the book at http://www.amazon.com/How-Raise-Adult-Overparenting-Prepare/dp/1627791779. I highly recommend her book. Thanks again to the Palmetto PTSA! They did a great service to our community of concerned parents by bringing Julie Lythcott-Haims to our school.