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How to Raise an Adult - Julie Lythcott-Haims - Book Summary

Julie Lythcott-Haims was the dean of students at Stanford University. During her years at this role, she met many excellent students and saw that many of them are lacking the life skills that are needed to be an adult, and they were completely dependent or their parents to help them cook, do the laundry, negotiate grades, rent an apartment and so on.

In her book, she reviews how Helicopter parenting started: with baby boomers parents, who decided to improve on their parents’ way of parenting and put the child in the center, along with televised children’s abductions in the dawn of the 80s, the self esteem movement and the shift to working mothers - all leading to children having less time on their own, and along with the economic crisis causing parents to push children as much as possible to get them into the "right" college - children today do so much homework and extracurricular activities they don’t have time for anything else, and even when parents try to let their children do things on their own (like play unsupervised, or come home by themselves) people think they are neglected and can shame the parents or even report them to the authorities as neglectful parents just for being “free range parents”.

In the last few decades parents took the care for children to the next level: they choose their children activities,  move next to them when they are going for boarding school, negotiate grades in college, and even talk to their manager at work when they are not accepted or are not up for promotion. This does work in the short term - getting children better grades and better admission to college, and even a raise or promotion (if they don’t piss off the employer than in turn fires the now adult).

This situation is bad for everyone involved: children don’t get time to play by themselves, get bored or do chores around the house - which in turn gets them to be dependent on their parents, not have basic life skill, not have a sense of purpose (that is achieved by being alone and reflecting on your life). Children are stressed out and are more depressed. Parents are stressed out and have less time to sleep and be with their partners, and are more depressed (which in turn also increases the depression rates in their children as well). Children no longer have self-advocacy - they don’t feel confident and cannot handle tasks unless they are broken down to the smallest pieces for them.

As parents we can do many things to improve this: we can teach our children life skills, we can let them play by themselves unsupervised (safely, but not too safely),  allow our children to fail, and not save them whenever the situation is problematic and let them make their own decision - seeing them as their own person and not an extension of ourselves. Understanding that there is no need for children to go to only one of a handful of colleges and let them choose their own major and extracurricular activities that match their own interests. 

For more check out this illustrated clip or the author's TED talk.


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