pediatric housecalls Robert R. Jarrett M.D. M.B.A. FAAP

Julie Lythcott-Haims: How to raise successful kids — without over-parenting

Julie Lythcott-Haims is a Harvard lawyer but we’ll try not to hold that against her; mainly, because she is also the mother of two teenagers and deserves some slack. Her other life experiences are being married (to the same husband) for over 25 years despite living in silicon valley and caring for her elderly mother. Oh, yea, and she’s the author of the NY Times best selling book: How to raise an adult written while she was dean of freshmen for 10 years at Stanford.

High Expectations and Micromanaging
NOT how to raise an adult

The dean of freshmen at Stanford, Julie Lythcott-Haims, will tell you about her discoveries regarding helicopter parenting based on her experiences with students and her two teenage sons.

“By loading kids with high expectations and micromanaging their lives at every turn, parents aren’t actually helping,” she observes with passion and wry humor. She asks parents to “stop defining their children’s success via grades and test scores.” Instead, she says, “they should focus on providing the oldest idea of all: unconditional love.”

We called it “over-coercion” when I studied psychology in school–it’s the same thing with the same results no matter what you call it and when it occurs and often leaves a fledgling adult wondering “Will this life ever turn out to be worth it?”

It’s as if parents are just afraid they (the kids) won’t have a future they can brag about to their friends and put stickers on the car bumpers about. Sort of: “hey kid, I don’t think you can achieve any of this without me.”

From her talk:

When we treat grades and scores and accolades and awards as a purpose of childhood all in furtherance of some hoped for admissions to a tiny number of collages or an entrance to a small number of careers—and even though we might help them achieve some short term wins by over helping—all of this comes at a long term cost of sense of self.

We should be far more concerned that they have the mind-set, the skill-set, the “well”-ness [and I add the “will”-ness] to be successful wherever they go.

Our kids need us to be a little less obsessed with grades and scores and a whole lot more interested in childhood providing a foundation for their success—built on things like: love… and chores.

The longest longitudinal study of humans ever conducted (called the Harvard grant study) found that professional success in life (what we want) comes from having done chores as a kid – and the earlier you started the better. That a roll up your sleeves and pitch in mind-set—a mind set that there’s some unpleasant work, someone’s gotta do it, it might as well be me— a mindset that says I will contribute my effort to the betterment of the whole – is what gets you ahead in the work place.

Happiness in life comes from Love – not from love of work – love of humans. Childhood need to teach our kids love in all aspects. They need to matter to us as humans – not because of their GPAs –

“I was treating my little Saywer and Avery like little Bonsai trees. But I’ve come to realize, after working with 1000s of other peoples kids, that my kids aren’t Bonsai trees, they’re wildflowers—of an unknown genus and species and it’s my job to provide a nourishing environment to strengthen them through chores and to love them so that they can love back — and to support them to become their glorious selves.”


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