How to Raise an Adult

As I mentioned a while back, I’m reading books again! It is so much fun; I forgot how much I enjoy reading. Here’s my first book review. I just finished To Kill a Mockingbird and am in the middle of another fun book, so more reviews to come!

I was introduced to the book How to Raise an Adult when an article on Facebook caught my eye. The article talked a lot about “helicopter parenting,” and how parents are so anxious for their kids to succeed that they help them do things that the child could reasonably do for themselves.  The article went on to mention that a former dean of Stanford, who had seen first hand the effects of over-parenting when she saw that freshman coming to their first year at Stanford were less and less able to do basic things for themselves, wrote this book. I decided to read it, and I am glad I did.

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It was eye-opening to think about what messages we are sending to our kids when we do things for them. When a parent takes over a science project for their third-grader, the parent may be thinking something like, “I am being a good parent by helping my child get a good grade. I am involved in my child’s education and this shows them how much I love them.” The child, however, might understand something more along the lines of, “My mom doesn’t think I am smart enough to do this on my own. Mom doesn’t trust me to do a good job.” The more we do things for our kids that they should be able to do for themselves, the more we are denying them a chance to grow and gain confidence in their own abilities. The book has a lot of good advice on how to find a good balance between helping too much and not helping at all.

I was really shocked at some of the examples the author gave of things that kids and young adults couldn’t do for themselves when they got to college because it had been done for them their whole lives. She told of 19- or 20-year olds who couldn’t do basic things like ask for directions or register for a class. She even told a story of a young man whose mom mailed him a few packages. The packages got delivered to the main entrance of the dorm room, and they were too heavy for him to carry up to his room by himself. They stayed there for a few days, until his mom called the dorm advisor and asked him to go help her son carry the boxes to his room. She explained that her son had called to tell her that the packages were too heavy for him to carry on his own, but that he didn’t know how to ask anyone for help.

Because the author of this book was a dean at Stanford, there was quite a bit of talk about the pressures of getting your child into a “good” college.   I can’t say that much of that applied to me, because, even though I hope Dimitri wants to go to college one day, I can’t say that I have ever once thought that he needs to get into Yale, Harvard, or Stanford or all will be lost. Apparently, there are some parents who think that way and put a lot of pressure on their kids even at a very young age. It was interesting to read that some parents justify doing basic things for their kids so that their child has more time to focus on homework and extra-curricular activities and has a better chance of getting into a good college. As a result, these kids have amazing grades, good SAT scores, and lots of talents and hobbies, but can’t make their own bed or make themselves a sandwich. I guess those chapters are geared more towards parents who have specific expectations for their child’s college education, but the rest of the book, in my opinion, is applicable to any parent.

Overall, this book was really interesting and I learned a few things about what I can do to help Dimitri learn and think for himself, and hopefully, one day turn into a confident, capable adult.