How To Raise An Adult

I think

if I make it to 40,

I can be pretty amazing.

Wendy Wasserstein, Uncommon Women & Others


Wandering Rome with my teen surrounded by magnificent sculptures, I imagine the discipline it took artists to mold hard stone into flowing robes and graceful figures. They give me a measure of comfort realizing that parenting teens requires as much patience and dedication–while remembering to keep our hands tied behind our back.

Why did parenting change from preparing our kids for life to protecting them from life? How has this shift left them unprepared to live life on their own?

Julie Lythcott-Haims sums up the effects of “helicopter parenting” from her observations as a parent and as an academic administrator working with college Freshmen in her book How To Raise An Adult.

The central aim of parenting has evolved to preparing children for success and every act of nurturing gets judged on the basis of whether it will usher a child toward a life of accomplishment or failure. This standard holds our everyday choices hostage to worries for their prosperity and future. As the New York Times article of Heather Hevrilesky puts it, “A child who soaks in the ambient anxiety that surrounds each trivial choice or activity is an anxious child, formed in the hand-wringing, future-focused image of her anxious parents.”

Much as we want to exempt our children from pain and suffering, Julie Lythcott-Haims underlines that learning through experience is the best way humans learn. If we don’t allow our children to suffer the tribulations of life, we are not doing our job of preparing them to be adults. It is necessary to hold our tongue and stay out of their way as they stumble, learn how to pick themselves up and arrive at their own answers.

This book is both pro-parent and pro-child, well researched, easy to read, and full of comforting and practical advice for parents walking the tightrope of being supportive without being controlling. Tough, I know!

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share what it takes for your to allow your children to figure things out on their own.







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