This summer I read How to Raise an Adult, written by Julie Lythcott-Haimsa, a former dean at Stanford University. She also has a compelling TED Talk by the same name.
Lythcott-Haisma writes of the disturbing trend she’s seen with students entering college without having had the opportunity to advocate or work through problems for themselves. This book has shined a spotlight on my tendency to clear the way for my children, often robbing them of important moments where they could learn through failure or difficulty in a safe environment. If I want my children to learn how to figure anything out on their own, I need to give them actual opportunities to do so.
Lythcott-Haisma writes about her own parenting journey:
“It was freshman orientation 2009 and in that year as in every other, I’d give a talk to parents, the purpose of which was to embrace parents, empathize with the big transition they were experiencing, and ask them to go home. Trust your kid is capable, I’d say (i.e. stop doing everything for them). They’re ready to engage this opportunity they’ve worked so hard to earn, (Stop interacting with the university on their behalf). As I recall it I never actually wagged my finger at parents but inside I was thinking Come on folks, back off. This is college now. Go away. In 2009, the day after giving that annual speech, I came home from work, sat down for dinner, and reached over and began cutting my kids’ meat. They were 8 and 10 years old. And it was like all of a sudden I was being visited by Dickens’ Ghost of Christmas Future. If you want your kid to be independent at 18, at some point you have to stop cutting their meat. I sat bolt upright. When do you stop cutting their meat? When do you stop looking both ways for them as they cross the street? When do you stop helping with homework? When do you let them talk to strangers? I realized I was still treating my kids like little kids. They never went anywhere alone. They did no chores. They had no responsibilities. I praised every little thing. A day earlier I’d been tsktsking my students’ parents about not letting go, not letting their kids be independent, and now I realized I was fostering tremendous dependence in my own kids with no end in sight. Was I in danger of being one of those parents who couldn’t let go when my kids were in college? What, me?”
It occurred to me at some point that this book resonated with me partly because it advocates for parenting in the way most of our parents raised us. You may not agree with all of her book (I don’t), but it will definitely have you closely evaluating your parenting style.
As always, I am so thankful God does not call us to parent alone. It’s good to be in this together.
Head of School