image of cover of book titled How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haimes

How to Raise an Adult

book review parenting

I just finished reading How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims and it provides some solid parenting advice. The author shows the ways that overparenting harms children, their parents, and society at large and offers practical alternative strategies for raising kids to be self-sufficient, resilient, and successful.

What parent doesn’t want that?

Despite that, I don’t think everyone will love this book. It’s called an anti-helicopter parenting manifesto and there is plenty Lythcott-Haims presents that will, quite frankly, hit too close to home for some people. You’re a helicopter parent, you say? Well, the truth could hurt, but I also think there’re some nuggets of wisdom for every parent.

She frequently references parenting in middle-class and upper-middle-class areas of the country because she lives in Palo Alto, California. That is part of Silicon Valley, which is a place where parents tend to push their kids hard to achieve. I live and work at the southern tip of the same county and can attest that the helicopter parenting tendencies she writes about are very real.

Regardless of geography, I was intrigued to read and be reminded of the difference in how I was raised compared to how I raised my kids and how I observe the ways that many people parent now.

Rather than review the book, I’ll share points that really resonated with me and simply encourage you to read it yourself. Are you a helicopter parent? Maybe you don’t know or can’t admit that you are. Maybe you know and love being a helicopter parent. Either way, there are likely points in the book worth considering.

This was the crux of it for me:

Parental vigilance and technology buffer the world for our children, but we won’t always be there to be on the lookout for them. Raising a kid to independent adulthood is our biological imperative and an awareness of the self in one’s surroundings is an important life skill for a kid to develop. When we’re tempted to let our presence be what protects them, we need to ask. To what end? How do we prevent and protect while teaching kids the skills they need? How do we teach them to do it on their own?

She wrote about the “checklisted childhood” and that there is no room for boredom. I know we can relate! 

There’s nothing inherently wrong with a checklist of things to be accomplished to set ourselves up well for the next thing in life; to be successful we have to set goals and work hard to reach them.

But if we’ve taught our kids that there is one predetermined checklist for their lives, we may be constructing a path that is more about us than them. And a path that isn’t about them may be a path to nowhere. We have dreams for them but mustn’t shape the way they dream.

Are we shaping the way our daughters dream? That struck a nerve with me!

With the ultimate goal in mind of our kids being successful in an increasingly competitive world, we bring a “no mistakes” mentality to our kids’ childhoods and we do our part by accompanying them and controlling as many outcomes as we can. We fear they simply won’t be as successful without our involvement.

And this.

When children aren’t given the space to struggle through things on their own, they don’t learn to problem solve very well. They don’t learn to be confident in their own abilities, and it can affect their self-esteem. The other problem with never having to struggle is that you never experience failure and can develop an overwhelming fear of failure and of disappointing others. . . . Here’s the point . . . The research shows that figuring things out for themselves is a critical element to a person’s mental health. Your kids have to be there for themselves. That’s a harder truth to swallow when your kid is in the midst of a problem or worse, a crisis, but taking the long view, it’s the best medicine for them.

And other points.

  • The core of the self is self-efficacy.
  • Letting go of perfect.
  • Tips for teaching your kids to think for themselves.

That’s only half the book. I underlined and wrote in the margins and post-it noted the whole thing and wanted to share the book with everyone I know who currently parents tweens and teens.

I do recommend this book. If you read it, let me know what you think.