Advice on how to parent less

Former Stanford dean of freshmen and Palo Alto parent explores the harm of overbearing parents

Five years ago, Julie Lythcott-Haims, then the dean of freshmen at Stanford University, addressed a crowd of brand-new freshman parents at an orientation dinner. She told them to trust in the skill set they had instilled in their sons and daughters and have faith in the university of which they were now a part. And then compassionately yet emphatically, she told them, "Now, please go home."

She said this in 2009, years after she and her colleagues at Stanford and at universities around the nation had started to notice an ever-growing creep of parental involvement into college students' lives. Parents were "showing up and not leaving, literally or virtually," she said, helping their students to register for classes, choose a major or extracurricular activities or solve a problem when something went wrong with a teacher, a roommate or a grade.

A mere 24 hours after her orientation dinner speech, Lythcott-Haims discovered this creep in her own home. She was having dinner with her husband and two young children, who were then 8 and 10 years old. She leaned over, started cutting the meat on her 10 year old's plate and realized she was on track to be the very parent she had wagged her finger at the night before.

"I looked around and realized there are equivalents of cutting his meat everywhere," Lythcott-Haims said in an interview with the Weekly. "When do you stop holding their hand? When do you stop crossing the street with them? When do you let them talk to strangers? When do they walk some place alone? All of a sudden I understood why 18-year-olds might be showing up a little bit more attached to mom or dad if these tiny micro-steps toward independence had not been taken along the way."

Lythcott-Haims, now the parent of two Gunn High School students, left her post at Stanford in 2012 to document the broad-reaching harms of overparenting, which she saw, most alarmingly, leading to a "decline in hunger to be the self" in the young men and women at Stanford and beyond.

The product is Lythcott-Haims' new book, "How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success." Due out June 9, the book offers in-depth history, research, anecdote and advice on, essentially, how to parent less.

The book begins with a reflection on the childhood of yesteryear, when kids ran free after school, "sport was for sport" and "play was for play." Kids, including Lythcott-Haims herself, had what she describes as a "free-range childhood." This is compared to the "checklisted childhood" of today within which "Boredom doesn't happen. It isn't on the schedule," she writes.

Lythcott-Haims ended up in Palo Alto in 1985 as a freshman at Stanford. She left to attend Harvard Law School but later returned to serve as associate dean for student affairs at the Stanford Law School. Four years later, she became the university's first-ever dean of freshman, charged with overseeing the new students' transition into college. And even before that, she had noticed the trend of "parents coming and not leaving" and students being grateful for rather than rejecting their mothers' and fathers' extensive support.

In 2005, she penned an op-ed for the Chicago Tribune called "When did caring become control? Blame Boomers."

"These parents are Baby Boomers, who, more than any generation past or present, questioned authority when they went to college," she wrote.

"So why this seemingly contradictory, protectionist behavior, now that these Boomers have college students of their own? Because Baby Boomers are still questioning authority by intervening, even when it comes to the very adult matters of their increasingly adult children. This group has great confidence in its own abilities and judgment, and knows no limit to sparing its children the heartache of an unwanted outcome or frustration of an arduous process. 'Mom and Dad to the rescue, darling. We know better.'"

In researching for "How to Raise an Adult," Lythcott-Haims interviewed more than 150 people at every level of the problem, from a department head at West Point to some of Palo Alto Unified School District's own administrators to, of course, parents and students themselves. She said almost all reaffirmed her hunch and concern that "this encroachment, this parental involvement in the spaces and places that used to be of adulthood, would lead to some kind of emptiness, some kind of psychological under constructiveness of the child."

She also cites research (and personal observations from her time at Stanford) that suggests a devastating link between overbearing parents and their sons' and daughters' mental health, including increasing their chances of suffering from depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicidal thoughts. The college students of today are also reporting higher and higher rates of feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, anxious, depressed, angry and hopeless.

The book is also incredibly honest about Lythcott-Haims' own overreaching as a parent. One page in, she admits, "In many ways, I am the problem parent I'm writing about." She said after the meat-cutting incident of 2009, she and her husband decided to get off the track they were on with something small yet concrete: making their children do chores around the house.

"We realized, they need to start contributing, they need to feel a sense of accountability and responsibility. ... I think one of the reasons it's hard for parents to stop helping is a parent usually is quicker, neater, gets it right the first time. So as a matter of efficiency, often, we want to handle things," she said.

But chores are a symbol of a larger effort to recognize that a parents' job should be to step back rather than in, Lythcott-Haims said.

In "How to Raise an Adult," Lythcott-Haims describes this parenting style as hitting the ideal sweet spot between other styles that are authoritarian, indulgent, permissive or neglectful.

"These parents set high standards, expectations, and limits, which they uphold with consequences," she writes. "They are also emotionally warm, and responsive to their child's emotional needs. They reason with their kids, engaging in a give-and-take for the sake of learning. They give their child freedom to explore, to fail, and to make their own choices."

Though the book revolves around the role of the parent in a young person's development, several chapters are devoted to that of the colleges and universities so many desperately seek to attend. As audience members perpetually asked Lythcott-Haims during her talks on the harm of overparenting that she gave while still a dean at Stanford, "Aren't the elite schools to blame?"

"Nobody intended this, but with every year beating the last, we've set our kids on this exhausting, breathless race toward the same result, which is admission," she said.

The Stanfords of the world are not to blame, but there is still something they could do to counter this extreme shift in expectations, Lythcott-Haims said. Universities could require that applicants meet a minimum GPA or SAT score that indicates they "have the cognitive capacity, the work ethic, the various aptitudes we expect you to have so that you can succeed in our classrooms."

"Once somebody meets that threshold, why not stop looking at the numbers?" Lythcott-Haims asked.

Dozens of schools across the country have moved in a similar direction by dropping their SAT/ACT requirements. The list of of these "test-flexible" schools include names like Wake Forest University, American University, the University of Arizona, Middlebury College, Pitzer College and Sarah Lawrence College.

"You see these outliers -- you see the Sarah Lawrences, the Reeds who say, 'We're not going to look at scores.' And those are great schools. But the schools that people are just hell bent on getting into, if they could signal, 'We don't want you to mortgage your childhood; it's not about these tiny differences in GPA; that's not why we want you,' I think they could really lead by doing something like that," she said.

Above all, "How to Raise an Adult" is a passionate call to action for parents to "push the parenting pendulum back in the other direction," from raising children to raising adults.

"I think those of us who believe we're harming our kids by overparenting, who believe we know better and are trying to do things differently, we have to be brave enough to be vocal," Lythcott-Haims said. "It can be hard to go against the herd of parenting, the trend, the way everyone seems to be doing it, but to be gently, respectfully vocal about a counter opinion is, I think, required. That bravery is required. Our kids deserve that."

Lythcott-Haims will be speaking about her new book at the Oshman Family JCC on Saturday, June 13, at 7:30 p.m. For more information, go to

To read a Q&A with Julie Lythcott-Haims, click here.

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39 people like this
Posted by missing context
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2015 at 11:42 am

Common sense parenting advice except for this claim:

"devastating link between overbearing parents and their sons' and daughters' mental health, including increasing their chances of suffering from depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicidal thoughts."

That parents are the cause of, and so to blame for, their child's self-harm, depression, and suicide is quite a bold claim to make in Palo Alto where many well-respected mental health professionals have taken great care this year to make clear to our community, repeatedly, that that is not the case.

It reminds me of "professionals'" unsubstantiated parenting pronouncements a half a decade ago claiming that "refrigerator mothers" were to blame for their son or daughter's autism.

Web Link ("in the 1950s and '60s, when medical orthodoxy blamed autism on the mother's failure to bond with her child. Though wholly discredited today, the 'refrigerator mother' diagnosis condemned thousands of autistic children to questionable therapies, and their mothers to a long nightmare of self-doubt and guilt")

Could it be that more parents are providing more support because more children are struggling with mental health issues that are completely unrelated to how they were parented?

Could it also be that those children who receive the extra parental care and attention actually benefit from it instead of, as claimed, are harmed by it?

40 people like this
Posted by Clueless
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 5, 2015 at 2:59 pm

I wonder when Ms Lythcott-Haims finishes High School in PAUSD she changes her tune. She has not yet see the experience that many before her have known.

"So why this seemingly contradictory, protectionist behavior, now that these Boomers have college students of their own?"

Maybe it is because I feel a need to protect my children from the worst abuses happening at school. My parents did not have that worry.

32 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2015 at 4:34 pm

I concur with the article and author. I see a lot of kids being micromanaged by their parents and are growing up unable to find their way without parental help. I think it starts young and continues well into the 20s. Good luck with this as I imagine there will be a lot of negative responses.

24 people like this
Posted by wrong conclusion
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2015 at 10:32 pm

I am not seeing the part about the happy kids.

Some of the happiest and most independent kids I have seen are from parents who "over" do the parenting as opposed to parenting less.

Parenting "less" may also be ok for college but when else do you parent, if not now while they are at home.

Stanford is also not a sample given how hard those kids must have to work.

21 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 6, 2015 at 12:37 am

Have to agree with other posts regarding horrible claim that parents cause mental illness.

This is so wrong to state or imply.Also makes ms. Lyncott loose her credibility.

Palo alto weekly should request a correction as this is dangerous claim.

3 people like this
Posted by missing context
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2015 at 8:25 am

On this proposed solution:

"we've set our kids on this exhausting, breathless race toward the same result, which is [elite college] admission. [Instead] Universities could require that applicants meet a minimum GPA or SAT score that indicates they 'have the cognitive capacity, the work ethic, the various aptitudes we expect you to have so that you can succeed in our classrooms.'"

Colleges publish this information already.

Some say that these "minimums" are the problem, not the solution, though. They set a bar many students feel they must work extra hard to meet which, on the subject of this book, may require extra parental involvement: funds, support, and, for some, pressure.

But timing is why this proposal won't stop the "race." Students don't receive their SAT scores until quite close to the end of "this exhausting, breathless race" - the very end of their junior, and hardest, year of high school.

15 people like this
Posted by thoughts...
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 6, 2015 at 11:53 am

People are really quite competitive here, even many quiet ones. There is a tendency in families - when it comes to their kids' academics, futures, extra-curriculars - to have a program, a scheme, a plan if not initiated by the parents, then taken over and managed by them. The plan, really, is to gain as many high status college offers as possible. If you don't do this, your kid is disadvantaged. Fact. Planning and extensive preparation and paid tutoring for the SATs etc. pays off in increased scores, and these scores do matter. I don't like it but it's prevalent. Students who may have really wanted admission to a particular school (let's say, Yale) and who are suited to go there, may be cut out by someone with 11 AP's (all 5's - naturally) or some similar crap in the same high school who also applied to Yale for bragging rights, rather than any especial interest.
Elite colleges and universities also (usually) openly trumpet their admit rates, though one nearby takes a lot off waiting lists, thereby permitting them to boast a very small offer rate.
Almost everyone's playing a game. Sad.

24 people like this
Posted by It takes a village
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2015 at 12:02 pm

I wonder if Lythcott-Haims interviewed any of the parents who formed "PAUSD administrator" opinions to get their side of the story, or if she just used those opinions that bolstered her pre-existing opinion. My own personal experience is that she can jump to conclusions and be pretty self-righteous and judgmental of others parents. The trouble is that PAUSD administrators during this time period have some extremely problematic behaviors and motivations.

We have experienced that judgmentalism from PAUSD administrators -- and it's essentially a power play to nullify parents trying to fix serious district problems that are hurting children. My own child has experienced both physical and emotional harm from district administrators' retaliations and unhealthy attitudes and actions, and have filtered through to the school level and school personnel. But I'm sure the school personnel felt justified because of a lot of false things they were told by those same administrators, things said for those administrators' purposes. The result has been said child feeling patronized and unable to be independent at school, not home. My parents were pretty hands off because they were busy, and those were the times, but when a teacher tried to do something wrong that others who didn't know me could have just chalked up to me misbehaving, it made a huge difference to me emotionally that my parents stepped in and stood up for me, and one of my other teachers did, too, in fact it was a watershed moment in my life in regards to feeling loved and worthwhile. My concern is that this kind of thing will just become more polemics used in district politics against families trying to solve problems.

Would Lythcott-Haims feel having a minority achievement task force was too much interfering? Would she feel that parents going to the OCR is too much parenting, when the district pretends that it doesn't have 504 procedures and puts families through lengthy wild goose chases intended to wear them down? Would she suggest parents not pursue the legal protections their children need to attend school safely? Because of being involved on that level, our district administrators have retaliated through to the school level. Our child who experienced significant stress and depression never felt safe to go to ask any adults at school for help because they were the source of the problems. Luckily, there was strong support at home. I wonder if Lythcott-Haims would overlay her judgmentalism about parents on the individual actions and ways we responded to feeling unsafe and unwelcome in school on a daily basis for years, and the things we did to handle that? Lythcott-Haims and her children are very unlikely to have experienced any of that, especially with her Harvard alumni connection with Kevin Skelly, and Stanford position.

What about homework and the rat race the educational system puts kids in? "Nobody intended this" is a cop out. Many parents, parents LH might condemn, have been fighting that tide exactly in order to give their kids the time to just grow up and be independent. How much of those efforts would she condemn, as families just try to cope with what's going on?

While I appreciate the message Lythcott-Haims is trying to get across: "I think one of the reasons it's hard for parents to stop helping is a parent usually is quicker, neater, gets it right the first time. So as a matter of efficiency, often, we want to handle things," she said."

That is exactly on point about when parents should step back. The trouble is that this recognition is too often used to essentially neuter parents who are doing the heavy lifting and standing up when there are civic or educational problems kids really aren't in a position to influence. The fact is, the world is more complicated than it once was. Much has been written about how couples are more efficient when they divide up a lot of these tasks (like upgrading the computer, etc). Children are a part of the family unit, too. Sometimes that efficiency is just so the family unit can function in a more complex world, too. I suspect many of the aspects how to foster independence are shifting along with the complexities of the world.

Lythcott-Haims has some good points, but judging other parents against her own upbringing is not helpful or realistic. She says, "I think those of us who believe we're harming our kids by overparenting, who believe we know better" -- this for me is a troubling declaration that aligns with my personal experience with LH. She thinks she knows better, without really knowing other people very well. (Says someone whose older friend's kids went to Gunn/ were grateful for our friendship because of my influence in their mother's parenting style in giving them way more freedom than their peers. Also as someone who was almost certainly on the minds of PAUSD administrators judgmentalism of parents being overinvolved.)

I wonder, too, if Lythcott-Haims consulted the Davidson Institute at all, and their research on how important a role parents play in the mental health of gifted kids and how important is their support (as well as how misunderstood and vilified it is....)

19 people like this
Posted by It takes a village
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2015 at 1:10 pm

Just a word to the wise for Lythcott-Haims -- I have not read the book, so hopefully this is not a problem, but I do know unfortunately way too much about PAUSD administrators and politics. Please be very, very careful to examine yourself for bias towards the administrators in PAUSD.

Sometimes it can take time for families to go up against people who are doing petulant, petty, nasty things to people they think wrong them, if the power dynamic is very uneven. But you do not want to inadvertently end up furthering any of that nastiness against families. Whether I agree or disagree with your perspective, I wish you well and do not want your book to get sunk by a lawsuit if you are not careful about avoiding violations of children's/families' privacy. View anything anyone from 25 Churchill told you with an extra grain of salt, and be sure you examine your own heart and anything anyone told you for bias -- and potential libel or even civil rights violations.

36 people like this
Posted by A Gunn Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 6, 2015 at 1:55 pm

Once again, I'm not taking advice from folks who hang out a shingle from any of the 'elite' universities in order to seem qualified to give advice to me about how to help my children navigate these perilous waters. Some of the perils come directly from these institutions. To blame parents for problems that directly result from the marketing these institutions, such as Stanford, do is just wrong. Why would anyone take advice from someone who has represented Stanford in this damaging commercial enterprise? One has only to look at who gets accepted and why to discern that the claims they make about accepting authentic applicants who do not game the system are false. This really is a corrupt system and until we start to boycott institutions that treat our children as tokens in a commercial game, we will continue to be complicit in the harm that is being done to all of them.

26 people like this
Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 6, 2015 at 2:31 pm

Agree with "thoughts". For students to attend Stanford or an Ivy League college, the parents have to do a lot of micromanaging. There is a formula and those students are not figuring it out on their own - most are too immature so the parents get involved.

And clearly, children who have hands-off parents in PAUSD are at a huge disadvantage. Times have changed; parenting is more complicated. I grew up in Palo Alto when free time was abundant and we all played either AYSO or PA Girls Softball or BobbySox softball. I graduated from Paly in the 80s and the AP classes weren't as rigorous as they are now. Students simply studied the SAT books in preparation. Students didn't need tutors. College admissions were easier. A high SAT score could offset a low GPA; a high GPA could offset a low SAT score. Parents could be hands-off back in those days. These days, it's finding tutors, SAT prep classes, community service hours, resume building, politicking coaches to get on a good club sports team. There's also parental help with homework when times are rough. Parents today need to be more involved and SHOULD be more involved. I've seen many capable students not do well only because their parents weren't involved. No, parents don't need to micromanage, but they do need to be involved.

I also disagree about chores, especially with the lack of free time that students have these days in high school. Teaching responsibility is more than assigning chores and giving allowances. My kids never had chores and they are very responsible. Frankly, allowances just make children think about how to spend more money ("Now, I have $20, what should I buy?") and that's a dangerous mindset for the future. Our children have learned spending habits from us. They know to check reviews, check for discounts, ponder the value before purchasing, etc. and they have even wanted things, but decided on their own that they didn't need it after all.

I think the bottom line is to respect and support your children from Day 1. RESPECT is a big one. Adults don't like someone constantly barking orders at them - don't do it to your children. Doing everything for your child does NOT make them spoiled - they know they are appreciated and loved. Doing nothing for your child is more detrimental. Our children in this super-competitive environment need their parents' support more than ever.

21 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2015 at 2:43 pm

I think there are two conversations going on here.

Of course there are times when a parent has to intervene for their child. Of course there are times when things are going on at school which need to be sorted by the parent and not the child, but I'm not sure that this article is about this.

My take on the article is that in the same way a 10 year old does not need to have a parent cut up their meat on the plate, a college student does not need a parent to help them sort out every little problem for them. When a child (who is no longer a child by legal definition) goes off to college, they should be able to stand on their own two feet. They should be allowed and in fact encouraged to sort out their own problems and indeed make a mistake or two.

To back up on this, a high school student should also be doing the same, so should a middle school student and age appropriately so should an elementary student. By taking away some of these simple activities, like household chores, making social and other appointments as well as getting themselves there, and other rites of passage, a child is growing into the type of young adult who will succeed on their own when they leave home. For a parent to always be driving a child to an activity less than a mile away, or to be over-scheduling the child's life, they are preventing the child's independence and ability to learn life skills.

We hear continually the phrase of tiger moms which nobody likes or claims to be. But the truth is that we see plenty of this type of activity from some of the parents we know. Anecdotally, I heard of one parent whose child had just failed their drivers test actually walking over to the examiner and attempting to get the fail changed to a pass! Instead of allowing a child to learn from a mistake, too many parents are attempting to take away the mistakes and expecting to be able to live out their own expectations for their child rather than allowing the child to grow at their own pace.

I think the author here is seeing the fruit of the labors of too many over parented students arriving at college and still bringing their parents with them. The fact that she is telling the parents that the best thing to do for their child is to go home and let the students get on with it shows that she has experience of this not happening. I don't think she is saying don't intervene when necessary. But she is saying that half the time (if not more) no intervention is necessary and could well be harmful.

To think of a mentally ill child not needing a parent's intervention is wrong. However, I think that a parent who does not allow a child to mature into adulthood at their own pace, is equally wrong and probably to some extent produces long term damage rather than support for the child they are hoping to help.

20 people like this
Posted by ferdinand
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 6, 2015 at 5:41 pm

Thank you "It takes a village, Paly alum, and Parent" You've made many solid points.

I appreciate JLH's message of giving kids more room to experiment and make mistakes without parental oversight, and do feel she is generalizing some of the over-parenting issues simply to make a point--they don't fit all of us but they do fit some. I find the message to be a bit dogmatic and would appreciate more of a solutions approach. We all need to be mindful of the vast variety of parenting backgrounds, of financial resources, and of the types of students who are navigating our very achievement-oriented schools.

For example, what if a parent didn't have a close relationship with his/her parents, has built one with her son/daughter, and really enjoys the time spent offering appropriate academic support? What if this offsets the loneliness a student feels in such a large high school? The parent involvement may not be focused on the grade but focused on the learning, like just wanting to know that the student knows how to write an essay.

As an involved volunteer who has empathy for teachers, I must admit there are problems with our schools that have origins and are perpetuated by all participants--students, parents, teachers, and administrators. This is not a comprehensive list, but far too long as it is!

[some] Students:
- will take high-lane classes that they are not interested in, rather than focusing this energy into those high lanes that the student really loves; [middle lanes can be great with many caring teachers]
- will turn a simple homework assignment into a master's thesis [the teacher did not ask for this]
- will not stand up to "friends" who ask for personal information about grades; [find better friends and just say no]
- will make their health--both mental and physical--a second priority rather than questioning what is best for them [know your strengths and weaknesses, seek advice from trusted adults]

[some] Parents:
- do not intervene when their son/daughter has overenrolled/overbooked [you can say NO to too many APs]
- does nothing to lessen their own stress, and passes it on to their children [we must accept that our children have their own paths; suggest lower lanes, fewer time commitments]
- will not let kids turn in low-quality work/receive low grades [sometimes it only takes one time!]
- will not communicate problems with teachers in a timely, kind and respectful way [when ever possible, build an ally rather than attack]
- never suggest alternate paths ["Why not try... lower lanes, lesser colleges, gap years, community college, etc."]

[some] Teachers:
- are disorganized and poor communicators, which creates stress in a fast-paced environment [be clear, slow down]
- do not give appropriate and timely feedback on work [not everything has to be graded, but students need to know right away if they are off track]
- do not make personal connections with students [say "Hello," use humor, have empathy, care]
- make classes/grades far harder than they need to be [aim for competency, not superiority/elitism; those with true interest will rise to the top naturally]
- see students and their parents as grade-mongering enemies [present a consistent message that the learning is more important than the grade, but allow achieving students to work for the grade if that is their style]

[some] Administrators:
- are not fulfilling their jobs [know your responsibilities and do them]
- see parents as enemies [be like the ever-patient waitress and serve your public]
- see students as enemies [it is a difficult age, but you must connect with it]
- don't return emails [hire more people? address problems sooner rather than later?]

JLH's message may seem narrow, but we can all do a better job with some of the inputs to the problems.

23 people like this
Posted by It takes a village
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2015 at 7:43 pm

@A Gunn Parent,
"I'm not taking advice from folks who hang out a shingle from any of the 'elite' universities i"

Me, personally, not interested in advice about how to Raise an Adult from someone who hasn't raised one yet, and who has pointed out it took her 10 years before she realized she should stop cutting her child's meat. And was prone to being judgmental and telling others what to do even before having the Aha moment for this book,

The judgmentalism is the thing that bothers me. You don't know why a person might be driving their child to a nearby activity, maybe they know a family who was killed in a crosswalk with the light in a busy intersection and the child has attention problems (you can go a short distance in this town and cross 3 major streets like El Camino and Alma plus the RR tracks, on busy streets with disappearing bike paths). Maybe there are logistical reasons. Maybe the child has been bullied, or the parent finds the moments in the car with the child on those trips a valuable touchpoint every day. It's not your call. It's not JLH's.

We've taught our kid to use power and other woodworking tools when JLH was still cutting her child's meat. (And please don't judge me, let said kid play with airsoft guns with others and shoot each other, appropriate rules of distance and eye protection but no adult supervision at all.) Yet also driven said child to nearby activities for our own reasons that are nobody's business. I personally think kids need to do chores and be responsible, learn how to cook, clean, and take care of themselves while they are still at home and can fail at those things and learn from them, too. I've seen way too many people unable to develop those skills in adulthood.

My bigger problem with this is that the world is changing. This is just more warmed over judgmentalism about how others are adapting. JLH would have a lot more authority to what she is saying if her kids actually were adults. Right now it just comes across as a way to judge other parents and get a leg up for her own kids while feeling superior. "perfect parenting" books are a dime a dozen and not often appreciated by the actual parents so much as used for other purposes.

27 people like this
Posted by LosingOurFaith
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 7, 2015 at 9:24 am

Ms. Lythcott-Haims article/book/agenda has one big flaw hidden in her assumptions that is completely unstated, and a bit disingenuine. I suspect she may be unaware of her own assumptions, and thus fails to recognize the issue.

If JLH's propositions are correct - 1)we have given our kids skills, AND 2)we can trust in the institution to know what they are doing, then I would agree with her advice. But one of these is wrong.

This is what my naive view of PAUSD was when we moved here - I thought they had a system that may cost more, but was highly effective at teaching kids. Elementary school was effective. They have the recipe - they know what they are doing. Our involvement in schooling was supportive, but far less than the intervention that was needed in Middle and High school.

At Jordan what I discovered was an institution in decay - moral and educational decay. Not a place that cares for our children, but rather a loose collection of teachers unmanaged. Some good, caring individuals, some cruel, bullying, and control freaks that had a disastrous impact on our children. It is NOT a place that a parent can trust for the best of their children. When your teacher bullies your child openly, and the Principal does nothing about it, you get a real sense of how horrible this place is.

So Ms. Lythcott-Haims premise is flawed because the institutions are flawed. In some cases deeply, disturbingly flawed. Rather than exhort the parents, her efforts would be better placed in re-establishing trust and faith in the institutions, so that a parent can send their kid to school with confidence that they will be well cared for.

Her exhortations fall on deaf ears, or rather her exhortations land on parents familiar with the system, and we have a slight chuckle at her naivety. Good luck getting your own kids through this Gulag.

9 people like this
Posted by wrong conclusion
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2015 at 11:02 am

Places for kids to make mistakes have been eliminated - not Elementary, not Middle, absolutely not High School, so what you do expect in college?

A good book would be research on the happy, well adjusted kids in college and to see if they had more or less parenting. My bet is that more parenting is better, and that it has no correlation with impairing adulthood.

Not to mention, college kids are like the kindergarten of adulthood, so it's all relative.

3 people like this
Posted by Ferdinand
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 7, 2015 at 11:51 am

Wrong Conclusion…
Do you really believe that opportunities for making mistakes have been "eliminated"? I'm curious what day-to-day experience this is based upon? While working in elementary classrooms I see student "mistakes" all the time with teachers, other parents, and sometimes other students offering support without judgement. There do, however, need to be more RTIs [responses to intervention] with the many students falling through the cracks. The recent report on Minority Achievement has some excellent points and hopefully our BOE will respond to them.

Our son's Terman teachers have been very satisfactory, caring, and generally good instructors. Part of this is a luck of the draw, and part of it is our son's attitude to make the best of it. Most of our son's Gunn teachers have also been pretty good, although that environment is far more fraught with problems that need addressing.

I see a lot of joy and communication which is understanding of differences. Yes, this is anecdotal, yes, we need to constantly strive to reach students who are feeling undervalued/underskilled, but I don't see the value nor truth in making global statements--and isn't this the same criticism being directed towards JLH's message?

Making global statements and gross generalizations feels good, may contain some truths, but aren't they also a path to passivity and even hopelessness?

1 person likes this
Posted by Norman
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 7, 2015 at 2:06 pm

At the end of the day our children have to know how to think for themselves. When we think that is possible is the question. I think the training for this comes very early, starting at age four? That is when their first big decisions are made: Who to have as friends.

If parents intercede in this decision, and this goes all the way through college, it undermines a child's confidence to assess people and situations. Remember, as children age we know less and less about what they are doing or experiencing. We must prepare them to ascertain the effects of their own decisions by asking them questions not by pointing out their mistakes. Believe me, they will learn.

12 people like this
Posted by It takes a village
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2015 at 2:07 pm

"That bravery is required."

I doubt very much that JLH would have the bravery to really stand up in the hard situations. This still bothers me -- she's basically saying it's brave to tell other people she knows nothing about how to parent and judge them based on little knowledge of them and using stories from self-serving administrators. (Where I come from, that's not called bravery.) Sorry, there's some truth in what she says, but the unwilligness to examine the role of the institutions as well as her advocating vocal judgmentalism of other parents (who may even be already doing more to foster independence than she is) is really concerning -- these things get used to bash parents yet again in district power plays.

The other thing that bothers me is that such pronouncements are culturally insensitive. We have a lot of parents from different cultures in which the family is very tight and people live with their extended families -- and many or even most find this an advantage in life. She is basically saying the way whole cultures parent is unhealthy and leads to kids never becoming adults. I know people from said cultures who have returned to their roots, so to speak, because they find the close family bond so valuable. JLH should talk -- she lives in an extended family situation, too.

23 people like this
Posted by Lost it Long Ago
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 7, 2015 at 2:43 pm

I agree that Jordan is an awful school. All three middle schools here are quite bad, but Jordan has always been the worst of the three.

A lot of parents are well aware of this and, as a result, take their kids, especially girls, out of PAUSD for the duration of middle school ( some include the freshman year of high school ), because the middle schools are so neglected and neglectful. For girls especially, this is the worst time of their lives to be in such bad schools-- this is when both sexes need extra attention to keep them focused on school, extra intellectual stimulation and motivation. PAUSD fails its sixth through eighth ( and often ninth) graders in this aspects, and simply bullies and stresses them out. Girls especially fall victim to bullying and sexual harassment at this time in their lives, and it impacts them permanently. That is why the Girls Middle School was founded.

If I had it to do over again, I would have taken my child out of Jordan in favor of a private school as many of our friends did, and the damage Jordan, it's principal and vice principal did.

2 people like this
Posted by wrong conclusion
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2015 at 3:19 pm


You are focusing on my global conclusion which is not printed or sold.

The author's global conclusion is far more troubling - that less parenting makes for better adults. Or that less parenting makes for happier kids. Please correct me if I misinterpreted from the article what the author's global conclusion is.

My global conclusion - if you read my 2 posts is that without research on the happy, adjusted, and independent kids, and their parents' style, you cannot really say one way or the other.

I also don't consider Freshmen in college full adults so that is a very awkward state to judge adulthood.

2 people like this
Posted by Ferdinand
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 7, 2015 at 11:05 pm

Wrong conclusion--got it, and thanks for clarifying. I agree with you about the troubling assumption that less parenting = happier kids. Too many assumptions. And what works for one child does not work for another.

7 people like this
Posted by It takes a village
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2015 at 12:08 am

Additionally, it's also a sphere issue. JLH has made some really good points about how important it is not to just do things for kids because it's easier, though there are many, many books that talk about developmentally when you start turning over responsibility to kids even though it takes them longer. But in that sphere, it's important, everything involving the kids taking care of themselves.

But in other spheres, including political issues parents themselves only have a good handle on after life experience, or may not -- including issues kids may need help with at high school and college level -- families are better as a team. Of course, institutions prefer the divide-and-conquer approach.

I wonder if the book makes allowances for support for gifted kids (which presumably Stanford had a lot of?)

Web Link
Davidson Institute
Gifted Children: Youth Mental health update

"The need for responsive parenting. The myth that gifted children have pushy parents has many negative effects. It causes professionals to ... minimize the significance of parental concerns. The myth causes teachers to limit the extent of parental participation and to deny the validity of parental reports. ... In addition to their role as observers and reporters, parents have been identified as exceptionally important in the development of gifted school children and unusually talented young adults. (11, 5). Most people understand that parents of gifted children provide many enrichment opportunities. In addition the research shows that gifted children make more requests of their parents and respond enthusiastically to increased opportunities. The children's positive response, in turn, stimulates greater parental involvement (11)."

7 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2015 at 6:51 am

It worries me that there are comments here that seem to be correlating less parenting with less care. Parenting less does not mean that the parent is loving less, or concerned less, or in any way a lesser parent. Parenting less is teaching the child to do chores and allowing them to do them. Parenting less, means teaching skills age appropriately and watching with heart in mouth as the youngster is able to do it themselves. From tying shoelaces as preschoolers, to making their own bed, helping to prepare dinner, doing dishes, fold laundry and other simple tasks, to getting themselves to an activity. If they need to cross a busy road, then teach them how to do it safely, using their eyes and ears before they use their feet while not texting or listening to music, to making their own decisions about what they want to do in life after high school.

It is hard to parent less. We watch from the sidelines. We worry about them just as much, but we know we are no less parents for letting them do it themselves. If they need help we will give it if they ask or if there is no alternative, but we let them try first.

Are they happier? No idea how you judge happiness on this one. If you ask them, do they know? What is happiness and what criteria would a college student use to judge whether they are happy or not? It is possibly easier to judge what unhappiness is, and if they are not unhappy or say that they are unhappy, perhaps that is the best result.

At least, this is my opinion.

32 people like this
Posted by Think Five Times Before Speaking
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 8, 2015 at 7:49 am

Ms Lythcott-Haimesneeds to stick to topics she KNOWS instead of spouting her "wisdom" on subjects she does not. She needs to stop publicly asserting that her suppositions are facts.

When her own children have graduated from college in one piece, the. She will have a right to do a little proselytizing.

[Portion removed.]

3 people like this
Posted by It's called publicity
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Jun 8, 2015 at 8:20 am

Go easy on her, she is selling a book.

5 people like this
Posted by Ferdinand
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 8, 2015 at 8:33 am

Only having read the article, not the book, it doesn't hurt to reevaluate parenting within the context of our 5-18 yr old kids' school experiences, which is my particular focus and interest. In light of all the suicides, ongoing pressures, and higher frequency of students not enjoying high school, as well as the extreme escalation of mental health issues for teens, JLH;'s strong approach isn't entirely unwarranted to remind parents to let their children and young adults make some choices, make some mistakes, and feel confident that the world will not end. It is difficult to believe, but just two weeks ago a Gunn parent told me her graduating senior didn't think he would get into college because he had a C on his report card. Unbelievable. Kids easily internalize messages from their surroundings, and we parents are a critical piece in helping our teens navigate these unhealthy messages. I don't think JLH would disagree with that.

And thank you Parent for the reminder.

7 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 8, 2015 at 8:50 am

Unless some posters have already read JLH's book, I am not sure why they are in such a lather and on what basis they are are claiming she makes accusations that do not appear in the article. Some posters seem way over defensive. "Methinks he doth protest too much."

12 people like this
Posted by It takes a village
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2015 at 9:25 am

If JLH is simply suggesting parents stop tying their shoes for them or give them chores, there are many, many books on the subject in the parenting category. (Pick Up You Socks! I think was the name of one of them I thought was good.) even the article is clear she doesn't stop there.

She is also a member of the community, so her views and perspective are not interpreted in a vacuum. So, no, I don't think there is much "protesting" beyond what one could gather from reading the article and knowing the author.

Amy Chua wrote an unflinching look at herself, after the kids were grown. Lythcott-Haims has even admitted that she thinks she "knows better" and thinks she is being "brave" by being "vocal", i.e. telling other parents what to do when she hasn't gotten there yet herself. The speaking to PAUSD administrators to bolster her opinions is even far more troubling. Until the district faces scrutiny for pretty unethical, retaliatory, and even illegal behavior by some, that's a pretty alarming take, especially if JLH did not try also to find the other side. A good researcher looks even harder at opposing perspectives in a way that allows the researcher even to change her views. (How many parents were interviewed?)

10 people like this
Posted by wrong conclusion
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2015 at 9:48 am

Just want to point out that thanks to the courage of the parents who have spoken up for change in the district, the author will enjoy a different and hopefully improved atmosphere for her children in PAUSD.

Resistance to change has been rooted in the attitude of let it go (go away parents!), let the kids be, but in example after example we are learning that we have to be ever more present. Maybe we can let the kids be free, but the adults need to work very closely together.

10 people like this
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 8, 2015 at 11:10 am

We had 4 children at PAUSD. We certainly tried not to be "helicopter parents" and to let things go their own way to a considerable extent. We would sometimes go weeks without getting any feedback about what our kids were doing and tried not to micro-manage.

However, as a parent of an underage child, there are times you simply have to intervene. Unfortunately, many of those are because the PAUSD staff is not doing the job that one would hope that they would do.

When you find out that your child is failing several classes and schedule meetings with teachers only to discover that the teachers were not going anything and didn't consider it to be their jobs, it gives you pause to wonder.

A common theme from PAUSD teachers that we heard was "We have so many talented kids here, we just don't have time to spend on those who aren't motivated to work hard."

8 people like this
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 8, 2015 at 11:33 am

I would also note that I know many people who entrusted their students to colleges, making few efforts to track them, only to get a call from the student that he/she just dropped out of school or a call from the school to "come and pick up your kid".

Schools are really not prepared to track what is going on in any detail. To give credit to Stanford--one of my schools--they were very nurturing of their students. But most schools are not tracking what is going on to any degree.

Reminds me: I have a student at grad school at Davis right now and I haven't checked on what she is doing in over two months. Maybe I need to call.

Bottom line: I am not sure that this author really has much of a handle on this overall problem. However, Stanford authors do seem to sell well.

6 people like this
Posted by ferdinand
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 8, 2015 at 11:38 am

Takes a village, Wrong conclusion, and Robert Smith have made excellent points for why parents DO need to be involved. The home-school communication channels are really poor and often over-charged with wrong assumptions, particularly with many teachers not providing students and parents with appropriate [and contractual] feedback opportunities. I rejected the "let kids self-advocate" mantra early on since [overall] the system is not acknowledging student needs and providing the support. Some teachers do a great job, and others are abysmal.

Let's hope that we are on the right track to fixing the foundation of our schools, because although having a cheery paint color, supporting club activities/sports, and having funded BBQs matter, we need to support--if not fight for--improvements to the teacher-student relationship and academic support that so many kids need. Even some top-lane kids are leaving school feeling empty, under skilled, and somewhat lost about finding their purpose.

2 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 8, 2015 at 12:51 pm

The author is not arguing for parental neglect but rather a balance between supporting and coaching your kids vs. running their lives. Compared to our own upbringing, we are definitely erring on the side of overinvolvement. Do we really believe that we have to micromanage our kids lives? Let them fail once in a while. It used to be called a valuable learning experience. And if your kids don't aspire to the Ivy League or Stanford, they will probably thrive somewhere else!

23 people like this
Posted by Think Five Times Before Speaking
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 8, 2015 at 1:21 pm

[Post removed.]

2 people like this
Posted by wrong conclusion
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2015 at 1:21 pm

Sorry but the article does not do justice to the balance then, and the author appears to reach far bigger conclusions about parental involvement with no research to back it up. No research on the happy, independent, well adjusted kids (which Freshmen in college... are what percentage?). Are their parents parenting more or less?

As someone pointed out there are better books about how to teach your kid to tie their own shoes.

The reminder is well taken to not baby the kids but what age group is the book for? I would expect a full chapter on driving, and what that right of passage means for young adults. Is there that type of example, or is it really about child stuff.

At the minimum there is a disjointed discussion here about how to raise and adult, and when and where a parent needs to disappear or pop up.

31 people like this
Posted by Marianne
a resident of another community
on Jun 8, 2015 at 6:08 pm

Do you want to know if you an unhealthily over-involved, over-protective or just over-the-top parent? Answer this one quick question: If your child came home and said "I've decided I want to train to be an electrician (or plumber or carpenter or auto-mechanic...)after high school", would you say "Awesome! Good luck!!" or would you freak out?

Anything other than "awesome" and you need back the frack off.

I am a parent in the North Bay in a working class neighborhood. My daughter attended working class schools up here, one of the few white kids in predominantly immigrant schools. When she was 13, she decided boarding school was the way to go, found her ideal school back east, studied for the entrance exam, got accepted and was given a a 95% scholarship, making it possible for us to afford it. It was all on her.

She was catapulted from a working class environment to an environment which sounds quite similar to Palo Alto. More than half of her schoolmates' parents pay the full $30,000-$55,000/year tuition (day or boarding). Many have multiple children attending the school.

If she had no just spent 4 years surrounded by people like you, I would not believe these comments were for real.

For a brief period, she fell into the fracked up mindset I read in these comments and seriously? I felt like the worst parent ever. I should have known better than to entrust her to people with such skewed values!!! But she's back to the real world, just graduated at the top of her class, 2390 SATs first try, and she scheduled and got her own self to all of her college interviews, to the astonishment of all her college interviewers.

She got accepted to every school she applied to including Penn and Columbia and was offered huge merit scholarships to two top tier schools.

She is overjoyed because she will be able to get a good education, graduate debt-free and BECOME A TEACHER. A teacher, y'all. I am so proud!!! When I heard that? I knew I had done a good job parenting.

Would you be ridiculously proud of your child if he chose a path that was meaningful to him, even though it was not meaningful to you and was not high paying? No? You need to get help. [Portion removed.]

Get over yourselves. Some of your kids are brilliant, some are average but all will do way better in life than the brilliant, motivated kids up here in Vallejo because they have access to all kinds of resources and supports and family connections from you guys. Stop worrying. Your kids will be fine. They may not end up being able to afford Palo Alto, but that's on you [portion removed]? Why "shield" them from the 99%? Why set the bar at Ivy or Standford or whatever? Life is beautiful. Happiness matters and it does not depend, at all, on which university a person attends.

11 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2015 at 6:17 pm

And if you are the parent who attempted to get the DMV examiner to change the behind the test F to a pass, then you are much too involved!

4 people like this
Posted by wrong conclusion
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2015 at 8:01 pm

[Post removed.]

4 people like this
Posted by Norman
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 8, 2015 at 8:36 pm

Let us all be humble about this process. As I've told my now adult children: "My goal is for you to need the least amount of therapy."

8 people like this
Posted by PA parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 8, 2015 at 8:59 pm

I wish her luck with her book. However, I think the intended audience for her book don't see a problem and won't be the ones reading it. What a shame,

1 person likes this
Posted by It takes village
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2015 at 10:17 pm

[Post removed.]

17 people like this
Posted by Village
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2015 at 1:02 am

It's too bad JLH didnt get the epiphany that her kids are going to be fine whether she "overparents" or underparents. Good kids, much loved, no worries. It's also too bad she didnt get the memo about how obnoxious another book on perfect parenting would be, especially when she has not raised her kids into adulthood nor faced most of the challenges of others. In fact, by virtue of her position at Stanford, she got pretty used to being imperious in her opinions in real life. Most people don't have that luxury.

9 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2015 at 7:13 am

Web Link

Forget the book just read the commencement speech from RISDs 2015 commencement

Good advice for parents and kids

13 people like this
Posted by Andrea
a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2015 at 7:58 am

Schools like Stanford are a big part of the problem. My girlfriend told me the counselor told her AP History was 3 hours of reading a night. My friend said her daughter would have to be up til midnight every night for just one AP class. She has 4 kids and she DOES need the kids to do chores and take on responsibility. I have a feeling the Dean knows this. Why are you cutting your kids meat, why will you probably do their laundry or hire someone to, why do you hold them to a low standard when it comes to thoughtfulness--bday cards etc? Bc they need every spare moment to study to get into a school like Stanford.

18 people like this
Posted by Bad Dean, No Biscuit!
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 9, 2015 at 11:08 am

Ms Lythcott-Haims has made some rather toxic statements on this article, whether she realizes it or not. I certainly hope she reads these posts.

If she does indeed publish her book, and it contains such umsubstantiated, irresponsible statements as are in this article, she will be leaving herself open to several lawsuits of the class-action variety.

At the very least, she is inviting a lot of hate mail, as Amy Chua did, which could make her life hell, as it did for Ms Chua.

This could possibly damage her career at Stanford. She should be more careful and tactful in her speech and writing.

13 people like this
Posted by A Gunn Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 9, 2015 at 11:29 am

It's not only the fact that people using the Stanford brand as their credential, it's also the unique way in which having this brand seems to close the mind of the speaker. I keep encountering people who brand themselves this way, but who have concluded that everyone who doesn't have it is dumb, and therefore not worth listening to. I realize that Stanford produces a lot of good research, but I haven't seen it produce too many wonderful human beings. Believing yourself superior to others closes the mind and the heart. I do not want people like this anywhere near my children while they are young. I'm a well educated, intelligent adult, and I make my own parenting decisions. And btw, my kids are turning out happy, enthusiastic, passionate, and self aware.Boycott the elite brands!

15 people like this
Posted by GapYear
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 9, 2015 at 2:57 pm

"Attention parents of freshmen, drop off your big, fat check and skedaddle"

Andrea hit it on the nose. Colleges want perfect GPA, perfect SAT, athletic prowess, award winning projects, leadership positions, internships, research, and now, world-ready adults on the first day of college. (Who even needs college if you have all that going for you?) College used to be the place where life got real: the white wash turned pink, the freshman 15 weight gain, going broke before term end, forgetting to set the alarm. Now the onus is on the parents to make sure this all happens before high school ends. Maybe the former freshman dean would have made a stronger point about "over-parenting" if she were the junior, or even the sophomore dean, and had parented a teen or a college freshman. If colleges want mature freshmen, then they should make the gap year a mandatory work or service year.

1 person likes this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 9, 2015 at 7:25 pm

@GapYear, it's a seller's market, where colleges are the seller. It is the applicants who are bidding up the price in GPA and SAT scores, plus whatever other talents they can bring. Why would the colleges sell to any but the top bidders? Even if colleges are giving away free tuition, they still want to invest in the most promising students who apply.

That said, it's pretty clear they get some lemons, judging from various incidents on (or off) campus.

13 people like this
Posted by Undermin(d)ing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2015 at 7:51 am

In the Q&A with JLH that was on this site, she mentions the PAUSD 4th grade California Mission project and assumes many kids had help with that from their helicopter parents. I want to comment on that assumption and attitude, because it undermines the abilities of kids and can enable mistreatment of them by adults in school.

The first time I saw my daughter's Mission project was when it was bound and complete. If the teacher had allowed kids to bring home parts of the project to be worked on like homework, I was not aware of it. I know my daughter's teacher found her work exemplary, and I could see why when she showed the final copy to me. The cover drawing and watercolor of a mission building seemed like that of an older child, or it could have been (mis)perceived as completed with the help of a helicopter parent. I'm assuming the teacher also liked the essays. My daughter conveyed empathy for the colonized Native Americans, and that element pleased me more than anything else about the project.

It harms kids when their academic, artistic, and emotional capabilities are denied. My daughter had an understanding teacher this year, a teacher who did not deny what she was capable of not only academically but emotionally in terms of her maturity. It is not always so. When teachers and other adults maintain similar attitudes to that of JLH (exemplified by her presumptions about the Mission project), kids suffer from the invalidation. When a teacher is fundamentally doubtful and invalidating, the classroom becomes a difficult place for a child to be. The toll on girls is high. They feel the pressure to "dumb down" and hide their abilities. Because they are given the invalidating message "You're not capable" from an authoritative and threatening adult, they begin to play it safe. They often get this message from peers, too. The research is out there on this subject.

Ironically, when kids are being harmed by invalidation, I think more parental and other adult support is necessary. This seems to run counter to what JLH is suggesting. At the collegiate level, and specifically at Stanford this year, it has become increasingly clear that (young) women need to feel a lot of validation and support--from family, peers, other adults--in order to advocate for themselves when they are dealing with something as horrible and traumatic and invalidating as sexual assault. It takes a village of support--not "helicoptering"--but "support."

6 people like this
Posted by Ferdinand
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 10, 2015 at 8:53 am

Excellent thoughts Undermin[d]ing, especially the often false assumption of [academic, artistic, and emotional] simplicity in children. When an adult [parent or teacher] is open to it, even our youngest ones contain the pure essence of advanced ideas--kindness, focused interest, joy, etc. Being able to differentiate on the spot and validate individual strength is a critical skill for adults working with anyone, but especially children and young adults.

We too have a younger child who crafts beautiful artifacts with no help and what a shame if teachers assume he is not doing his own work. As you suggested, there are teachers who often keep much of a project's work time in the classroom, much like an art class. This strategy reduces "homework" and also puts more value on class time, which I'm finding is especially diminished in high school. With technology [Schoology videos], kids almost don't need to be present to get their lessons. This is good for students absent due to illness or needing to revisit lectures, but not so good at fostering a connection with other students and the teacher. And it does allow students to "subcontract" out their work to parents or paid tutors--which happens all the time.

Personally, I think it would be better time spent instilling values [specific to each family] about what is appropriate support/learning without obsessing on the minutiae of whether my help is unfair/unjust and someone else's is not. Having open discussions about this in class would also be excellent. Given that we cannot control parent over-involvement when it happens, we can help shape values which regulate how much and what type of help a student is willing to accept. It actually feels good when our older son says, "Don't edit my paper. It doesn't sound like me. I don't even recognize it."!

There are just too many scenario/unknowns to simply lambast parents for their involvement: too many types of motivations, too many types of needs, too much variation in teaching skills, too much variation in financial equity, and too many types of support. I hope JLH's book gets into the details rather than simply generalizing about "tiger parents." From someone who is thought to be a relaxed and earthy parent, even I found value in that book.

1 person likes this
Posted by Different take
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 12, 2015 at 10:27 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

4 people like this
Posted by ferdinand
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 12, 2015 at 11:26 pm

Different Take, your description of the science fair is a great example of wise instruction. Teaching kids to acknowledge how others contribute to their work is wonderful on many levels. One of the things I dislike about the competitive high school culture is the self-promotion, the energy students spend trying to build a persona that suggests they are superior to others [via grades, class selection, their vocabulary, etc]. There is a veil of dishonesty that is seldom pulled back to reveal all the support that goes into their achievement such as tutors, parents, online services writing papers, and cheating to name a few. So nice that younger students can learn to acknowledge others and build that into their path.

With respect to our son's opinions on my editing, I should have said "over-editing" as he still wants me to edit but not over do it. I don't think kids should feel like they need to learn in isolation, in fact I think the schools could do more to encourage in-class interactions, as well as sharing of emails/phone numbers between students so they can study or collaborate. Conversely, I do think there is value in kids feeling they can practice their autonomy when they feel it is right, even if it means getting a lower grade. It's difficult to believe students can learn deeply and progress if grades are the overriding concern.

Like this comment
Posted by Different take
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 13, 2015 at 12:06 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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