If you are a parent and haven't yet encountered the book How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success, then you need to stop reading right now and get this book. This book has rocked my world so much that it deserves its own blog post. Here are seven reasons why you should read this book now and two reasons why you should think twice.
7. We're Stressed Out.
One of the opening vignettes of the book describes the author interacting with a fellow mom, discussing "when did childhood get so stressful??" (p. 8). The book devotes a whole chapter to unpacking just how stressed out parenting can make us these days, arguing, "Not only are we measuring our worth by our children's accomplishments, but we've set the bar for achievement so high that it requires our constant and intense involvement" (p. 125). We love our children and want the best for them, but if we don't cut ourselves some slack, we will end up stressed and exhausted and paradoxically unable to provide our best.
6. Our Kids Pick Up on our Stress.
The book cites research that the NUMBER ONE CHANGE that kids would like to see in us, as parents, is that we are less stressed out. This really hit home with me.
5. Our Kids Are Stressed Out.
So much of our concern now as parents consists of our kids' future, and our kids pick up on this stress, too. Moreover, the book argues that our own "fears of failure" are often absorbed by our children, making them panicked that any minor setback means a lifetime of failure, and that we are not doing a good job of teaching resiliency. Instead, there are all kinds of mistakes and curveballs that we must let our kids experience - from not being invited to a birthday party to getting detention to working hard on a project and still getting a poor grade. That will help our kids develop the resiliency to deal with setbacks in life.
4. Our Kids Lack Basic Life Skills.
This one sentence (p. 97) really hit home for me: "[We ask] so little of our kids when it comes to life skills, yet so much of them when it comes to adhering to the academic plans we've made for them." This is SO ME. We have a biweekly cleaning service because I hate cleaning (I tell myself it's because we are busy, but really, it's largely because I hate cleaning). Consequently, my own kids have never been taught (or asked) to scrub a toilet or vacuum a floor because that is not something that I ever do. And yet so much research supports the notion that doing regular and increasingly difficult household chores is one of the most important tasks needed for kids. Guilty, guilty, guilty.
3. Unstructured Time is Sorely Needed.
The book argues that providing unstructured, free play time is one of the best gifts we can give our children. The amount of time that children spend in unstructured play time without adults around has dramatically decreased over the past generation, and the decline is even more so among time spent in nature or outdoors. Free play for children should be seen as important as sleep. I have discovered firsthand that my own kids do so much better when they have "downtime" and I just let them be. And I need to do a better job of valuing that space.
2. Lots of Great Interviews and Research.
The book is chock full of interviews with both real parents and experts, as well as all kinds of research findings woven in. I loved both the anecdotes and the study results and it made the books' premise - that we must develop practical strategies to avoid overparenting our children - much more palatable.
1. The Author is a Parent, Too.
I think I appreciated this fact the most. Instead of feeling like I was reading an indictment from parents, I was comforted by the fact that the author is a fellow parent also there in the trenches. She offers all kinds of personal anecdotes for how she has also become overinvolved in her children's lives and has not offered them the kinds of tools needed to become a successful adult. Instead of feeling judged as I read it, I felt like there was someone there cheering for me. And in any parenting book, that makes a huge difference.
Two Reasons Why You Should Think Twice
1. I felt that the first half of the book was stronger, describing the problem of "parents who are overinvolved in the lives of their kids" (p. 1). Maybe it lacked solutions that could easily be implemented. But that is probably an unfair criticism, since solutions to a cultural and societal problem are so much harder to develop.
2. Selective colleges aren't the only cause of stress. One criticism of the book is that it uses the argument that the ultimate reason we are all overparenting is that we are all worried about which selective college our child will someday attend. That might be true in certain regions but is definitely not the case where I live, and yet I still fall into the overparenting trap. For example, I worry about my second grader walking to school alone. Not because I think that anything would happen to him, but because I worry that someone might think I am a negligent parent. I think that our causes for over-involvement are complex and messy and not necessarily linked to our children's college choices.
Short review - Read this book! And if you have already read it, I would love to hear what you think.
Amy spends her days as the world's most unorganized accountant professor, and her nights chilling with her crazy, equally unorganized family. She is blessed to be part of a wonderful church family both near and far who pushes her, challenges her, and loves her. Amy loves chocolate, reading, running, and ignoring the dishes.
You can enjoy more of Amy's incredible writing on her blog 4 is More.