Julie Lythcott-Haims spent over ten years as the dean of freshman at Stanford University.   During this time, she noticed an increase in parental involvement in the students’ lives.  With this hyper-attentive parenting, she began to also realize that these children were ill-equipped to handle life’s daily stresses and the demands of adult life.  She spent the next several years researching this “overparenting” and in her book, offers suggestions on how, as parents, we can allow children to make their own mistakes and develop the skills necessary for success.

Two of her suggestions that can easily be implemented at an early age are providing opportunities for unstructured time and teaching life skills.

  • Providing opportunities for unstructured time.  Mentioned in this section were schools that embraced this approach to learning.  Montessori schools were mentioned as models that students guide their own learning in particular figure out the next steps to do on their own.  “Montessori ‘unfolds’ students instead of ‘molding’ them.”
  • Teaching life skills – When parents do for their children, they do so with the best of intentions. By doing so, however, we deny the child the joy of experiencing “self-efficacy”, which is the belief in your ability to complete a task, manage a situation or reach a goal.  The author suggests a four step approach:  First, I do it for you.  Next, we do it together.  Third, I watch you do it, and finally, you do it completely independently.

Other suggestions include how to teach them to think and prepare them for hard work as well as letting them chart their own path and normalizing struggles.  Last, the author speaks about how to navigate through the college admissions process and how to have a wider mind set about colleges.  A good read for any parent who wants to help their child blossom into adulthood with self-confidence knowing that they are capable and competent.