How to Raise an Adult, the new book by Julie Lythcott-Haims, discusses the many pitfalls and consequences of overparenting.
A former undergraduate dean at Stanford University, Lythcott-Haims recounts stories of young adults who have been left devoid of the basic life skills that are crucial to surviving in a dangerous unforgiving world because of their overprotective mothers and fathers.
She writes, for example, that many parents today are hesitant to give their children the freedom to play alone outdoors or in the playground the way they were allowed when they were children. Lythcott-Haims blames a pervasive fear of child abduction born in the media in the 1970s and early 1980s with such high profile kidnappings as that of Adam Walsh.
As she writes, “We perceive that our nation is a more dangerous place, yet the data show that the rates of child abduction are no higher, and by many measures are lower than ever before.”
In the process, Lythcott-Haims says, parents who fear for their children’s safety and escort them everywhere they go are creating adults who are afraid to fend for themselves. Other parents, she says, are so afraid to let their young children succeed or fail on their own merits that it is almost considered common practice for students to hand in assignments that were clearly done by their parents while the teachers look the other way.
How to Raise an Adult goes into one outrageous case of overprotective parenting where a mother criminally intrudes in her son’s career. The young man, Richard, had graduated from an Ivy League college and worked his tail off at his job for two years in New York City hoping to get ahead. His mother who felt he was working too hard and not having a social life decided to call his boss directly to tell him to ease up on her son. According to Lythcott-Haims:
“When Richard came back to work on Monday, instead of being permitted to enter the bank of elevators that soar to the skyscraper’s top, the security guard handed him a cardboard box containing the personal items from his desk. On top of the box was the note: Ask your mother.”
How to Raise an Adult is packed with true stories of parents who in trying to protect their children, instead have done them grave dis-service. But it is also packed with solutions for preparing your children for independence while letting them know that you love them and want to be included in their lives now that they are adults.
How to Raise an Adult will resonate for all parents who want the best for their children. It is truly of value as we try to give our young children two important gifts … roots and wings.