The book focuses on the issues of over parenting that Millenials have experienced and continue to use with their own children. The largest area of this focus in the book is how parents direct their kids' paths to choose the most prestigious colleges and their future careers. To be clear, Millenials are people born between 1980 and 2000, of which, I am supposedly one. This is probably the main point that I struggled/disagreed with throughout the book. While Lythcott-Haims obviously doesn't say that ALL Millenials experienced this type of parenting, it does feel that way at times. I feel that my upbringing was more like Generation X. I'm not sure if this over parenting occurred in certain regions/areas of the country, more affluent communities, or if I was just fortunate. But in truth, that's the only thing that I didn't like about the book.
One of the first parts of the book that struck me was very close to the beginning in which the author discusses how the problems today's children have are thanks, in part, to the self-esteem movement. She refers to Amanda Ripley's book The Smartest Kids in the World which discusses how this movement has become "an inhibitor of academic progress and a contributor to America's poor ranking on international standardized tests. In the 1980s, 'American parents and teachers had been bombarded by claims that children's self-esteem need to be protected from competition (and reality) in order for them to succeed.'" (p. 23) I was literally nodding my head so hard, and muttering, "Yes!" as I read.
The immediate next section of the book talked about the overuse of the "Bully Label." I could have shouted from the rooftops as I read this section. While bullying is and always has been a problem in schools, one administrator Lythcott-Haims interviewed stated that he hadn't experience and increase in bullying in his 25 years at the school. I've always tried to teach my students what bullying actually is. Someone saying something mean to you one time, does not make them a bully. Everyone has a bad day, and sometimes we say or do mean things. Parents today immediately want to label another child a bully because of this. (Not to mention that they want teachers to see EVERYTHING that happens every minute of the day, but that's an entirely different post...)
The author also discussed parental over involvement with their children's homework. You may be surprised, but in my 10 years of teaching, I have had many instances where a child has handed in homework that was clearly done by a parent (I've taught 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 6th grade). I do encourage my students to seek help from their parents if they need it, and I do encourage parents to review homework with their child but not to actually DO it. They would rather their child hand in the homework so as not to lose a participation point or get a 0 than to let their child accept the consequences for not having it done.
The book also has chapters with tips for helping your child to become independent adults. I appreciated this from both the perspective of an educator and a (hopefully!) future parent. Chapter 14 is titled "Teach Life Skills" and offers life skills children should have at appropriate ages. Chapter 15, "Teach them How to Think" gives sample conversations to have with children of different ages to expand their thinking to the critical thinking level. The next chapter provides examples of how you can prepare your children for hard work by having them help and contribute to the runnings of your household. All of these sections are dog-eared in my copy of the book for future reference!
Another major issue that struck me in this book is that today's parents are afraid to let bad things happen to their children. Of course, no one wants their child to be hurt (either physically or emotionally), but sometimes hurt, rejection, and disappointment are a part of life. If they don't experience these things in childhood, how will they be able to deal with them in the real world? A few examples of bad things that we should let happen to our kids are "not being invited to a birthday party,...being blamed for something he didn't do,...coming in last at something,...being hit by another kid." (p. 239) There are quite a few more on this list, but they are all things that happen IN REAL LIFE.
The book talked about students who turned to drugs and alcohol because they were so depressed with their parents' over involvement in their lives. Parents who planned out their entire path by doing everything for them and choosing their college and their major.....
I could seriously go on and on!
Truthfully, I feel like there is so much more that I could say about this book, but this post is already extremely long.
If you are a teacher, much of this book pertains to us...even if you don't have children of your own yet. The end of the book was much more centered on how to stop forcing your child to go to an elite college, but it was all still wise advice.
If you're not a teacher, but you ARE a parent, this book is also for you. If I could, I would force every parent in the country to read this book upon the birth of their first child. It can truthfully make a difference.
Children need to be taught how to think for themselves and to become productive members of society. Julie Lythcott-Haims does an excellent job of describing how to do that while still being a loving and supportive parent!