Julie Lythcott-Haims: How to Raise Successful Kids – Without Over-Parenting (Transcript)

Julie Lythcott-Haims

Here is the full transcript of author Julie Lythcott-Haims’ TED Talk: How to Raise Successful Kids – Without Over-Parenting…

Listen to the MP3 Audio: How to raise successful kids – without over-parenting by Julie Lythcott-Haims

Julie Lythcott-Haims – Author

You know, I didn’t set out to be a parenting expert. In fact, I’m not very interested in parenting, per se.

It’s just that there’s a certain style of parenting these days that is kind of messing up kids, impeding their chances to develop into their selves. There’s a certain style of parenting these days that’s getting in the way I guess what I’m saying is, we spend a lot of time being very concerned about parents who aren’t involved enough in the lives of their kids and their education or their upbringing, and rightly so.

But at the other end of the spectrum, there’s a lot of harm going on there as well, where parents feel a kid can’t be successful unless the parent is protecting and preventing at every turn and hovering over every happening, and micromanaging every moment, and steering their kid towards some small subset of colleges and careers.

When we raise kids this way, and I’ll say we — because Lord knows, in raising my two teenagers, I’ve had these tendencies myself, our kids end up leading a kind of checklisted childhood.

And here’s what the checklisted childhood looks like. We keep them safe and sound and fed and watered, and then we want to be sure they go to the right schools, that they’re in the right classes at the right schools, and that they get the right grades in the right classes in the right schools.

But not just the grades, the scores, and not just the grades and scores, but the accolades and the awards and the sports, the activities, the leadership. We tell our kids, don’t just join a club, start a club, because colleges want to see that. And check the box for community service.

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I mean, show the colleges you care about others. And all of this is done to some hoped-for degree of perfection. We expect our kids to perform at a level of perfection we were never asked to perform at ourselves. And so — because so much is required, we think, well then, of course we parents have to argue with every teacher and principal and coach and referee and act like our kid’s concierge and personal handler and secretary.

And then with our kids, our precious kids, we spend so much time nudging, cajoling, hinting, helping, haggling, nagging as the case may be, to be sure they’re not screwing up, not closing doors, not ruining their future, some hoped-for admission to a tiny handful of colleges that deny almost every applicant. And here’s what it feels like to be a kid in this checklisted childhood.

First of all, there’s no time for free play. There’s no room in the afternoons, because everything has to be enriching, we think. It’s as if every piece of homework, every quiz, every activity is a make-or-break moment for this future we have in mind for them. And we absolve them of helping out around the house, and we even absolve them of getting enough sleep as long as they’re checking off the items on their checklist.

And in the checklisted childhood, we say we just want them to be happy, but when they come home from school, what we ask about all too often first is their homework and their grades. And they see in our faces that our approval, that our love, that their very worth, comes from A’s.

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