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Monday, March 27, 2023

Review: How to Raise an Adult

 How to Raise an Adult is a book about over-parenting. It's written by Julie Lythcott-Haims, who was Stanford's freshman dean, who has first hand experience of what over-parented young adults look like in the most selective school in the national (Stanford accepts 5% of applicants).

The first part of the book deals with the consequences of over-parenting, including excessive specialization on sports, piano/violin (it's always piano and violin!), academic stress, and how everything that's not associated with college application is under-valued or dismissed as unimportant. There's not much controversial about this.

The second part of the book proposes a ton of personal actions you can take as a parent, including taking care of yourself so you aren't so stressed all the time, emphasizing smaller, lesser known schools that might provide a better education, and just letting your kids have a childhood. This part is a lot like telling you to meditate like a Buddhist so you can handle corporate stress better. It might help you in the short run, but in the long run it's probably unsustainable. That's because ultimately, the top tier University still ends up admitting all those piano players and stress-tolerant kids who end up being the kind of people who don't know how to operate a laundry machine.

The final part of the book finally addresses the social issues and how maybe if enough parents got together and agreed not to become tiger parents we wouldn't end up with such dysfunctional situations. Collective action is the only way to solve these problems, but again, I'm not sure there's much incentive there either.

Ultimately, the situation this book (and other books like it) describes reminds me of the situation I was in when I was a TA at school --- the kids who most needed the lectures were the least likely to show up, while the kids who would have done all the reading, homework and exercises even without the lectures were the ones diligently showing up. I don't think this book will be read by any of the tiger moms I've met, nor do I think Universities or Employers are really going to punish the kids produced by that system.

1 comment:

G C said...

Yes, this won't stop the madness.

I think the competition over schools is misplaced. It's much more important what college major the child picks, compared to which school they attend.

There are a lot of college majors offered which lead to underemployment or unemployment.