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Parenting has changed dramatically in the last few decades, and not always for the better. It’s become expected that parents will focus most of their time and attention on their children. While this can be good in many ways, when taken too far it can leave young people unprepared for adulthood. But there are simple, sensible steps you can take to raise children who become competent, self-sufficient adults.
It seems improbable that parenting, which is as ancient as humanity itself, could change so much and so suddenly. But this shift is evident not only in the anecdotal experiences of countless educators and grandparents, but also in the research data:
“Parenthood in the United States has become much more demanding than it used to be. Over just a couple of generations, parents have greatly increased the amount of time, attention and money they put into raising children. Mothers who juggle jobs outside the home spend just as much time tending their children as stay-at-home mothers did in the 1970s.”
While there are clear benefits to parents spending more time and attention on their children, there are real drawbacks too. This approach quickly can turn into “helicopter parenting,” in which parents are overly focused on their children to an unhealthy degree. Their children grow up in a sheltered cocoon and become adults who are ill-equipped to handle the setbacks and challenges of ordinary life.
Children need love and attention, of course, but they also need some independence to become who God meant them to be. No matter how hard parents try to control the environment to give kids a perfectly smooth path, hardships will inevitably come their way.
When those moments come, our kids need to know how to be leaders in virtue. And virtue is learned not through strolling a rose-strewn path but through climbing the mountains and weathering the storms of ordinary life.
One researcher who is blaring the alarm about “helicopter parenting” is Julie Lythcott-Haims, former dean of freshmen at Stanford University. She lays out the arguments against it in How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.
In this bestselling book, Lythcott-Haims explains the ways overparenting harms children, their parents, and society at large—and offers practical alternative strategies for raising kids to be self-sufficient, resilient, and successful. She also lists a number of life skills that young adults need to develop before they leave home.
If anyone knows what is a reasonable expectation for a young adult’s abilities, it’s this long-time university administrator. So if you want to make sure your child leaves home well prepared for whatever life throws their way, use this list of practical things they’ll need to know how to do from Lythcott-Haims’ book. And don’t miss the book, which is full of many more sensible suggestions!