Excerpted from HOW TO RAISE AN ADULT: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims, published June 9, 2015 by Henry Holt and Company, LLC. Copyright © 2015 by Julie Lythcott-Haims. All rights reserved.

To What End?

A heightened level of parental involvement in the lives of kids obviously stems from love—unquestionably a good thing. But by the time I stepped down as dean at Stanford in 2012 I had interacted not only with a tremendous number of parents but with students who seemed increasingly reliant upon their parents in ways that felt, simply, off. I began to worry that college “kids” (as college students had become known) were somehow not quite formed fully as humans. They seemed to be scanning the sidelines for Mom or Dad. Under-constructed. Existentially impotent.

Tremendous good can be said about the baby boomers—they were drafted into and questioned the Vietnam War, lay their bodies on the line in the monumental civil rights and civil liberties struggles of their day, and fueled the greatest economic growth our nation has ever seen. But did Boomers’ egos become interlaced with the accomplishments of their children to such an extent that they felt their own success was compromised if their children fell short of expectations?14 And did some of these parents go so far in the direction of their own wants and needs that they eclipsed their own kids’ chances to develop a critical psychological trait called “self-efficacy”—that is, what eminent psychologist Albert Bandura identifies as “the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations”?15 There’s a deeply embedded irony here: Maybe those champions of self-actualization, the Boomers, did so much for their kids that their kids have been robbed of a chance to develop a belief in their own selves.

Author Julie Lythcott-Haims
Author Julie Lythcott-Haims (Kristina Vetter)

Did the safety-conscious, academic achievement-focused, self-esteem-promoting, checklisted childhood that has been commonplace since the mid-1980s and in many communities has become the norm, rob kids of the chance to develop into healthy adults? What will become of young adults who look accomplished on paper but seem to have a hard time making their way in the world without the constant involvement of their parents? How will the real world feel to a young person who has grown used to problems being solved for them and accustomed to praise at every turn? Is it too late for them to develop a hunger to be in charge of their own lives? Will they at some point stop referring to themselves as kids and dare to claim the “adult” label for themselves? If not, then what will become of a society populated by such “adults”? These were the questions that began to gnaw at me and that prompted me to write this book.

These questions were on my mind not just at work but as I made my way in my community of Palo Alto, where the evidence of overparenting was all around me—even in my own home. Too many of us do some combination of overdirecting, overprotecting, or over-involving ourselves in our kids’ lives. We treat our kids like rare and precious botanical specimens and provide a deliberate, measured amount of care and feeding while running interference on all that might toughen and weather them. But humans need some degree of weathering in order to survive the larger challenges life will throw our way. Without experiencing the rougher spots of life, our kids become exquisite, like orchids, yet are incapable, sometimes terribly incapable, of thriving in the real world on their own. Why did parenting change from preparing our kids for life to protecting them from life, which means they’re not prepared to live life on their own? And why do these problems I’m writing about seem rooted in the middle and upper middle classes? After all, parents care deeply about doing a good job and if we’re fortunate enough to be middle- or upper-middle-class, we have the means—the time and disposable income—on our side to help us parent well. So, have we lost our sense of what parenting well actually entails?

And what of our own lives as parents? (“What life?” is a reasonable response.) We’re frazzled. Worried. Empty. Our neighborhoods are photo-worthy, our food and wine are carefully paired, but with childhood feeling more and more like an achievement arms race, can we call what we and our children are living a “good life”? I think not. Our job is to monitor our kids’ academic tasks and progress, schedule and supervise their activities, shuttle them everywhere, and offer an outpouring of praise along the way. Our kids’ accomplishments are the measure of our own success and worth; that college bumper sticker on the rear of our car can be as much about our own sense of accomplishment as our kids’.

In the spring of 2013 I attended a board meeting for an organization that provides financial support to Palo Alto’s public schools. In casual conversation afterward as the parents were taking one last piece of coffee cake and heading out into their day, a woman who knows of my work pulled me aside. “When did childhood get so stressful?” she pleaded with a faraway look. I put my hand on her shoulder as tears slowly filled her eyes. Another mother overheard and came toward us, nodding her head. Then she leaned in, asking me, “Do you know how many moms in our community are medicated for anxiety?” I didn’t know the answer to either question. But a growing number of conversations like this with moms like these became another reason to write this book.

The dean in me may have been concerned about the development and prospects of young adults who had been overparented—and I think I’ve made better choices as a parent thanks to spending so much time with other people’s young adults. But the parent in me has struggled with the same fears and pressures every other parent faces, and, again, I understand that the systemic problem of overparenting is rooted in our worries about the world and about how our children will be successful in it without us. Still, we’re doing harm. For our kids’ sakes, and also for our own, we need to stop parenting from fear and bring a more healthy—a more wisely loving—approach back into our communities, schools, and homes. Through research woven together with real-life observations and commonsense advice, this book will show us how to raise our kids to become adults—and how to gather the courage to do so.

Julie Lythcott-Haims served as Dean of Freshmen and Undergraduate Advising for over a decade at Stanford University, where she received the Dinkelspiel Award for her contributions to the undergraduate experience. A mother of two teenagers, she has spoken and written widely on the phenomenon of helicopter parenting, and her work has appeared on TEDx talks and in Forbes and the Chicago Tribune. She is pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at California College of the Arts in San Francisco.


What Overparenting Looks Like From a Stanford Dean’s Perspective 14 June,2015MindShift

  • kryten8

    It’s rather amusing that this article comes from a Stanford dean, when getting into elite colleges (and thus being possibly able to make as much money as their parents) is the whole reason this over-parenting thing started, because college admissions reward over-parenting.

    Put another way, of *course* Stanford is going to have students with anxious, over-involved parents when the bar for getting in requires more than even an elite a high-school kid can reasonably accomplish without a full-time momager.

    I wonder how things would change if we took the (possibly Malcolm Gladwell?) suggestion that every kid who passes a bar (GPA, SAT, Activities, whatever the numerical system asks for) is entered into a lottery. Making the expectations clear could make elite schools into true academic leaders and simplify the whole process.

    • Amy Peach

      Excellent point.

    • Joaquin Murrieta

      You beat me to the point. Good job.

    • Debbie Knight

      I love your suggestion about the lottery. I do disagree with your assertion that the whole reason for over-parenting is college admissions. My observation of what happened in the 80s is that parents were fearful of their child being kidnapped or molested. As a child in the 60s, I walked to school without parental help. The other day my neighbor asked me to pick up her son from kindergarten because she couldn’t be there. Her son HAD to be picked up by an adult otherwise the school would alert the police. They would not allow him to leave school alone. That drastic change has nothing to do with college.

      • kryten8

        I fully understand how this is an issue for little kids, but as a middle school teacher, I have to say, the effects of that wear off by the time they hit high school. They’re not allowed to transition because they’re overbooked with supervised activities, even at an older age.

      • Susan S

        When my son was in middle school, I wanted him to be able to walk home by himself (less than a mile). The school told me that they didn’t have a “policy” for that option, as opposed to the specific steps one needed to take in order to have your child picked up/released to another adult.

      • Lena Wooldridge

        Debbie I love your observation about the (irrational) fear of child molestation. It is absolutely ridiculous how protective American parents are of their children’s physical safety. The goofiest part: It is extremely unlikely that your child will be raped, murdered, kidnapped, etc., by a complete stranger. Although this DOES happen, obviously, it’s extremely rare. I’m talking like less than 10 kids a year, probably. The issue is that our media is so inclined towards morbid sensationalism that these events are highly publicized, making American mothers think that this is a more common event than it is. In reality, America is extremely safe. And children are more likely to be kidnapped, murdered, etc., by someone their immediate social circle. Like a step parent or neighbor. By not letting kids even WALK to school on their own, parents are robbing them of essential “street skills”…. this is particularly true of suburban families, I’d think, which is scary given how suburbia has exploded in the past half century. This is like one of the most worrying aspects of the millenials….. I spent a semester in Europe, and kids there are running around along SO YOUNG. There’s no way it doens’t make for stronger people.

        • Ann Power Smith

          Indeed parents are prosecuted (see free-range parenting controversy) now for letting their kids walk home from the park without an adult.

          • Lena Wooldridge

            Yeah my mom actually is big on the free range parenting and she’s complained about having issues with parents, school faculty, etc

      • Sherri Benjamin

        We’ve been trying to fight this, but of course schools don’t want to be liable. Lets face it, the first time something happens to a child walking home by themselves – parents lawyer up! We have found a way around it though. We let our kids walk TO school on their own. School is also not the only place that you can let them go on their own.

    • Frankie Heck

      I agree with you kryten – 100%.

      The path to economic security (which sadly has become disconnected from professional/vocational success and satisfaction) is becoming so narrow that children and young adults have little room to experiment and – horror of horrors – fail. Perhaps the perception is inaccurate – but does it matter if it persists so ubiquitously?

      So what this author is saying is raise perfection, but make sure it looks like you had nothing to do with it.

    • kryten8, I’m going to take a different perspective. To me, you have in fact validated the article by your very comment. You are insinuating that getting into an elite college is the be-all and end-all. You are to me artificially raising the stakes of parenting — gotta get my kid into an elite college…or else…?
      I think some of this over-parenting is the result of this urgency for status and accomplishment…and this is characterized with too narrow of a focus. It’s a shame that such external indicators such as getting into an elite college has become a measure of success. Your kid could go to a kick butt trade school and learn some hard skills and greatly out-earn most graduates of elite colleges. But I suspect that this wouldn’t look as good to the other parents in the neighborhood. I think the elite college mandate is necessary for bragging rights. I expect most parents to disagree with this because it’s so difficult to look at ourselves that way.
      There are many paths to success in life (financial and otherwise)..and they involve instilling and nurturing skills and abilities in your child to give them the necessary tools to find their own path. I’m hoping more parents look at the bigger picture instead of coming off with such urgency to build a pretty resume for their child.

      • kryten8

        I didn’t say that the article was wrong- I said that the article was looking at a narrow slice of people that consist mostly of elitists who went to elite colleges themselves. These people don’t see trades as an option- they barely see tradespeople as people. Clearly the author of the article just ignored every kid going into trades with this article, as well as every kid going to state schools, or any other type of post-high school life. I can’t believe she wrote a whole book about this and didn’t realize that she was just talking about just elite kids.

        I think the book “Excellent Sheep” makes a great, similar point, but the author there realizes that he’s not talking about everyone- he’s just talking about kids at Yale, where he works. He also realizes that whining about parents isn’t going to do much good, and that the structure of college admissions is part of the problem.

        • OK. First off, I’d like to say I appreciate the collaborative and even tone in your points. These things get passionate too quickly which makes it hard to discuss. I’m going to take exception to your statement “getting into elite colleges…is the whole reason this over-parenting thing started”. That’s where I disagree. I think competitiveness in parents emerged BEFORE it became more difficult to get into elite colleges. That’s my opinion. And, I think more and more parents look to more superficial achievements such as getting into an elite college as a measure of ‘success’ which is in turn making the landscape more competitive. So it boils down to a difference of opinion of cause and effect.
          Let me share a story to support. In the early 2000s I worked for a major drug company…which had gobs of money to spend on researching consumers and understanding them. One of the stats we noticed among the general population (skewing more to middle class and above) was that if a mom (don’t mean to pick on women that that’s what was studied…can’t comment on men) experienced symptoms of pain and discomfort she medicated herself about 60% of those situations. Sounds reasonable since people don’t always pop pills and just deal with whatever. We also noticed that if she was a parent of a child under the age of 5 she medicated over 95% of situations where she believed her child had pain or discomfort. We found that to be a very high number, which was repeatedly validated through extensive research. What’s more, this number used to be lower but was rising over time.
          So, we set about to understand why this was and spent a lot of money studying it. What we found was that while many of those moms who medicated 95% of the time often believed that their child was just as well off if the symptom ran its course, they felt pressure to be ‘seen’ as good mothers. And you are ‘seen’ as a good mother by taking action. This self imposed pressure had been growing and intensifying among the general pop over time since the 90s.
          That’s one collection of studies on one issue. Has nothing to do with the success of their child in life but was eye opening about the psychographics of parenting and how they were changing. Supports my belief that parenting now is much more competitive and pressure-filled. And, supports my theory that parents want to be seen as good parents…and one way for that to happen is if their kid gets into an elite school…versus, say, finding their own bliss and passions, whatever they are.

          • kryten8

            I’m not sure what your story has to do with elite colleges, though- the elite college thing has been around for a *long* time. I agree that upper-middle-class issues don’t entirely stem from college admissions, but I think, when analyzing college students, that’s a HUGE part of the issue, particularly given the selection criteria at Stanford and elite colleges that screen for kids with helicopter parents.

            I obviously don’t know where the obsession with outward appearances came from, particularly as we don’t know when it started- in the “Keeping up with the Joneses” 50s? In the 90s/2000s when it was measured?

          • In simplest terms I’m countering your point that elite colleges are the cause of parental competitiveness and over-control. My story illustrates how parental competitiveness has been an emerging phenomenon independent of what colleges are doing. Yes, keeping up with the Jones’ has always been there to a degree but has intensified greatly and become more widespread in the last decade or two. Also has become not just about owning things but now trophy kids.

          • Frankie Heck

            Larry I agree with your point that parents – and particularly mothers – want to be seen as doing a good job. I disagree with your characterization of this desire as “self-inflicted pressure”. We are social beings that learn to parent by imitating our own parents, our peers, and/or other parents that we see as successful. Very rare is the new parent who is self-actualized enough to forge her own unique parenting path and buck whatever the current trends happen to be. That doesn’t mean they are weak or immature. It means they are social animals. So blaming individual parents for internalizing the pressure of current parenting practices is off the mark in my opinion.

            The other thing is, it is really hard to not parent with hyper-vigilance when the broader culture expects parents to be hyper vigilant. Others have mentioned it above, and below, but it begs repeating. Parent’s are often not allowed to decide when their children should have the freedom to walk to school or play at the park alone. School officials and other parents raise eyebrows and shake fingers. Authorities are called – that’s not an urban legend. So again – how are individual parents supposed to resist that pressure?

            I don’t think the genesis of the problem lies with elite schools upping the admissions ante or parents being competitive among themselves. I think it has more to do with economic pressure and the narrowing of viable avenues to economic stability for middle class children.

        • gapaul

          Sorry for the delayed response. I think I see tradespeople as people — they’re my family members. 4 of them just got laid off when a mill closed that had been employing members of the family for several generations. They owned modest homes, they sent their kids to college. The entire town is collapsing. The state university system costs 40 times what it did a generation ago.

          Then, there’s my single parent sister who is a cop — and moonlights to make ends meet.

          While our economy is rebounding, it is not looking so good for millenials. http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-04-20/in-new-millennium-no-jobs-for-millennials

          So yeah, I think its too easy to psychologize this problem, to see it as only a worry for the Tiger Moms who have to get their kids to an Ivy and a 6 figure salary. The fact is, these “tradespeople” you’re talking about, with a pension and a good health plan and job security — they’ve mostly gone the way of the dodo. This article scapegoats parents (sure, some of them are ridiculous) while pretending the info in that Bloomsberg article is irrelevant.

      • gapaul

        But in the days of unions, trade schools provided an avenue into a real middle class life. There are some, but not many trades which offer that any longer. I just don’t think we can have this conversation without looking at the rest of the political and economic reality in the US today. Teachers in North Carolina qualifying for food stamps. Just one example which demonstrates that typical, middle class jobs that dependably supported a family are evaporating. The gap between the haves and the have-nots is widening, and that makes people fearful. They want to be sure their kids will be okay. Maybe some want too much — but when “good enough” seems to be in short supply, no wonder people are nervous.

      • Bibi Bissette

        Agree with all points of your comment.

      • congming

        I don’t think parents are pushing hard for colleges because they are elitist and snobby. I think they are doing it because they are worried about their kid having a middle class job at all. Being a plumber or car mechanic or electrician is great work, and can pay very well, if you get in. The problem is, the real options are limited. Trade schools have applicant-to-available-slot ratios that rival Harvard’s. Unions used to provide a lot of training, but unions are severely weakened now. And the job numbers aren’t that great. In the heyday of American manufacturing, a factory could support an entire town — thousands, or tens of thousands, of families. They still do, in Guangdong, China. But so many factories have moved overseas, and so many factory jobs are also being replaced by robotics, that the opportunities are eroding badly. And skilled trades just cannot support the same number of people; where one factory could provide thousands of jobs, one middle sized town can only support a dozen or so electricians and plumbers. It’s just the nature of the work: factories have to produce thousands of complex parts 24/7, but you only need a plumber once in a while. So parents are pushing their kids toward college because they see highly skilled professions, like programming or medicine or engineering, as the spots where new jobs are being created. Problem is, instead of investing in education at all levels for kids and making both trade schools and colleges more accessible, the higher education system has just generated a crazy number of hoops kids have to jump through to get in the door. They have created a system that no teenager can navigate by himself. And then they wonder why they get “helicoptered” kids. I completely agree with you about giving kids tools for life instead of a list of “accomplishments.” I just think that our current economic and education system militates against that, and parents are just responding to the reality.

    • gapaul

      You are so, so right. My latest examples of what it now takes to get into a place like Stanford: high school “internships.” Summer college programs. Note the valorization of high school students who start their own nonprofits, or whose grade point averages are above a 4.0 Show me a kid like that and I’ll show you a parent who was there to push, prod and catch– when the kid forgot to file the form or sign up for the extra thing, and who drove the project to school when it was left on the kitchen counter. And woe to the 15 year old boy who acts like a 15 year old boy — not turning stuff in, “hanging out” instead of doing something productive with his weekends. You don’t get to Stanford (or Cal) that way. You need a parent riding your tail.
      My teenage years might have been filled with summer jobs at the donut shop — and an occasional C didn’t throw you out of the running for a good college (now sadly, a third rate college throws you out of the running for a good enough grad school for a lot of today’s jobs.) The failure to see economic issues at work here makes me think this Stanford official really, truly doesn’t get it. She needs to visit Chico State and take a look at the numbers of students who’ll graduate and move back to their parents’ basements. Or go to some third tier law school and spend the rest of their lives paying for it, never working as lawyers. This isn’t all about parents’ psyches and egos. Spend a day over in the Stanford Admissions office, Ms. Lythcott-Haimes. Parents are afraid because college, any college, no longer guarantees a safe middle class life.
      And by the way, the youngest baby-boomers are now 51. If this coddling is going on in today’s elementary schools, its probably not them.
      I also think we need to uncouple parent concern about achievement with parent concerns about safety. If you send your kid off to Rio or Katmandu (because it’ll look good on their application) you aren’t hung up about safety. We’re looking at different things and we’re desperate to slap a “helicopter parenting” label on both.

      • Michele Edelmuth

        I am a semi-involved parent. I have a daughter who will be a Junior in high school. My daughter recently got a job at an ice cream shop and I was so proud. And then I thought, is this what she should be doing? Perhaps she should be getting an internship, traveling to Costa Rico to build houses for the poor, or start a non-profit. I felt such anguish. She is fine with her job, taking chemistry in summer school and volunteering at the cat shelter on weekends – but I thought, is it enough? Is it flashy and will it get her into a “good” school? I sometimes feel as if I am battling the lure of the over-involved.

      • congming

        This is absolutely true and well put. There is a deep (and deeply clueless) irony about a Stanford administrator writing this. In our experience, it is not the fear of crime that keeps parents hovering. Where we live, kids routinely walk to school, roam around town, etc. The problem is parents frantic to get their kids into a good college steering their kids into activities like “high school internships,” starting non-profits, being captain of sports teams, etc. which are the grist for the college admissions mill. And the sad thing is, the parents are right. One school principal in our town, who knows the admissions process very well from her experience in schools, made absolutely sure her son was in student government, taking a full IB curriculum, maintaining an above 4.0 GPA, captain of the soccer team plus playing other sports, taking the PSATs early, applying for early admissions, etc. It’s a long way from Tom Sawyer. No sixteen year old boy, even a very bright kid, is going to do all this on his own. I wonder whether the boy had any time to develop into his own person. But he was admitted to several Ivy League schools and is attending one now, so it worked. In an economy with steadily increasing income inequality, and absurdly competitive schools as gatekeepers to the middle class, this parental reaction is inevitable. What needs to change here is not the pathetic misguided parents, but the college admissions system, and access to good education and good jobs.

    • Good point, thank you! My son did not qualify to get into Stanford, even though his dad is an alum, because we did NOT do all that 1980s overparenting. We consciously chose to let him have a childhood, to give him free time in which to do his own thing, and to let him grow up to be his own man. His friends whose lives were micromanaged to the minute got into Ivy League schools. He got into a good liberal arts college and after four aimless years came out with a degree that has landed him a job as an insurance adjustor, working cube-by-cube with high-school grads and with people whose law degrees have helped them into the same dead-end job.

      • Will

        Not sure of your point. Is it that you feel guilty that he did not get into Stanford, or guilt that his college years were aimless? If he is in a dead-end job, perhaps let go of the guilt and let him deal with it.

  • Shana Crondahl

    Okay, this author lost her credibility with me as soon as she referred to the parents of college students as “baby boomers.” Most of the college kids have parents who are NOT baby boomers, but grandparents who are baby boomers.

    • Merrie Mitzi Dickerson

      I’m a baby boomer, the very tail end. There are a few of us, but you are correct; most of the parents in my circle are in their 30s and 40s. I’m an anomaly.

    • Meg

      My husband and I are baby boomers… towards the tail end. We have had a child or two in college since 2008 and will until 2024. Our children’s grandparents are Post War Cohorts. To make her article correct it should have read Baby Boomers and Gen X parents. Most of the parent’s of my children’s friends are also baby boomers.

      • cindy_in_tx

        My parents were baby boomers, but they had us early so I’m near the beginning of the Gen X (born in ’68). I thought our parents and most of my friends’ parents were pretty neglectful like their own parents were with them. We were always out on our own, and if we played sports it was in school or an informal game among friends. Many parents didn’t even go to the games if their kids played in school. Our parents were the first to start divorcing in large numbers. We were the first kids togo to daycare in

        • Kathryn Reyna

          I think you are right, Cindy. I was born in ’71 and I remember walking to my middle school on days when it was nice out and I didn’t feel like riding the bus. It was a *long* walk – well over a mile, I’d think, but my parents and my best friend’s parents thought nothing of letting us do this. My parents didn’t ever help me with homework, as I remember. Now I was raised in a home that was *very* less-than-ideal, but I don’t think my friends’ parents did, either. Now I hear many high school students talk about how their parents sit down at the kitchen table with them, every night, for hours and essentially do their homework for them.

          I taught high school for a few years and one of the books I taught (one year) was the superb “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I think it’s so interesting that student admire and like Atticus and seem to think he’s a great dad. However his kids play outside for hours every summer and he (or Calpurnia) has no idea where they are are or what they are doing. On the fateful night of the school play when the children are attacked, not only does Atticus not attend the play, but they walk home after the play, cutting through a dark wood. And he was a model of good parenting in his day. Fast forward a few decades and not only do parents feel the need to sign their kids up for multiple sports, clubs and musical activities, they feel they *must* attend every. single. event. I know a woman who works as a nurse in a hospital who, every week or two is running around frantically trying to switch shifts with someone because Precious Flower’s travel basketball team is playing for the hundredth time and even though Dad and probably aunts, uncles and grandparents are at every game, she feel she has to be, as well.

          I think it’s gone way overboard and I also think there will be a backlash or at least an easing of the craziness at some point, after enough parents have had to be medicated for the stress!

    • Sharon in SF

      The baby boom is considered to have run from 1945 to 1964. So…yes..many grandparents, but someone born in 1963 or 64 would now be 51 or 52, entirely likely to have college aged children.

      • Gracie Pearl


      • Lena Wooldridge

        Lol, my grandma was born in 1946 and my dad was born in 1963… So I guess their both baby boomers by this stupid over-generalization of social phenomena. Wuhuuu what a paradox

    • GymMom66

      My husband is a Baby Boomer, and I just missed the tail end. We have one child in college, and one about to leave for college. Not everyone has children in their early 20’s. Some of us, for personal, career, or medical reasons, have them in our late 20’s, 30’s, or even early 40’s.

      • CBC

        Yes, my parents had me at 40, and I’m 20 now, so they were Baby Boomers, born through the 50’s-60’s. That comment you are responding to is very one-sided (so I agree with you) and I can speak from personal life experience that most of my college friends have 50-60 year old parents. My grandma had my mom when she was 21, and even she says “Times have changed and that is not normal anymore.”

    • Karen Gonya Nickles

      My husband and I were both born in 1964, the last year of the Baby Boom. We have two (adult) children who are now 24 and 21. The 24 year-old graduated from college two years ago and the 21 year-old is a rising senior. We felt like we were young parents, as most of our children’s friends had parents who were 5-10 years older than we were. My experience tells me that many Baby Boomers currently have children in college, especially Baby Boomers from highly educated, dual high income areas. Many of those people did not choose to have children until their mid 30s to early 40s.

    • vamom1

      I’ll be 60 next month – my daughter will be graduating from college in Dec. Most of her friends in the dorm have parents within 5 years of me, if not the same age.

    • CBC

      Not necessarily, both my parents were born between the 50’s-60’s and my father was drafted to war. I’m a 20-year-old college senior. Unless you’re talking about people who had children really young, which is probably *common* among people who don’t get into Stanford. So probably not applicable to this situation.

    • Ilse

      Label aside, the current parents learned their parenting techniques from their baby boomer parents. The me-first attitudes are passed down, glorified by the media, expected by society, and now get world-wide notoriety on social media. An over-protective set of laws (made by lawmakers of the same generation) almost forces parents into actions that do not allow their children to develop street smarts. A child is not allowed to play alone in its own yard? A hypochondriac, germphobic mindset does not allow children to develop resistance–their world does not need to be overwhelmed with Purell and antibacterial soaps, wipes, etc. No wonder we are besieged by allergies and illnesses that we used to be able to fight off. Life has been made a competition where “mine is better than yours”, and I can brag about it publicly, and you will be publicly shamed for not doing what “they” say. Without these laws, studies, rules, cautions, my mother lived to 99, in my eighties I still work full-time (by choice), my adult children grew up fine without being helicoptered, and I look sadly at the conditions mentioned in the original article, and wonder where we are going.

  • Hmm. It might be wise, when speaking authoritatively on adolescents and parenting, to demonstrate a solid knowledge of human development, and in particular, neurobiological development.

    “I began to worry that college “kids” were somehow not quite formed fully as humans…Under-constructed.”

    Um….right. The prefrontal cortex does not full mature until humans are in their mid-20’s.

    Have your opinion, sure. Overparenting? Yeah, it’s out there, and it’s great that we’re talking about it. But when an author makes it clear from the first paragraph that they are wildly uninformed, it damages the credibility of the argument.

    • GymMom66

      I’ve seen the studies showing the late development of certain areas of the brain.

      A few things to keep in mind:

      1. This is an average age. Some develop sooner. Some develop even later.

      2. We know that there is an interplay between environment, experience, and physical/neural development. That delayed neural development may be largely a result of our current culture, and the limited life experience that children/young adults have in our society. I have read a lot of literature about the formation of neural pathways when it comes to education, and we know that it takes repetition to help form and stabilize those pathways. Maybe if we allowed our teens to make more of their own decisions, and deal with the consequences of those decisions, that part of the brain would develop at a younger age.

      • There are surely many teens who DO make more of their own decisions and deal with the conequences of that decision, so there is an ample database from which to draw conclusions. Research still indicates the same trajectory for brain development. While brain development is surely experience-driven, the universal maturation of human beings has not varied in any substantive way throughout history.

        • John Ostrander

          Having worked with the 14 to 18 age group for 10 years my opinion is they are far less mature than when I was 14-18 in the 1980’s.

          This is not an opinion easily arrived at but developed by many discussions observations and research. Teens are over-patented and all consequences have been removed. This is further enabled by public schools that leave no child behind, and drill into everyone th st they must go to college or they will fail in life.

          Failure is an alien and fearsome concept to kids because they are not allowed to fail, and they should be.

          • vamom1

            I agree completely. They ( and I am generalizing here, there are always exceptions to the rule) seem unable to handle even the slightest bump in the road, much less the basic requirements. My daughters college requires a “thesis” for some majors (independent study for others). When she used this term I questioned it since “back in my day” a thesis was a 500-1000 page dissertation completed for one’s PhD. Now it is a 20 page paper, required at the culmination of undergraduate work, representing the sum total of all the student has learned in 4 years. “Back in my day” a 20 page paper was something required 3x during an average course. What’s worse is I met students who were spending their entire semester grooming this 20 page “thesis” and still failing at it, commiserating about how hard it was and how could they possibly do all that work. WTF????? The work required is much less, the depth of knowledge is much less (many of daughter’s science courses were crammed full of buzzwords but because of time, only presented a brief overview of entire fields of study that should have been covered in depth in their own classes – and she’s a science major) . This is not education – this is college-for-profit. Take them in, keep them busy, graduate them with a piece of paper, gear up the next crop. Now I know why the phrase “back in my day” was invented.

          • John Ostrander

            A thesis is however ling it needs to be but you are correct kids are coddled by public schools because we are required to pass as many as possible. High stakes testing contributes to this.

            My collegiate experiences are different than what you are saying. I worked and my students work but are ill prepared for college rigor by public schools despite whatever ” dats” I’d reported about so called college readiness.

          • CBC

            Are you sure it’s not the fact that people don’t have children are 25 and die at 50 now?

          • Frankie Heck

            They should indeed be allowed the space to fail. Unfortunately the consequences of making mistakes, even as teens, are quite high for the children of the middle class and below.

    • doggypaws

      From a legal perspective they are adults at 18. We can refer to them as young adults and they are. They may still be developing but they are adults. If they are old enough to fight in wars and to vote they are not children. I think that is the point the author was trying to make.

      • Or perhaps we have children (or adolescents, since adolescents are different than children) fighting in wars and voting. There is some evidence to support that assertion. And yes, I understand the point the author was trying to make. I was speaking directly to her choice of words, asserting that they are “not quite fully formed,” etc. This is indisputable. We could easily say the same of the young men and women in the military or the voting booths. They, too, are often not mature.

        • doggypaws

          Or perhaps when we coddle and pamper our children then their brains do not develop as thoroughly as when we give our children opportunities to learn through trial and error, let them fail and stumble, let them feel frustrated, teach them what delayed gratification means, and give them opportunities to think critically and independently. I don’t expect a 20 year old to be as mature as a 30 year old just as I don’t expect a 30 year old to be as mature as a 40 year old. But a 20 year old brain that is not “quite as fully formed” as a 30 year old (or in your words “mature”) still does not need his parents hovering over him like a 5 year old. And a 20 year old who has to call or text her mother every day (or more) as so many of them do, is acting like a 5 year old child. She is not a 5 year old, so let’s stop treating her like 5 year old and maybe she will be able to develop her brain more thoroughly so she will become an independent, responsible adult.

    • Emilio Lizardo

      Unlike many animals that are fully developed upon birth Humans don’t fully develop until later in life. Women finish earlier than men.

      This is a great evolutionary advantage for adaptation. So just be cause we continue to develop doesn’t mean that we can’t think for ourselves.

      • Of *course* is doesn’t mean that we can’t think for ourselves. I am responding to the author’s claim, made with surprise, that college students are “not quite fully formed” or “under-constructed.” Indeed, that is a fact, and nothing having to do with overparenting.

        • Tracey Berry

          I think she means socially. And on that front, she is correct

          • That may very well be. And they may be delayed socially. But the brain maturation I’m referring to is about executive function, which controls planning, impulse control, and “thinking things through”–executive function plays a huge part in social development, not only intellectual development.

    • Gracie Pearl

      Or, maybe you are the one wildly uninformed

      • Of course. It’s always possible that I’m wildly uninformed. I have read and studied extensively in child development and developmental neurobiology, and to my understanding, the consensus in the field is that maturation of the prefrontal cortex (leading to the more complete acquisition of executive function) occurs not in adolescence, but in the mid-20’s. However, I am more than happy to read and consider citations that demonstrate a strong body of research to the contrary.

    • John Ostrander

      It’s not a biology paper, it’s an excerpt from a book that appears to be behavioral not anatomical in nature.

  • inquisteam
  • Gabriella

    An irony: as Dean of Freshmen and Undergraduate Advising, Ms Lythcott-Haims is part of the problem, since her job involves managing or channeling the anxieties of her charges’ parents. I’ll put it another way: the proliferation of deans and deanlets, who are supposed to manage various aspects of students’ lives at colleges, is academia’s capitulation to the trend that Ms Lythcott-Haims bemoans. It would be much more healthy for the students—and by the way bring down tuition—if most of these positions were cut. It would give students an opportunity to grow up and find their way on their own.

    I taught at a private school, and I couldn’t believe how much time the head of school and her assistants spent on the phone with parents as the parents emoted, had tantrums, or attempted to micro-manage their children’s lives. It would have been much better to tell the parents (most of the time), “I don’t have time for this,” but it was a private school, and the customer is always right. (And, sadly, they *did* have time for it: holding parents’ hands was practically the job description.)

    • vamom1

      What I have found at my daughter’s private college is the amount of handholding they do with the students themselves, in addition to an overwhelming number of rules- i.e. the dorms have kitchens. But the students are not allowed to have knives, because they might be used as a weapon. They are not allowed to have pots and pans in their rooms, or anything that generates heat (including electric blankets) because they might be used to start a fire. Even in the off campus apartment housing- no knives allowed. If a student is on the archery team, they can only store their bow and arrows in a secured locked room, and may only access them when the supervisor of the team is available -no taking them back to their room, or getting them out for practice. If someone on hall has a headache (I kid you not) upon request the entire hall goes automatically into “quiet hours”. Almost every student I’ve met there is on some sort of medication for some medical issue, and they have a full time therapist at the school. I keep wondering what will happen when (if they ever can afford it) they move out into an apt complex and no one there gives a damn if they have a headache. How will they ever learn that the world does not revolve around them? More importantly how will they ever learn to cut up veggies and meat without getting practice with a knife and resisting the urge to use it as a weapon???? The level of coddling just floors me, and I’ve made a real point of discussing it with my daughter -who is perfectly capable of using a knife in a non-threatening manner, and simply closing her door and taking advil when she has a headache. If parent shave been overprotective, the colleges themselves are elaborating on it. And I suspect it’s just a way to ward off any legal liability if little Suzy finally snaps because she wasn’t raised to handle the stress of being a human adult.

      • wellcraftedtoo1st

        Good grief. I have had two children attend large, highly rated public universities. The world you are describing bears no resemblance to their college experiences.

        • floyd hall

          Yeah, that’s why I sent two of my kids to a big state school, so they would have to take care of themselves. The third went to a fancy private school on full scholarship. Her every need was tended to — and then some. I drew the line when a college counselor tried to put her on anti-anxiety medicine when she broke up with her boyfriend. I talked to the guy on the phone. I said, “Really? For breaking up with her girlfriend? I tell you what, I’m going to get in my car and drive down there so we can talk about this.” And I did. He didn’t meet with me. The anti-depressant thing didn’t happen. So do I regret being a helicopter parent? Not at all.

      • CBC

        Jesus Christ…there is a clear reason for the knife thing…why would you base an entire argument on that?? I’m laughing at the ridiculousness. People are crazy. You know how many people get doped up on drugs in college and would unintentionally do something stupid? Take it from a current college student. This is a God-awful argument for “hand-holding” as you say.

        • kryten8

          What? There is a clear reason for the knife thing? Really?

          The thought of having a kitchen without knives makes it sound like a preschool. It does sound like hyperbole (I seriously doubt most colleges ban knives at this point), but there *are* a lot of rules around what you can/cannot have in a dorm.

          • CBC

            My college doesn’t allow candles because they start fires. Knifes can cause accidents. Even if it’s not a “knife fight” it’s still an expense the college would have to pay if someone cut their wrist cooking and screwed themselves up. I studied at UCLA and we weren’t allowed to have knives in our rooms because it’s just plain hazardous. A friend of mine brought a sword (why, I don’t know) and got a stern talking to. It’s just unnecessary to have in a college dorm. I do not understand the argument that knives are not potentially hazardous even mistakenly. This sounds a lot like an older generation just trying to make a younger generation sound like “widdle babies who can’t take care of themselves” and pick apart rules that are in place for a distinct reason.

          • kryten8

            If you’re allowed a kitchen, you should be allowed a knife. They’re tools, not weapons, and you need to learn how to not make mistakes with a knife. If the college’s insurance plan can’t handle kitchen tools in the kitchen, that *is* a bit ridiculous.

            I gotta agree with Steve here- this is exactly what the article is talking about. You think you can’t be allowed to something that virtually every house in America has? Why is that?

          • CBC

            I’m saying the original poster said there is no REASONING behind it. Liability, potential to kill, keyword *potential* are all reasons, and I can’t see how someone would be so incompetent that they can’t see those things…

          • Ann Power Smith

            OK, so you are missing the point by focusing on a literal interpretation. Poor reasoning is functionally similar to no reasoning, either way the outcome is not well supported.

          • CBC

            They are acting as if there is no obvious reason here. Even if the reason is STUPID it is still OBVIOUS.

          • gapaul

            I’m finding it hard to believe the knife thing, but if true — it may not be coddling — it may be covering the institutions rear from lawsuits.

          • AOM

            Were you allowed to have fountain pens? Ropes? Bunk beds? Cars? Glass? Because those are potentially hazardous, too. I could take half the things in your dorm room and make them “hazardous” to you if I wanted to. Were the sharp corners of your dorm furniture padded, too?

            A lot of things cause accidents. The question is whether you are capable of handling those items appropriately. My guess is that kids in college now weren’t taught or allowed to use knives as children, so they sure aren’t now magically able to do so, so we have to continue to keep them out of their inexperienced hands.

            You do make the younger generation sound like “widdle babies who can’t take care of themselves.” You’re putting forth this idea that college students should not be allowed access to anything that is, as you put it, “potentially hazardous even mistakenly.” Why, other than the fact that the are “widdle babies who can’t take care of themselves,” should they not be allowed that access?

          • CBC

            Because, I dunno, colleges don’t want to take credit/liability/pay money (what makes sense most in the end) for the one idiot who plays “in between my fingers with the knife?”

          • Ann Power Smith

            CBC, sorry, but I find your position absurd. You could stab someone in the eye with a fork, or a pencil for goodness sake. Anything can be made into a weapon in the wrong hands (see prison). LIFE ON EARTH is potentially hazardous. You will not have a bubble around you your whole life…seriously, it’s called growing up.

        • Steve

          “there is a clear reason for the knife thing” just proves the assertion of this article. Hovering, coddling, over-protection. Knives have been fully available to all students pretty much forever, and I don’t ever remember an epidemic of kids dying from kitchen knife murders.

          • CBC

            Yes but how can you not understand the REASONING behind it? Maybe it is not entirely common for a kitchen knife fight to erupt before class, but it still makes sense to keep them off campus, the same way you would a gun. The original poster was acting like “how would a knife ever cause any harm??? I don’t get this???” Plus she said “And I suspect it’s just a way to ward off any legal liability if little Suzy finally snaps because she wasn’t raised to handle the stress of being a human adult.” So there you go…

          • kryten8

            It is in no way comparable to a gun. Knives, as weapons, are not anywhere *near* as deadly. The wounds aren’t as bad, they require close-up contact (which can be difficult both physically and psychologically for the aggressor), and you can only hurt one person at a time. If someone wants to kill you badly enough that they come at you with a chef’s knife, then they could have figured out a lot of other ways to kill you without the knife (creepy, but true). Following this logic, we should also ban heavy things from campus, because someone might try to bash someone else’s head in. Heck, considering accidents are way more likely than murder on college campuses, perhaps we should also ban showers.

          • CBC

            But the fact that you can still kill someone with a knife…does not occur to you? To you there is no REASONING is what I am asking? Knifes are in no way comparable to heavy objects, you’re reaching so far right now you’re going to pull a muscle.

          • kryten8

            So, you see the reasoning behind the knife (which, yeah, I guess there is reasoning, but the OP meant *solid*, *good* reasoning, which there isn’t behind the knife), but you don’t behind heavy objects? I suggest you play the game “Clue” a few more times and realize that heavy candlesticks and wrenches can totally be used as murder weapons.

            Your reasoning is to treat college students like mental patients- like they’re going to snap and do something crazy- instead of as adults. I’m surprised you think you should have shoelaces on campus.

          • CBC

            Nice continuous use of visual examples, it was literary. Anyways, I’m just saying it was alarming to read a comment that eluded “knives are harmless.” Maybe on those specific campuses incidents involving knives occurred? Like I said before, one of my schools banned knives, another doesn’t to this very day. I understand what you are saying, and we should be treated like adults, but you also need to understand where I am coming from, as it is blatantly obvious that “accidents happen.” If for NO other reason, at least admit the college doesn’t want to be responsible for said “accidents,” and that is why the rule is in place.

          • Ann Power Smith

            I think you got hung up on literal interpretation of pieces of the argument without absorbing the gestalt of the argument, i.e. “not seeing the forest for the trees”. As is common for people with high functioning autism, my daughter is very much like this, so it is kind of cute from my perspective, but it is counterproductive to moving forward with a discussion and mutual understanding. Whether you are on the spectrum or not, as a matter of not getting hung up in circular pointless debates, it would be a good idea to work on seeing the forest.

          • CBC

            You’re comparing me to an autistic person and setting me up to say that is insulting so you can go on a separate tangent about that, so I’ll leave that comment alone. I guess when your daughter does something stupid with a knife like my autistic cousin did, you can come back to me and talk some more.

          • Ann Power Smith

            What? Nope, it was not an insult; it was just a comment on apparent thinking style, which is NOT a bad thing. Autistic traits run in families and are present in family members, including myself, and perhaps you as well. These traits also allow for great gifts, memory for details, extraordinary creativity, etc. It was just a neutral observation that you were not seeing the forest for the trees.

        • aficionada

          CBC, I have read all your posts in reply to vamom1 & have to conclude from your incessant use of hyperbole and need to catastrophize that something is off with your thinking. It could be drugs, an untreated or under-treated psychological disorder, perhaps one exacerbated by stress…but you need to get whatever help is appropriate.

          • AB

            You’re such a treat. I’m sure you’re not half as eager to diagnose people with psychological disorders in person, so I’m glad I don’t know you. I showed this thread to my class and my professor, and we all agreed that although I was too overbearing at first, it is still right to keep knives out of college.

          • aficionada

            Interesting – I never diagnosed you with any “psychological disorder”, yet you’re off and running on a rant about exactly that.

            In what sort of class would you bring in a blog and discuss your posting behavior? And, just coincidentally the professor was leading a discussion on whether or not knives should be on college campuses?

            CBC/AB I personally don’t think you are in college at all.

            From your outrage at my post and your angry retorts (all of which you have now edited) to the posts of others in this discussion it sounds like you have been treated for some kind of psychological disorder, substance abuse problem or both and are not happy or compliant with treatment. Whatever the case, you’re one angry person.

            I am happy to diagnose, support, and help anyone who is struggling in life. I refer them to other competent, compassionate professionals for appropriate care…..in person. Most people are relieved to know their symptoms have a name – something that can be treated. A small percentage don’t want help & blame everyone else for life’s problems.

          • AB

            And this is the sort of borderline cyberbulling bullshit that causes people to turn off commenting capabilities on the internet. Oh god how I wish I could see you face to face.

          • aficionada

            “borderline cyberbulling bullshit” There’s the hyperbole.

            “Oh god how I wish I could see you face to face.” And there we have a combination of your dramatics as well as an angry threat.*

            Proving my points nicely “AB”, formerly CBC.

            *I take threats seriously.

  • Emmers

    I’m curious how the strong pressures on the immediate nuclear family affect both parents and children. In most of history, kids had extended family (aunts, uncles, older cousins, grandparents, etc.) who helped care for them, teach them, and play with them. Now most of that pressure falls on just parents, professional childcare providers, and school teachers. Furthermore, when people raised with “stranger danger” don’t know their neighbors, they won’t let their children out of eyesight, so kids don’t get a chance to run, roam, and make their own decisions. I spent some time in Belize and saw the children in the local village as they roamed their neighborhood, playing with kids of all ages and supervised by everyone. The mothers actually had time to get housework done and have conversations with friends and neighbors. When I’m home alone with my kids, I spend most of my time making sure things don’t get destroyed and making sure my kids have the enrichment they need to grow – time to play outside, time for reading and coloring, conversations with me, etc. My household functions as an island, which seems to be abnormal when you look at the long scope of human society.

    • kryten8

      I mean, this is part of it, but in Stanford’s case, a bigger part of it is that the kids need a manager to meet the random unknown requirements of Stanford. If the kid isn’t doing something that Stanford considers “productive” every moment (so, generally something organized that can be written on a college app), then they probably won’t get in.

      • Liz

        That may be true of Stanford, but by and large, I think it is a misconception that a student has to be a 4.0 or above GPA student, have endless hours of public service, earn at least two varsity letters for sports, edit the yearbook and on and on. There are perfectly good institutions of higher learning that accept students who are “normal.” Perhaps high school guidance counselors need to lighten up so parents will relax a bit.

        • kryten8

          But that’s the problem- we *are* only talking about Stanford in this article- the author made generalizations for a whole generation of kids based on a very specific, differentiated subset.

  • groupthink

    It’s a well worn myth that children accepted into elite colleges need long pre-collegiate resumes. On my daughter’s first day of college I was caught up in the down draft of a landing helicopter mom. Poor kid, I thought. He needs room to make his own way.

    • Megan

      Sweetie, I don’t know what elite colleges you have applied to lately, but you are woefully misinformed about their resume requirements.

      • GmoKathyO

        Despite your patronizing tone, I would argue that Karen’s point is well taken and solid. Every highly qualified high school student does NOT get accepted into every elite college to which they apply. Some of those schools have a less than 10% acceptance rate.

    • Karen Gonya Nickles

      “It’s a well worn myth that children accepted into elite colleges need long pre-collegiate resumes.”
      That is not the experience in my area, where our public school system is consistently ranked in the top ten nationally and we have a slew of prominent private schools. I know of kids with 4.0 unweighted GPAs in all top level courses, incredible SAT scores, extra curricular activities galore, and amazingly impressive community involvement who have been denied entrance into elite colleges. It makes me wonder who they are accepting???

    • kryten8

      You don’t necessarily need a lot of volunteering etc like they say you do (a regular job will suffice, as long as it provided a learning experience), but you *do* need focus, personality, and pretty amazing scores (GPA and SAT/ACT) to get into elite schools. The combination of these things is determined by the school (with a couple other factors, like are the parents alum). This is not something that is possible for some 14-year-olds, thus, helicopter parenting.

  • Lynn

    I’m grateful for 2 things after reading this. My parents were never motivated by fear. Mostly because they focus on positive expectations taught by their religion. They expected us to be fine. So why worry. They exemplified everything I needed to know to pray every morning by affirming my best qualities for the upcoming plans and hopes of the day. Second upon my divorce their college money disappeared. They were left to put themselves through school. My daughter has done so and is just starting her first job using her degree and loved the training they provided, and my son has earned his companies respect so much they are offering to pay his last 2 years. He started in assembly and worked his way up to supply chain and has 5 people he manages. They had to figure all this out. That undid the years of my personal helicopter parenting. We also told my daughter the world would have to supply her consequences because she did not listen to ours. She got a job at the local grocery chain the day after graduating from college, while healing from hip surgery, and the divorce. Both my kids have grit, resourcesfulness and a good education that they must have collected more than their grades show. I’d pit both my kids to be at as effective if not moreso than graduates of best colleges. They will make their own success. Without the leg up that we fear they might not have gotten at home.

  • Margot in the PNW

    I was a Stanford grad student back in the 80’s. I couldn’t agree more with kryten8. The writer has missed the whole point. This isn’t the problem of college parents. It’s the problem of parents whose only measures of success for their children are: which school they are going to and how much they are going to make when they graduate. AKA the parents who push their kids to Stanford. The overachieving parents have met the overachieving school–are we really surprised about what they’ve birthed?

  • Emilio Lizardo

    Remember the parents who were almost arrested and threatened with losing their children all because they let them walk to the park to play alone or walk alone to school?

    Society is demanding that people remain infants until the age of 30. Colleges and employers are now responsible for the respective lives of students and employees.

    And of course Feminism (gender Marxism) has insinuated the state into the family to insure compliance with its dogma. The consequence is the state must intervene.

    Children should be emancipated at 14. For most of humanity’s existence that’s when people married and participated in civilization as adults.

    • jellybutter

      I can see why you would long for the return of days when people were measured by their ability to kill mastodons rather than think critically.

  • maurinsky

    “Our job is to monitor our kids’ academic tasks and progress, schedule
    and supervise their activities, shuttle them everywhere, and offer an
    outpouring of praise along the way.”

    Well, here is a problem. Our job is to raise children who will be productive, contributing members of society when they are adults.

    As a parent who is about to send her second child off to college, the whole university process is part of the problem – if you want your kids to get into elite schools, they must accomplish great things in order to make the cut – keep their grades at the highest levels, get the best test scores, be elected to school office, maybe play a sport at a high level or an instrument at a high level…perhaps invent something or start a non-profit.

    • julietaube

      It is just not necessary to attend an “elite” college to have a happy productive life. Not every student is cut out for it.
      I do know what you mean about the selection process. I taught HS for 30 years. Here’s the truth about MOST colleges: it based almost entirely on class rank and test scores. Yes, when you get to the “elite” colleges, the process becomes ridiculous.
      More good news though. Most parents of those kids were guiding them in a loving manner. The ones who stood out though were the ones who exerted excessive pressure on kids (and teachers). There were some pretty unhappy stories there.
      Another sad aspect were the kids who were good students, but not excellent. Nice kids, who worked very hard. Often the test scores just were not at the “elite” level. That was not the sad part. The sad part was the parents’ disappointment in these great kids.

      • kryten8

        There is a VERY strong belief among those that went to elite colleges that it is necessary to go to an elite college. There is a lot of coded talk aimed at you while you’re at the elite school about how special you are, and about how the group is full of the future leaders of America. It’s not entirely off-base, either- elite colleges pump out people with startling resumes after college, and there are many jobs that will only look at certain elite college names.

        Basically, people from elite colleges use that elite college status (mostly granted to rich kids) to make a classist screening device.

        It’s also behind a lot of the ed reform ideas of today- using (poorly thought-out, as you can see from this article) requirements of elite schools to guide what every kid should do for some reason.

  • Erica_Blair

    Are a lot of over-parenters likely to read a book about how to stop over-parenting?

  • Susan Wilson

    This article reinstates what we already know about stressed out kids not a having “real childhood,” etc. What it doesn’t mention (perhaps the book mentions it) is that a college education is almost mandatory for many careers.
    Colleges are ludicrously expensive (and getting worse every year). Therefore, the competition for future scholarships pushes many kids into the achievement spiral of trying to make themselves attractive to colleges. Then this college dean has the nerve to complain that kids are stressed-out overachievers! IT’S YOUR FAULT!
    If you want our kids to be “complete people” by the time they hit college, stop requiring ridiculous grades, SAT scores, after-school clubs, sports, etc just for admission, not even mentioning scholarships, and lower the price per semester. The basic tuition right now at OSU is almost $10K per year as a resident. The average yearly salary in Ohio is $55K. With books, lab fees — not to mention room and board — four years at OSU is a year’s salary for an Ohio family.
    But at least the Buckeyes are winning every year.

    • kryten8

      My alma mater’s price (including room and board, which you kind of have to do) is more than the average yearly salary in Ohio. I expect Stanford is the same, if not more, as it’s in a more expensive area. When my parents went to school, they could pay for the whole tuition with part-time jobs AND afford a clunker car on top of that.

      I totally agree with you- they’ve created an arms race, choose their kids based on the fact that they’re overachievers (particularly Stanford), then complain that they have been over-parented to achieve what is impossible for most kids to do on their own.

    • AOM

      Excellent point. And at this point, a college degree only assures one of two things — that the applicant comes from a family with financial resources, or the applicant (or her family) is heavily in debt. But it does little to assure that the applicant is qualified for the job.

  • winowmn


    This is a great example. Without condoning the drivers, please note the child do not even look where he was going; oblivious to the honking and not paying attention when crossing a street. WHEN CROSSING A STREET!!! Are children no longer taught to look both ways? Are they not taught what a honking horn might mean? Have we made everything so ‘safe’ for them that basic survival skills no longer matter?

  • Carine Ullom

    While I agree with your general premise about kids being over programmed and over protected, please check your assumptions about middle class lifestyles at the door. Not all of us can relate to “Our neighborhoods are photo-worthy, our food and wine are carefully paired”. Seriously? You need to get out more.
    P.S. Maybe it’s time to change the buzzword from “helicopter parenting” to “drone parenting”. 🙂 (I’ve also heard the term “snowplow parenting” (moving all obstacles out of the way for our children, lest they encounter something a tad uncomfortable.)

  • Dennis Mullen

    This is a result of the everyone gets a trophy mentality. Kids are not taught about failure and that it’s ok to fail if you can learn something from it.

  • Doug Anter

    I, too, as an older (almost 50) parent of a 1 and 2 year old have wondered aloud whether I’ll become one of those helicopter parents (see here: http://anterbanter.com/?p=17). Sometimes it’s just hard to know where the line is (let alone draw it) between the overwhelming love I/we have for them and the potential to over-parent. I abhor that today’s society (not just the schools) calls the police if kids simply walk home from the park, and think that we all just have a little too much time on our hands and treat kids as porcelain dolls. And that whole getting a trophy thing just for showing up — puh-leeze. Regardless, this is an intriguing topic and worth the discussion; I applaud Lythcott-Haims’ look at it.

  • Suzanne Dubinin

    As an educator of children, I agree that a disproportionate number of parents hover over their children instead of leading and then supporting them as they gradually release them. I’m not sure what the baby boomers role has been in this, but the yuppy and gen x parents are the ones that can’t seem to help make their children extensions of themselves, fighting every battle for them, enjoying every credit their child earns as if it is their own. Many of these kids develop a sense of entitlement beyond reason, probably because they’ve never had to develop their ability to reason, mommy and daddy always out in front, smoothing they way. Other children simply lose a real childhood in the fog of overwhelming activity that puts popular bumper stickers on the family van and pictures on social media for mom and dad. Either way, these children suffer with the natural fallout of this kind of parenting, both along the way, and as adults.

  • loganbacon

    I’m in my 50s, but I had parents who were overprotective and controlling. Still, I would never have dreamed of asking them to call a teacher or professor, much less a dean, over a grade. I started handling my own stuff back in junior high school. When I needed help, I figured out how to get help. I even helped others. This is bad, really bad, when kids can’t deal with their lives by themselves. Let your kids know you are there if they need you, fine, but let them grow up. Being self sufficient and running your own life actually fosters a sense of achievement. When I graduated with honors, I knew it was because I earned it, not because Mommy called and bull-whipped someone into raising my grades (I didn’t do that either; back then, that just wasn’t done).

    • kryten8

      A lot of parents do this without kid requests. I’ve had a lot of conversations with kids that start,

      “Did you know your dad contacted me?” to get either an ashamed look or one of surprise.

  • ellenk

    Who is this learned person who is blaming boomer parents? I’m one who was perhaps a bit more protective than mine were but nothing like she described. Most of my cohort expected responsibility from our offspring even if we broke the mold a bit at times–perhaps giving up some of the demeaning and/or corporal punishment of previous generations for which I can’t be sorry.
    I’m also a teacher who spent decades in K-12 education and watched helicoptering develop more recently and have seen it enter the college years. It is devastating and we do have more and more incomplete adults stemming from children unable to cope. I’m just a little tired of shouldering the blame for so much of the negative that exists in the country.

  • vforba

    I will say this, when it comes to the whole over parenting thing I think everyone does it to certain degree but it’s due to the mantra that people have started after the post wars where everyone demanded to let kids be kids and “we’re making them grow up to soon.” By not allowing them to do certain things and to continually encourage them to act as children they don’t learn from their mistakes and they don’t mature. I have four kids and while I certainly do worry about them, it’s a heck of a lot easier to let them learn from their mistakes when they are little then when they are older where the consequences become more serious. I like to call it helicopter parenting. A lot of my friends like to hover constantly. I know it’s easy to get into that type of parenting, but believe me your kid is much better off if he knows you are there to support them through thick and thin. They are much better off if you stand back a bit and let them make mistakes then to constantly cover for them. If they don’t feel the pain of a small mistake. They won’t recognize the pain of a larger mistake until it’s too late.

  • Carol Rucker

    As with many Boomers, my kids are older–43 and 37. Your overparenting scenario likely involves a lot more Boomer grandchildren than children. Also, while some parents might be pushing overachievement in academics and sports, it sounds like some of what you are seeing is the product of constant mandatory elementary-through-high school test prep and testing that sucks the individuality out of children.

    My daughter and other educators in my family discuss this quite often. She and her husband are college professors. She sees a lot of college kids who can’t think or act for themselves because they’ve spent years being told exactly what to think and how to think it. They were forced to perform like clones throughout their formative years because they had to pass test after standardized test just to get out of high school.

    My niece is a high school teacher and she says that her students resent it when they are asked to think for themselves. She believes that’s because teachers spend huge chunks of their school year “teaching to the tests.” Her students spend so much time taking a number of required standardized tests, they have no time for independent thought or action.

  • 1SB

    Where do I start?
    1. When did schools become so expensive that there is no way a student could afford to go without parental involvement? Meaning helping with financing that tuition by signing away a parent’s hard saved money or retirement cash.

    2. When did it become so difficult for a student to apply to a good school and get it without have a laundry list of accomplishments that usually are reserved for those who have already graduated?

    3. When did it become so expensive to live that students could not with confidence know they would be able to pay rent on an apartment with friends after graduation and still have money to eat, pay auto insurance and travel?

    This list is longer but these are the ones that immediately come to mind. So as soon as you solve the above thoughts, particularly #1 and #2 since you are dean at one of those famous schools, let us know.

  • Julie K Breen

    I have one child and I try to go to all of her events. She couldn’t play travel sports until she was ready to handle the commitment. We discussed the commitment and how it will affect our family through time and money. It wasn’t just handed to her. She tried many activities and failed at them or liking them enough to continue doing them. We have discussed the prices of colleges since she was in 7th grade. We have a wonderful Junior college in our town and told her she would be attending there for financial reasons. One of them being she would have no debt if she chose to go there. That appealed to her. Maybe over parenting is making kids do things without a discussion. You must take AP or honors courses even if you don’t want to. You must play travel if you want to get a scholarship. The desire and work ethic have to come from the child not the parent. Let them find their passion. The sport my daughter was the most talented in she didn’t want to continue to do in high school because she didn’t enjoy it any more. So she didn’t do it. She now is in a sport she is putting her all into to be better at.
    Would any of us continue to do something we disliked? Besides maybe a job. Would my daughter say I am the perfect parent – no. But she knows we love her and her opinion about her life and what she wants it to be.
    I have taught middle school for 27 years. Are they immature – yes. Are there some that could run the world in 8th grade – yes.

  • Mark Dickson

    As a high school teacher, I do observe the “helicopter parent” phenomenon. That said, we need to question how we as middle and high school teachers interact with students during the teaching/learning process. “Good teaching” is too often defined as not only providing students with every answer, but showing them every process. Students are not allowed to think independently or to make mistakes, and therefore are not allowed to grow. If a “kid” looks like s/he might fail, we appropriately look at ourselves to see what we could have done better. But we go to such extremes to prevent failure that it is clear to me that we see students progress, or lack thereof, more as the success or failure of the teacher and not necessarily that of the student. I understand this is a tough balance to achieve but teaching is a tough profession and we need to be able to make these decisions more effectively. I think this issue is more prevalent in school districts where teachers and parents have plenty of resources….the kind of districts where students are more likely to eventually attend Stanford or other “top” colleges.

    • kryten8

      I’d add to that, by giving some elementary perspective-

      The recent push for reform has put an incredible amount of pressure on elementary teachers to get through LOTs of content. Kids are supposed to be gaining skills at times that are developmentally inappropriate, so they should be able to do more and more advanced work later.

      This creates a situation where elementary teachers, who were once tasked with the job of “getting kids used to school, thinking, and learning,” are now in charge of way too much content. In order to keep their jobs, elementary teachers have to put aside the “getting used to school” piece for “getting them reading BY THE END OF KINDERGARTEN OR YOU FAILED!”

      Short-term, yeah, I bet more kids can read at a younger age. It’s been shown that skill is fairly useless (just like babies who walk late still learn to walk, kids who read late still learn to read).

      Long-term, we have a whole group of kids that missed the lessons on how to do school. It becomes more and more important for those at upper levels (people who never had to think about this stuff before) to examine things the way you are- teaching how to think, how to do school.

  • Sarah Jones Geer

    This phenomenon isn’t just limited to upper income earners. My sister worked in Academic Advisement for many years at one of the SUNY schools, and witnessed this impotence in students across the board. The couldn’t pick their own classes or register without their parents’ help. They called mommy and daddy to complain and get them to intervene when anything went wrong for them- like not being able to take a class they wanted despite not having the prerequisites, not getting credit for a course they failed, failing a course due to excessive absence, or having to *gasp* take MATH as a business major. I saw it in every person my own age(36) or younger interviewed while in management, this idea that everything in society should cater to their needs and preference and comfort. It started with the bottom half of my generation (GenX) but is truly awful in Millennials.

    • jellybutter

      I had no help from my parents – in high school or college. I couldn’t “pick my own classes.” I HAD to graduate in four years because financially this was way over my head (I paid for my own college) and could have easily been thrown off my trajectory in my very first year and didn’t even know it. I was a first generation to college student, and my roommate was also – but had special counseling sessions because she was a student of color. She sat down with me and showed me everything that I didn’t even know to ask and put it all together for me. We know the bloat that people like your sister add to tuition rates – why in the world is she complaining performing the basics for students – it is in NO WAY intuitive. I had never even heard of a prerequisite before. Why is your sister unwilling to actually help and contemptuous of students that need the most help. She should help them put their schedules together, for goodness sake – good grades in the wrong classes does not get you any closer to graduation! My goodness – and the students feel this contempt when they walk in the door – you can’t hide that sort of thing – making some of them passively shrink away and embarrassed (as I would have been at that point in time), and the others, good for them, get obnoxious. Maybe she needs to look in the mirror. Academic advisors should NEVER allow poor attitude to trip of any student – and it is more likely the “nice” students that she is hurting, not the ones who are obnoxious or with obnoxious parents – they get their needs met despite her.

  • Janine

    There’s no such thing as the perfect formula. My parents were barely around at all, so we sort of raised ourselves. They led very dramatic lives that revolved around themselves, and their fights. The over-parenting has its downsides, but it also brings benefits. Kids have their parents in their lives. It’s no longer overlooked when parents neglect or abuse their children.

    The REAL problem, as I see it, is how hateful toward each other we’ve become in our society, how judgmental of every little thing other people are doing. Nobody wants that scorn, so they might go to more and more extreme measures to appease their peers. It will never satisfy the monster, though.

  • Tracey Berry

    As a TA (50 years old, single, no kids) in a University the last couple of years I can assure you that much of this article is spot on. Some of these helicopter parents do manage to instill some sort of work ethic in their kids, but it is fear-based (failure is the bogeyman around the next corner and meeting him leds to a complete breakdown). Others haved raised what I call squeaky-wheel children who have somehow managed to learn that it’s the results on paper that matter in college and the way to achieve the results one wants is to demand them as one would chastise an absentminded barista at Starbucks who got their order wrong. Couple this with the fact that a lot of these kids are on their own in dormitories or apartments for the first time ever (the helicopter is in the garage at home at mom’s) and you get a really volatile situation. I can’t even count all the times I’ve seen freshmen pound on the TA’s or the professor’s desk at the end of the semester either trying to negotiate or demand a higher grade when it is clearly not deserved. Common methods include demanding that things like absenteeism or non-participation be overlooked, challenging each and every negative mark on assignments and exams, attacking the curriculum as too difficult, accusing the faculty of being too draconian or even incompetent, crying, screaming, claiming disability (there are facilities for this that are taken quite seriously by all faculty), and my personal favorite, lying. They are smart enough, and accomplished enough, but they’ve not been socialized or clued in as to what adult behavior even begins to look like. Despite this behavior, which they learned at home, these are nice, intelligent kids who have been done a massive disservice in the growing up department.
    Back when I flunked out in the eighties, I knew it was me, and not that I was failing to clarify my desires to the “servers.” Choosing the hardknock road I did (and accepting the responsibility for it) ultimately made college much easier for me when I started on the frightening road back (zero to Research Masters in 5 years). Parents need to arm those helicopters with something that teaches kids about consequences if they don’t want consequences to shatter their kids 5 months to one year after they leave the nest.
    Oh yeah, and take it from me, if you want your kid to go to grad school, make sure they are completely competent in a second language by the time they are out of high school…it’s more important than soccer, piano, mission trips, scouts, volunteering, Pokemon, and video-games combined. Really…translation exams are a bitch.
    And remember, FERPA forbids all faculty from discussing any aspect of your child’s academic career with you ever. The helicopter is disarmed the minute your kid registers for classes. I love putting that in reply e-mails to hover-moms.

    • jellybutter

      When I was in law school, I decided that I would not be pursuing academia as a law professor. As a first year law student, class would end, and I would watch the socially inept, the overbearing overanalyzers, the just plain donkeyholes, besiege the professor and clamor for his or her attention. I loved law school, and I loved my classmates. The professors, on the other hand, got to experience only the worst people that I got to avoid. Just an observation – my gift to you so that you can more accurately look at a whole generation. Our kids are fine – there have always been “that kind” – and hopefully you will never allow “that kind” to give you the impatience to correct something for a student who has a legitimate gripe and has every reason to be angry. They might look the same in the moment, but they are absolutely different. You have lots of power over these individuals’ futures – they deserve a less sweeping generalization.

      • Tracey Berry

        Don’t get me wrong. Whenever I make a real mistake in grading I have no problem changing a grade…and it does happen. I also should have mentioned that I desperately want to teach, I have a real passion for it, and nothing gives me more pleasure than to have a student come to me for help and guidance and actually get to see the light come on when they finally conquer a problem with my help.
        At the same time, when a student who misses 20 times in one semester comes in the last week of school totally convinced that there’s some kind of magic words they can say to raise a grade, it’s very frustrating…and I’ve had a bunch…and it’s getting more frequent. Their persistence signifies that it has worked for them in the past. They litterally will tell you that they pay your check.

    • JBMNKY

      I believe that much of this entitled behavior stems from the absolutely insane amounts of money it takes to get through college now. Students aren’t just earning a degree; they and their parents are also paying handsomely for it. When that much money is changing hands the party paying expects to be treated like a customer. When a paying customer is burdened by onerous terms and conditions, like attendance and doing the required work, they feel like they are getting bad service and so they complain.

  • Brad Johnson

    The world changed in many ways in the early 80’s, particularly as a result of a institutionalized fear and insecurity. Etan Patz – 1979. Atlanta Child Murders – 1979-81. Adam Walsh – 1981. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (and milk cartons) – 1984. CNN – 1980.

    We were all told at that time that raising children would not ever be the same. Fear, much of it born from a political and media campaign to create insecurity, started to define much of the American experience for the middle-class, post-baby boomers (which really ended with those born in 1958) in the early 80’s. And it has entrenched itself through the years.

    Fear of liberals. Fear of conservatives. Fear of crime. Fear of globalism. Fear of technology and losing jobs. Or never getting a good job. Fear of going into great debt for a college education. Fear of those just not like us. Fear of religion. Fear of no religion. Fear of not having as much as others. Fear of not working 24 hours like the next guy. Fear of losing health care, and pensions and Social Security. Fear of losing the American Dream.

    We don’t even notice anymore how much fear, reinforced by personal and financial insecurity for ourselves and our children, is a constant drumbeat – we just blame ourselves for constantly growing anxiety and stress. The world tells us that it’s some personal failure to compete. Or as Ms. Lythcott-Hains proposes, failure as parents.

    Helicopter parenting is just a symptom of a much larger and corrosive problem in the U.S. Maybe we should focus our self-help books on that.

    • Daniel

      Exactly! Those fears have been magnified and used as a weapon by politicians, business people, and other species to get people to give away their personal freedom, their money, etc in the name of the “well-being” of society. In reality, it is not the well being of society but of a few bullies that want to manhandled the rest of us.

  • jellybutter

    I think this completely misses the point – my nephew came to live with me while in college. His parents were completely neglectful – he had no help of any kind and he never “figured it out for himself” and still hasn’t. His world is a small isolated one. I encouraged his to “be a student” and take advantage of college life and opportunities. He was caught up in a child made culture of disdain for “try hards” – children who let stuff go, don’t sweat it, minimized effort. The other kids had helicopter parents who picked up the slack. My nephew lived like kids who had helicopter parents – but lacked the helicopter parents. He was totally unprepared and totally lacking in judgment. And he was competing not with other children for opportunities, but with ADULTS who were successful in the real world. His insistence that he need do nothing when gumption was required means that he is in a dead end job outside his field of study. He didn’t realize that students with helicopter parents didn’t do the things that we told him had to be done because they were completely confident their parents would do it. He graduated with a mediocre GPA and a thin resume that will hold him back forever. We are parenting in a different age – an age where a child who gets an A in math is really competing with the other child’s adult parent. A child who gets the A without his or her parent’s help doesn’t get an asterisk next to his or her A – and that A really is superior to the other child’s A. But college admissions officers never get to weed out the “good A’s.”

    So helicopter parenting isn’t a choice – it is a necessity. Parents who “overparent” DO get the opportunities for their kids – kids without the helicopter parents miss out – paper is two dimensional and parents are perfectly capable of making their two dimensional child look outstanding on paper. There is no way to measure the third dimension.

    The third dimension is the depth of passion, work ethic, and confidence. Our children should be enjoying being passionate about something – it is their job to find that something with parental help. They cannot find their thing if our lack of awareness or engagement or stability stifle their growth in the direction they are naturally inclined. Find me a kid who is apathetic, and it isn’t from “overparenting” – it is from the parents lack of emphasis on guiding the child to find him or herself and deadens the joy of participating in an activity that would have been their natural inclination. A child who finds no enjoyment in competition and feelings of increasing skill is a child who was perhaps overparented (maybe dad is on the sidelines at the soccer game making a donkey out of himself), but not in ways that develop the child’s area of passion. Overparenting in the exploration of who your child really is is actually essential to happiness (and success, as defined again, by the child, is a natural byproduct).

    A study a while ago revealed that success in college correlated with AP classes. Helicopter parents make sure their child is taking AP classes. That is a good thing – but if the parent loses site of the fact that it is not the AP class on the resume that results in success in college, but rather the experience of intense immersion and research into a subject, the parent has failed. Taking the AP class checks off a box, but children should be encouraged from early childhood to intensely delve into their passion – that is what comes most easily to our children. Once they experience that depth of knowledge in something they are naturally drawn to, experience success, and enjoy increased skill, the rewards are inherent. This knowledge then teaches students that there are LOTS of subjects that become absolutely fascinating once you scratch below the surface. It also teaches work ethic, the foresight to recognize that the hard work will result in confidence, engagement, ignite a passion, and give them more rewards that were not immediately evident. Applying that mindset to an AP course will eliminate the need for constant prodding and micromanaging the student, because once the fire is lit, it will be utilized. But then, some parents kill that by demanding that the child perform at that level for everything, using a fear and anxiety to control a child’s schedule. That level of performance is impossible without the right motivators, and everyone needs outlets and down time to just participate in things for the sheer enjoyment. Parents who helicopter don’t rob their kids of this by being a helicopter parent, they rob them of this by helping them “get the A” or give them monetary incentives (external motivators) to study that we KNOW kills intrinsic motivation, and also by micromanaging their down time too. When parents kill their children’s intrinsic motivation, they don’t do this by being engaged and informed and spending time going over goals and next steps – they do this by treating their child like “every child” and reading articles that turn their household into a frenzied ode to “other people who told me that my child has to do this and that to get ahead.” It is the child who determines the course – it is the parent that used adult judgment to inform the child of the path and possible barriers, points out strengths and weaknesses to help the child realize where his or her time is best spent, and checks in and gives very clear messages that other paths are just as exciting and rewarding if they want to explore something different. Adulthood and lifelong learning and engagement are exciting – they have to see us enjoying our lives to be motivated to set up theirs – if helicopter parenting is about micromanaging and nagging and bribing a child about their journey, you paint a bleak picture about what being a grownup is. If helicopter parenting is about helping the child explore their interests, find their strengths, establish their path, all while they watch you enjoy the rewards of the path that you chose, parental involvement is a growth opportunity. Being there for your child is not a bad thing – don’t let “the others’ tell you what your child needs – listen to your child and don’t for one minute let someone tell you that being their biggest cheerleader is EVER a bad thing.

  • wellcraftedtoo1st

    Not impressed with this. Generalized, laced with narrow, personal observations, lacking in actual figures, research. And, bordering on hostile–to the very students she was charged with working with.

    So the dean of an elite West Coast school finds that too many of her students seem immature. And she, herself, “struggles” with over-parenting. I need more than this if I’m going to be convinced by her argument that college students today are “not quite fully formed as humans” and “scanning the sidelines for Mom and Dad” (what “fully formed” means and whether people have ever been such at 18 is left open).

    And this from a Stanford dean–which could conceivably concern readers more than the state of the students!

    I am a parent of two young adults who are, and have been for years, engaged, independent, self-motivated, and involved. Hardly “existentially impotent”! They attended elite and highly rated schools. Many–if not most–of their friends and classmates are much the same.

    I don’t know with whom Dean Lythcott-Haims is spending her time, but it’s not my crowd.

    • aficionada

      I agree with you 100%. The story of a party where mothers were cozying up to her, one asking her “When did childhood become so stressful?” should have been answered with a polite boundary-setting reply such as “Who’s childhood?”

      Instead the Dean put her hand on the shoulder of the mother who began to cry while another confided her “secret” about Palo Alto moms and anxiety medications. Here was a dean socializing with the moms of her students, being *their* confidante, helping them with the stress of being helicopter parents! I got the impression she enjoyed this companionship and enjoyed being the one whose time was so coveted….among parents!

      Dean Lythcott-Haims needs to get her own house in order it would seem, as the article depicts an insecure woman with a need for validation directly from parents and clearly an uncertainty about where her loyalties lie. When a dean is in place whose loyalties are clear, the message will trickle down.

  • CBC

    Yet another person who assumes the elitist children are the only children who will inherit the Earth…has she ever, you know…stepped OUT of Stanford and visited community colleges and state schools where “kids” (yes, 17-year-olds are kids, Jesus Christ) fight for their education, working night shift jobs to pay for their daytime courses? Has she ever seen someone hold a degree in their hand after years of fighting, transferring, fighting, working, working, working? It is somewhat common knowledge that people who are coddled to death never amount to anything, similar to the way “rich people’s children never get rich.” This woman is as sheltered as the “kids” she describes, because being lower middle class and working your way up sure turns you into an “adult” quick enough.

    • kryten8

      On one hand, I totally agree with your ideas here- this is a super elitist article, written in a bubble.

      On the other hand, getting into Stanford *does* set kids up for “inheriting the earth,” so to speak, because those in positions of power only really read resumes from people that have Stanford (or Harvard or other elite colleges) at the top. It’s an elitist system.

  • DecaturDan

    So, um.. Lots of words here. Zero examples of what she thinks is “overparenting”. In other words, this article is one, long winded book sales pitch, as well as a waste of my time

    • aficionada

      Thank you. I was thinking the same thing.

  • Phil

    After 15 years at various levels of management, I’ve taken phone calls from more parents than I can count who want to know why little Jimmy and Sally were written up, sent home, terminated, not given enough hours, given undesirable hours/jobs, not interviewed, not given a raise, not hired, not promoted, etc… I’ve seen parents SHOW UP at their kid’s interview, some of them with the actual expectation of sitting in on it.
    If little Jimmy and Sally are old enough to have a job, then hey are old enough to need to learn how to handle the job without parental involvement. This article is about the college experience, but I GUARANTEE it applies to the working world too.

  • myleftone

    As a dean, were you checking applicants’ Facebook feeds and scouring their public histories for every minor foible? If yes, then you’ve answered your own question: “Why are people overparenting?”

  • ca93

    As a Gen Xer raised by Baby Boomers in Menlo Park, I’d like to add my perspective, something we Gen Xers almost never do. Why? We’ve learned no one wants to pay attention to what we have to say. Because we are the latch key kids, the first generation hit really hard by divorced parents often too self-involved to pay any attention to us. Some of us remember parents spending weekends at key parties, exploring their sexual liberation with abandon. We really had to fend for ourselves, sometimes even find our own food, and since we loved our parents in spite of everything, we learned early on to start looking out for them. We dragged them out of bed when their boss called. We cleaned them up when the neighbor stopped by. We covered for them and we were just children. So of course, we have the scars to show for it. We don’t trust the overly ambitious because we learned they were only out for themselves and literally abandoned us, over and over and over again. At some point, the Baby Boomers woke up from their haze and realized they failed. They failed maybe for the first time in their lives. They were horrible parents. They had damaged goods for children. Did they try and heal us like we tried to take care of them? Maybe make it up to us? No, of course not. They got into new marriages, had new kids that grew up to be the Millennials. These are the kids your are speaking of. They are our brothers and sisters and they got everything we did not: attention, care, love, praise. The Baby Boomers raised them completely opposite from us because they had failed so miserably with us. The pendulum swung the opposite way because the Baby Boomers wanted to be able to claim success as parents and build a new happier family. We Gen-Xers were tossed aside for the new family 2.0. We hate the Millenials because they are so spoiled and entitled and have no idea how their greedy dismissal of Gen-Xers continues to add insult to injury. I haven’t read your book. But your article leaves us Gen-Xers out of the picture completely, again.

  • floyd hall

    As a former helicopter parent, I have to say that practically all the kids I knew who went on and did well (at least through college) also had helicopter parents. A large part of this I think is rooted in economic uncertainty. It’s pretty clear that this group of kids is either going to do well or not do good at all — with no in between. So it’s less about parental neediness than about practicality. The one poster is right about how college admissions practices went a long way toward creating this problem. Having successfully negotiated that whirlpool, my kids are now out into the world and dealing with the mumbo jumbo of corporate work and treacherous HR departments. This stuff didn’t exist when we were that age. Of course you’re going to try to coach them through it. It’d be stupid not to.

  • Ellyn

    I think it’s getting more and more difficult to NOT overparent. I have a two year old and have already had the cops called on me. For letting him have a tantrum on our deck that “upset” the people who work in the building next door. I think a lot of overparenting is starting to stem from a fear of this kind of thing happening. I mean, “free-range kids”? In my day, kids that played on their own and had the freedom to roam (within reason) were just called kids.

    • Frankie Heck

      Absolutely! Parent’s don’t get to decide anymore. Nosy neighbors and over-zealous authorities do.

  • Daniel

    It is unbelievable to me how people have created another form of slavery known as “parenting”. Now, in order to be a parent you have have dedicate 100% of your life to raise these kids. They cannot do anything on their own, because if anything happens to them, the police will be involved and everybody will blame you and call you a bad parent. You can even face jail time.

    And this is all done in the name of the “well-being” of the kids. Really? Do you think kids are better off being treated as prisoners until they are 18? Some times there is a single case of a freak accident, or a bad individual that commits a crime and then whole communities get freaked out and institute rules that are completely ridiculous. Just because there was a single instance in which something bad happened to a kid.

    People need to understand that you cannot protect kids from absolutely everything. There are small risks that you have to take to actually live a life. Otherwise, you are allowing fear to direct your life. Of course, there is always the fear mongers that stand make money or win power by scaring credulous parents with horror histories and, unfortunately, these credulous people are the ones that have created this modern form of slavery known as parenting. Slavery not only for parents, but for the kids also, that are not allowed to walk by themselves without having somebody calling the police.

    When i was raised there were not so many restrictions and life was good. As a child, you dont care that much for all those categories that adults seem to be obsessed with. You just make do with whatever is at your disposal. And as long as you have the basics, you are happy.

    • floyd hall

      You’re forgetting how hard it is to get the “basics” these days. My one daughter did well, got a job paying $60,000 right out of college. It was barely enough to pay rent, make the monthly college loan payments (she borrowed about $20,000) and buy a car. The risks you are talking about here are not “small.” They are quite large.

      • Daniel

        I think we have a minor misunderstanding about nouns. To me kids are people under 18. If you are talking somebody out of college, you are talking about young adults. I can counsel young adults, i can introduce them to the right people if i can, but they have to fend for themselves. That’s what it means being an adult.

      • Daniel

        I forgot. If 60K a year is not enough to pay rent and car, maybe that person should get a cheaper apartment and a less expensive car. That is also being an adult, understanding that there are limitations, that you cannot think about living in a mc mansion and driving a sport car out of college. You have to work for those things, be smart, learn from your mistakes and stop demanding things that you dont deserve.

        They will learn, sooner or later. That is the beauty of life. You will be given expensive lessons.

        • floyd hall

          It was a used car (a Honda Civic) and her rent was a little high. She eventually moved to a cheaper place. But the important variable was the college loan, which was fairly modest by current standards. I feel sorry for any kid who borrowed more and is earning less, as I’m sure most of them are. Anyway, this whole process — my last just graduated — was a lot more difficult than you know. And a lot more difficult than it should have been.

          • Daniel

            It is true about the college loan trap. That was a trap in which many people of my generation and of the coming generation have fallen and are still falling.

            Starting your life after college with such big amounts of debt is a mistake because you will see your salary cut by a third. I saw people in college taking those loans and then throwing the money away in frivolous things. I had a girlfriend who was in Graduate school and she was getting loans that she used to pay the rent, buy clothes, etc. She was a TA, so she didn’t really need all those loans in Graduate School. She accumulated like 60K in loans., She is working now and complains that she has no money, because she has to pay the student loans.

            I myself made do with my minuscule TA salary while in Graduate School. I finished in the minimum time possible and with no debt. So I started life in a far better financial position. Then, i learned how to invest my money wisely, saved all i could to actually to do a small investment and after several years of not living like a King, i finally have financial security and I am reaping the rewards. But it took years of struggle.

            The lesson: you pay now or you will pay later. But there is no such a thing as free food.

          • floyd hall

            Congratulations, but there is no reason college has to be as expensive as it is now. That was a public policy decision. We decided that higher education was no longer a common good and therefore we should stop funding public universities with tax money. That made tuition go up and the whole process a lot riskier than it should be.

          • Daniel

            I agree also. College is far too expensive. But unfortunately people keep voting for the politicians that are cutting funding for public education and in favor of “for profit” colleges, that were even worst using the government loans to scam unsuspecting people.

            It happens because people dont pay attention. They are not informed and dont know what is good for them and what is just a fallacy.

          • floyd hall

            Exactly. Anyway, I no longer have a horse in this race. My three kids are all doing well or reasonably well. But it was a minefield. The rule of thumb I was given early on was not to borrow more money than you could reasonably expect to earn in your first year out of college. My own experience is the rule of thumb should be about half that — about half of what you would expect to earn the first year out of college. Anyway, these sorts of decisions become very delicate and it’s very easy to make a mistake, especially when year-to-year it’s not completely clear what you financial aide package will be. It was an awful lot of heartache, I tell ya.

  • wellcraftedtoo1st

    Let’s get honest here. Something no one, to my reading, has alluded to is that, in the past, not all young adults were focused, independent, goal-oriented, “resilient”, and so on (did I miss any of the current buzz words?).

    I get that “helicopter parenting” is real. But, the degree to which it is going on, its causes, whether it is as bad as some make it out to me–all this is up in the air, in my opinion.

    Something no one seems to remember is how freakin’ messed up many of us Boomers were in young adulthood. In the first place, rates of college attendance were lower, many never went, but went directly into work, the service, travel, “finding ourselves”, or whatever. And that was fine, and I wish that our economy today granted those options to more young people.

    Many of us didn’t know “what we wanted to do”–or were suited at doing–and whether college-bound or not, tried our hands at various roles–some successful, some flops. There were experiments in different ways of living (yes, “communes” and all the rest were real), lots of relationships, and experimenting with “different types” of relationships (and all the drama that went with that), trips and travel hither and yon, coming and going into this and that job, training program, military service, entering and dropping out of college only to return later (this was a time when one could do that without incurring huge financial hits), and there was plenty of hand-wringing, angst, and confusion among us.

    Not to mention drug use, alcohol, and not-so-healthy “lifestyles”.

    Believe it or not, some of us lived at home, or returned home at points when we needed support–financial, emotional, social. But, it’s true, for many, if not most, of us Boomers, our parents were out of the picture more than parents today (often too far out of the picture).

    My point? I sometimes wonder if in our rush to condemn the current crop of new entries into college and the work force (many of whom I find super) that we are forgetting how simply screwed up and young and immature and “questing” so much of young adulthood is. And always was. Is what we are expecting out of today’s kids realistic, or even attained by recent previous generations?

  • Richard Wood

    Nice of someone to notice, even if it is a Stanford dean. Fact is, though, that the way that society and our culture has evolved, with rare, rare exception, one isn’t accepted into Stanford unless there is a helicopter parent or tiger mom tied to that college kid. As regards existential impotence, that’s what those kids will be relegated to, pleasing mom or dad as best as they can their entire lives, without a moment’s reflection, or the knowledge of who they really are. It’s OK, though. There’s mini-mansions, Quattroportes, expensive vacations and “stuff” to distract them from all that.

  • Claudia Rincón

    On moms being medicated for anxiety: all moms would be medicated is they had access/time to focus on themselves.

  • therationalpi

    Wow, what ridiculous self-congratulatory garbage this is. Boomers looking at the next generation and saying “Our only mistake was YOU.” Setting aside all of the economic problems that you’ve passed onto us, this article shows a complete lack of awareness of how the world has changed since your generation came of age.

    The world is a more complicated place than it used to be. The world is more connected, computers are ubiquitous, many of the simple jobs have been mechanized and replaced with more skilled forms of labor. Children, who are still born as blank a slate as ever, naturally need more time to understand and find their place in this brave new world than they used to. Is it really any surprise that an 18 year old doesn’t know enough yet to be worth anything to anyone? If childhood now reaches into the early or mid twenties, it’s not because of over-parenting, it’s because that’s how long it takes to learn the rules of the modern era.

    If you look in the animal kingdom, those animals with longer childhoods are the most intelligent. The same is true of humans, by having longer childhoods, our generation is preparing themselves for the knowledge economy that already exists. We’re preparing ourselves to be engineers, programmers, and businesspeople ready to tackle and solve the problems that your generation thought could never be solved. We’re preparing ourselves for a world where all of the low hanging fruit has already plucked, and we need to climb higher.

    Kids today may have it easier in the sense that we are spared much of the poverty and hardship that your generation had to go through. For that, we thank you. You have made a better future for us than you had, which I imagine was always your goal. But don’t go criticizing millennials for not growing up as fast as you did. It’s not in our best interest to. We will become adults when the time is right, and when we do we will be prepared for a world that you can’t even imagine yet.

    • Lizbit


  • Whitehead Laurie

    You totally missed the factor schools play in this problem. Student’s days are regimented and structured. Their only responsibility is to do as they are told. Until a child graduates high school, they’ve had very little say in their daily lives. Compare the number of waking hours they are at school, on the bus, and doing homework to the number of non-school waking hours they are at home. You can’t blame parents with this problem!

  • narcoossee
  • Lizbit

    Sure, students are doing more during the Summer and after school because.. there are opportunities for after school and Summer that were not offered to us 30 years ago. Generation-X is working hard for their children’s future. We are pretty used to being squeezed or passed over- so we know that to succeed in this world it’s gonna take some specialization, exploration, and clear thinking. We remember our childhoods and are parenting ourselves in a way that we think would work better. The Teen Pottery Barn desks say it all- we now want to carve a place in our home where our kids can think straight.

    The camps and classes and tutors out there are kinda wonderful.They give kids a chance to try out new interests. Their friends are there so that is where the action is. The idea that parents should be hands off is something that many of us quiet Gen-Xers don’t buy. We saw our friends get into all kinds of trouble with this uber relaxed parenting style so we are working the system another way.

    The truth is most of us are actually enjoying our kids and their activities are a joy for us. We will miss them when they fly but we will know we did our best to help them explore the world a bit from home, help them with tests, and yes, it’s true for an ignored generation that is cathartic.

  • Melissa

    The fundamental problem in her analysis is that college students today are not products of Baby Boomers. These are the children raised by those of the Generation X. Millenniums are raised by those of us who know to check our candy on Halloween and always be aware of Stranger Danger. We were raised in day cares and were the first to be termed “latch key kids”. We were also very aware of our right to abort our unwanted children and therefore chose to bear and protect the children we love… be careful not to judge too quickly. You might not be as smart as you think you are…

  • Kathy Gleasman Pisaro

    This article is full of vague, poorly defined words (overparenting is defined in imprecise terms like “checklisted childhood), cherry-picked stories from her neighhorbood (as any scholar knows, an extremely poor method of proof), and overarching criticisms that seem to set this author up as above the people she is describing (another example of poor scholarship). I don’t see how you can refute such vague assertions, but I think they need to be challenged, if only for those parents out there who do not deserve this level of criticism compared to the idyllic past she seems to think occurred before the baby boomers. I think my parents worried just as much about the bullying I received as a child as I did about the bullying my son received as a child. l don’t see any hard evidence that mothers in the 1950s and 1960s – the time of Valium – found life any less stressful than mothers do now. Earlier generations of children were parented from a place of fear and had their adult lives scarred forever because of the physical abuse called spanking, getting the belt used on you, or going out to choose the switch. To say parents today are doing harm now and ignoring the very real horrors of the past in her desire to prove her hypothesis is not right. A parent’s job IS to monitor children’s progress and help them out when they need it, and to deny that is bad parenting. And undergraduates are going to be in a transitional process- possibly even still scanning the stands for Mom and Dad. That is part of the process of leaving home. This article, with its combination of poor scholarship and egotism, does not give me a very good opinion of Stanford deans.

  • abba1020

    At my institution we often see the consequences of what happens when there has been no parental involvement or value put on education. I never get phone calls from parents. Never.

    Although helicopter parenting is frowned upon, I assure you that the opposite is not a pretty picture either.

  • Ginny Contento

    AMEN!!! Thank you!!! This expression of common sense is soon very refreshing! Thank you!

  • QFE

    Why is she positing that it is Baby Boomer parents doing this? The first wave of boomers had their kids in the late 60s and early 70s; a few late boomers had 80s kids, but by then, the generation after the boomers had begun having kids. The anxious parents she encountered in 2013 were almost certainly NOT boomers, but the children of boomers…or are we now going to say it was Boomers’ fault that their kids suck at parenthood? Try a little reality for a change, people. The Boomers, especially the flower child types, were more likely to give their kids too much responsibility rather than too little. I’m about sick of the Boomer generation being blamed for everything. If we accept responsibility for electing George W. Bush and beat our breasts for a while, will you let us off the hook? We also had something to do with Obama, you know, so we should get a few years off our Bush penance for that.

  • Garrett Kajmowicz

    I would point out that colleges are responsible for this, too. Consider the 3 following items:

    1) The salary and assets of parents are considered when considering financial aid for students. If you want students to be treated as separate beings, I think you should do the same.

    2) The “Yes means yes” campaign applies different standards for college students than anywhere else in life. This isn’t based on age or maturity – there are less mature and younger people not at college who aren’t covered. Creating more complex and risky standards for students who are at college with greater consequences speaks of treating students like children.

    3) Colleges ban firearms on the premises. Under Federal law, long guns may be purchased, owned, and carried by anybody 18 years of age. In most States, this means just about everywhere, and especially in one’s dwelling for personal protection. Yet most college campus explicitly prohibit firearms. These are restrictions which don’t apply to these same students once they leave campus. If you want students to act like adults, you need to treat them like adults. If you don’t, they won’t act like it either.

  • Bianca

    Very well put.

  • kryten8

    I’m a member of your generation, and I work with kids in the next.

    • CBC

      Ok, then I’ll ask you a college question. Do you go to the kind of “Elitist school” this article is referencing? There have been two suicides this year at my school at the expense of things like this, partially because of the stress the article is initially describing, so I would argue that in a literal sense, the knife can be perceived as a weapon. That is the original argument, because the original poster did not understand that knifes had potential to kill.

      • kryten8

        I did go to that type of school. It’s kind of a crazy place.

        I don’t think that the article goes into the stress in the right way, or nearly enough, and I think that the colleges create the stress, beginning long before the kids get to college, which the author doesn’t acknowledge. I think our discussion down here in the comments has actually been far more insightful than the one in the article, which was mostly the old “parents over-parent, stop it! I won’t discuss reasons why” type of article. I actually agree with her central idea, but the fact that she doesn’t look at reasons (and see herself in the mirror, along with others), is what makes me roll my eyes at it.

        To your actual point: The only people I have known that died before age 25 were all due to suicide. Two used rope. One used pills. Neither of those are banned on college campuses. Your argument just doesn’t work- knives aren’t the problem here. Depression is. We can’t just throw college student in padded cells because they might hurt themselves. That is the very definition of babying.

        This isn’t the anti-gun control argument either- there is an actual use for a knife on college campuses (I’m trying to imagine a culinary program that doesn’t allow knives now), when there could not be for guns.

        I think we can both agree that it’s also strange that we’re talking about banned things on college campuses as actually not existing on college campuses, when we both know how untrue that is. I had a very comfortable (and probably flammable) mattress topper for college along with a toaster oven, even after four years of room inspections, nobody ever called me on my contraband.

        • AB

          I understand where you are coming from. It’s just that I also understand where the colleges are coming from and that they can’t/don’t want to be responsible for someone’s suicide. Ok? I get that banning knives is insulting to the intelligence of college students, but it is not a risk they would want to take.

  • just1guywhocares

    basically, just like 40 is the new 30…college is the new high school…they are NOT adults…they are children…well into our 40s and maybe 50s…we are children…Barak Obama is a child…Putin is not. Neither are the Islamic terrorists cutting people’s heads off…evil yes, deranged, yes…but not children…even their children are not children…but with us…yup…

    to put it another way:

    Somewhere in Northern California: Waaa…Mommy…the mean man hurt my feelings when he failed to empower my transgender, transracial essence…waaaa!

    Somewhere in the Middle East: Waaa…Mommy the mean man just cut my head off…

  • Bluesole

    Well, I didn’t think latch key kids was the way to raise our children so excuse me! I think it is a lot more difficult to spend time with your children rather than doing whatever you want to do.


    At the peak of the housing bubble people who had been in their house a while would remark that they couldn’t afford their own house if they had to buy it in that market. I feel the same way about college. I couldn’t get into the college I went to if I were submitting the same application and test scores today. Nor could I or my parents afford it.

  • Rebecca Thatcher Murcia

    I appreciate these thoughts but I hate it went middle class people generalize about their experience as universal. “We’re frazzled. Worried. Empty. Our neighborhoods are photo-worthy, our food and wine are carefully paired…”

    My food is not carefully paired with wine because I can’t afford to buy wine, and I’m educated and not poor. All over the country there are kids who have no activities, no scramble from piano lessons to soccer to youth group, because the parents are too busy or absent working or on drugs or in prison. Let’s try to remember that this stereotype of the overscheduled childhood is NOT universal.
    The best thing I ever did for my children was move to another country and let them sink or swim in new schools and in a neighborhood where the kids plan their own games the way a previous generation did in the this country. Ironically I did this only because my husband died. My memoir about the experience is called Seeking Saul.

  • Nicole

    I think the issues that are being missed are both economic – this is not a class issue – and social – this is a product of older parents. My son is at Stanford on a scholarship. He pays almost nothing to be there. If a poor kid wants an excellent education, that is available to him at Stanford with no loans. His dad and I divorced. I was a stay at home mom from the upper middle class. We became poor pretty quickly after the divorce, and I’m grateful Stanford was available to him. My own education and previous class status gave me the tools to know where to look to help my son find a great education, but it wasn’t so hard to find that a poor kid with a mother from a lower socio-economic status couldn’t figure it out. All info is available to anyone online now. I DO, however, think this is an issue of an aging population having kids. Whether it’s the older mom needing to feel a sense of accomplishment in her middle years and her child becomes that accomplishment, or it’s simply just being a little out of touch with your kid because you are so far away in age, I feel the older parent over-parents. They might also be scared of dying and leaving a relatively young adult alone. They want this adult to be able to fend for themselves, so they do what they can when they are around. A younger parent, by contrast, sort of grows up with the child. They have fewer social pressures to be a perfect parent; most of society doesn’t currently expect much of them anyway. They learn as they go. They give the child more freedom because they are so close to remembering their own teenage years and being confined. Anthropologists tell us that human women historically had eight pregnancies and six children. They started young and had built in caregivers in older siblings to help them or take care of the younger ones if they died early or had failing health. A woman who starts at 40 and has one or two children is going to have a completely different experience than most childbearing women in history. I can understand having a slight panic, maybe even being medicated, because there is so much to do in possibly so little time. Time might also be compromised by the career she is also trying to keep afloat, so childhood is managed like another work task because the laziness and carefreeness that mothers need to have to allow an environment for the kids to have that is simply not available to them. Ask the mom of six kids if she helicopter parented child number 3, and she’ll likely need to take a second to remember which one that is!

  • Jackie

    It’s horrifying.

  • Bibi Bissette

    Well written article! Rather than allowing our children to gain “real-life experiences” and practical knowledge, we “coddle” them from sensationalized incidents or statistics and our perceptions of the rat-race. We’re raising book-smart, yet safe, children who have no clue where they’re going and how to get there. We ALL want our children to attend elite schools so that they’re able to compete. But, we incorrectly assume these schools are giving their students tools to assure professional, and even personal, success. I had to fire a summa cum laude Princeton graduate who couldn’t speak to clients, and failed to follow the written work plan in the correct order. Two of my cousins are Ivy League graduates. One is doing very well. The other can’t quite seem to get it together. He was coddled his entire life. I think the challenge for parents is to find that balance: protect, but empower by allowing exposure so that our children can apply problem solving skills.

  • KarinaPMB

    “Is it too late for them to develop a hunger to be in charge of their own lives?”

    As a child of an “overly involved” parent, I can tell you I was always hungry to take charge of my life. This was, in fact, a major source of friction in my home as I never felt my mother trusted me enough to make my own mistakes and decisions. Every idea or project I wanted to tackle was questioned to death…or eventually felt as if my parents were taking over, making it no longer my own. Luckily, I was bull headed enough to pave my own path. (Ironically, “bull headedness” was a trait I probably inherited from my mom.)

  • Sarah Tamiian

    Children ARE a “rare commodity” now. In 1965, the average woman in the US had 3.5 children. Now it is below 2. And those well-educated women in Palo Alto have even less. Of course parents are going to be helicopter parents!

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  • Au Naturel Mel

    I’m a little confused about the “baby boomers” comment…surely the Dean does not mean these were the parents of her students if these recollections are at all recent…people who enlisted in the Vietnam War are now in their 60s…? Mel at mothersheeporganics

  • Michele

    I am a little baffled about the author invoking baby boomers as none of the parents of today are baby boomers. In fact, baby boomers are the parents of the current batch of parents. Perhaps some of the baby boomers were over involved with their children’s lives but that was not universal nor is it universal now.

    The over involvement seems to be insidious and it initially manifests itself in organized sports for children. I, personally, don’t understand the obsession with sports – AYSO, swim team, little league, etc. Why do parent’s feel compelled to spend hours organizing and participating in these sports? Who is it for? The kids or the parent? This morphs into academia as the kids get into high school.

    I am not an over involved parent but that doesn’t mean I’m not second guessing myself when I see the other parents signing their kids up for 4-8 weeks or camp, traveling the country looking at colleges or booking a tutor for ACT prep. My parent’s weren’t over involved and (by coincidence) neither am I.

  • KTB

    College kids may be working on a higher education….but they’re all still just kids. http://killingthebreeze.com/college-students-arent-quite-real-adults-yet/

  • Jim Clark

    The former Stanford Dean’s assertions about over-parenting are just that – assertions. The “ivy’s” including Stanford are populated by students whose parents were largely at the extreme end of helicopter behavior. Don’t back off parents if you want your kid to go to a top school – the college recruitment process is largely flawed so these young adults need all the help they can get — if they only want to attend elite schools. For many years I employed Jr-Sr’s at Lakeside High School, home of Bill Gates and mostly academic elite graduates. Although reluctant to retain Lakeside kids to help operate our small boat program for hundreds of young campers, I quickly learned these well-heeled teenagers were among the hardest working, most diligent, and positive summer employees one could ever dream to hire. I loved these young adults and stayed in touch with them years after they went off to elite colleges. BUT to be sure – their parents were extreme helicopter parents and it was only because the young staff members were assertive, could they push away their parents relentless demands to bring them lunch, take them somewhere for a mid-afternoon rest break, or even offer to come help do some of the physically demanding chores associated with putting equipment away at end of day. As a 20-year college professor {U of Wash] I’m amazed how/much parents push their kids toward “high scores” in AP, Honors, SAT, ACT, and impressive summer internship programs. The Stanford Dean doesn’t indicate how little high academic scores correlate with any post-college outcome measures of success. If parents simply redirect their “hovering” toward success measures based on solid predictive validity, they will be immensely helpful in shaping their kid’s future. Social IQ correlates much higher with success than GPA, AP scores, or standardized test results. And Emotional IQ, which can be nurtured and cultivated significantly after high school is by far the highest correlate with career success. Don’t back off parents in helping your kids focus on what matters — it matters. Dr. Jim Clark

  • Amercan111

    A friend recently threatened to sue a college Dean and the college itself for not appropriately guiding her daughter through the college experience and graduating on time, lol. Mom conveniently forgot that her daughter never went to class, failed several classes, had ADHD and other learning disabilities, 2 DUIs, a drug problem, in essence–it was the school’s fault that the daughter AT 25 AND YEAR SIX OF COLLEGE still hadn’t graduated. Sorry. Some ‘kids’ are NOT college material and no amount of wishing makes it so. “Kid” was a psychology major, too. Go figure?

  • someone

    Seriously Being a adult isn’t a magic number ,18, and college doesn’t make you responsible automatically.You are supposed to need your parents your whole life.That being said, you do need to know life skills but should never be ashamed for needing or wanting support from maybe the only people in life that will always have your back. College professors are idealistic not realistic at best if not narcissist.

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