I’ve got lots of thoughts on the book, which on the whole is helpful and thought-provoking. In particular, I found most helpful the areas on the importance of constantly shifting the cognitive and developmental load onto our kids rather than always doing things for them. I tend to be a problem-solver, so my default reaction is to solve a problem when my kids come to me with one. I’ve started shifting that load to the kids, and started concentrating on providing more opportunities for our kids to start developing more broadly rather than along the narrow lines of their interests.
The book, however, is focused on kids in high-achieving households. This is a small subset of kids on the whole, and many of the strategies suggested here seem counter-productive for many families. For example, underparenting is a huge societal issue. The book makes a nod at this in some places, but emphasizing the sweet spot between overparenting and underparenting would have been helpful. I could see parents reading this book and misinterpreting as a license to ignore their kids.
Also—and this is the thing that I’m struggling with the most after reading the book—the author states that overparenting results in many kids stressing out and living lives filled with their parents’ interests instead of pursuing and exploring their own passions. This makes sense considering that a vast amount of her experience comes from working with freshmen at Stanford.
But I’ve seen hundreds of teenagers who, left to their own interests, fritter away their free time pursuing nothing at all. These kids barely scrape by in high school. The data on their being successful in later academic pursuits is abysmal: on the whole they simply don’t have the academic foundation and skills to be successful in later schooling. Many of them take a year or so of community college in remedial classes, then drop out altogether. I wonder if the strategies of this book may result in lots of kids simply burning away time, and wasting the formative teen years can create an insurmountable deficit to overcome later in life.
I’m still thinking on this, but to me it seems like the bigger question for a huge swath of America—and the real issue here if we’re talking about raising an adult with passions, grit, and character—goes well beyond the measures proscribed in the book. This is a great start if you’re in the targeted subset of Americans for whom these strategies make sense, but for a wider part of American families, the art of raising an adult will take much more subtlety and craft.