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A Former Stanford Dean on Parenting  

Julie Lythcott-Haims is a former dean of freshman at Stanford University and she has a lot to say about the prevalence of “helicopter parenting” in our day and age. She presented a very popular Ted talk a year or so ago and also has a best-selling book that grew out of her experiences as a dean.

You probably know that Stanford is considered one of the elite schools of the nation and acquiring a position in its freshman class is quite an accomplishment. Ms. Lythcott-Haims noticed an interesting phenomenon over her tenure as dean of the freshman class at Stanford. Each class grew more brilliant from year to year, with grades, test scores, and lists of accomplishment getting higher with each class.

However, along with that incredible improvement in academic and life success, she noted that the members of each successive freshman class seemed less and less able to take care of themselves. The improvement seemed to be mostly on paper and didn’t have anything to do with their ability to be successful in life in general. Things like figuring out how to do laundry, negotiating conflict with a roommate, or managing the emotional consequences of being in a much more competitive environment were falling by the wayside.

Her take is that parents, particularly the affluent parents who tend to produce most of the children who find their way to Stanford, are hampering their children’s development, competence, creativity, and happiness. These parents’ involvement in their children’s lives has the goal of helping them become the best they can be and achieve all of the potential they have. In reality, it is hampering their development and limiting their ability to have productive and happy lives.

Over the next couple of months I will share some of Ms. Hythcott-Haims’ observations as well as her suggestions about what children really need. I will also share some of the questions she has to determine if you might be a bit too involved in aviation when it comes to your parenting. The former dean eschews the label of parenting expert and says she is just “interested in humans thriving” and believes over parenting gets in the way of that. Stay tuned for more.