I have been reading an interesting book called How To Raise An Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims. She is a Stanford University Professor, former Dean of Freshmen, acclaimed writer and a mother of two. Her thoughts on Helicopter Parenting, research on why we are over-parenting our children, and practical insight on raising happy, confident, resilient children has been on my mind since picking up her book upon its release in June 2015.
Her book offers background for why we are over-parenting and how we got here, helpful insight and strategies for parents today. The real gem I’ve found though, is in hearing her speak. Her voice is compelling. Her stories and personal anecdotes are real. Her examples based on more than a decade of research of her own and many others, is presented in ways that will stick with you for a long time.
One of the many stories she told the first time I had the honor of hearing her speak, was of The Grant Study by several Harvard researchers and made well-known by George Vaillant. The study tracked hundreds of Harvard men, from youth to death to try and determine what predicts a general sense of happiness and well-being. Was it their Harvard education? Their business success that may or may not have followed? Was it how much money they made or how many degrees they held?
What they found was that what matters most in one’s life and was the greatest predictor of happiness, is LOVE. Feeling loved, giving love, and being surrounded by loving relationships of all kinds. Simple, right?
So why are we all (myself included) focussed on grades, schools, teams, and extra-curricular activities when all we should be doing is loving our kids? Not just loving in the theoretical sense in our heads, because certainly we all love our children. But loving in the real tangible ways like looking at them in the eyes when they talk (instead of my laptop) and intentionally listening to them. I know in our house, a lot of our interactions look like mom half listening while rushing someone out the door to this or that yelling, “hurry up you’ll be late!” Doesn’t it feel more like love when a friend is looking at you in the eye, just listening. Or when your husband, stops and gives you a hug for no reason at all? That’s when we feel love.
If Julie Lynthcott-Haims is coming to your town, go. Don’t think twice, line up the sitter and go. For more information, here’s a link to Julie’s book tour through the end of 2015 and the NY Times book review of How to Raise an Adult.