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Harvard EdCast: Overparented, Underprepared

How to avoid the traps of overparenting, and help children become self-reliant adults.

Julie Lythcott-HaimsCollege students are struggling with the transition to college and into adulthood. This phenomenon first caught the attention of Julie Lythcott-Haims many years ago, during the decade she spent as the dean of freshmen at Stanford University. Students were coming to campus woefully unprepared for the transition to college and to living on their own, and they continued to rely on their parents for pretty much everything. Many children seemed to arrive at college bewildered, because they hadn't actually "walked the path themselves to get there,” she says.

Our culture of “overparenting” leaves kids unable to stand on their own, says Lythcott-Haims, author of the 2015 book How to Raise an Adult author. “The 24/7, 365 surveillance of children is astonishingly intrusive into the freedom and independence of that child,” she says.

No parent is immune, Lythcott-Haims says. In fact, as she was working to overcome the effects of overparenting with her college students by day, she began to recognize overparenting tendencies in herself while at home with her own children. “We love them dearly, and we want to be helpful, and we do have to do everything for them at the outset, when they're infants. But the minute they learn to walk, they are starting to walk away,” she says. Parents should bring the same joy they feel when a child learns to walk to all the other tasks children have to learn, she says, resisting that urge to do everything or fix everything for their children.

In this episode of the EdCast, Lythcott-Haims discusses the "overparenting" traps that many parents fall into, and suggests ways in which parents can help their children become self-reliant adults — in preparation for college and beyond.

About the Harvard EdCast

The Harvard EdCast is a weekly podcast featuring brief conversations with education leaders and innovative thinkers from across the country and around the world. Hosted by Jill Anderson, the EdCast is a dynamic space for discourse about problems and transformative solutions in education, shining a light on the compelling people, policies, practices, and ideas shaping the field. Find the EdCast on iTunes, Soundcloud, and Stitcher