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Teaching Kids to Think: Raising Confident, Independent, and Thoughtful Children in an Age of Instant Gratification

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Why Do Kids These Days Expect Everything to be Given to Them?

Today's kids don't know how to read a map. They can Google the answer to any question at lightning speed. If a teen forgets his homework, a quick call to mom or dad has it hand-delivered in minutes. Fueled by the rapid pace of technology, the Instant Gratification Generation not only expects immediate solutions to problems—they're more dependent than ever on adults. Today's kids are being denied opportunities to make mistakes, and more importantly, to learn from them. They are being taught not to think.

In Teaching Kids to Think, Dr. Darlene Sweetland and Dr. Ron Stolberg offer insight into the social, emotional, and neurological challenges unique to this generation. They identify the five parent traps that cause adults to unknowingly increase their children's need for instant gratification, and offer practical tips and easy-to-implement solutions to address topics relevant to children of all ages.

A must-read for parents and educators, Teaching Kids to Think will help you understand where this sense of entitlement comes from—and how to turn it around in order to raise children who are confident, independent, and thoughtful.

304 pages, Paperback

First published March 1, 2015

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About the author

Darlene Sweetland

2 books8 followers
Dr. Sweetland is a licensed clinical psychologist with more than 20 years of experience specializing in work with children, adolescents and young adults. She is very excited about the release of her new book, Teaching Kids to Think: Raising Confident, Independent, and Thoughtful Children in an Age of Instant Gratification, which has been named one of Publisher's Weekly Select 2015 Parenting Titles. She has served as Head Psychologist at a private school for students with learning disorders, Clinical Director for an agency for individuals with developmental disorders, and currently maintains a successful private practice in Del Mar, California. Not only does her therapy practice focus on children and teens in the Instant Gratification Generation, but she is also married and raising two boys faced with the same challenges as those discussed in the book.

Throughout her career, Dr. Sweetland has loved her work with individuals with developmental disorders, including autism and intellectual disabilities. She is the co-author of Intellectual Disabilities and Psychiatric Disorders: A Guide to Assessment, Treatment, and Training (2011), which has been the primary training guide in psychiatric hospitals and mental health agencies for professionals working with individuals who are dually diagnosed with an intellectual disability and co-occurring mental health disorder. She is a highly sought speaker by agencies and organizations around the country.





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Displaying 1 - 30 of 57 reviews
Profile Image for Online Eccentric Librarian.
2,980 reviews5 followers
February 5, 2015

More reviews at the Online Eccentric Librarian http://surrealtalvi.wordpress.com/

More reviews (and no fluff) on the blog http://surrealtalvi.wordpress.com/

Teaching Kids to Think is an intelligently written answer to the problem of the IGG - Instant Gratification Generation of children. The authors have clearly thought out not only the advice they will give but also the presentation of it; it makes the book easy to use but also reference again as kids age. Most interesting is a quick questionnaire in the beginning; I think many parents will identify with the mistakes they are making as evidenced by the answers.

The book breaks down as follows: Chapter 1: Parent traps; Chapter 2: Missed opportunities when parents rescue their children; Chapter 3: Make no mistake about it: everyone makes mistakes; Chapter 4: Understanding developmental stages; Chapter 5: Take advantage of critical periods of brain development; Chapter 6: Ivy league or bust: are we providing children what they really need to succeed?; Chapter 7: The phones might be smart but what about us?; Chapter 8: The trouble with technology: video games, social networking, and television; Chapter 9: Athletics provides more than just fun; Chapter 10: Why drugs and alcohol are so appealing; Chapter 11: Will you child be ready to launch?; Chapter 12: Parents have grown accustomed to instant gratification, too; Chapter 13: Lessons learned.

As can be seen from the list above, quite a few topics are covered. The tone is conversational and the information presented very accessible and easy to digest. Each chapter contains an introduction to an issue and usually includes real life examples from the authors' practices. They then discuss the problems in depth. At the end of each chapter, the points are summarized at the end with a section called "Putting It All Together." That section breaks down by The Issue, The Trap, and The Alternative

The authors identify five traps that affect parents today: The rescue trap (parents rescue their children from their problems); The hurried trap (parents meet their children's needs quickly, not requiring them to be patient and wait); The pressure trap (parents push children forward too fast); The giving trap (parents give children something without them earning it); and The guilt trap (parents react impulsively because they feel guilty or unsure). These are discussed throughout the book and the consequences of falling into these traps provide the basis for many of the chapters.

What I like about the book is that it doesn't talk down to parents or try to use logic to trump the emotional reasons why helicopter parenting is so prevalent. Rather, the authors are quick to point out why parents do the things they do but also gently lead them toward a firmer solution to parenting. More than simply presenting tips and lambasting poor parenting, there is the knowledge of why parents are failing and that is used to show a better way.

There is very good information in here and I especially appreciate the time and care that has gone into the book. It is an easy read but also an important one. There's no lecturing of parents but the authors are appropriately stern on the importance of not helicoptering our kids into helplessness. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.
Profile Image for Nabeel Hassan.
149 reviews12 followers
May 25, 2017
Teaching kids to think, is a very important skill we need it in this time with this generation how open his eyes with vary fast movement in everything we need to tech our kids to to think in everything, by applying the strategies in this book we can give our kids the initial skill then will use it in future in their life, all what we need as a parents is to think in our thoughts that will effect in all our kids developments, the traps mentioned in this books we can adjust our feeling and thoughts that can destroy our kids developments in each stage of the life.

It's really a good book for parents to understand how to learn from our mistakes in the parenting steps.
Profile Image for Tiffany.
104 reviews2 followers
February 11, 2015
Review Also Posted on my blog: http://www.talkwordy2me.blogspot.com

Teaching Kids to Think is an interesting read about the current generation of kids who seem to be used to getting everything instantly. The book is geared toward parents who want their children to grow up and become confident, independent and thoughtful adults in a time where children are used to relying on their parents and the technology around them. The book strives to show parents ways to guide their children to develop the skills to be able to plan, organize, problem solve and make their own decisions.

The book is laid out very well and contains an introduction and the following chapters:
1. The Parent Traps: Do you take the Bait:
2. Missed Opportunities When Parents Rescue Their Children
3. Make No Mistake About It: Everyone Makes Mistakes
4. Understanding Developmental Stages
5. Take Advantage of the Critical Periods of Brain Development
6. Ivy League or Bust: Are We Providing Children What They Really Need?
7. The Phones Might Be Smart, But What About Us?
8. The Trouble With Technology: Video Games, Social Networking & TV
9. Athletics Provide More Thank Just Fun
10. Why Drugs And Alcohol Are So Appealing
11. Will Your Child Be Ready To Launch?
12. Parents Have Grown Accustomed to Instant Gratification, Too
13. Lessons Learned

This book really does cover a multitude of different subjects that sneak into every parents life at some point. Sweetland and Stolberg seemed to offer plenty of examples they have seen in their offices in each chapter. There are also several several lists included to allow parents to identify if they are exhibiting any undesirable behaviors that could be contributing to the problem. Chapters are also ended with a Putting It All Together section that includes an overview of The Issue, The Trap your falling into, and The Alternative which states different ways to handle the issue. The last chapter of the book entitled Lessons Learned is a very brief recap of the book and just summarized the ideas of the book.

There were plenty of things I liked about this book. What I enjoyed the most about this was that it's not preachy at all. In fact this book is written by parents who admit in the Introduction that they have fallen into these traps plenty themselves and just want to help other parents avoid them. I really enjoyed that the book wasn't only aimed at one age group but instead offered not only examples of different ages but also suggestions for each. So many of these traps are easy to fall into and don't seem like a big deal at the time. I honestly haven't ever thought about what my son is missing by me helping him, I instead was only thinking of how I was helping. This book really opened my eyes to the different ways helping can really hurt in the long run. As parents it's important to think of the far reaching implications of our actions. I liked the list of things teachers sent in regarding what traits students will need to be successful adults.

There were several ideas I found in the book that I want to implement in my home such as: "Fun Friday" - A day designated to no housework etc so you can play games, plan a sleep over etc so, as a working mom, your child can plan for a specific day instead of 'maybe later' or 'someday'. I am also going to try observing a situation my son is in for at least 5 to 10 seconds for jumping in to help. With play dates and social situations I'm going to help set parameters but let my son take control. There were also some things that I've already put in place so I was glad to see them on the "to-do" side of this book lol.

There were also a few things that didn't apply to me because they were not meant for children with special needs - this book was definitely written with neurotypical kids in mind. Really the only thing that I would have liked to have seen was any talk at all about non-neurotypical kids. More and more children are being diagnosed with Autism each year and I feel like this book missed a huge section of the population(including my child). A wonderful read and I'm beyond glad that I got to read it.

This ARC was kindly provided to me by NetGalley for my honest review.
Profile Image for Nata.
418 reviews110 followers
August 19, 2020
În era digitală, în epoca gratificării imediate, din cauza tehnologiilor avansate, multe lucruri nu mai sunt ce au fost odată.

În această carte autorii vin cu strategii concrete despre cum să învățăm copiii să aibă răbdare, să fie chibzuiți și corect independenți.

De cele mai multe ori, părinții cad în diferite capcane: să le rezolve copiilor problemele de la școală, să se simtă vinoveți că le pun limite, îi presează cu anumite sarcini sau cel mai corect, vor ca copiilor să fie precum X sau Y, ceea ce nu este corect, pentru că fiecare copil are ritmul și abilitățile sale, nu trebuiesc comparați cu nimeni.

Mi-a plăcut mult cartea.
Profile Image for Calin Biris.
127 reviews45 followers
November 5, 2022
O carte utilă pentru părinții de copii învățați cu gratificarea imediată. Sfaturile sunt direcționate către familiile din SUA, dar sunt valabile în 95% din cazuri și părinților din România.
Deși mă așteptam să fie o carte pentru părinți de preșcolari, aceasta abordează situațiile întâlnite de părinții de copii de la grădiniță până la adolescență. Acest aspect nu mi-a plăcut în mod deosebit.
Profile Image for Beyond the Pages with Eva K.
2,058 reviews104 followers
March 30, 2015
This was a thoroughly done work, in my opinion. I absolutely loved it. The conversational tone, real life vignettes, and encouraging truths told quite the story. As I read the words of the authors, I could not help but think, " That's me!" or "That sounds like my children." Upon reading, studying through this book, I was educated, convicted and empowered. All I know is that I must have the hard copy of this book.
Profile Image for jbgbookgirl.
323 reviews
August 27, 2016
This is a must read for parents and educators, but mostly parents. The advice is practical, current and brilliant. I will be referencing this book time and time again as my children keep growing. It's fantastic.
Profile Image for Nata Vieru.
48 reviews11 followers
February 9, 2021
În zilele de azi, când orice copil are acces liber la internet de la o vârsta fragedă, această carte este un must- read pentru părinți.❤️

Mi-am făcut o mulțime de notițe, cartea este plină de sfaturi utile cum să îi facem pe copii să gândească pe cont propriu și ne răspunde la întrebarea: de ce aceste generații de copii așteaptă mereu să primească totul de-a gata?

Veți fi uimiți să descoperiți capcanele în care cad părinții fără să-și dea seama, astfel înăbușind oportunitățile de dezvoltare ale copiilor lor.

Cittind această carte, veți găsi informație despre etapele și perioadele critice de dezvoltare, impactul intervenției parentale, dezvoltarea capacității de planificare și luarea deciziilor, utilizarea productivă a telefoanelor inteligente, impactul jocurilor video, despre droguri/alcool în adolescență.

De un mare ajutor pentru părinții de preșcolari, părinții de adolescenți, dar și pentru acei care au tineri pregătiți de o facultate.😇
Profile Image for Sylvia McIvers.
739 reviews41 followers
July 5, 2018
Everyone should read this book.

Google is great, and cell phones are great, and instant everything is great, so where's the catch?

Loss of persistence and perseverance.
Not wanting to put time into learning something hard.
Not wanting to fail, and thinking that insta-win is the only non-failing option.
Not learning how to looking for solutions, because there's an app for that.
Not learning self-reliance, because of never taking the first baby-steps in that direction.

OK, so Kids These Days [tm] has a new varient, now what can parents do about it?
Actually, I recommend this book to teens as well. They might recognize their family lives, and think twice.
Profile Image for Liliana Motricala.
68 reviews9 followers
September 14, 2020
4.5 of 5

Helpful, actual and educational.

I liked the book, it covers a very interesting subject, namely the phenomenon of instant gratification affecting nowadays generation.

The authors present a numbers of traps that we, as parents, use to fall in: rescue trap, hurry trap, pression trap, giving trap and guilt trap.

Each trap is well described with plenty of examples and possible solutions. At the end of every chapter there is a list of questions to ask yourself in order to identify if you are already in this trap and if yes, the authors will give you alternatives and helpful suggestions.

The ages covered are from infancy till young adulthood.
Profile Image for Lilith Day.
146 reviews4 followers
November 18, 2018
I am a teacher. I often deal with situations that are uncomfortable. This includes overprotective parents, detached parents, and parents who give the child everything because they are their child. However, when parents do this out of love, it can get in the way of a child's growth and education. This book is a great way to help find balance.

According to this book, many parents who over cannot find a balance in their parenting ways, not only cause problems in the classroom, but they can lead to life skills being lost. This book spends many chapters going over some of these life skills while providing situations in which failing and learning from mistakes can be a real learning curve.

What I liked about this book is there were real stories throughout. I have read many books and it was full of facts, that I often got lost from the real point. Some of the stories in the book I have experienced myself and I was able to learn from the lesson. Another plus was some examples provided. While not every example is relevant to everyone, by just reading them, we can learn how to make them our own.

The real learning I received from this book, was an overview of the issues our children face. Not every issue is applicable for every parent or educator, but when you can internalize the problems, you can help children overcome them.

For me, this served two purposes.
1. I was able to reflect on my personal life and examine my teaching.
2. I have the knowledge needed to talk to parents in these situations.

I am very happy to have read this book. For me, this is a new addition to my educational library.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine and were in no way influenced by outside sources. I am a professional blogger at Little Lady Plays
Profile Image for Irina Roșca .
72 reviews4 followers
November 29, 2020
I found the book useful for parents and people working with kids, as it had a lot of practical tips and some really nice arguments regarding the technology use and also about building a strong and trustful relationship to our children. The book has also overall a simple and clear text. Strong recommendation for all who are in search of a good parenting book.
Profile Image for Jason Keisling.
55 reviews9 followers
December 11, 2018
I saw this near the top of a parenting list on goodreads and it seemed like a perfect book to peruse. Raising confident, independent, thoughtful children? Sounds great.

There is some good information in this book. It can basically be summed up with “step away and let your kids do things on their own.” There you go, I saved you 270 pages. Unfortunately a large portion of this book comes across as a baby boomer complaining about millennials, complete with complaints about participation trophies and daydreaming about the good ole days when kids were out until the streetlights turned off. So for every useful tip in this book, there’s an equal amount of drivel that you could also find shared on Facebook by your opinionated uncle, and with similar sources and research to back up claims (very skimpy citations at the end). So while some of this may be useful, you can probably find better books on the topic.
Profile Image for Rachel Martin.
264 reviews7 followers
February 12, 2017
This is a useful and thought provoking read for parents, and teachers too.

Each chapter contains stories or case studies from the authors' years of work in clinical psychology alongside discussion of psychological theories or approaches and specific, practical advice.

Issues covered range from the traps of parenting to anxiety about making choices, not taking responsibility for learning etc. I found the book reinforced many or my own parenting decisions, while also challenging me to examine what I do in a few cases. It also gave me insight into the motivations of some of my pupils, and their parents.

Teaching kids to think is written in a straightforward and engaging manner, so is an easy read, but this doesn't mean the advice is simple.

I received a free digital copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Gretchen.
22 reviews
July 21, 2017
Overall, a timely book that can be summed up with the one line: "Step back and let your kid figure it out on their own." It was incredibly repetitive and probably could have been cut in half. I found myself skipping chunks because the age range didn't pertain to my kids. Despite that the authors delve into various situations that parents can apply the advice: school, sports, social interactions. There's nothing new in the book you haven't heard before and it all seems rather like common sense. Yet, I would recommend this one simply because, in my experience and myself included, most parents fall easily into the trap of rescuing their kids. I think this one will only get more relevant as time goes on and technology continues to advance.
Profile Image for Laura Lou.
46 reviews
July 30, 2018
It's really scary how addicted our children have become to their phones, tablets and gaming systems to the point that they really don't know how to think and solve simple dilemmas in their every day lives. And, sadly, parents are no better and I'm horrified at how often I see people checking their phones while driving. NOTHING can ever be that important that it can't wait until you get to work, home, or wherever it is you're driving to. I felt better when I realized that I haven't been raising my kids to just live for their phones and other electronic devices. I allow my twin boys to play on their Playstation only once a week when I work in the evening, and then only for a couple of hours. They are almost twelve, and don't own phones yet. My older children are wonderful about not being attached to their phones, and one of my daughters even deleted her Facebook account as she didn't like it. Kids need to learn how to figure things out without having to immediately google something for an answer. And they need to learn from mistakes and not have us as parents solving problems for them. And, parents need to set a better example, too, by not staring at their phones and checking their social media every few minutes! Do I sound preachy here? I don't mean to, honestly. We just need to learn how to set limits and be aware of how much screen time our kids are getting. This was a really interesting book and I highly recommend it to parents who are looking for some sound advice about dealing with today's kids in a technology driven world.
Profile Image for Abby.
102 reviews7 followers
January 10, 2021
I won't say that this book didn't give me some good ideas and that it wouldn't be good for some parents who are prone to taking on their children's responsibilities or trying to get special treatment for their kids. I have never been a person who finds it hard to watch a child struggle, in fact I have always been one to encourage it for the exact reasons this book emphasizes, and hoped the book would provide me with more fresh information. It ended up being very repetitive, which again would probably be good for some but not someone who already understands these concepts and champions them. There are definitely some people I know who I wish I could just shine these words at with giant, neon letters, over and over again, so I get it. Working as family counselors for decades and having to listen to wishy-washy people talk about their kids disrespecting them and shirking responsibilities when they have been enabling it their entire lives probably makes one accustomed to repeating oneself. The book covers all ages of kids, so parents of toddlers through even college students will find something helpful, but it primarily focuses on middle school and high school students.
Profile Image for Sara Burriesci.
75 reviews2 followers
November 4, 2017
This book came out shortly before "How to Raise an Adult," and makes the same major point: ultimately we hamstring our children by not letting them do things for themselves and make their own mistakes. I think that this book, which was written by a practicing child psychologist and a practicing family therapist, offers more practical advice and less navel gazing than "How to Raise an Adult," although I liked that book too. Among the practical tips offered here: make your children wait for things, starting when they are toddlers; instead of telling them what to do when they ask you for the solution to a problem, ask them what they think they should do; when they do make a mistake and suffer its consequences, ask them what they could do differently next time. The book gives specific examples for implementing these strategies in relation to technology use, sports participation, and schoolwork.
Profile Image for Nilesh  Muley.
10 reviews
June 29, 2019
Its a fact that we are living in a Instant gratification world & this book comes handy to understand this new fast pace life of ours with point wise ideas on how to identify & avoid these gratification hacks in a very structured manner.
Every chapter ends with three paragraphs of
The Issue, The Trap & The Alternative.

This gives a very clear summary / picture. You will surely find yourself somewhere in the book and it will push you to think aback.

Only one thing which I felt due to which I reduced 1 star in rating - same topics (book title or mistakes of parents, instant giving, rescuing etc) are repeated again & again in each chapter, also many times in same chapter. Perhaps author has to imbibe in your mind that particular concepts. If you can smartly avoid, then its a fantastic learning book.

Its worth putting time to read this book, a must read!
Profile Image for Robert Postill.
127 reviews16 followers
August 20, 2017
I read this book hoping for something different than I got but what I got was kind of handy.

This book is really about raising children who correctly judge risk and how you deal with that risk. It's a book that talks about respect and resilience a deal (sometimes in oblique terms) and moves along at a reasonable pace through the various stages of childhood.

You can see the authors and the social situations are American and so I wonder if this book would appeal to say Singaporean or Chinese parents in the same way. Having said that Australia is not so far culturally from America so the book did make me think a fair bit about my own parenting approach.

All-in-all a decent read thought-provoking read.
Profile Image for A.B..
Author 1 book8 followers
July 13, 2023
Alienated me right off the bat

This book was published in 2015. By that point, I, a millennial, had a daughter of my own and was pushing 30. The writers kept referring to the "Instant Gratification Generation" which they established in the intro as my generation. I right off the bat was off put as I was looking for tips as a teacher, not a book about how bad off my supposed generation is. Really all these behaviors are becoming universal and no tied to one group. It is the so called "Instant Gratification Generation" who are the parents of my students now. And I am seeing some of the same issues. This book needs an updated edition as tech has changed, and those kids are now the parents in a very different world.
Profile Image for mobydickens.
380 reviews14 followers
November 19, 2021
There's something intrinsically amusing about a book entitled "Teaching Kids to Think", that doesn't treat its readers as capable of thought.

My favorite example is perhaps the end of each chapter where the authors have their "Putting it all together" section. God forbid a reader would need to use their own reading comprehension to take a point away from a chapter!

Written in the typical self help fashion of using more words than necessary and creating blithe suggested conversations you could have with your child (lord save us), it essentially tells one story: stop doing everything for your children.

Not a fan of this one. Written for the Emily Gilmores of this world, I think.
Profile Image for Alina Tache.
100 reviews1 follower
February 24, 2020
While the point they make is important, I feel like it could have been expressed more succinctly. I perceived their tone as superior and when they tried to give certain details I realized they are NOT as well-versed in how to approach teens as I would have expected. And they lack detailed knowledge about the tech teens use today, which is a great problem when working with children and teens.

Anyway, the idea is to let your child make mistakes early so the learn to avoid consequences when those consequences are still small. That's it. That's the whole point.
Profile Image for Cath.
159 reviews
January 18, 2020
Most of the things in here felt like common sense. Except one. My impatience with my kids- my seemingly unending sense of urgency and wanting to get things done NOW and checked off our to-do list is enabling an instant gratification mindset. Oops.
Breathe. Allow more time for experience and mistakes. Breathe. And repeat again.
Good thing I have a whole whack of mindfulness books on my must read list. ;)
Profile Image for Erin Burnette.
48 reviews
June 16, 2020
I read this book, hoping it would have some teaching strategies to use in the classroom, but it is geared more for parents. It had some good strategies for helping get your kids to think about their actions and how to break them of the need for instant gratification. The authors detail real scenarios they have encountered and how they helped both the parents and children in those scenarios see a better way of dealing with the situation.
Profile Image for Abc.
939 reviews75 followers
August 25, 2022
È molto interessante e fornisce esempi pratici per migliorare la relazione educativa coi propri figli.
Le riflessioni proposte sono molto chiare e semplici, facilmente fruibili da chiunque.
Purtroppo, essendo gli autori americani, fa riferimento alla realtà degli Stati Uniti che non è esattamente uguale alla nostra.
Resta comunque un valido riferimento per approfondire la realtà dei giovani d'oggi e le modalità più opportune per crescere figli consapevoli e autonomi.
44 reviews
September 16, 2019
I found the message of the book useful. Children need to have opportunities to develop independence, confidence and patience for delayed gratification. The book gives many suggestions and examples on how to do this. Reading the book showed me the traps I had fallen into: situations where I got the job done but losing the opportunity to develop the necessary life skills in my child.
14 reviews
August 15, 2022
Great easy read with practical advice and useful examples. Not overly heavy handed with the usual “this generation has it to easy” but still pointed out areas that we can help children become well balanced adults in a world that has become increasingly fast paced and promotes instant gratification.
Profile Image for Billie  Fisch .
68 reviews1 follower
February 4, 2019
Learned a lot that will be helpful in teaching.

Good book. Helpful ideas. Lot of good tips. I really appreciated the stories at the beginning of each chapter. I also like that it gives the adults Grace to make mistakes.
Profile Image for Michelle.
235 reviews6 followers
October 26, 2019
I highly recommend this book to anyone who has a child(ren) under 18 years of age;and, for anyone who works with children. I made so many notes and learned so much. There are a few things I will be implementing while teaching my class.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 57 reviews

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