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How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  6,968 ratings  ·  1,031 reviews
A provocative manifesto that exposes the harms of helicopter parenting and sets forth an alternate philosophy for raising preteens and teens to self-sufficient young adulthood

In How to Raise an Adult, Julie Lythcott-Haims draws on research, on conversations with admissions officers, educators, and employers, and on her own insights as a mother and as a student dean to high
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published June 9th 2015 by Henry Holt and Co. (first published May 12th 2015)
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Average rating 4.14  · 
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 ·  6,968 ratings  ·  1,031 reviews

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Jul 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: parents
Recommended to Brian by: Mary-Beth
(4.0) Takes a while to get useful (if you need convincing that overparenting is A Thing, you probably need a lot more than this book), but has many concrete suggestions to better prepare your children for adulthood. Many of these start at toddlerhood or early elementary school, so get started as soon as you have a child!

Started off with 4.5, but remembered how long it took to get out of the anecdotal whining at the beginning.

1. Most of overparenting comes from fear (of abduction, of fall
Apr 08, 2016 rated it it was ok
I gave this two stars. I think it may deserve more, but that it was written for a different demographic than me. The beginning and the end were over the top. The author tells the reader not to worry so much about your kid getting into elite schools, there are lots of choices out there. Then, throughout the book, she mentions Barnard, Rice and Carleton as some of the alternatives!!!! I can only imagine what parents who think of these schools as alternatives would think if their kid wants to go to ...more
Jul 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It is as if Julie Lythcott-Haims was eves-dropping on every teacher's room in America. This overparenting epidemic has broken down a student's will to persevere and take ownership of his or her own work. As a teacher for the last ten years, I have seen a steady increase in over-involvement which has left me shaking my head and even seriously considering leaving the field. I became an educator to help kids realize their dreams and become more literate citizens so as to have their voices heard as ...more
Nov 21, 2015 rated it it was ok
Don't overparent, allow mistakes, don't prioritize grades, relax about college. There now you don't have to read it :)
Jul 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
I was comforted by the fact that, despite my neurosis, we don't make enough money to completely ruin our children. Many of the examples were geared toward parents with virtually endless resources, but the book did give a more complete look at what our job as parents is and is not. The book also helped quell the idea that a successful life cannot be had outside of an Ivy League education. Overall, a good read for parents who need a chill pill.
Amber Kerr
Oct 19, 2015 rated it liked it
I thought this book had sound advice and was well-written. So why am I only giving it three stars? Because most of what the author said was in the "Well, duh" category (e.g., don't write your kids' college essays for them). The book also had a lot of redundancy; the main points could have been sufficiently described in a long article rather than in an entire book.

I live in the same place and the same time as the author (Silicon Valley in the mid-2010s), and I'm also a parent of young children, s
Dec 19, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2016
This book annoyed me, and I would have stopped reading it except for being in a book group. It is a book written by a former dean at Stanford who herself lives in Palo Alto, and the parenting guidance it gives is very affected by her experiences with upper/ upper-middle parents/ and their smart kids who get into Stanford or who are trying to apply to top schools like Stanford. She generalizes about other parents who do not fit into this elite group. Based on her expertise, there probably is some ...more
Feb 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was a timely read for me. I’ve been musing recently on how much less directly involved my grandparents were in my parent’s day-to-day childhood and how intimately involved I’m expected to be in my own children’s lives, and what that means for kids as they grow up. Is it related to prolonged adolescence in our culture, where 22 year old people are called college “kids” and all sorts of irresponsibility and stupidity among undergraduates is excused as being part of their “growing up?”

Huyen Chip
Jul 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book helps me realize that the struggle to raise a responsible adult is not unique to any society. It's happening all over the world. Reading this book, I had that exhilarating feeling that many problems facing upper middle class families in the US can be found in Vietnam: overprotecting parents, college pressure, competition and self-effacement during parenthood.

However, the people she interviewed, the situations she described kept me thinking that I was reading about first world problems
Ali M
Aug 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
I picked up this book looking for validation of my parenting methods and I got it. Earlier this year I read "Overwhelmed" because of my growing sense of unease with my life and how overwhelmed with the task of raising my children I was. After reading that book I said I was subscribing to what I called "retro parenting." That is, I was going to raise my kids the way I was raised by my parents. My parents loved me and helped me and supported me, but they largely left me to my own devices and I man ...more
Aug 10, 2020 rated it liked it
I did agree with most of the stuff in this book and although there were a few things for sure that I will take away from it, most of it was pretty obvious. I feel like I just may not be the intended audience for this book. There are not many people that I know or in my neighborhood who raise their children by centering their whole lives around academics and forcing them to take part in all of the extracurricular activities that ensure they get into prestigious universities. I feel like this book ...more
Athena Nagel
Jun 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
My husband and I have five kids and we both work in education. I wish there was a road map that we and other parents can follow to raise kids to become successful adults. This book provides some unique insight into helping children to become successful. Every parent should read this - rich parents, poor parents, controlling parents, free range parents - all of them. I feel like we have become a generation of parents who want this bubble of protection around our kids yet we want them to grow up t ...more
Jan 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wellness, parenting
Really informative and eye-opening book. I recommend watching her TED talk if you are short on time--though I'll admit that I loved reading all the stories about the crazy helicopter parents she's encountered as a student dean at Stanford. Yowza.
Lisa Eirene
Jul 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book was so good I ended up buying it to I could really sit down and read it without feeling rushed, highlight and make notes and make my hubby read it too. :)

This book was SHOCKING and horrifying and really sad and gross in a lot places. It's all about the kids growing up with "helicopter parents" who are growing into adults who have had no adversity, have no life skills and cannot do anything for themselves. The stories that were told in this book were extreme, but they sure opened my eye
Feb 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Author Lythcott-Haines was a Dean at Stanford, then became totally frustrated with helicopter parents. The students they raised were fragile, delicate flowers who could get A's, but couldn't function in the real world. She advocates allowing your child to fail, for they will then learn new skills. Kids need time to be bored, to go away from home, to do chores, and to try activities that won't further their resumes.

I particularly liked this list of all things an 18 year old must be able to:
1. Ta
Jul 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous book! What meant the most to me in this book is that by putting yourself out of a job (parenting) you have done your job! Embrace the child you have and don't shepherd them from milestone to milestone, filling out college apps FOR THEM, doing homework FOR THEM, forcing your idea of AP and Honors classes in high school on them. The whole "child sports industrial complex" section was fabulous! I could go on and on. Over parenting causes so much harm. I love the line that as parents our dr ...more
Jun 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
no matter where you are in your parenting journey this is an excellent reminder about the dangers of modern motherhood....and fatherhood too. doing more is not necessarily better for our growing and developing adults.
Charles Thornton
This book is right on target. I see this problem everywhere. The problem is that this book could have been written in less than half the space. Very repetitive and goes way to far in making each point. I could not read it all but ended up scanning through it.
Apr 10, 2016 rated it liked it
All in all this is a decent book with a worthwhile message, but I got the feeling I (despite being a parent) was not the target audience for this book, who I gather consist of upper-middle class soccer parents and tiger mom control freaks who dictate what/when their children should study, eat, and/or breathe. However, I don't see those types of parents gravitating to this book to begin with, although the author makes the prescient point that while writing this book she learned she WAS unwittingl ...more
Susan Bowman
Apr 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This author has passion and first hand knowledge of the subject from her perches as a parent and office of admissions for Stanford. She's not a good writer - her style is like me trying to write a book - rambling, repetitive, unorganized and at times difficult to follow as it continuously back tracks to points already made. That said - I didn't read it for the style and prose. I read it for the content. And the content far outweighed any stylistic challenges. This book was so thought provoking. ...more
May 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Definitely a thought-provoking parenting book!

Life skills advice from the author
- by 3 years, kids should:
-- put away toys
-- dress self
-- put clothes in hamper
-- clear plate after meal
-- assist in setting table
-- brush teeth and wash face with assistance
- by 5 years, kid should
-- know full name, address, phone number
-- know how to make emergency call
-- perform simple cleaning chores
-- feed pets
-- identify monetary denominations, understand concept of money use
-- brush teeth, comb hair, wash face
Jul 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015, nonfiction
A worthy addition to the ever-burgeoning Stop Helicoptering Your Children Canon. It's a quick read and at once philosophical and practical. It is especially relevant to any parent who has not yet begun the college admissions process, as she has excellent, very specific statistics and advice about exactly how and why you should just calm the eff down and not at all worry about your kid getting into Stanford.

Small points of criticism: as a former Stanford dean and current resident of Palo Alto, sh
Kristin Strong
Oct 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Even if you don't think helicopter parenting is your problem (it's definitely not mine), this book is of interest for its angle on selecting a college. It's important to move beyond the "brand name college" mindset and the belief that only the graduates of "elite" colleges lead successful lives. As the parent of a high-schooler, I'm glad I read this in time to gain some perspective on the college selection and admissions processes. Interesting fact (although admittedly anecdotal): My husband gra ...more
Shawn Lenker
Dec 13, 2015 rated it liked it
This book made me feel very thankful for the choices my parents made in raising me and my sister, even if many of those choices were born out of necessity -- as my dad was often fond of saying, we were poor, but we were happy. Perhaps because of this rather modest upbringing, I was never held to some near-impossible standard, and I wasn't expected to enter some holy grail of a particular college or vocation. Instead, there was a trust placed in me from a young age, a willingness to allow me to f ...more
Aug 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Thank you Julie Lythcott-Haims for lifting the burden of fear from parenting - the fear of stranger-danger, the fear of bad grades, the fear of not raising an olympic athlete, the fear of our child not getting into a "good" college. Ms. Lythcott-Haims' book uses facts and real life examples of how today's form of overparenting is truly hurting our children. We need to let our children make decisions for themselves, to fall down and get hurt, to make mistakes and learn from them instead of consta ...more
May 10, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Don't Be Controlling *sshole

This book was incredibly repetitive and pedantic. Don't do your kid's homework for him? Who knew? I should let my child experience failure? Earth shattering. Having said that, there's clearly a segment of the parent population that needs this advice. Most of he book focuses on not freaking out about getting your child into an "elite college" and the author then quotes all sorts of educational experts who went to, you guessed it, "elite colleges." Maybe I'm not the tar
Rita Shaffer
Sep 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was just the book I needed right now - parenting is the hardest thing I have ever done, and this book validated some of the choices we have made while giving me a lot to think as B navigates 8th grade in preparation for HS.

My biggest take away: Parents must step back and let children make the "little" mistakes necessary to learn responsibility; the "little" mistakes teach the things necessary to be successful and independent!
Carmen Liffengren
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
4.5 Stars

A friend of mine and I use the term "benign neglect" to characterize our own childhoods. It isn't a term we coined and it isn't always a negative critique, but it aptly describes the upbringing we got. Did we not know that we probably had it pretty good? We were that last generation of kids that were allowed more freedom and self-building autonomy than our children get today. I suspect that many of GenX kids didn't know that when they became parents themselves, the pendulum would swing
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is a must-read for Gen X parents, who, if at all like me, are somewhat confused by how the baby boomers raised us. "Elite" colleges are the goal, but why? What does success really look like? Who do we want our kids to be? And who are we, as parents, anyway?
My favorite part of the book was her focus on the parent living a life of their own. She nailed it. Raising an adult means modeling an adult life. Not a butler's, or a housekeeper's, or a personal assistant's.
Runner up -- warning p
Mike Smart
Jun 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
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 ...more
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Julie Lythcott-Haims served as Dean of Freshmen and Undergraduate Advising for over a decade at Stanford University, where she received the Dinkelspiel Award for her contributions to the undergraduate experience. A mother of two teenagers, she has spoken and written widely on the phenomenon of helicopter parenting, and her work has appeared on TEDx talks and in Forbes and the Chicago Tribune. She ...more

Articles featuring this book

Across the U.S., many high-school seniors are entering the nail-biting period of waiting for college admissions decisions. While the die has been...
30 likes · 6 comments
“If you’re overfocused on your kid, you’re quite likely underfocusing on your own passion. Despite what you may think, your kid is not your passion. If you treat them as if they are, you’re placing them in the very untenable and unhealthy role of trying to bring fulfillment to your life. Support your kid’s interests, yes. Be proud—very proud—of them. But find your own passion and purpose. For your kid’s sake and your own, you must.” 14 likes
“Why did parenting change from preparing our kids for life to protecting them from life, which means they’re not prepared to live life on their own?” 7 likes
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