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The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  2,032 ratings  ·  287 reviews
"It is not an overstatement to say that this is one of the most radical and important books on raising healthy, resilient, purpose-driven kids." - Madeline Levine, author of The Price of Privilege

"An invaluable resource for the thinking parent." - Lisa Damour, author of Untangled

"Compelling, revolutionary, and wise, The Self-Driven Child empowers parents with the
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published February 13th 2018 by Viking
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Lavanyaa Ganesan This book is more for parents who have kids that are in preteens and teens.There are few places where the author talks about college going kids probab…moreThis book is more for parents who have kids that are in preteens and teens.There are few places where the author talks about college going kids probably in the last few chapters.(less)

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Mar 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
My reining theory on parenting is that you start out the perfect parent, every choice is correct. Then your kid gets to elementary and you find that your brilliant child is basically slightly above average. Junior high, hormones, and by the time high school hits, parents are just clinging to life hoping something pans out with their child. Something other than an addiction or unintended offspring.

My goal is for my kids to (1) get a college degree; (2) somehow find a job they like. However, this
Jan 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
What a great book! The Self-Driven Child is a thought -provoking, informative and grounded in sound research. The book includes practical and easy to understand depictions to explain what is happening to children when they are put under chronic toxic stress created by the pressures of social media management, increasingly pervading competitiveness and unreasonable academic expectations being placed upon them. Are parents focusing on achievement rather than agency? Is this focus on over-achieveme ...more
Anna Mussmann
Jul 10, 2018 rated it liked it
The authors of this book aren’t all wrong. They’ve noticed a genuine problem and have offered a solution. Unfortunately, their own bias seems to have gotten in the way of providing parents with more than a few nuggets of truly helpful advice.

They begin their argument by pointing out the similarity between teens trapped in poverty and teens who feel trapped by upper-middle class helicopter parenting: both groups lack a sense of control over their own lives. Both groups struggle with anxiety, dep
Liza Fireman
Mar 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
I liked this book. I think that the main message is the following: Our role as adults is not to force them to follow the track we’ve laid out for them; it’s to help them develop the skills to figure out the track that’s right for them. They will need to find their own way—and to make independent course corrections—for the rest of their lives.

You can't really force a kid to do anything, and especially not for the long term. “Of course you can. I make my kids do things all the time.” But this isn’
Oct 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: parenting, reread
I enjoyed this important resource. Stopped in chapter 8. Will pick up again another time. Would like to listen to this again when my kids are in elementary school through high school.

Here are the notes I took while listening to this:
Sense of control= less anxiety and stress

Lack of self control is frustrating and stressful.

Let your child work things out herself, instead of swooping in, giving her the message that she can't do it. The kid might be nervous beforehand but will be filled with a sense
Shevon Quijano
Jun 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Self-Driven Child made me feel really good about our trajectory as parents, lol. Stixrud and Johnson advocate empowering your children at every stage of life to exercise their decision making skills, own those choices, and allowing them to make mistakes and experience difficulties. When kids encounter normal levels of stress they are more resilient in adulthood than children who were helicoptered, on one side of the spectrum, or left with too much freedom, laissez faire parenting. “We help t ...more
Kim Gavlick hewlett
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The best parenting book I've read in a very long time. 👏
Feb 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Like almost all parenting books I've read, they run long. BUT, I feel like this was one of the better ones out there. The basic premise is that the rise in anxiety, depression, self-destructive behavior can be linked to the lack of autonomy and control kids have over their lives. So many things are managed for them from the classes they take, to what college they go to, to what they wear, etc. The authors say that parents should seek to be consultants rather than managers and bosses. Give kids k ...more
Rebekah Sheppard
Apr 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: parenting
Very much in the same tone and wisdom of Foster Cline and Jim Fay: let learning come through the exercising of free agency, choice and the resulting consequences. Eventually kids will learn through experience, although sometimes sad and hard, to get control of their lives and gain a sense of initiative and direction.

Excellent bench mark questions to ask as public education comes to an end and the decision with what to do after high school occurs: where to get extended education, college or not?

Zach Albanese
Mar 11, 2019 rated it liked it
There was much I disagreed with in this book, but once I read it through the lens of my own beliefs and values I was able to apply it more appropriately and read it with much more charity. I think a lot of what they say is really good. I think their emphasis on "a child knows best" is just wrong but their findings on giving a kid control and autonomy in a way that fits within your value structure makes sense. How can we lower the amount of stress our kids feel? What is good stress and bad stress ...more
José Antonio Lopez
The Self-Driven Child is an excellent book for parents worried about their children's future.

"Parental anxiety isn't new. Parents have worried about their kids ever since having kids was a thing, but we believe it's worse now than before. Why? For one, we have a lot more information than we've ever had before."

I recommend "The Self-Driven Child" next to Madeline Levine "Teach your Children Well", and Alison Gopnik "The Gardener and the Carpenter". Books with supported research that help parents
Ben Iverson
Aug 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 4-stars
As a rule, I hate parenting books. I actually found this one very insightful and it has actually changed the way that I parent. I find myself saying, "it's up to you" or "it's your call" SO much more often than I used to, and it's been very good for me and my kids. The writing in the book is still pretty cheesy, but if I were to recommend just one parenting book, this is it.
Sep 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: parenting
Possibly the best parenting book I’ve ever read. I love that it is based on sound, scientific research. So much of the societal pressures we face as parents are the very things that are keeping our kids from developing into the capable people we want them to become. “Think of how you want to make your child feel. Loved. Trusted. Supported. Capable. And above all else, let that be your guide.”
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I got this to learn more about motivating kids to read and learn - but I actually learned more about my own anxiety from it! It's even convinced me to meditate.
Dec 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Lots of aha moments in this important parenting book about giving our kids more autonomy over their lives. I found the beginning and end a little slow but really ate up the middle.
Candace Adlard
May 03, 2020 marked it as to-read
"We hope to convince you that you should think of yourself as a consultant to your kids rather than their boss or manager. We will try to persuade you fo the wisdom of saying 'It's your call' as often as possible" (pg.5)

"1. You can't make your kids do something against their will.
2. You can't make your kids want something they don't want.
3. You can't make your kids NOT want what they want.
4. It's okay, at least for now, for them to want what they want and not want what they do
Mar 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I need to admit something: I don't have kids. I also didn't realize this was a parenting book. But I do teach, and I thought it sounded like a book that would help me in the one aspect that I felt I couldn't currently help my students: teaching them motivation. And it did. Not only does this book go into the science behind how the brain works and what it needs to work, it also sites study after study to back up the tips and tricks and claims that the authors make. It was fantastic. I'm sure it's ...more
Cyrus Samii
Mar 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
In the long run I think this book is going to spare me a lot of grief, and for that I am very grateful to have read it. I wish someone had given this to me a year or two earlier.

The book is about strategies for coaching your child to be self-driven and capable of making good decisions for themselves. A big part of the message here is, "lay off." View your role as consultant with your child, not as dictator. Offer help but do no insist that they take it. If you stress a lot about something, they
Chalay Cragun
Jun 03, 2020 rated it it was ok
I wish parenting books would put an age range on books. This book would be most beneficial to read while your child is between the ages 6-12 probably as it prepares you to help navigate their educational career. That being said there were some good things I learned from this book. I do like the idea of being a consultant to your child when it comes to school rather than being their boss or driving force. The authors did seem to spend most of the book pretty much saying all children have learning ...more
Jan 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
As my daughter isn't even three yet, there wasn't much practical advice for me in this book, but it has opened my mind to the importance of fostering the control my daughter has in her life as she gets older. I really liked the collaborative problem solving approach discussed in this book and appreciated the practical tips on learning how to cede control to your child while maintaining firm boundaries and limits with them. The end of each chapter included a list of actions you can start immediat ...more
Mar 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book. It could have been a 5 star one but for one thing: the authors seem to have a thing against homeschooling. They never EVER mentioned it as an alternative to the craziness of the school system and when they did mentioned (one time in the last chapter) it was in the context of a testimony of a child using an alternative way to success. So far so good you say. Then they said the child decided to go to college which made her go back to public school...implying that in order to go to ...more
Jun 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A quote on the book jacket reads: “This humane, thoughtful book turns the latest brain science into valuable practical advice for parents... read it. Your children will thank you.” I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. This is by far one of the best parenting/education books I’ve ever read. Many of the topics are geared to parents of older elementary/middle school to college ready age. The tone overall throughout this book is one of we’re here to educate & provide a perspective based on ou ...more
Sarah Carr
May 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book was a good counterbalance to some of the other parenting books I have read recently. Ironically I had a harder time connecting to it because it was about how to help kids feel motivated and in control, two things that were never really an issue for me. As a child who responded well to structure and rules (maybe *too* well?), it was helpful to see some different ways of thinking that might match children with different preferences. The book covers pretty wide swaths of information, so d ...more
Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I keep talking about this book because it is such a great, all-around parenting book. Explores a variety of topics, but specifically how to help kids be independent, make their own choices and accept the consequences, and how parents can help reduce stress, anxiety and depression in kids. I found it very helpful, interesting, and easy to read. Best thing I got out of the book? A reminder that my job as a parent is to be a CONSULTANT not a boss. In the end, it's their life and their choices and t ...more
Jan 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Loved this! I'd say this book is somewhat targeted to older kids--between upper elementary, middle and even high school, but I think there are gems for any age. My biggest take away from the book was relearning to just trust your kiddo. If we want them to succeed in this thing called life we have to stop "helping" so much and let them navigate the waters. So when our kids are going through stressful, difficult times our job is to support and let them figure out how to get through. Instead of bei ...more
Mar 09, 2019 rated it liked it
While I can't say this book was a compelling page turner, I did learn quite a bit from listening to it. I was surprised that as much of the suggestions and research were applicable to me as they seemed to be to my kids. The book is written in a way that covers motivating kids in general, and then breaks it down somewhat into age groups, so not all of it is applicable to my current child situation right now. I suppose that much of the book could have been boiled down into about 10 key points of t ...more
Kristin O'Keefe
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A MUST READ guide to parenting tweens/teens in the era of 24-hour tech and increased anxiety.

I was reminded of the Goldilocks and the Three Bears -- if helicopter parenting is too much, and hands-off parenting is too little, then this book is exactly right. Using several of the recommended techniques and it's already brought the stress-level down. One key: an open mind is so essential. Understand what you want for your child may differ from what they want -- and they know themselves better than
Oct 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a useful resource for thinking about how to approach conversations with your children, and how to help them build a sense of mastery and control over their own lives.

A lot of the content and examples skewed towards teenagers; the title would be a little more accurate if it clarified that it's talking about young/near adults, rather than "kids" (which makes me think of the under 10 crowd).
Nancy Currie
Mar 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Of all the books on child development that I've read, this is the one that will stick with me the most. Delivered in an amiable tone with lots of references to research and studies and many anecdotes that illustrate how the studies are playing out in real life, Stixrud and Johnson provide practical advice and clear steps to follow in helping children develop their own drive and sense of responsibility for themselves. The book covers parenting of young children and where parents should start with ...more
Megan Dax
Jun 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
My children are two and three, and our home is often chaotic. The kids are very active, independent and determined. We struggle maintaining order without resistance, and are always open to advice. This book provides great advice for parents and children. I appreciate that the author gave examples with proven solutions to try. Much of the authors advice will go a long way in our home.
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Bryn Mawr School ...: self driven child 1 4 Jul 02, 2018 01:49PM  

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