Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

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

Rate this book
"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 courage, the tools, and the mindset to reduce toxic stress, and to foster our child's capacity for resilience. Its message is one every parent needs to hear." --Tina Payne Bryson, co-author of The Whole Brain Child

"Read it. Your children will thank you." - Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed

A few years ago, Bill Stixrud and Ned Johnson started noticing the same problem from different angles: Even high-performing kids were coming to them acutely stressed and lacking any real motivation. Many complained that they had no control over their lives. Some stumbled in high school or hit college and unraveled. Bill is a clinical neuropsychologist who helps kids gripped by anxiety or struggling to learn. Ned is a motivational coach who runs an elite tutoring service. Together they discovered that the best antidote to stress is to give kids more of a sense of control over their lives. But this doesn't mean giving up your authority as a parent. In this groundbreaking book they reveal how you can actively help your child to sculpt a brain that is resilient, stress-proof and ready to take on new challenges.

The Self-Driven Child offers a combination of cutting-edge brain science, the latest discoveries in behavioral therapy, and case studies drawn from the thousands of kids and teens Bill and Ned have helped over the years to teach you how to set your child on the real road to success. As parents, we can only drive our kids so far. At some point, they will have to take the wheel and map out their own path. But there is a lot you can do before then to help them find their passion and tackle the road ahead with courage and imagination.

384 pages, Hardcover

First published February 13, 2018

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

William Stixrud

5 books35 followers

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
2,732 (49%)
4 stars
2,193 (39%)
3 stars
563 (10%)
2 stars
65 (1%)
1 star
11 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 734 reviews
Profile Image for Sarah.
357 reviews35 followers
April 15, 2018
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 book points out that kids will get where they need to be and it usually isn't on the traditional path. The authors point out, how about you as an adult? How's your job going? Your relationships? Investments? Are you making all the right choices? Ouch.

After reading this book, I have started paying more attention to the parents around me. One father was adamant that his 15 year old son needed to hurry up and decide what he wanted to do for his career, which also included college and any possible sports scholarship. Another mother was thrilled that she had met a school counselor that would be evaluating her incoming kindergartener for the talented and gifted program. I know more toddlers that not who spend 9 - 12 hours per day in daycare. The parents call it "school", which seems to be a way to tame the horror of it. When I said that I didn't like working 10 - 12 hours days as an adult, they cringe.

When I was worrying about my son drifting through his 9th grade year in a catatonic state, my father looked at me, "he's not flunking his classes, he's interested in cars, and he has a girlfriend? Seems pretty normal to me". Fine, when you put it that way. But still, that was his 1950's perspective when college didn't matter for a good stable career (and affordable housing). Today, 90% of new jobs go to college graduates, and only 3 out of 10 Americans have degrees. Hello, huge income gap and growing class warfare?

I liked one of the parent comments in the book, "If you see a spark in your kids, pour gasoline on it."
Profile Image for Anna Mussmann.
422 reviews67 followers
July 11, 2018
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, depression, and sometimes dysfunctional or self-destructive behaviors.

They report that “from 1960 until 2002, high school and college students have steadily reported lower and lower levels of internal locus of control (the belief that they can control their own destiny). . . . This change has been associated with an increased vulnerability to anxiety and depression.”

The rest of the book discusses how to stop trying to control our children and instead raise them to have a sense of control over their own lives so that they can be healthy, confident, and happy. “Our role is to teach [kids] to think and act independently, so that they will have the judgment to succeed in school and, most importantly, in life.”

There is a significant amount of truth to this. Of course our kids need room to grow up. As the authors say, “when parents work harder than their kids to solve their problems, their kids get weaker, not stronger.” Furthermore, the authors' point that the development of the human brain is use-driven--that brains become good at considering the evidence and making rational decisions by considering the evidence and making rational decisions--makes sense.

Yet the big weakness of this book is the moral vacuum in which the authors operate. Because they seem to believe that each person must decide what is right for him or herself (they suggest telling kids, “You’re the expert on you” as an explanation for why kids have the authority to make their own decisions), they miss something big. Our purpose in life is not to figure out what decisions will make us happiest. Instead, it is more important to develop the self-control to do what is right whether or not we feel like it, whether or not we think it will make us happy. In part, this is because, rather than thinking we must control our own destiny, we rejoice in the care of a good and holy God.

It is less important that toddlers get to choose their own outfits than it is that they are taught to exercise self-control by refraining from, say, hitting their mothers or their playmates. It is less important that middle school kids choose their own school than that they learn responsibility by joining their parents in meaningful work around the house.

Yes, kids need room to grow up. (And it’s good to give them a healthy amount of freedom in the home as well as to give them practice making decisions). But the maturity that the authors seek is more likely to grow when children are encouraged to direct their attention away from a focus on their own desires and preferences. Parents are tasked with the job of teaching right from wrong and modeling self-sacrificial service to others. That is a big part of why they are in charge.
Profile Image for Ell.
459 reviews55 followers
January 9, 2018
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-achievement ultimately harmful? The authors think so, and they should know. One author is a clinical neuropsychologist and a faculty member at Children's National Medical Center and George Washington University Medical School. The other author is a motivational coach and expert in teen anxiety management. Agency, as the authors point out, is THE primary factor in happiness and well-being. The book argues for more authoritative parenting, being supportive, but not controlling, acting as a consultant to help their children understand the benefits of positive and neutral stress and providing the tools to learn resilience, self-control and personal motivation in the face of toxic stress. The Self-Driven Child is a must-read for every parent. Although I received a copy of this book from Net Galley, this did not affect my rating. I have provided an unbiased and honest review.
Profile Image for Katelyn.
1,156 reviews66 followers
October 1, 2018
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 of pride afterwards. Kids are more likely to perform well with "the jitters" as long as not excessive.

Tolerable stress builds resiliency. In a study with rats, baby rats taken from their mother and handled for 15 minutes, then returned to their mother, were resilient against stress as adults. Baby rats handled for 3 hours with no breaks were over stressed and it affected their ability to deal with stress. They were easily stressed as adults and didn't handle stress well.

Tolerable stress is where there are breaks to the stress and the kid is supported by a loving adult. Toxic stress is where the stress doesn't end, kids feel out of control and they are not supported by an adult.

Model stress awareness by pointing out what stresses you out at work.

Don't shield your kids from mild stress. Let them learn from it.

Reframe the problem. Whose problem is it? Your child's.

If you take over, your child will try less. If you try 95 units, your child will try 5.

We want to raise curious, self motivated learners.

Kids need home to be a safe space away from the stress of school. They need to be loved unconditionally even when they screw up. Try using the mantra I love you too much to fight with you about your homework. When you fight with your kid about her homework she isn't being intrinsically motivated and she won't take it on herself also it brings school stress into the house .

Goal: raise a child capable of acting in her best self interest. She learns by being responsible for herself and her own homework. You can't manage her homework and then assume she'll just take it over when you stop. She has to learn to do it herself.

For a second grader, you can say "oh, I see you have a math sheet" and ask if she wants help, but don't monitor her to make sure she completes it. She needs to have this self control and develop self motivation.

Your child is more likely to feel depressed from having a low sense of control self control than from getting a bad grade because she didn't study for a test/do her homework. This is true especially if you support your child through failure and teach her not to think of it as the end but rather a learning opportunity

Look from your child's point of view. Start with three precepts about your child:
1. You are the expert on you.
2. You have a brain in your head.
3. You want your life to work.

The brain matures according to how it's used. So give your kids opportunities to grow in the areas they have self control over. They will become used to making hard choices and owning them.

Kids shouldn't be an empty extension of their parents. They should direct their lives.

Giving kids a sense of control is the only way to teach them competency and decision-making and in whatever skill they're learning

as the adage goes wisdom comes from experience and experience comes from bad decisions .

Kids need to know you trust them to make their own decisions.Example of the mother who swoops in to stop her toddler from falling before the toddler even knows what is happening.The toddler doesn't suffer that way but the only way to build resiliency is through suffering.

Telling our children how to make good decisions isn't the same as them doing it themselves and experiencing the consequences.

You don't always know what's best. You don't know who your child wants to be. That's for her to figure out.

Kids are capable. A landmark study showed kids ages 9- 21 made very similar decisions.

"I have confidence in your ability to make informed decisions about your own life and to make mistakes."

"It's your call."

For judgment lapses ask "how'd that works for you?" and make some suggestions for next time.

Some parents try to prune their children like Edward Scissorhands does to shrubs. Remember, that your child is still growing and you don't know what he/she will be.

It's important to be a non anxious parent to your child. After loving your child, the second most affective thing you can do is manage your own stress.

Second hand stress affects people. Stress is contagious/spreads. Kids are especially vulnerable in utero and their first year.

When you worry about your kid, you undermine your kids confidence.

Calm is contagious . Strive to be a nonanxious presence in your child's life.

Safe home base. Place to destress. Your kid's problems are her own. They are not your problems. It's okay to be happy when she is not.

How to be a less anxious parent.
One. Enjoy your kids.
Two. Don't fear the future. Many parents fear their kid getting stuck. Whatever your kid is going through now she will more than likely be fine in the future.

Self motivation:
Foster a growth mindset.
The most important factor for said motivating is a sense of self control. Giver her choices and control in her life.
Competency is important too. Your child doesn't have to know everything about a subject, but she needs to feel like she can learn it.
Your child needs to learn for herself. When you try to take over learning for her or pushing what you think she should learn, she'll push back and not be invested to learn. She needs to be self motivated.

Dopamine in the brain helps kids be motivated for tasks. To encourage dopamine development encourage kids to work hard at things they love. This will help develop the dopamine and make it routine so that they enjoy activities that get them into flow activities that are neither too easy nor too hard.

Help your kids ask themselves "what do I want?" and "what do I love to do?"

It's your child's responsibility to find interests and motivation in life.

Good grades don't equal success in life. More important than getting good grades is that your child develops her brain. Encourage autonomy and activities where she experiences flow.

Teach your kids not to be overly preoccupied with pleasing others.

Default mode network. Being in the DM and can help you solve problems that previously seemed unsolvable. When you're in the default network you work through problems. You can't be doing a task to have DMn and activated.

Let your kids do nothing. Teach them meditation and mindfulness practices.

Being well rested makes everything better. You are more stressed, less flexible and more likely to see things negatively if you haven't gotten enough sleep. Each hour of sleep makes a difference. It's much easier to learn when you are well rested.

Best learning environment: challenging content, environment that gives them room to fail.
Profile Image for Hestia Istiviani.
912 reviews1,571 followers
August 20, 2023
Katanya, sweet seventeen itu paling menyenangkan. Tapi buatku, malah mendebarkan.

"Kamu udah 17 tahun. Sudah dianggap sbg individu oleh Negara. Keputusanmu bakal membawa konsekuensi buat dirimu sendiri. Choose wisely."

Kurang lebih itu nasehat orangtuaku. Bagi mereka, sudah cukup bekal mengarungi hidup yg mereka berikan buatku menjadi orang dewasa. Dan sejak saat itu, they gave the control over my life.

Pergi ke Jakarta sendirian buat nonton konser Laruku? Sok~

Ke Vietnam sendirian selama 10 hari? Yaudah sana~

Nggak mau jadi PNS? Lah kamu kok yg jalanin hidup!

Intinya, mereka nggak ribet cawe-cawe sama hidupku. And I am forevel grateful to have them.

And turn out, setelah membaca tulisan William Stixrud & Ned Johnson, rupanya aku termasuk The Self-Driven Child.

Buku ini sesungguhnya ditujukan kepada orangtua untuk memberikan otoritas anak sesuai tingkatan perkembangan otaknya. Anak usia 5 tahun tentu punya batasan otoritas yg berbeda dg anak usia 14 tahun.

Kedua penulisnya selalu mengingatkan bahwa normal kok sbg orangtua merasa khawatir dg si anak. Tapi bukan berarti mengekang mereka. Komunikasi dg anak juga sebaiknya bukan yg otoriter, melainkan jadikan sbg forum diskusi bersama.

Yang paling melekat dari buku ini ialah: jadilah orangtua yg memberikan informasi kepada anak & menjadi rekan diskusi. Dengan begitu, anak bakal makin menghargai orangtua.

Kalau dipikir-pikir, persis ayahku. Sejak aku milih jurusan kuliah sampe memilih kerjaan, aku selalu diskusi dg ayah. Dari POVku, ayahku adl orang yg kaya informasi & nggak "nuturi" kalau ngobrol. He could understand kalau zaman kami sudah berbeda.

Magic word versi ayahku, "Kamu yang jalanin hidup. Silakan dipikir sendiri" 🤣

Jujur, aku penasaran apa yg ada di kepala orangtuaku ketika memberikanku otoritas atas hidupku sendiri. Reading this book bagiku semacam "reverse engineering."

And I am glad that I have parents like my parents ✨
Profile Image for Laney.
520 reviews
September 14, 2021
Maybe 3.5 stars. Great book, but I would say targeted to high school / teenagers, so not quite as useful for me yet. Also covered some of the same info I recently read in The Optimistic Child. Here are some of my takeaways:

Ask child: “are there things you’d like to be in charge of that you currently aren’t?”

Do you tell your kids what is happening that day or do you offer choices?

Parent as consultant. Not boss. Or policeman.

Enjoy your kids. Be happy to see them.

Control your own anxiety. Kids can sense it and will be affected by it. It’s contagious.

Avoid making decisions for your child based on fear. What you think might happen.

Promote a growth mindset. Focus on inner effort. Praise effort rather than built in ability. Impressed with how hard you worked, not “fantastic grade!”

Make sure they feel your unconditional love. Not conditional based on a good grade, sports win, etc.

Kids get to be motivated to do things they don’t want to do by also doing the things they love. “In flow”. Ask kids what they love to do? What are they good at? Give kids space and time to do what they love.

Support autonomy!!

Give your kids time to do nothing. No technology. Daydreaming so good.

Meditation / mindfulness so important.

Sleep super important.

Nature time super important. Even a city park.

Inform. Don’t lecture.

Plan B thinking. Don’t be so focused on your one ultimate goal (Harvard or whatever) that you get all stressed out. Be OK with plan B too.

If your kid is talking to themselves negatively and saying how much they suck. You can respond, “that’s one way of looking at it. I see things differently. I am happy to tell you about it if you would like.”

Have you noticed how sometimes we talk to ourselves in ways that we would never talk to other people? Teach your kids to be as supportive of themselves as they are of their best friends. If your friend messed up in a baseball game, would you yell at them and say how awful they are, or would you say something nice like, it’s no big deal, you’ll get the next one. You aren’t stupid, you just made a mistake.

Third person self talk is more powerful than first person self talk. So say to yourself, “come on, Laney, you’ll get the next one.” Have your kid refer to themselves by their name in their heads.

Be open to alternate life routes. Not every kid will conform to 4-6 years at a good college and that’s okay. They can still be highly successful. There is not just one narrow path to a good life.

Ask your kids:
What do I truly love to do?
And what can I do better than most people?
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Liza Fireman.
839 reviews148 followers
March 16, 2019
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’t really true. Suppose your child doesn’t want to eat what he is served and you set about to “make him.” What do you do? Do you force the child’s mouth open, put food in it, and move his jaws up and down? If you do, who’s really eating? The child isn’t eating—he’s being force-fed. With homework, if a child truly resists your attempts to get him to work, what are you going to do? Prop his eyes open, move the book in front of his face? Even if this were possible and actually worked, would it be good for him? Would he actually learn?

The adult's job is to offer help, guide and support. After all it is their life. Reading right now Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction by David Sheff you feel how frustrating it can be to be a parent. Wanting the best for your kid is amazing, but living instead of them is impossible, and their choices (guided by our education and support) will be the path of their life.
The book talks quite a lot about homework, and our responsibility as parent to remind if needed, but suggests that a parent does not need to help unless the kid asked. Pressing too much can actually have the opposite affect.
As a parent I know sometimes how hard it is, and that we can't always succeed, especially because we care so much. But the best that we can do is teach them how to act and interact, to treat them with honesty and build trust. And to make sure to use collaboration and not manipulation.
Allowing the children make their own decision make them feel in charge (and the book stresses that there is science behind it as well).
Kids shouldn’t feel like an empty extension of their parents. The recommended message is " I have confidence in your ability to ...". It gives them sense of control, and allow them to get experience that comes only from making their own decisions, including bad decisions. Actually, we as parents don't even always know what's best decision. And that's a hard one to acknowledge. We can help them with building Informed decision making. And more than anything we need to help them access to feeling and processing of feelings.

Much of the book stresses the importance of sleep. Children and young adults need a lot of sleep. It clicked to me immediately with Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker. I read this book lately, and the two books have a lot in common mentioning how critical sleep is, and how critical it is to the forming brain of a teenager.

Very important read, even as a reminder. Almost 4 stars.
Profile Image for Brittney.
343 reviews2 followers
January 2, 2022
Audiobook. It's written for teens, but the principles are important to practice (for me) early. Predicably, my favorite chapters were on sleep, meditation, and tech use.
Profile Image for Roseb612.
441 reviews62 followers
August 14, 2019
Předejte dětem kontrolu a zodpovědnost za jejich život - je to jejich život, ne Váš.

Lehce se to řekne, hůř udělá - jako rodič prostě máte strach, že udělají chybu, že si ublíží, chcete je chránit a přitom víte, že sami jste se nejvíc naučili ze svých chyb a omylů. A tak jim dáte volný prostor a nestačíte se divit, co všechno ty Vaše berušky zvládnou.

Tuhle bitvu jsme si doma vybojovali už před nějakou dobou, ale recidiva ochranitelství se koná pravidelně a tak jsem si pro osvěžení a vyfutrování argumentů pro rodinu a přátele přečetla i tuhle zajímavou knihu. Byť je to knížka spíše pro rodiče teenagerů, tak i my s mladšími dětmi si tam najdeme své a až budou děti čekat nějaké testy (doufejme, že to dlouho nebude, ale bohužel se tomu asi nevyhnou), tak se k ní určitě vrátím- je tam dobře popsaná strategie zvládání testování.

Vlastně jsem se tam nic převratně nového nedočetla, ale i tak to nebyla ztráta času a knížka mě navedla na knihu Neodolatelné, kterou čtu teď. Za mě tedy poctivé čtyři hvězdičky.

Kontext: Už rok se plácám v těžké čtenářské krizi a začíná mi to opravdu dost vadit - tak snad se z ní brzo vyhrabu.

První věta: "Na první pohled se k sobě jako spolupracovníci moc nehodíme."

Poslední souvětí: "Jak zní známý citát: Lidé zapomenou, co jste řekli, lidé zapomenou, co jste udělali, ale nikdy nezapomenou, jak jim s vámi bylo. Myslete na to, jak vašim dětem s vámi je. Jak chcete, aby se cítily? Milované. Mající vaši důvěru. Schopné. Nechť je to i spolehlivý kompas pro vaše rodičovská rozhodnutí."
Profile Image for Jaymie.
596 reviews2 followers
April 27, 2022
I took my time listening to this. Even took a break for another book. I learned a lot. I agree that letting your kids use their agency to make decisions is good. I like the point of helping your kids make “informed” choices best. I have used what I have learned several times in the last week and even recommended or shared thoughts from this book in conversation with other mystified parents.
Does the book answer every question? Does it speak to me in every chapter? No…but for what I could relate to my own kids and experience, I found those parts tremendously valuable.
Profile Image for Nabeel Hassan.
149 reviews12 followers
August 13, 2019
هذا الكتاب تركته بسبب طارئ في السنة السابقة و ها قد أنتهيت منه و بفائدة كبيرة جدا، لكل من يريد أن يعطي أبناءه فسحة أكبر ليجري حياته و يخبر الحياة فليقرأ هذا الكتاب ففيه الكثر من الأمور التي قد نعيد النظر فيها بشكل مختلف في تربية أطفالنا حتى يبلغون
Profile Image for Ryn Andri.
59 reviews2 followers
July 31, 2023
Pernah liat mahasiswa IPK 4 tapi masih nanya di base Twitter karena gak bisa ambil keputusan sederhana?
Sering ya? Pernah denger istilah helicopter parents yang ampe anaknya kuliah masih cawe-cawe dan taking control masalah akademis anaknya?

Pengambilan keputusan itu butuh latihan, dan latihannya sejak dini. Kalo dari kecil anak gak pernah dikasih kendali atas dirinya, dia gak merasa punya kontrol atas kehidupan yg dia jalankan. Di masa depan ini bakal jadi bumerang buat si anak.

Ini cuman sebagian dari bahasan di chapter awal buku yg kukasih 5 bintang barusan.

Haha sepertinya rating kali ini emang sangat subyektif karena faktor relevansi buku sama kebutekan pikiranku soal parenting saat ini sih 🤣

Sebenernya aku gak merasa dapet hal yang baru, tapi buanyak banget statement di buku ini yg menguatkan aku akan prinsip parenting yg aku anut. Jadi ngerasa disemangatin 🤣

Buku ini dibagi jadi 14 chapter yg masing2 chapter ada sub pokok bahasanya. Di tiap ending chapter ntar ada 'What to do tonight' ini semacem panduan taktis buat nerapin pembahasan di chapter sama kehidupan pengasuhan kita.

Bahasanya gampang, delivery-nya enak, flow biasa aja tapi menurutku sub-pembahasan tiap chapter cukup kohesif jadi gampang buat kita fokus ama masalah utama yg dibahas di chapter itu.

Komposisi ulasan studi dan kasusnya mayan balance tapi kayaknya rada banyakan kasusnya.

Ada pembahasan yg nyinggung ADHD Dan spektrum autisme lain, juga plus gimana adjustment untuk case khusus begini, tapi emang porsinya gak banyak.

Rentang usianya juga lebar banget, jadi aku rada skip2 pembahasan yg aga fokus ke anak-anak remaja gitu karena aku rasa topiknya masih belum relevan buat aku.

Apakah aku akan baca lagi? YA. Aku merasa harus baca lagi ntar kalo Pret2 gedean. Ngasah gaman 🤣
Profile Image for Shevon Quijano.
250 reviews
June 3, 2018
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 them develop a brain that’s used to making hard choices and owning them.”

Each chapter ends with concrete steps you and your family can take to address various challenges (homework, hobbies, college, etc).

One of my favorite quotes was when one of the authors, who is a tutor, explained to his charge that,
“...part of his work as an adolescent was to explore not only what he liked but what he was better at than most people and to work hard at that.” It is a call to action to encourage kids to be self aware. They need to be able to identify their strengths, know their weaknesses, all while rejecting comparison with others around them. This is how they will find success and fulfillment in life.

Great book!
Profile Image for Louise.
966 reviews294 followers
July 23, 2020
This guide on helping your child become more independent, self-confident, and driven spoke to the way I want to parent my kid, but I like most other parenting books I read, I was annoyed half of the time. I finished most of the book but skimmed the later chapters about college entrance exams and college in general. I did like that the authors emphasized that college was a privilege to be earned and not a given.

I found enough tips and information in this book that not only applied to my kid, but also applied to myself, so it's definitely worth reading.

First, the good parts:
* lots of conclusions from studies about how the brain actually works
* offers a variety of paths for different types of brains
* nice summary at the end of chapters for those of us who like to skim

The not so good parts:
* definitely comes from a privileged point of view. For example, finding a school that works for your child is great if you have the money for options, but not great if the only thing you can do is send your kid to the closest public school.
* The different voices or points of view of "Bill says blah blah" and "When Ned had a client..." was confusing without much context.
Profile Image for Danny Ritter.
39 reviews3 followers
July 25, 2022
Helpful and chock full of ideas about how to let kids spread their own wings and become happy, self-sufficient adults. Like most books like this, the main ideas can be easily summarized in a few bullet points (and are, actually, at the end of each chapter), but they are compelling enough to make you sit and assess your own mental health and how it affects that if your kids. It’s mainly a reminder to parents to just RELAX when it comes to their kids. Worth reading if you’ve got an anxious child among your brood.
5 reviews1 follower
August 15, 2023
The authors of this book do a phenomenal job of describing practical ways to initiate/implement decision-making and stress management strategies with children. An insightful read as a pediatric OT, and one I’m looking forward to re-visiting as a parent :)
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,649 followers
February 25, 2018
I 100% agree with this parenting philosophy, which is basically that you can lead the horse to water but not force it to drink. This book is a lot like Love and Logic and Conscious Parenting the Power of Positive Parenting--kids need control over their decisions and you should not force your will on them. It seems obvious, but parents (myself included) are constantly forcing kids into molds. Let your kid make mistakes and pay for them. Be a consultant rather than a coach.
Profile Image for Gabrielle Schwabauer.
290 reviews21 followers
September 17, 2022
This book gets four stars not because I agreed with everything in it, but because I still think that 95% of parents and guardians and teachers could really, really benefit from this perspective. Treating kids like autonomous human beings who deserve to make the choices that determine their own lives? Yes please. I particularly liked the authors' willingness to push back against typical parenting beliefs like "well, yes, you can allow really responsible kids (who always make the choices I'd make anyway) to have autonomy, but my kid would ruin their own life if given freedoms!" I believed the authors were really committed to treating children and teens with respect, and they encouraged parents to allow REAL autonomy, not some carefully manufactured facade of choice between two equally boring options.

Also a big fan of the chapters about healthful rest, and their pushback against increasing academic time and homework load. I expected to be applauding the chapters about childhood autonomy, but I didn't expect to be cringing in recognition during a solid third of the book, remembering my own high school education: the 3-5 hours of daily homework I completed to meet our school's standard of "excellence," the straight As and 4.0 I maintained through all of high school and college despite the extreme pressure on my mental health, the chronic exhaustion I faced sleeping only a few hours per night, and the mysterious and crippling health problems I instantaneously developed the summer after graduation. Oof. As a former "gifted kid" with "great potential" I absolutely agree: this obsessive focus on academic performance, career readiness, and college appeal is destroying young people. Love to see it called out!

Could have been five stars, but I took issue with a couple of things:
- They occasionally mention that there are certain "types" of kids who can't handle these freedoms. Sometimes they include developmental disabilities on this list. They later push for children of any or no diagnosis to have as much freedom as possible, but there were several points where I could see parents going "oh, see, there's an out--this doesn't apply to my kid! He's the defiant, difficult kid who won't listen that they're talking about!" At one point the authors also offhandedly mention that you can "suggest" traditional punitive measures to manipulate your kid into choosing to talk things through with you instead, which . . . did not mesh with the rest of their values?

- Autism comes up repeatedly and they don't use the kind of language that many autistic people prefer. They talk about "high-functioning" autistic kids, they refer to "the spectrum," and they reinforce some blanket stereotypes of autistic people that aren't accurate for many. They also state confidently that ABA therapy is the best method of learning for autistic kids, which many, many autistic adults thoroughly denounce. It felt like they wanted to advocate for autonomy for kids of all neurotypes, but also wanted to reassure parents that they didn't have to abandon traditional methods of "managing" the "behaviors" of their neurodivergent kids at the same time. Made me feel weird.

- As other reviewers have noted, I wish they'd delved into the concept of privilege. Their space was limited, I guess, but acknowledging that race, gender, and especially socioeconomic status are huge factors in things like school choice, extracurricular availability, college prep, etc. would have gone a loooooong way. It's great to advise parents not to pay $100,000 for their kids education if the kid isn't ready yet (and to destigmatize gap years and trade programs), but if you don't also acknowledge that many parents don't have anywhere NEAR the means to bankroll four years of partying at a "top college," it starts to feel a bit tone-deaf. Don't get me wrong, I think any parent or teacher could benefit from these underlying principles, but they could have been a lot more specific.

I know I mentioned a lot of negatives. I've gone back and forth, but I'm sticking with four stars, because I think parents coming to this openly and in good faith will be able to benefit a lot from the advice. Parents looking for excuses to deny their child's rights may unfortunately find a few in the poor word choice here, but ultimately they were already bringing that mindset to the book. I'd love to see an updated edition post-feedback from autistic adults.
Profile Image for Marrei.
227 reviews9 followers
February 18, 2019
Správná kniha ve správný čas, i když jsem se k ní dostala jen náhodou. Vybrána v rámci čtenářského klubu, na kterém jsem chyběla a budu chybět i na dalším setkáním, takže mě mrzí, že si o ní s nikým moc nepokecám. Tak alespoň tady.

Poslední dobou si víc a víc uvědomuji, že mám problém se stresem. Moje schopnost zapamatovat si věci o posledním zkouškovém byla tragická, známky jsem dostala přesně ty opačné než v prváku. Lidi okolo mě pořád předpokládali - a předpokládají - že musím být v pohodě, protože jsem vše povinné stihla v lednu. Což je u nás na fakultě takový malý zázrak. Jenže v pohodě nejsem, i když neberu žádné prášky na hlavu ani nezvracím před zkouškou. Ale ten stres zažívám a asi jsem se i konečně rozhodla, že s tím něco provedu. A do toho přišla tahle kniha.

Dotýká se především výchovy dětí - toho, jak by ke všemu měl rodič přistupovat, výuka, vysoká, ale i ten stres. Jak se s tím vypořádat, co jej může způsobovat.

Na té knize je nejsmutnější asi fakt, že téměř pokaždé, když tam bylo uvedeno, že tohle dětem vážně neříkejte, tak jsem si uvědomila, kdy jsem něco takového slyšela doma. (Vtipná věc: Když vám člověk, co vás skoro pořád posuzuje jen podle vašich známek, i když vás teda nemůže moc chválit, ale prostě máte jedničky, musíte být chytří, neocení nikdy vaši práci, říká, že byste měli něco dělat se svým mizerným sebevědomím.)

Na druhou stranu, uvědomila jsem si díky tomu několik věcí. Za prvé, co nedělat, až budu mít někdy sama děti (i když si to stejně ještě pak někdy znovu přečtu). Za druhé, že ta chyba není jenom ve mně. Lépe teď vím, co mám za problém, z čeho to může být. Ta kniha obsahuje i spoustu tipů, jak zlepšit zvládání stresu, jak s tím bojovat. Svým způsobem je to šíleně optimistické, protože aspoň vím jak.

Pokud byste se ptali, proč tomu věřím, když jinak na podobné knihy nikdy nedám... Tak asi proto, že vím, že to, co tam popisovali jako nevhodné k říkání, vážně nebylo ok. Že mi to občas ublížilo, místy vytvářelo další stres, něco pořád funguje. (Za poslední dva dny mi mamka už dvakrát napsala, jestli mám výsledky z jednoho testu. Vždycky jí výsledky hlásím sama, v pohodě. A teď má najednou potřebu mi zase psát, jako kdybych jí to snad normálně neříkala.) Takže z takového toho opačného postupu - když mě evidentně tamto dohnalo k tomu, že se občas cítím naprosto mizerně, co to zkusit opačně, vyzkoušet jejich přístup, který nabízí oproti tomu, co vyznávají moji rodiče. A upřímně věřím, že to bude fungovat.
Profile Image for Cat.
848 reviews147 followers
March 7, 2023
The central premise of this book is that parents need to communicate their unconditional love to their children and then need to give their kids as much autonomy as possible, including the information they might need to make informed choices. Some of the points about communication, acceptance, and collaborative problem-solving remind me of my favorite child psychology book, The Explosive Child by Ross Greene. My daughter flourishes when she is able to determine an agenda for her day, to choose between multiple options in a sup-par situation, or develop her priorities for her summer, so I feel like she is the best teacher of this mode of acceptance and support that I know. The authors say to get out of the way of your kid's homework (if they don't do it, the natural consequences arise!), to stop judging and start simply celebrating their extra curriculars, to encourage them to collaborate in figuring out a chore schedule, and to support their development of a sleep schedule that actually gives them the wherewithal to handle daily stressors. My household has not managed this last, but the overall point is that informing kids about the benefits of sleep is better than hollering at them to go to bed. The chapter about technology is both helpful (get to know your kids' video games, don't put yourself in an adversarial relationship with their desire to use gadgets) and also a little bit vague. If your kid craves that dopamine hit, how to encourage them to go outside instead? From what I understand, though, their second book about talking to your kid may address this point in a bit more detail.

I had the great pleasure of listening to Ned Johnson in person yesterday evening, and he was so compassionate, pragmatic, and upbeat, and I loved that he also keeps neurodivergence in mind (as his co-author, William Stixrud, primarily works with neurodivergent kids). There are lots of practical tips in this book about how to get out of your kids' way and support them in figuring out who they are. The more you make their academic performance or their leisure time your job, the more you are hampering them in the full realization of what they want and also of their capabilities and competencies. This message really spoke to me.
December 5, 2020
I put a hold on The Self Driven Child pre-library closure and it came in the other week. I guess I was a glutton for punishment by going ahead and reading it, whilst we are all dealing with unprecedented learning challenges for our kids. Right now it’s pretty hard to be hands-off when grades, assignments, etc. are in our face constantly with systems in place to send updates while remote learning.
Nevertheless, even if I read this pre-Covid, I still took the insights from this book with a huge grain of salt. Yes, I don’t interfere with my kids school work, they communicate with their teachers directly, and I let them fail while it is safe for them to do so. But, if they DO fail there are consequences beyond ‘natural consequences’. If my kids are not meeting our expectations on grades, they lose privileges. For the most part, this has motivated them and I don’t have to do it as often anymore. But to get to the point where you let them fail out of school altogether, instead of guiding them through failing grades seems over the top. I definitely agree with the scientific fact that it makes kids feel/become more self-sufficient when they do things for themselves, but for my family, I feel there is room for guidance.
And as much scientific evidence given about self-sufficiency in this book, there is a glaring lack of the data on children who fail out of high school or college and what that means for their future. Most of the rosy anecdotal stories used as examples, of kids turning things around after major failure, are statistically not the norm.
There are certainly great takeaways to be had, and it was a good reminder that grades are not the end all/be all of their future happiness. Also, not every approach fits every child. It’s also worth remembering that we as parents are the expert on our own kids.
For more reviews and bookish musings, visit http://www.bornandreadinchicago.com/
Profile Image for Matt Hutson.
251 reviews86 followers
November 19, 2022
This book is packed full of valuable scientifically backed takeaways for teachers and parents alike to help give you ideas to support your children and help guide them to build a sense of control over their lives. There are many stories, research, and evidence to support the findings in this book. After all, the author, William, is a neuropsychologist, and Ned is the founder of PrepMatters, a tutoring service in Washington DC. These authors have tons of experience with children and teenagers.

Over 70% of the book focuses on older children and teenagers, but there is a great deal for younger children. The topics vary from letting your children make most of their own decisions within reason, how they deal with stress from school and homework, their friendships and digital use, and most importantly how to develop their motivation and sense of self-control by taking the time they need for themselves and their own development.

I look at this book as a guide for teachers and parents. It's one that you can dip in and out of as needed depending on the topic and the situations you are experiencing with your children. I have read dozens of parenting books over the years and this one surely goes in my top five. I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Shawna.
49 reviews6 followers
August 14, 2020
I really enjoyed "The Self Driven Child." It reminded me of things I know as a parent but sometimes forget. I didn't necessarily learn anything new but I enjoyed every chapter.

It's important to me that my children are self motivated. I want THEM to make informed choices and decisions. I enjoy the role of consultant instead of manager. Sometimes I just need a book like this to remind me how to do it.

Great book for parents of tweens and teens!
Profile Image for Sarah.
243 reviews21 followers
January 12, 2022
The ideas and tips on the book were so applicable for me personally, let alone for my kids! This is a book I'll be referring to again and again. Everyone who has children or works with kids should read this book.
Profile Image for Lauren.
180 reviews1 follower
June 22, 2023
I would definitely recommend this book to all parents. I docked a star only because this book largely focuses on teenagers and college testing, and that should be noted on the book cover. This is one I would read over and over as my children grow.
Profile Image for drowningmermaid.
888 reviews42 followers
April 13, 2021
The idea here is almost absurdly simple: Kids should be make their own decisions about their lives, and shouldn't be saddled with your fear of their failure. You should be able to assume that kids want to succeed.

And yet-- I can see the effects that reading this one has. I think it could be a go-to book for me for the next few years.

Library copy.
275 reviews
August 2, 2021
This book definitely helped me rethink how I was parenting my teens and especially my oldest. It helped me loosen the reins a bit and give him more freedom while communicating my continued support for him and his endeavors. I love how much our relationship has changed for the better--instead of me harping on him all the time about what he needs to do or finish or fix, we talk about other things and have a mutual respect for one another. There were slower and more boring parts but overall I found it eye opening and helpful! (And as a rule I dislike parenting books!) I will probably be buying a copy soon so I can refer back to it often.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
272 reviews
April 26, 2022
This is a book I want to buy a copy of, mark up, and read again and again!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 734 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.