EQtainment Q Wunder girl with hands over her mouth 900x512Growing up isn’t easy. But today’s helicopter parents are making it harder than ever for kids — and it’s taking its toll on all of us, says Julie Lythcott-Haims, the author of How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success. Listen in on a few of the highlights from the recent conversation between Lythcott-Haims and Q Wunder creator Sofia Dickens, then download the Q Wunder app (it’s free!) to hear the whole thing.

SD: What made you write this book?

JLH: I was dean of freshmen and undergraduate advising at Stanford for a decade, and each year brought more students who still seemed quite dependent on their parents for everything from choice-making to problem-solving. They seemed to need a lot of hand-holding at a point in life when I thought, “Hey, you oughta be able to do this, or at least want to try to do this, for yourself. You’re an adult now, kid.” I became worried for their sake, but also for the sake of all of us at a societal level. What’s to become of our country if the next generation of adults doesn’t feel like #adulting?

SD: You said some things in the book that really jumped out at me, like “We’re doing childhood for our kids.” What are some ways we go overboard as parents?

JLH: We’re tying their shoes too long. We’re Velcroing their shoes too long! Look, I’m a mom. I’ve got two teenagers. I get it. I’ve overparented my own kids. But I want my kids to be self-reliant — to be able to solve a problem and pick themselves up when something goes wrong. How do we do that? Number one: Know that our job is to teach them stuff. They’ve got to learn how to cross the street. We don’t hold their hand forever. We’d like to, because we feel safer that way, but they need to learn to look both ways. They need to learn how to keep track of their belongings, instead of us always putting the homework in the backpack and driving the forgotten backpack or sporting equipment or coat to school. Experiencing the short-term pain of “Ooh, I forgot my coat,” or “Ohh, they’re not gonna let me play because I forgot my hockey mask” is how they learn to remember it the next day.

SD: Ever since I read your book, my kids are probably wondering what happened at our house, because suddenly they’re getting tasked with chores all over the place. In the book you provide a great list of what your kids should be able to do at each age, like putting away their toys and clearing their plate as early as age 2 or 3.

JLH: I was mortified when I realized that chores were crucial to a kid’s success, because my kids weren’t doing any! A Harvard study found that professional success in life was determined by whether the person had done chores as a child — and the sooner they started doing chores, the better. Here I’m thinking it’s all about the right schools, homework and test prep, but my kids needed to be handed a broom — and they needed to know what to do with it. Now my kids help with the recycling, garbage, dishes and laundry, and I see them feeling the satisfaction of contributing to the family. Chores are a great way to teach kids about doing kind things for others. And the earlier you start, the less resistance you’ll get. Unlike teenagers, little ones won’t balk — they want to be useful.

SD: Thank you for reminding us to recalibrate how we define success for our kids — that’s a true gift.

JLH: We adults have to reevaluate too. Overparenting is bad for our kids, but it’s also bad for us. The truth is many of us don’t have active adult lives. No wonder so many of our kids are “failing to launch” — we’ve made adulthood look incredibly unattractive. We need to get our lives back and stop acting like our kids are our sole project. We need healthy relationships, friendships, hobbies, work, activities of our own. It overwhelms kids to be the sole focus of our pointed attention. They need space and distance a little more each year in order to grow into healthy humans.

Find out why your kid needs to cut their own food — and how to achieve more as a parent by doing less: Download the free Q Wunder app, go to the Parents’ Corner and check out the entire How to Raise an Adult podcast.