3 Campus Uses for ‘How to Raise an Adult’

Assign, distribute, and invite.

March 14, 2016

How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims.

Published in June of 2015.

This past month Jessica Lahey, the author of the education-disguised-as-parenting-book The Gift of Failure, was on campus to talk about her book. Side note:  You should also see if you can get Jessica to come to your campus to speak.

I asked Jessica during one of her high-energy sessions if she would consider calling her next book The Gift of Failure for College Students and Parents. I explained that my interest in a book like this is not only professional - but also personal - as in 2017 both of my kids will be college students.  

Jessica laughed, and said that she doesn’t need to write the college book - because that book has already been written.

The book that Jessica Lahey recommended to us, and that I am recommending to you now, is Julie Lythcott-Haims’ absolutely wonderful How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.

Lythcott-Haims, who previously an Associate Vice Provost and Dean of Freshman at Stanford, has written arguably the most important book on higher ed in recent memory.  Why I didn't know about this book until Jessica Lahey recommend it causes me to worry about my cultural and professional radar. 

How to Raise an Adult is a total no brainer to read if you have a kid in college, about to go to college, has ever gone to college, or will ever go to college.  Seriously, if you are a parent with college in your future, current, or past - stop reading this blog post and go and find this book.

My task here is to convince all the postsecondary educators in the universe, whether or not you wear a parental hat, to also invest the time to read How to Raise an Adult.

Here are 3 ways that I recommend that we use How to Raise an Adult:

Use 1 - Assign and Discuss How to Raise an Adult In Your Class:

Wow, is this a teachable book! If you want to assign a book that your students will actually have a deep need to read and to discuss - look no further. My strong suspicion is that How to Raise an Adult will unleash the sort of informed self-reflection that educators dream about.

My lens for reading How to Raise an Adult would be in a sociology class. Everything from Intro to the sociology of families, education, and stratification would work.  What great discussions we could have on the role of social class in determining parenting styles. Students could connect their personal experiences with the larger structural forces that have driven the overparenting epidemic.

History classes (the history of either the family or higher ed - or both) would also make sense. What other disciplines could teach the book? American Studies? A freshman seminar. A writing class. I think almost any subject that you teach where the goal is to connect social forces with individual actions would lend itself to assigning and discussing How to Raise an Adult.

Use 2 - Hand Out Copies of How to Raise an Adult to Rising First-Year Student and Parents:

We don’t hand out enough books. I’m talking about real books. Physical books. Dead tree books. Higher ed should be a big book-buyer and book hander-outer. 

How to Raise an Adult is the perfect book to give to every rising freshman and their parents. Send enough copies to the house so that everyone can read over the summer.  I can’t think of a better investment of university resources and student/parent time.

The reason to send this book to the parents and the kids is that this book will change mindsets.  Parents (like me) will figure out that we need to stop worrying so much about our college-attending offspring, and leave them alone.

Kids will realize that all parents are crazy, not just their own, and they will feel empowered to communicate less.

Everyone will get the message that college is about the students, not about the parents, and that developing the ability to succeed and fail without the involvement of parents is a gift.

Having parents read and discuss How to Raise an Adult would make for a great campus event during Parents’ Weekend.

Use 3 - Invite Julie Lythcott-Haims To Speak On Your Campus:

One reason that I love being an academic is all the smart people who regularly turn up on campus. My favorite campus speakers are those who write culture moving books like Julie Lythcott-Haims.  (And Jessica Lahey!).

Lythcott-Haims would be great for graduations, commencements, and investitures. She would also be a wonderful guest in both big classes and small seminars.

Throughout How to Raise an Adult, Lythcott-Haims writes in a personal, modest, accessible yet authoritative voice. I have not doubt that she will make fast and empathetic personal connections with your students, faculty, and staff.

How to Raise an Adult is a gift to all of us who are educators, and to all of us who are parents.  

What are you reading?



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