I just finished reading How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid by Julie Lythcott-Haims, and it was amazing. It's like it was written personally for me. I suffer from so many of the neuroses and overparenting tendencies the author outlines in the book (as did she), and I feel like I'm now on the first step towards my recovery after reading it.
Julie was my freshman dean at Stanford, and I'll always remember how she unified our class in our now-infamous "OHHHHH-SIX" (i.e., class of 2006) chant. It's interesting for me to see the journey that she's been in on since being dean at Stanford to where she is now as a parent and educator.
This book reminded me a lot of The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey, which I had read previously and also really enjoyed. That one focused a lot on academics and chores and was also really eye-opening.
The first half of the book talks about the problems and pitfalls of the overparenting tendency and the psychological harm to kids and parents. It sets a really persuasive stage on which the second half of the book responds with more practical solutions (down the words to use) to solve each part of the problem.
I really liked the sample scripts in this book for responding to kids and to fellow parents in difficult situations. I also really liked the lists of skills/abilities/chores/tasks that are appropriate for each approximate age as well as how to speak with kids and "continually question" in different ways as kids get older. There were also very good references in the book, both of other thought-leaders to follow online as well as other books to read. It's clear the author really did her homework and worked to build on top of a lot that has been written before on similar topics.
Now I'm really excited to see how I can put a lot of these ideas into practice and am trying to find and connect with other like-minded recovering "overparents."
My full notes and takeaways on the book are below.
As we were touring way too many preschools, I got to take a peek into many of their teacher and parent libraries (or their directors' offices), and one book I kept seeing was Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs by Ellen Galinsky. I got a chance to read it recently, and I found it has a good concise summary of much of the research on childhood learning to date and many of the lessons I had read in other books. I personally learned more from Einstein Never Used Flashcards by Kathy Hirsh-Pasek (whom Ellen cites many times in her book), but Ellen's book was still informative and interesting.
The parts that I found most useful were the concrete examples of games and activities that can help develop some of the "essential life skills" she mentions. It's always a balancing act between letting kids just follow their own self-directed learning adventures and coming up with suggestions of activities or games as the parent. This book provides lots of ideas to consider when needing to be more of a guide or when helping to foster a child's personal interest, which Galinsky calls the child's personal "lemonade stand."
My full notes on the book are below.
It's never too early to learn about yak shaving: What Russian folk tales can teach about life and technology
Toddlers love to read the same book over and over again: it helps them learn language and gives them a small sense of security, comfort, predictability, and mastery over even a small part of the confusing world around them. While helpful for them, it can drive parents crazy (or lead them to come up with ridiculous premises for blog posts).
Yesterday my toddler insisted on my reading for the fifth time (that day) the Russian folk tale "Петушок и бобовое зёрнышко," or "The Rooster and the Bean." (Click those links to read the tale in the respective language.)
The gist of the story is that this poor rooster who is always rushing chokes on a bean, and in order to save his life, a chicken needs to solve one problem after another in an endless cascade of sub-tasks which finally allow her to save the rooster's life in the end.
The story teaches (at least) three obvious lessons. First, don't rush while eating (or in general). Second, accomplishing things in life (or getting anything non-trivial like a "project" done for that matter) is going to be much more complicated and involve a lot more dependent steps completed first. And third, often many other people will be involved whose help you will need in order to get what you want done.
But for me personally, I secretly got a kick out of reading the story because it also teaches a valuable lesson about technology development. When I was at Google, there were many times I tried to do something seemingly quite simple ("just change the color over here" or "just move this piece of code from here to here"), and it required 5+ steps of dependent work (refactoring, renaming, moving, etc.) to be completed in series before the final trivial change/fix could be made. I learned from a teammate that this is generally called "yak shaving," which refers to the seemingly endless series of useless activities which, by allowing you to overcome intermediate difficulties, allow you to solve a larger problem [Sources: 1, 2, 3].
And I've experienced the same thing in life and house projects as well: "I just want to install a camera here" devolves into "I need to run power here" which devolves into "I need to rewire, order, and set up a thousand other things first."
I guess it's never too early to learn the lesson that projects are complicated, and getting a big thing done requires patience with lots of steps, which is why this Russian folk tale about the rooster seem to teach this lesson so early on.
If you want to waste any more of your precious life, you can watch the pointless video below of the Ren & Stimpy Show episode about the (pointless) "Yak Shaving Day" that apparently inspired the term "yak shaving."