How to raise successful kids — without over-parenting | Julie Lythcott-Haims

How to raise successful kids — without over-parenting | Julie Lythcott-Haims

You know, I didn’t set out
to be a parenting expert. In fact, I’m not very interested
in parenting, per Se. It’s just that there’s a certain style
of parenting these days that is kind of messing up kids, impeding their chances
to develop into theirselves. There’s a certain style
of parenting these days that’s getting in the way. I guess what I’m saying is, we spend a lot of time
being very concerned about parents who aren’t involved enough
in the lives of their kids and their education or their upbringing, and rightly so. But at the other end of the spectrum, there’s a lot of harm
going on there as well, where parents feel
a kid can’t be successful unless the parent is protecting
and preventing at every turn and hovering over every happening,
and micromanaging every moment, and steering their kid towards
some small subset of colleges and careers. When we raise kids this way, and I’ll say we, because Lord knows,
in raising my two teenagers, I’ve had these tendencies myself, our kids end up leading
a kind of checklisted childhood. And here’s what the checklisted
childhood looks like. We keep them safe and sound and fed and watered, and then we want to be sure
they go to the right schools, that they’re in the right classes
at the right schools, and that they get the right grades
in the right classes in the right schools. But not just the grades, the scores, and not just the grades and scores,
but the accolades and the awards and the sports,
the activities, the leadership. We tell our kids, don’t just join a club, start a club, because colleges
want to see that. And check the box for community service. I mean, show the colleges
you care about others. (Laughter) And all of this is done to some
hoped-for degree of perfection. We expect our kids
to perform at a level of perfection we were never asked
to perform at ourselves, and so because so much is required, we think, well then, of course we parents
have to argue with every teacher and principal and coach and referee and act like our kid’s concierge and personal handler and secretary. And then with our kids, our precious kids, we spend so much time nudging, cajoling, hinting, helping, haggling,
nagging as the case may be, to be sure they’re not screwing up, not closing doors, not ruining their future, some hoped-for admission to a tiny handful of colleges that deny almost every applicant. And here’s what it feels like
to be a kid in this checklisted childhood. First of all, there’s
no time for free play. There’s no room in the afternoons, because everything
has to be enriching, we think. It’s as if every piece of homework,
every quiz, every activity is a make-or-break moment
for this future we have in mind for them, and we absolve them
of helping out around the house, and we even absolve them
of getting enough sleep as long as they’re checking off
the items on their checklist. And in the checklisted childhood,
we say we just want them to be happy, but when they come home from school, what we ask about all too often first is their homework and their grades. And they see in our faces that our approval, that our love, that their very worth, comes from A’s. And then we walk alongside them and offer clucking praise like a trainer
at the Westminster Dog Show — (Laughter) coaxing them to just jump a little higher
and soar a little farther, day after day after day. And when they get to high school, they don’t say, “Well, what might I
be interested in studying or doing as an activity?” They go to counselors and they say, “What do I need to do
to get into the right college?” And then, when the grades
start to roll in in high school, and they’re getting some B’s, or God forbid some C’s, they frantically text their friends and say, “Has anyone ever gotten
into the right college with these grades?” And our kids, regardless of where they end up
at the end of high school, they’re breathless. They’re brittle. They’re a little burned out. They’re a little old before their time, wishing the grown-ups in their lives
had said, “What you’ve done is enough, this effort you’ve put forth
in childhood is enough.” And they’re withering now
under high rates of anxiety and depression and some of them are wondering, will this life ever turn out
to have been worth it? Well, we parents, we parents are pretty sure
it’s all worth it. We seem to behave — it’s like we literally think
they will have no future if they don’t get into one of these
tiny set of colleges or careers we have in mind for them. Or maybe, maybe, we’re just afraid they won’t have a future we can brag about to our friends and with stickers
on the backs of our cars. Yeah. (Applause) But if you look at what we’ve done, if you have the courage
to really look at it, you’ll see that not only do our kids
think their worth comes from grades and scores, but that when we live right up inside
their precious developing minds all the time, like our very own version
of the movie “Being John Malkovich,” we send our children the message: “Hey kid, I don’t think you can actually
achieve any of this without me.” And so with our overhelp, our overprotection
and overdirection and hand-holding, we deprive our kids
of the chance to build self-efficacy, which is a really fundamental tenet
of the human psyche, far more important
than that self-esteem they get every time we applaud. Self-efficacy is built when one sees
that one’s own actions lead to outcomes, not — There you go. (Applause) Not one’s parents’
actions on one’s behalf, but when one’s own actions
lead to outcomes. So simply put, if our children are to develop
self-efficacy, and they must, then they have to do a whole lot more
of the thinking, planning, deciding, doing, hoping, coping, trial and error, dreaming and experiencing of life for themselves. Now, am I saying every kid is hard-working and motivated and doesn’t need a parent’s involvement
or interest in their lives, and we should just back off and let go? Hell no. (Laughter) That is not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is, when we treat
grades and scores and accolades and awards as the purpose of childhood, all in furtherance of some hoped-for
admission to a tiny number of colleges or entrance to a small number of careers, that that’s too narrow a definition
of success for our kids. And even though we might help them
achieve some short-term wins by overhelping — like they get a better grade
if we help them do their homework, they might end up with a longer
childhood résumé when we help — what I’m saying is that all of this
comes at a long-term cost to their sense of self. What I’m saying is,
we should be less concerned with the specific set of colleges they might be able
to apply to or might get into and far more concerned that they have
the habits, the mindset, the skill set, the wellness, to be successful
wherever they go. What I’m saying is, our kids need us to be a little
less obsessed with grades and scores and a whole lot more interested in childhood providing
a foundation for their success built on things like love and chores. (Laughter) (Applause) Did I just say chores?
Did I just say chores? I really did. But really, here’s why. The longest longitudinal study
of humans ever conducted is called the Harvard Grant Study. It found that professional
success in life, which is what we want for our kids, that professional success in life
comes from having done chores as a kid, and the earlier you started, the better, that a roll-up-your-sleeves-
and-pitch-in mindset, a mindset that says,
there’s some unpleasant work, someone’s got to do it,
it might as well be me, a mindset that says, I will contribute my effort
to the betterment of the whole, that that’s what gets you ahead
in the workplace. Now, we all know this. You know this. (Applause) We all know this, and yet,
in the checklisted childhood, we absolve our kids of doing
the work of chores around the house, and then they end up
as young adults in the workplace still waiting for a checklist, but it doesn’t exist, and more importantly,
lacking the impulse, the instinct to roll up their sleeves and pitch in and look around and wonder,
how can I be useful to my colleagues? How can I anticipate a few steps ahead
to what my boss might need? A second very important finding
from the Harvard Grant Study said that happiness in life comes from love, not love of work, love of humans: our spouse, our partner,
our friends, our family. So childhood needs to teach
our kids how to love, and they can’t love others
if they don’t first love themselves, and they won’t love themselves
if we can’t offer them unconditional love. (Applause) Right. And so, instead of being obsessed
with grades and scores when our precious offspring
come home from school, or we come home from work, we need to close our technology,
put away our phones, and look them in the eye and let them see
the joy that fills our faces when we see our child
for the first time in a few hours. And then we have to say, “How was your day? What did you like about today?” And when your teenage daughter
says, “Lunch,” like mine did, and I want to hear about the math test, not lunch, you have to still
take an interest in lunch. You gotta say, “What was great
about lunch today?” They need to know
they matter to us as humans, not because of their GPA. All right, so you’re thinking,
chores and love, that sounds all well and good,
but give me a break. The colleges want to see
top scores and grades and accolades and awards,
and I’m going to tell you, sort of. The very biggest brand-name schools
are asking that of our young adults, but here’s the good news. Contrary to what the college
rankings racket would have us believe — (Applause) you don’t have to go to one
of the biggest brand name schools to be happy and successful in life. Happy and successful people
went to state school, went to a small college
no one has heard of, went to community college, went to a college over here
and flunked out. (Applause) The evidence is in this room,
is in our communities, that this is the truth. And if we could widen our blinders and be willing to look
at a few more colleges, maybe remove our own egos
from the equation, we could accept and embrace
this truth and then realize, it is hardly the end of the world if our kids don’t go to one
of those big brand-name schools. And more importantly, if their childhood has not been lived
according to a tyrannical checklist then when they get to college, whichever one it is, well, they’ll have gone there
on their own volition, fueled by their own desire, capable and ready to thrive there. I have to admit something to you. I’ve got two kids I mentioned,
Sawyer and Avery. They’re teenagers. And once upon a time, I think I was treating my Sawyer and Avery like little bonsai trees — (Laughter) that I was going
to carefully clip and prune and shape into some perfect
form of a human that might just be perfect enough
to warrant them admission to one of the most
highly selective colleges. But I’ve come to realize, after working
with thousands of other people’s kids — (Laughter) and raising two kids of my own, my kids aren’t bonsai trees. They’re wildflowers of an unknown genus and species — (Laughter) and it’s my job to provide
a nourishing environment, to strengthen them through chores and to love them so they can
love others and receive love and the college, the major, the career, that’s up to them. My job is not to make them become
what I would have them become, but to support them
in becoming their glorious selves. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “How to raise successful kids — without over-parenting | Julie Lythcott-Haims

  1. I am guilty. Although we emphasize the importance of chores, we stress the importance of good grades constantly.
    I see the competitiveness of all of the parents around me. Kids being signed up for so many organizations and activities. The parents looking unhappy and complaining about all of what they have to do to get their kids to all of these meetings and activities. We live in a time where our kids are being robbed of free time which is why at every opportunity they stare into phones or any other form of technology when they can this includes out at restaurants, church, in the car, and sometimes on game day. It’s sad.

    So I plan on making a conscious effort to focus more on my child’s happiness versus grades. I didn’t do half the things she did growing up but I still managed to complete college and be the best that I could be.

  2. This is why my kids are homeschooled! Texas schools care and push only the test scores that represent the schools.

  3. Guess what, I’m soo glad my child my child had all those boxes checked or he would have never made it into the Naval Academy.

  4. Agree except I think a strong structure is super important too. Example is if you get out of bed make it, use a dish clean it, pick up after yourself and to be sure they wake up same time every day. They will feel the love. Now yes let the kids choose the path they want to and support them in it. Let them try sports, music, religion and ask them about it a lot, take interest. Let them fail. I let them get as bad as grades as they want and don't give any letter more attention. My kids are all grown up and believe it or not they got straight A's which was not important to me. I didn't put my beliefs on them I worked to help them decide and they developed motivation and decisions they can support without fear of trying new things and failing.

  5. Great tips for parents. Gain much for myself and has helped to build the future i desired. I am 7yrs old, but already motivating parents and kids all over the world based on the lesson i learnt from this video. Check my Advice to parents and kids on this

  6. kids should cut the grass, take out trash, sweep and mop floors, do dishes by hand, make their beds. it builds character ad good habits in life.

  7. The way we do things now-a-days is ALL WRONG, there's no doubt about it. The way we've parent in the good-old-days, was the right way. Let us start with homeschooling instead of these preparatory prisons we call (public) schools.

  8. Thank you Julie-Lythcott-Haims! I think it is a little too late for our society as a whole, but I thank you for being that voice! BRAVO!

  9. When I was child , I was writing all what happen to me in memo , my mother take my memo force and read it , it was bad feeling

  10. My answer would be not being their “God”. God/Allah/Jehovah whatever you believe will protect them and just treat the way you want to be treated. Recognize success, learn from failure, always move on. The life itself is a trial (SAT or ACT) and there will not be just 1 winner which we try our child to be. As we are not the top person on earth or it is not measurable, let them be themselves with their own success and failure.

  11. Some people think that the "under achievers of life" aren't happy people. Just remember that some people at the top were "C" students and this world takes all kinds of people. We are all worth the effort it takes to raise good humans.

  12. I'm crying so hard my heart aches because I feel the pressures of the children from narcissistic parents who control their children "too much" and destroy their self confidence. This speech is a breakthrough. Thank you. I love this.

  13. My son said…"I hate school." I replied… "I hated it too when I was a kid. Everybody does. But I rather go to school than grow up stupid!"

  14. Not everybody must become a doctor to be labelled succesful. Not everyone has to be a doctor! We need policemen, politicians, trashmen, etc. My husband keeps pushing our kids to be in the medical field when my kids' interests are way different. So there's so many ways to be successful. Success is a matter of fulfilling the talent and gift God gave us to be… our contribution to help this world work as a whole.

  15. Before homework, Ask – Tell about best thing of your day? आज क्या – क्या हुआ? अच्छा क्या – क्या हुआ?
    Are you HAPPY? क्या तुम खुश हो?

  16. Teach them early and don’t send them to pubic school – home school is better and parents should spend every day playing and teaching – especially Dad after work and on weekends – no day care either. I have a 5 and 3 year old boys – my 5 year old can read as good as a high school kid. He reads science and engineering books for fun – and my three year old speaks to me in full sentences.

  17. I did chores. I am not successful. I am lazy. I hate working. I hate collaboration. I am not empathetic. I am annoyed with people. I am an awful employee. Chores are a waste of my time. Parents are bascailly to lazy to clean their house so they make the kids do it. TO me it is your house you clean it. I hate parents. Parents most selfish humans ever.

  18. Wow! this is beautiful. Through loving them the way they are even when they fail, they become a well rounded human being. My son when he was 2 years away from applying for University will study with his ear piece in his ears on his bed. Started behaving rebelliously and I told him that from experience that I do not see him passing that year. He kept saying Mum I know what I am doing, though not a genius he never failed before. Lo and behold he failed that year, he monitored the mails and made sure he got his result before we saw it and destroyed it. Above all he was disappointed at himself he nearly found it difficult to forgive himself. But my words to him were failure is part of life when we fail we just have to learn from it and move on. From that time we never tell him to study anymore, all we did was to support and encourage him. No one is perfect but unconditional love is the way forward.

  19. #adultsonsrightsmovement adult sons rights movement

  20. LOL – is this what rich people do? Your top 1%? They give their kids unconditional love? Sure, but they also have their check lists. People, don't listen to this woman! She represents the top 1% and her entire goal is convince us to let go of our children, and let them grow like wild-flowers that eventually some Capitalist would cut and throw away. No – Love is good, checklists are good too.

  21. my parents are like this you know. that must have messed up the readers here. they tell me i dont need good grades, just enjoy school. but never did they show emotion. never did they say sorry for their mistakes while raising me up. i was passed on to people so they can work. i am glad they have work, that i can eat everyday, i can dress up in clothes that fit, albeit the fact that they are 50% hand me downs from them and 30% super old. i am really. glad that they don’t pressure me. but the fact that they dont know they treat me like i am just a passing thing, ill be gone soon. i feel like wishing i was never been part of my family. less mouth to feed. annyeong world

  22. I noticed that the possibility of your or anyone else's kids choosing a life path with no college at all doesn't occur to you.

  23. I would wish indian parents should watch this and encourage there children to do what there children are best/talented in because money is secondary,primary is interest and happiness (if he or she is happy to do job money and anything related to success will follow you) #[email protected]

  24. My father was frightened of his mother; I was frightened of my father, and I am damned well going to see to it that my children are frightened of me.

  25. I didn't like school and I always heard "You can't do it." I wanted to become an artist and always heard "You can't make money with art." That's why I always tell my daughter she can do it, she can do everything and if she needs help I will be there. And I ask her every day if she had a good time in kindergarden. I hope she will become a happy person regardless of how much money she makes or how successful she will be. I just want her to live a happy life and reach her own goals.

  26. When fathers are in right alignment the world becomes a much better place. My book Parenting Like a Boss covers our responsibilities as parents.

  27. Thank you as always for sharing! I will watch any Ted talk show. Have never been let down. Each and every talk I watch, is great.

  28. Parents, control what your children eat! Don't let you kids become obese, especially girls girls that are fat, will lose their power as they get older!

  29. The only parenting advice you need is

    1. Your only job as a parent is to Love, nurture, and trust your child.

    2. We don’t raise children. Nature raises children. We will do good by not interfering.

  30. My parents raised me great. I love them very much but we were never a family who were disciplined when we got in trouble nor did we do everything with our parents (and I mean everything, we did a LOT with them but a lot of families do pretty much everything with their kids, it teaches them values) but my old nanny who I’ve known since I was 3 months old and her husband were like that. I spent a lot of time with her husband I’d help him put in fences, burn brush piles, mow their lawn, fix their cars, and so on. And it was FUN! I loved doing everything with them and it thought me the value of family and of raising kids right. I once talked back to her husband and he grabbed my arm and yelled at me to NEVER talk back to my parents, so I never do. They have definitely make an impact with me, and I hope to raise kids like that one day. Some may see it as “harsh” but I see it as the right way, at the end of the day, they’ll grow up to be good people. I’m only 16 so I don’t have kids yet obviously but I hope to have kids and be married already by the time I’m 30.

  31. Another TEDx talk on parenting education

  32. I dont know why.. but I cried along this speech.. she got a very amazing delivery and messages. Stop treating your child as one of your checklisted achievement

  33. Wow!! That was such a great ted talk!! I appreciate my mom giving me a childhood of love and chores. The school system always pressured me that going to college is success, but my mom loving told me to do what I want to do. I did one year of college, decided to work, ended up in Walmart first-and grew amazing relationships and experiences that have taught me and grew me. After getting married and moving to the city I found it was time to move to a new job but I wanted it to be something meaningful and now I’m a caregiver and LOVE it!!! I’m glad my mom told me to always follow what I WANT, and it stuck with me.

  34. Love it. Shared it to my kid's mom. she's a micromanager, and i'd like to see that change. They should manage themselves.

  35. I am a grandma of two young boys, my grandsons will tell me so many things about their day and it frustrates our daughter so much, she will say “how did you know they were being picked on at school as they never shared it with me”? It’s because I listen when they speak and try not to talk over them or guess what they are about to say! We have a common conversation that they will not be “in trouble” if they are just honest with me and they feel safe telling me all the things that upsets mommy and daddy…I feel that they will not know how to act or react with this constant fear of disappointing their teachers, parents. We have 4 things that we ask everyday Sweet, What was their favorite piece of their day? Sour, least favorite, Service, how they helped someone and Savior …how they were like Jesus! You would be awakened at the things you will learn about your children!! Just ask them, they really want to share!!

  36. The good thing is some people will use the tools she has provided to enrich their kids lives, but the sad thing is many people will ignore her and further traumatize their kids.

  37. When you are happy, youself and confident in your abilities, you will probably find an occupation that resonates with you. Makes you happy, resonates with your personality and makes you more confident in yourself and your abilities, because it is the thing you can do best. That is how success will form, not only as a career, but also as a happy led life.

  38. a comment on another video texted: Too many people think it's ok to be a failure as a human being,as long as you're successful in business

  39. The 5 Leadership Lessons That We Can Learn From Successful Parenthood

  40. Planning a birthday party ? Looking for Face painters in Los Angeles CA ?
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  41. I just listed: Revolutionary Parenting: What the Research Shows Really Works [hardcover] Barna, George [Mar 20, 2007], for $8.00 via @amazon


  43. SHe wants us to not micromanage EXCEPT chores?
    She wants us to let them be kids except for chores?
    She claims success comes from love of people, but she wants us to force chores?
    I wish she had left the chore part out, the rest is very inspiring.

  44. Thank you to the moon and back! As a music teacher this is also what I’ve noticed and also experienced as a human being. I’m all for chores!! 😁🥰 I hope this goes viral (not holding my breath but still hopeful)

  45. I have walked the corridors of University taught kids adults to walk the same way…you are right Julie we made them nerds defining their success through grades and scores …you said it right unconditional love should be our focus thank you for a brilliant narrative of what success means

  46. a splendid speaker you are mam.. I've downloaded your speech and will share them to other parents.. thank you.. i learned a lot.. 😊

  47. I live in a foreign country and trying to learn the language while working 11 hrs per day…. My daughter is starting school and I'm so afraid that I will not be able to help her.. I saved this speech to remember to hug and kiss her every day… Every day!!!

  48. See how you can use principles of Kanban to help your child.  It’s an Intuitive and simple system to arrange your documents or your children's homework and projects by organizing them using Japanese Kanban system. –

  49. Great subject material, thank you 🙂 Another Ted Talk on parenting, which I think is also brilliant –

  50. Advice from the Holy Qur'an; in order to be truly fulfilled and "successful" in this short life, children need unconditional love first, and then boundaries, and finally goals and desires that reach far beyond themselves, towards the Divine. If we can do this, we will touch upon their fundamental needs as a human being, God willing.
    Source: Surah An-Nas (Mankind), the very last "chapter" of the Qur'an.

    Peace be upon all of you.

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