SOUTH FORSYTH -- As Lambert High School’s junior class attended a presentation on over-parenting by a New York Times bestselling author, the students were asked what they wanted the woman to tell their parents when she met with them later that evening.
What one of them said probably would have shocked many parents of such high-performing students.
Start believing in me, and stop comparing me to others.
I have no social life, but I need one.
Please encourage my parents to believe that I don’t have to apply to a big brand-name college.
“Then, his classmates burst into applause. It took my breath away that he had the courage to say what none of them could really say,” said Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of “How to Raise an Adult.”
The book explores the “unintended harms that can be done when we over-parents our kids,” and Lythcott-Haims visited Lambert on Aug. 25.
It was part of the Atlanta leg of a nationwide tour to promote what she called a much-needed conversation between parents and students.
Lythcott-Haims, a former freshman dean at Stanford University, said over-parenting means those who give too much protection, direction or hand-holding to their children.
“Parents end up right alongside our kids, and our kids don’t develop the independence and skills they need to really thrive out in the world,” she said.
“As a college dean, I’ve seen over the past years more and more kids who are accomplished in a transcript and resume sense but didn’t really have a sense to solve their own problems, forge their own path, make their own decisions.”
Juniors at Lambert responded to the presentation by airing wishes for their parents to “love us for who we are” and to allow them to apply to more than just the top schools in the country.
“They said, ‘Parents, please don’t care so much about every little thing we do,’” Lythcott-Haims said. “They said, ‘I put a lot of pressure on myself. I don’t need more pressure from you.’”
Carole Hoemeke, a local resident and former classmate of Lythcott-Haims, said the book has been featured on The New York Times Sunday books section, CBS and Ted Talks.
She said these conversations are important in any community and that the thoughts and statements made by Lambert’s students are being repeated throughout the nation.
Some of the initial studies and footnoted conversations used in the book were with parents in south Forsyth, she said.
“The message she really wanted to convey to students was that we get it. We as parents, as educators, we get it,” said Kathy Noble, president of the Lambert academic booster club and seven-year Lambert parent. “It was very clear that her message was targeted for juniors, because this is a very hard year. You’re starting a very difficult year academically. You’ve come off a hard year socially, and we get it. And we understand the pressure, and we understand the stakes are higher.
“But we also understand the problem, and the problem is us as parents.”
Noble said she thought this was a great avenue for the students to express their concerns to their parents without having to do it face-to-face the first time.
“I’ve been a very involved parent. I am not a parent that has ever done my children’s homework or their projects in elementary school. That I don’t do. I did not do my son’s college applications … I’m involved, but I don’t over-involve myself,” she said. “But I see it day in and day out with lots of people. I probably overdo it in other areas. Maybe not with homework or college applications, but I’m sure I do it in other areas.”
Lythcott-Haims brought the students’ statements to a group of Lambert parents later that evening. Parents of students who have a reputation for high grades, who fill out their resume with extracurricular activities, who apply to — and get in — top college programs.
Some were shocked she said, but then a conversation flowed.
“For the sake of us all in society,” she said, “boy, do we need young adults to have the wherewithal for them to be thriving successful adults.”