Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Books to Grow On

Disclaimer: I have a junior in high school living in my house.

Yes, she's my kid.  Given that, thoughts of college are swirling in our house.

When I went to Stanford this summer on my CA Tech Tour, we got the backlot tour from a former high school buddy of mine. She talked in admiration about knowing Julie Lythcott Haims. Little did I know at the time that she was going to be a speaker at our school this spring. I hadn't connected the dots, either, with her connection to one of our 4 summer reads: Real Americans, a biography about her experience as a biracial woman in America. Also, being another dot I was connecting: the day before going to Stanford, I had been a bookstore in San Jose and had taken a snapshot of Haim's book How To Raise An Adult. I didn't buy it at the time (hence the snapshot), but I knew it was something I should read.

Having now bought and read it, everyone with high schoolers, should read it! Even those with tweens and just plain growing kids should also read it in order to miss the inevitable parenting potholes along the way!

Julie Lythcott Haims was the Freshman Dean at Stanford for a long time...until that book-tour-thing got in the way. But she wrote about her experience...with GenX'ers like me sending our kids off to college. More and more, those kids are helicopter parented kids. In reading it, I'm proud to say that I didn't totally fall into that parenting category. Maybe it's because I'm a teacher, or from the Midwest, or maybe a bit of an anomaly. I don't know. But before I get too busy patting myself on the back, I did also see shimmering glimmers of me in there too in other ways. I do have my kids do chores, we do have expectations, and we sometimes parent with a smidge of sarcasm...but we've also been a tad over-protective, we check their online grades, we keep the family calendar, and probably have micromanaged a time or two.

Our kids need the experience of failing (often) as kids so they can grow to be resilient, capable adults. Adults who embrace a growth mindset. By trying to overprotect them from this, we set them up for longterm failure and the inability to cope. That's the opposite of what our job is as parents. We need to give them both roots and wings.

My follow-up read was far from a light read. Jean M. Twenge's iGen certainly does not fall in that category! Our Head of School started our opening faculty meetings talking about this book. He also spoke about it at the Back to School Parent Night for all 3 divisions (Lower, Middle, and Upper School). Anyone who is wondering about how the tech is going in your own house should read this book. Anyone with kids under the age of 25 should read this book. As the Technology Specialist, I certainly needed to read it. And, as a Tech Specialist, it's sometimes an occupational hazard--especially when the people in your own house love tech, video games, YouTube, online books, social media and more.

iGen was a hard one to read.

It's often hard to read something when you see your own self-reflection. Not 100%, but enough to open your eyes a tad wider. It's through that, too, where you start reanalyzing the habits in your homes. The statistics alone in the first several chapters are daunting regarding how the boom of rampant tech usage (via smart phones) mirrors the decline in mental health. A perfect quote from the book (page 78):
"If you were goin to give advice for a happy life based on this graph [based on 8th graders' tech usage], it would be straightforward: put down the phone, turn off the computer or iPad, and do something--anything--that does not involve a screen."
That's pretty powerful. There were nuggets of wisdom like almost with every page turn--ones my highlighter often found while I was reading this book.

Both books fall in the category of "must reads"... and I will say they were the perfect companion pieces for each other, soften proving each other's point. (In fact, iGen referenced How to Raise An Adult more than once.) They can be hard and haunting...and somewhat daunting... but important information is sometimes like that. Both books are definitive "signs of our times." And, just like in Thomas Friedman's Thank You For Being Late (another of our school summer reads), the one thing we can count on in this "age of acceleration" is change. It's happening, whether we're ready or not. It up to use to really see what's in front of us, and reimagine innovative solutions to help us tackle the problems! In our world, our community, and in our homes.

Maybe it's not too late to put these books on your holiday wish list!

Book images from

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