The New York Times bestselling author of The Price of Privilege and Teach Your Children Well explores how today’s parenting techniques and our myopic educational system are failing to prepare children for their certain-to-be-uncertain future—and how we can reverse course to ensure their lasting adaptability, resilience, health and happiness.In The Price of Privilege, respected clinician, Madeline Levine was the first to correctly identify the deficits created by parents giving kids of privilege too much of the wrong things and not enough of the right things. Continuing to address the mistaken notions about what children need to thrive in Teach Your Children Well, Levine tore down the myth that good grades, high test scores, and college acceptances should define the parenting endgame. In Ready or Not, she continues the discussion, showing how these same parenting practices, combined with a desperate need to shelter children from discomfort and anxiety, are setting future generations up to fail spectacularly.Increasingly, the world we know has become disturbing, unfamiliar, and even threatening. In the wake of uncertainty and rapid change, adults are doubling-down on the pressure-filled parenting style that pushes children to excel. Yet these daunting expectations, combined with the stress parents feel and unwittingly project onto their children, are leading to a generation of young people who are overwhelmed, exhausted, distressed—and unprepared for the future that awaits them. While these damaging effects are known, the world into which these children are coming of age is not. And continuing to focus primarily on grades and performance are leaving kids more ill-prepared than ever to navigate the challenges to come.But there is hope. Using the latest developments in neuroscience and epigenetics (the intersection of genetics and environment), as well as extensive research gleaned from captains of industry, entrepreneurs, military leaders, scientists, academics, and futurists, Levine identifies the skills that children need to succeed in a tumultuous future: adaptability, mental agility, curiosity, collaboration, tolerance for failure, resilience, and optimism. Most important, Levine offers day-to-day solutions parents can use to raise kids who are prepared, enthusiastic, and ready to face an unknown future with confidence and optimism.
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Ready or Not Review
- January 1, 1970ShelleyMy nine-year old daughter shared a school story with me just this morning. According to her report, Girl A recently told a pack of other little girls that she hated Girl B. Predictably (and annoyingly), the little pack ran and told Girl B the first chance they got that she is currently hated by Girl A. Unsurprisingly, poor Girl B started to cry. Also somewhat predictably in this particular school context, Girl Bs mother phoned the school to discuss the issue with the teacher, and a big deal was My nine-year old daughter shared a school story with me just this morning. According to her report, Girl A recently told a pack of other little girls that she hated Girl B. Predictably (and annoyingly), the little pack ran and told Girl B the first chance they got that she is currently hated by Girl A. Unsurprisingly, poor Girl B started to cry. Also somewhat predictably in this particular school context, Girl B’s mother phoned the school to discuss the issue with the teacher, and a big deal was made.I asked my daughter, is Girl A a mean kid in general? No, she’s pretty nice overall. (This fits with my observations of this child). How about Girl B, is she someone who struggles at school? Are kids often mean to her? No, she’s one of the “gymnastic girls", code for wealthy and popular. (Also seems accurate.) Do you think it was important that the mom phone the school? Would you have wanted me to do that if you were Girl B? I dunno, I don’t think what happened was a big deal.In our current age of anxiety, it’s easy for parents, especially well-educated ones, to think that they are doing the right thing by inserting themselves into situations like these and advocating for their kids. But, according to Ready or Not: Preparing Our Kids to Thrive in an Uncertain and Rapidly Changing World by Madeline Levine, parental overinvolvement and an “unhealthy emeshness” between parent and child only serves to “nurture distress” in both. This, the author argues, can lead to what she calls “accumulating disability” and “learned helpless” in kids—in other words, an alarming inability to cope with and adapt to the diversity of life’s challenges. And this might explain, at least in part, the rising rates of anxiety among children.Assuming for the sake of argument that my daughter has accurately conveyed the story of Girl A and Girl B and that there isn’t a relevant back-story, I think the author of this book might say the following: Despite the mom’s good intentions, intervening in these kinds of everyday social situations deprives children of age-appropriate opportunities to problem-solve for themselves and also inadvertently teaches them that being disliked is a great injustice warranting involvement from parents and teachers. In other words, it communicates to them that they can’t handle being disliked. As any adult knows, the expectation that everyone must. love. me. is a recipe for great sadness and disillusionment in life. As the author rightly points out, “Kids are not served by being kept away from what makes them anxious.” It’s good to talk to a kid about these kinds of problems; it’s not so good to solve these kinds of problems on her behalf.I thoroughly enjoyed Ready or Not and found it a sane and helpful corrective against the guilt-inducing tendency toward helicopter parenting. It’s the kind of parenting book that made me feel good to read, not because I am already doing everything Levine recommends (I was often chastened reading this book—see below) but because the advice prescribed is intuitive, sound, and liberating. According to Levine, a psychologist, much of the parental overprotection she sees in her practice is concentrated in the area of academic success. I’ve seen it first-hand, as I live in a city where academic success is the primary standard by which many parents judge the quality and effectiveness of their parenting. This naturally leads to hyper-competition among parents, the micromanaging of kids’ schedules, sacrificing outside play to slog through test-prep, learning an instrument and playing a sport not for the sake of enjoyment and enrichment but to gain a competitive edge over other kids, and so on. A friend and fellow parent recently told me that many primary school kids in this area, aged 9-10, spend several hours every day after school studying for secondary school placement exams. The parents of my daughter’s close school friend recently mentioned casually to us that they’ve promised her a puppy if she lands a place (through high test scores) in the most desirable secondary school in the area. All of this, according to the author, can potentially lead to anxiety and depression in kids who are increasingly overwhelmed by their parents’ unrealistic expectations and narrow definition of “success.”Levine writes that she sees more and more kids in her practice who, despite having been thoroughly primed for academic success, are lacking in the skills needed to navigate life in an uncertain, ever-changing world. She identifies these traits as adaptability, flexibility, curiosity, and healthy risk-taking. She also stresses the need for parents to help their children hone their moral compasses: “There are very few promises I’ve made in this book but I can promise you this: whatever pleasure you may get from your children’s academic or athletic successes won’t hold a candle to the pride and pleasure of seeing them grow into generous and kind adults.” Overall, I found Levine’s argument persuasive and compelling. I can imagine some readers saying that the book’s advice is too obvious to be interesting, and while I agree that much of what Levine prescribes is exactly what our grandparents would have done without much fuss, I do think the message is relevant and helpful today. Our grandparents didn’t have Dr. Sears breathing down their necks with his unreasonable expectations and dubious advice. Toward the middle of the book, I worried it was getting a bit gimmicky as she shared insights she gleaned from Navy Seals and CEOs. I also felt a growing concern that she was trading in one obsessive kind of parenting for another, with the emphasis still being on parents getting things exactly right in order to ensure a good result. She redeems her argument toward the end of the book, however, when she 1) shares her own parental regrets with much grace and compassion 2) reminds readers that the road to a satisfying career is a serendipitous one, often marked by failure and setbacks. Whether you believe in blind chance or God’s providence, there is so much that is beyond parental control (and that’s probably a good thing when it comes to the character formation of our kids). “Nothing prepares kids better for uncertainty than the stable reliable base they construct inside themselves modeled on the stable, reliable base their parents have provided.” Below are some ways that I have attempted to apply Levine’s advice this week. I’ve hidden them behind spoilers because they might not be very interesting to anyone else but me. I found it helpful to write them out as a way to reflect.(view spoiler)[Let kids do more stuff. I often do little jobs for my kids, not because I am trying to shield them from challenges but because I find it simpler and faster to do the work myself. (The author expresses her empathy here.) My daughter has been asking me for a long time if she can pack the school lunches in the morning. This book has made me ask myself, Why on earth have I been resisting this?. I’ve started letting her do it this week. Yes, the kitchen floor is littered with cheese afterwards, and there has been some hostile elbowing between my daughter and her brothers as they attempt to “help.” But, unsurprisingly, her willingness to take on this challenge has made mornings easier for me, and she obviously enjoys the responsibility. This has led to us adding more household tasks to the ones the kids are already expected to complete. Don’t shield kids from the stuff that scares them. Sometimes, in order to decrease our own stress levels, we solve our kids’ problems. Lately, on the walk home from preschool, my three-year old has been fearful of riding his scooter down some of the slopes on our journey, even though he has managed them well before. I think more out of a desire to get home quickly than anything else, I’ve been holding onto the handlebars for him when he suddenly decides that he’s too scared to ride. Unsurprisingly, this has led to a growing phobia of the slopes. This week, emboldened by this book, I’ve starting telling him that he can walk or scoot, but either way, he needs to get himself down the slopes; I am no longer holding the handlebars. The first time I did this, I had to sit on the sidewalk several paces ahead of him for thirty minutes (!) while he stood in one spot and cried, refusing to move. That was a long thirty minutes, during which several people asked us if we were okay, including some people from the school (slightly embarrassing.) The next day, he managed himself, but with some windging. Today, he did it without issue. Quality is better than quantity when it comes to spending time together. I’m fairly active in ministry, which means I’m not around a couple of evenings a week. “Mom, do you have to go out tonight? is a question I hear often, which sometimes makes me feel guilty. This book reminded me that it’s helpful for my kids to see me engaging with other people around issues that are important to me. Quality time spent together as a family, particularly around the dinner table, more than makes up for the few hours I spend outside the house with others each week. And, cultivating relationships with other women ensures that my identity is not entirely bound up in mothering, which isn’t good for me, and puts too big of a burden on my kids. (hide spoiler)]more
- January 1, 1970Jeffrey WongNice premise, the world is likely going to be changing dramatically in the next few years and it would probably be better to prepare your kids in various soft skills (a term considered derisive by the author) and not just funnel your child into the adolescent rat race of grades, extra-curriculars, college and then stable job. I found that part reassuring, given that I was never able to really buy into that all myself, but I do worry about what my kid will do. This book told me everything I Nice premise, the world is likely going to be changing dramatically in the next few years and it would probably be better to prepare your kids in various “soft skills” (a term considered derisive by the author) and not just funnel your child into the adolescent rat race of grades, extra-curriculars, college and then stable job. I found that part reassuring, given that I was never able to really buy into that all myself, but I do worry about what my kid will do. This book told me everything I wanted to hear about how not pressuring my kid to be the perfect college application might actually confer advantages. The author talked to a lot of people on tech and the military and other futuristic thinkers. However, there just wasn’t a whole lot of specific advice on how to prepare children for a world that is seriously wrecked.more
- January 1, 1970Todd NGreat book. Im in the home stretch of child rearing, but I wanted to read this after hearing her interviewed on the NYT Book Review podcast.I was already semi-familiar with her from Challenge Success. This book provides a really useful frame for thinking about achievement, stress, character, and community. And there is a lot of discussion about parental anxiety and the effects that can have on kids and how they are raised. So I not only passed down my anxious genes to my kids, I activated them Great book. I’m in the home stretch of child rearing, but I wanted to read this after hearing her interviewed on the NYT Book Review podcast.I was already semi-familiar with her from Challenge Success. This book provides a really useful frame for thinking about achievement, stress, character, and community. And there is a lot of discussion about parental anxiety and the effects that can have on kids and how they are raised. So I not only passed down my anxious genes to my kids, I activated them as well. Great.more
- January 1, 1970AnnaIm what they call an elder millennial and was given this book as a gift while I was pregnant with my third child. I think this book is painfully outdated for modern parents. I felt like it would have perhaps benefited my parents, but of course this book couldnt have been written when I was growing up, because the lessons learned it this book are from raising my generation (author has kids slightly older than myself). There is a recurring concept in this book of dealing with uncertainty, however, I’m what they call an “elder millennial” and was given this book as a gift while I was pregnant with my third child. I think this book is painfully outdated for modern parents. I felt like it would have perhaps benefited my parents, but of course this book couldn’t have been written when I was growing up, because the lessons learned it this book are from raising my generation (author has kids slightly older than myself). There is a recurring concept in this book of dealing with uncertainty, however, I feel like my generation only knows uncertainty. We have grown up post-Columbine, post-9/11, practicing drills for school shootings. We graduated college with immense debt during an economic downturn. And we are certainly not new to technology, which is something the author delves into, the idea of my children being digital natives versus the parents experiencing anxiety over social media, as digital immigrants. As I continued to read on, I heard myself say “ok, boomer” dozens of times.I do not think this book is relevant to younger, modern parents, but if you do struggle with anxiety as a parent or perhaps feel like technology is taking over and is foreign, and over-achiever culture is a big factor in your child rearing, so much so that you’d consider dosing your child with Aderall to keep them focused in school, then this might be the read for you. Otherwise, skip this one.more
- January 1, 1970Bo4.5Thought it was a good book, easy to read and follow with good tips on what our children needs for the future. Would recommend to other parents to read.
- January 1, 1970JaimeShould probably be required reading.
- January 1, 1970Csimplot SimplotExcellent!!!
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