How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims (Read an excerpt here.)
A child needs to get dirty.
Dirt makes mothers nervous. We worry about germs and laundry. When our children venture outdoors, we cover them with protective gear and stand ready at the door with a box of disinfecting wipes and a bottle of hand sanitizer.
But a child learns and grows when he touches, hears, tastes, sees, and smells the real world. A child has a basic need to connect with the grass, air, trees – and yes, dirt. We need to break them out of their carpet and linoleum prisons and set them free. Whatever they get into out there can be cleaned up at the end of the day with a warm bath before bed.
Achievements, from the A on the science project to the letter of acceptance from Big U, can be the gold stars for parents. They’re the visible signs that we’re doing something right, and that makes it tempting to push our children forward, just a little (or maybe a lot) by stepping in when it looks as if they might not quite get there on their own. The working model of the water cycle was her idea; we just “helped” build it. She did the algebra homework; we just corrected it. He wrote the essay; we just added some structure to the argument.
Those “justs” can be killers, says pediatrician Kenneth Ginsburg, author of “Raising Kids to Thrive” (published by the American Academy of Pediatrics). Because while we want to protect our children from harm, what we too often end up doing is protecting them from learning. That help creep gets in the way of our children experiencing the kind of results that teach lessons they need, like “I could have done better if I’d worked harder” and “you can’t leave things to the last minute and expect to do them well.” It teaches them, instead, that their parents believe they are incapable of achieving anything worthwhile on their own.