April 18, 2016
Lythcott-Haims’s ideas are rooted in her experience as a former Dean of Freshmen at Stanford University, where she often witnessed stressed-out parents exerting control over students’ academics, extracurriculars and career choices. During the assembly, Lythcott-Haims discussed over-parenting in college decisions, a topic she has written about in her book “How to Raise an Adult” and has discussed in numerous TED Talks.
“I like that she advised parents to be more hands-off and give their children more room. Doing that can be a good thing,” senior Daniel Shebib said.
Lythcott-Haims is also a mother of two high school students. She realized that she had become the type of parent she criticized. A turning point was watching her sophomore son struggle with a heavy course load that seemed necessary for his competitive edge. Abandoning her inner helicopter mom, she encouraged him to drop a class and speak to the Dean himself about why he should drop the class.
“I told him, ‘I would love for you to get into these great colleges and be successful. But what we love more than any of that is you’,” Lythcott-Haims said, choking up onstage. “Now, all those colleges may not want him anymore because he dropped this class. But guess what? I don’t care.”
Many students saw her son’s story as all too familiar.
“I struggled a lot too my sophomore year, so I related to her son. One of the qualities I had to learn was just saying no. I have a lot of interests, but I can’t kill myself by pursuing too much,” junior Annie Ren said.
Instead of imparting secrets on how to get the highest test scores or participate in the most attractive extracurricular acivities, Lythcott-Haims offered up one simple rule: “Be kind.”
“This message was unique. We’re normally told to do our best and be as competitive as possible, but we usually don’t hear ‘Be kind’ in the context of a college search process,” junior Aileen Zhang said.
Some students had mixed feelings about the assembly. Some thought that her message, although moving, would have little impact.
“I agree with what she said, but it might be too little too late. Nothing is going to change,” junior Ethan Wang said. “Pressure from parents and peers is already very entrenched in school culture.”
But fans of the speech suggest that the school should take greater action in order to implement her ideas.
“If we really took her message to heart, then we wouldn’t just let her come and give a talk. The school could try to make an internal change first,” junior Matthew Fastow said. “The parents who need to hear this message usually don’t think they’re the ones doing this.”