The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives (Paperback)
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“Instead of trusting kids with choices . . . many parents insist on micromanaging everything from homework to friendships. For these parents, Stixrud and Johnson have a simple message: Stop.” —NPR
“This humane, thoughtful book turns the latest brain science into valuable practical advice for parents.” —Paul Tough, New York Times bestselling author of How Children Succeed
A few years ago, Bill Stixrud and Ned Johnson started noticing the same problem from different angles: Even high-performing kids were coming to them acutely stressed and lacking motivation. Many complained they had no control over their lives. Some stumbled in high school or hit college and unraveled. Bill is a clinical neuropsychologist who helps kids gripped by anxiety or struggling to learn. Ned is a motivational coach who runs an elite tutoring service. Together they discovered that the best antidote to stress is to give kids more of a sense of control over their lives. But this doesn't mean giving up your authority as a parent. In this groundbreaking book they reveal how you can actively help your child to sculpt a brain that is resilient, and ready to take on new challenges.
The Self-Driven Child offers a combination of cutting-edge brain science, the latest discoveries in behavioral therapy, and case studies drawn from the thousands of kids and teens Bill and Ned have helped over the years to teach you how to set your child on the real road to success. As parents, we can only drive our kids so far. At some point, they will have to take the wheel and map out their own path. But there is a lot you can do before then to help them tackle the road ahead with resilience and imagination.
About the Author
William Stixrud, Ph.D. is a clinical neuropsychologist and a faculty member at Children's National Medical Center and George Washington University Medical School. He lectures widely on the adolescent brain, meditation, and the effects of stress, sleep deprivation, and technology overload on the brain. He has published several influential scientific articles and is on the board of the David Lynch Foundation.
Ned Johnson is the founder of PrepMatters, a tutoring service in Washington, DC, and the coauthor of Conquering the SAT: How Parents Can Help Teens Overcome the Pressure and Succeed. A sought-after speaker and teen coach for study skills, parent-teen dynamics, and anxiety management, his work has been featured on NPR, NewsHour, U.S. News & World Report, Time, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal.
“Instead of trusting kids with choices. . . many parents insist on micromanaging everything from homework to friendships. For these parents, Stixrud and Johnson have a simple message: Stop. Instead of thinking of yourself as your child's boss or manager, try consultant.” —NPR
“William Stixrud and Ned Johnson focus on the ways that children today are being denied a sense of controlling their own lives—doing what they find meaningful, and succeeding, or failing, on their own. Screen time, the authors say, is part of the problem, but so are well-meaning parents and schools, who are unwittingly taking from children the opportunities they need to grow stronger, more confident, and more themselves.” – Scientific American
“If there’s one book I’d recommend to parents who are raising children of all ages—I’m talking preschool to 12th grade—this is the book.” –Atomic Moms
"In trying too hard to control their children, too often parents have unwittingly become part of the problem they're trying to solve. Combining deep insights from clinical practice and educational coaching, Stixrud and Johnson have written a penetrating account of the chronic problems that many families now face and an incisive, practical guide to what parents can do to relieve them. . . An essential book for parents and educators everywhere." —Sir Ken Robinson PhD, Educator and New York Times Best Selling Author, Creative Schools
"If you still have questions about whether or not excessive pressure and a narrow version of success are truly harming our children, The Self-Driven Child is an absolute must-read. While most books on the impact of stress on child development offer anecdotes and clinical examples, Stixrud and Johnson make it clear that it is now research that explains why kids don’t thrive under our current priorities. A healthy child needs a healthy brain. Not only do they produce the evidence that shows why unremitting achievement pressure is toxic to our children, they also show us what the alternative would look like. It is not an overstatement to say that this is one of the most radical and important books on raising healthy, resilient, purpose-driven kids." —Madeline Levine, PhD., author of The Price of Privilege and Teach Your Children Well
"Compelling, revolutionary, and wise, The Self-Driven Child empowers parents with the courage, the tools, and the mindset to reduce toxic stress, and to foster our child’s capacity for resilience, success, and optimal development. Its message—that we should trust kids to have more control over their own lives—is one every parent needs to hear." —Tina Payne Bryson, PhD, co-author of The Whole Brain Child and The Yes Brain
“Sometimes the most helpful thing we can do as parents is to parent our children a little less. This humane, thoughtful book turns the latest brain science into valuable practical advice for parents on how to pull back, when to engage and when to let go. Read it. Your children will thank you.” —Paul Tough, New York Times bestselling author of How Children Succeed
“This serious and probing look at how to give our children the right kinds of independence shows us how much power we have to ensure they can function optimally. It is a book about how to make our children more meaningfully independent, and to set ourselves free in the process.” —Andrew Solomon, author of Far from the Tree
"The Self-Driven Child will guide parents to the sweet spot between helicopter and hands-off parenting. Stixrud and Johnson ground their clear and practical advice in cutting-edge research and years of experience working with young kids and teens. An invaluable resource for the thinking parent." —Lisa Damour, PhD, author of Untangled
"A battleplan to attack the anxiety that's devouring kids and decimating their native potential, this extraordinary book shines a light into the darkness of test dread, chronic sleeplessness, 24/7 social-media 'beauty pageants' and the full array of stress-induced forces that undermine children. But Stixrud and Johnson do more than identify the demons -- they slay them. Read this incisive, witty, deeply-researched book and help your child bend toward the sunlight of learning and self-directed joy. A must read." —Ron Suskind, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of Life, Animated
“Stixrud and Johnson combine science and compassion to make the case that parental over-control is eroding our kids’ confidence, competence and mental health. Accessible, compelling and richly researched, The Self Driven Child reveals the clear links between the stresses of competitive schooling and the anxiety and depression that are so widespread in kids today. This urgently-needed book has the potential to revolutionize the way we parent.” —Judith Warner, author of A Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety
“Remember all the time you spent doing something just for fun and it wasn't a class or an organized sport? No grades? No trophies? That turns out to be what kids need to succeed. 'Self-driven' time.” – Lenore Skenazy, author of Free Range Kids
“As parents we wonder, 'How can I help my kids learn to make good decisions?' This lucidly written, deeply insightful, and highly engaging book—the best parenting book I’ve read in a long time—takes the mystery out of that process. All the chapters—on why a sense of control is so important for kids, how to help kids develop their inner drive, the need to tame technology, and how you can teach even young children to understand and influence the working of their brain—give you the science behind the authors’ recommendations and action steps you can immediately take in your family. We learn what good guidance looks like: how to help kids make thoughtful choices, handle stress, and grow in confidence that they can positively affect the course of their lives. As Stixrud and Johnson make crystal clear, raising a 'self-driven' child doesn’t mean doing less as a parent; it actually means doing more—but in a collaborative, mutually respectful relationship that’s more rewarding for both parent and child. You’ll still be a critically important authority figure, but also a consultant who asks questions like 'What’s your Plan B if Plan A doesn’t work out?' You’ll be a parent who helps your child develop what the Greeks considered the master virtue: good judgment. That’s a gift that will last a lifetime. “ —Thomas Lickona, Ph.D., author of Character Matters and How to Raise Kind Kids
“This is the book we’ve all been waiting for. As a psychologist specializing in anxiety and stress in children, I have witnessed first-hand the fundamental change that children experience once they learn to face their fears and find the inner drive to take charge of their lives. The resulting sense of agency is transformative, and stays with them. This book offers solid and clear advice on how to create opportunities for our children to discover their own drive and develop that internal locus of control that is necessary to thrive in adulthood. More than ever, parents need the clarity and guidance so effectively expressed in The Self-Driven Child. Each chapter ends with a summary called 'What To Do Tonight,’ which explains how to apply the information in a practical and relatable way. This book will give parents much-needed insights into the child’s experience and how to facilitate the very best conditions to set them up for a rewarding and successful future." --Bonnie Zucker, Psy.D., Author of Anxiety-Free Kids and Take Control of OCD
“A nuanced and enormously insightful look into the struggles facing so many children and teens… A wonderful resource for contemporary parenting, this title should knock less relevant child-raising guides right off the shelf.” —Booklist
"Stixrud and Johnson provide compassionate, well-supported suggestions and strategies for parents to help their kids deal with ever-more-competitive academics and extracurriculars. The authors make a highly persuasive case for how parents can help their children segue from feeling stressed and powerless to feeling loved, trusted, and supported." —Publishers Weekly