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Summer Goals & Raising Adults

by Maura Joyce, Head of School | From the May 2019 issue of The Post

In a few short weeks, we will break for summer, and many of us head in a variety of directions. Some of us will spend the better part of the summer here at Post Oak enjoying working with our summer school students and preparing for another wonderful year. Summer is still a busy time for me, but I do look forward to one particular activity for which I have very little time during the year: reading.

If you are also looking forward to reading this summer, I thought it might be fun to share with you a book that the Post Oak faculty and staff have been reading as a book study: How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims.

Why this book? Not all of us are parents, and our job is not to “parent” our students. When we gather as a faculty, we have professionals working with toddlers, young adults, and everything in between. Picking a book that is relevant to everyone is no small task, but this one had something for everyone, with an underlying principle that is very Montessori. This book shares the same message that Post Oak communicates when parents first walk in the door to look at our school. One of our most important goals as a school is to help your child become independent, self-reliant, and open their own doors to the future. That begins on a student’s first day and continues through to high school graduation.

Lythcott-Haims served as dean of freshman and undergraduate advising at Stanford University and noticed a startling rise in parental involvement in students’ lives at the college level. She began to research this pattern and found that it starts when children are very young, and their wonderful, loving parents begin to pave the path for them, rather than allowing them to pave it for themselves. She begins the book simply explaining “how we got here” as a society, outlining the factors that contribute to what she calls “overparenting.” Spoiler alert: it all comes from a place of love and wanting to ensure the best future for our children. It just has that same “fable-esque” ending: too much of a good thing can become a bad thing.

At Post Oak, we want the same thing that parents want—to keep the children safe and sound, to do well in school and with friends, in short, to make sure they have every opportunity to be successful. But to make sure that they are capable of doing all these things on their own, we need to resist the temptation to do things for them. Many parents struggle with this, even those of us with Montessori training. We are still parents, they are still our “babies,” and we want to help. I read some parts of Lythcott-Haims’ book with a slight cringe, as I thought, “Yep, I do that when I know perfectly well my son can do it himself.”

At Post Oak, we begin that journey to adulthood by creating an environment that is safe and nurturing, meeting the children where they are, allowing them choices and the opportunity to discover, make mistakes, try again, and succeed. Slowly and surely, they begin to gain confidence in their skills, challenge themselves, and grow beyond our expectations in social interactions, academics, initiative, and tenacity. Our goal is to help parents raise their adult, by laying the groundwork for students to pave their own way. Reading the book allowed us to reflect on what is motivating this overparenting and how we can better support families going forward.

In a few weeks at graduation, we will see 20 of these adults walk across the stage. They are wonderful examples of what a Post Oak education can do to prepare them for the world ahead.

To those of you headed off to distant places during the summer months, have a great vacation. I hope that whether you are here at Post Oak or on holiday, you get to curl up with a good book.