A prominent and esteemed critic challenges widely held beliefs about children and parenting, revealing that underlying each myth is a deeply conservative ideology that is, ironically, often adopted by liberal parents.
Somehow a set of deeply conservative assumptions about children—what they’re like and how they should be raised—has congealed into the conventional wisdom in our society. Parents are accused of being both permissive and overprotective, unwilling to set limits and afraid to let their kids fail. Alfie Kohn systematically debunks these beliefs, not only challenging erroneous factual claims but also exposing the troubling ideology that underlies them. Complaints about pushover parents and coddled kids are hardly new, he shows, and there is no evidence that either phenomenon is especially widespread today—let alone more common than in previous generations. Moreover, new research reveals that helicopter parenting is quite rare and, surprisingly, may do more good than harm when it does occur. The major threat to healthy child development, Kohn argues, is parenting that is too controlling rather than too indulgent.
With the same lively, contrarian style that marked his influential books about rewards, competition, and education, Kohn relies on a vast collection of social science data, as well as on logic and humor, to challenge assertions that appear with numbing regularity in the popular press and are often accepted uncritically, even by people who are politically liberal. These include claims that young people
• suffer from inflated self-esteem
• are entitled and narcissistic
• receive trophies, praise, and A’s too easily
• are in need of more self-discipline and “grit”
Kohn’s invitation to reexamine these and other assumptions is particularly timely; his book has the potential to change our culture’s conversation about kids and the people who raise them.
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About the Author
Alfie Kohn writes and speaks widely on human behavior, education, and parenting. The author of thirteen books and scores of articles, he lectures at education conferences and universities, as well as to parent groups and corporations. Kohn’s criticisms of competition and rewards have been widely discussed and debated, and he has been described in Time magazine as “perhaps the country’s most outspoken critic of education’s fixation on grades [and] test scores.”
Table of Contents
CHAPTER 1: Permissive Parents, Coddled Kids, and Other Reliable Bogeymen
CHAPTER 2: Parenting in Perspective
CHAPTER 3: Overstating Overparenting
CHAPTER 4: Getting Hit on the Head Lessons: Motivation, Failure, and the Outrage over Participation Trophies
CHAPTER 5: The Underlying Values: Conditionality, Scarcity, and Deprivation
CHAPTER 6: The Attack on Self-Esteem
CHAPTER 7: Why Self-Discipline Is Overrated: A Closer Look at Grit, Marshmallows, and Control from Within
CHAPTER 8: Raising Rebels