“For much of the past half-century, children, adolescents and young adults in the U.S. have been saying they feel as though their lives are increasingly out of their control. At the same time, rates of anxiety and depression have risen steadily.
“Agency may be the one most important factor in human happiness and well-being.”
So write William Stixrud and Ned Johnson in their new book, The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives. Feeling out of control can cause debilitating stress and destroy self-motivation.
Building agency begins with parents, because it has to be cultivated and nurtured in childhood, write Stixrud and Johnson. But many parents find that difficult since giving kids more control requires parents to give up some of their own.
Instead of trusting kids with choices — small at first, but bigger as adolescence progresses — 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.
To discuss the book’s big ideas, I spoke with Bill Stixrud, a neuropsychologist who has spent the past 30 years helping parents and kids navigate life’s challenges. Our interview has been edited for length and clarity.”