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Parenting In An Era Of Widespread Therapy

The introduction discusses how the author's son was subjected to an intrusive mental health screening when taken to the doctor for a stomachache. This incident made the author realize how prevalent therapeutic interventions have become for today's children, even when not clinically indicated.

The author argues that in the past 75 years, mental health treatment has rapidly expanded to now routinely encompass children and adolescents. Despite more therapy than ever before, rates of anxiety, depression and mental illness in young people have paradoxically worsened over recent generations. The introduction sets up the book's core argument that therapeutic culture and overzealous mental health interventions may actually be harming kids.

Section: 1, Chapter: 0

Book: Bad Therapy

Author: Abigail Shrier

High-Income Families Have More In Common Than Just Money

According to data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY), a child from a high-income family will experience about 45% more time engaged in interactive activities with their parents - reading, museum visits, travel - compared to a low-income child by age 6. The nature of the interactions differ too:

  • High-income parents use more complex language and complete more sentences
  • High-income parents ask more open-ended questions to stretch a child's thinking
  • High-income parents are more likely to practice "concerted cultivation" - orchestrating a child's free time to impart skills

So high-income families give their children different experiences and interactions from the start. These "investments" in early cognitive development likely play a key role in predicting later academic and economic success, beyond just the effects of money.

Section: 1, Chapter: 5

Book: Freakonomics

Author: Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

The Economist's Guide To Parenting

Levitt, an economist and father of four, applies economic principles to parenting. His key insights:

  • Children are expensive, so have them only if the benefits outweigh the costs
  • Think on the margin - don't fret over any one decision, focus on cumulative impact
  • Incentives matter - use carrots and sticks to encourage good behavior
  • Comparative advantage - specialize in what you're best at vs. your spouse
  • Economies of scale - the marginal cost and effort of extra children is lower

More controversially, Levitt argues parents often overestimate their own impact relative to chance and genetics. He cites twin and adoption studies suggesting parenting style has limited impact on long-term outcomes. Levitt speculates many parents would be happier and equally effective if they stressed less over parenting choices.

Section: 1, Chapter: 3

Book: Super Freakonomics

Author: Steven D. Levitt , Stephen J. Dubner

Empathy Alone Is A Poor Basis For Helping Traumatized Kids

Many trauma-informed educators argue the primary way to help struggling students is by empathizing with their pain. But this is often counterproductive:

  • Encouraging kids to see themselves as victims risks a self-fulfilling prophecy. Resilience, not fragility, should be the message.
  • Focusing on validating kids' feelings of anger and hurt can inadvertently reinforce and prolong them. Pivoting to problem-solving builds more constructive habits.
  • Lowering academic expectations robs disadvantaged kids of a path out of difficulty. Belief in their potential and insistence they develop their abilities maximizes possibilities.

Kids' hardships merit compassion, but pity is less productive than challenging them to transcend circumstances.

Section: 2, Chapter: 6

Book: Bad Therapy

Author: Abigail Shrier

Let Kids Walk Out the Door to Play

"When we give children independence, they blossom. They discover they are capable of much more than we - or even, they - thought possible. This takes practice, for them and us. The first time my son walked to school alone, at age 9, I held my breath watching his GPS dot cross the busy street. But as he did it again and again without incident, my anxiety receded. By middle school, he was navigating public transit solo. At 13, he went to a sports event on his own, got stranded without a train, hailed a cab, and made it home safely at midnight. I'd never have let him do that if I hadn't practiced letting go for years prior. Step by step, he earned my trust, built competence, and grew taller in his own eyes. That's the gift of a free-range childhood."

Section: 4, Chapter: 12

Book: The Anxious Generation

Author: Jonathan Haidt

Parents Need to Stop Running Interference

"You obviously don't need to hurt your kid's feelings in order to strengthen her. You just need to stop running interference. Stop micromanaging her relationships in the hopes that no one and nothing in the vicinity will ever make her feel the slightest bit bad. The project is doomed to backfiring. Pathogens always worm their way in, even to the most sterilized environments. Better to develop an immune system."

Section: 3, Chapter: 12

Book: Bad Therapy

Author: Abigail Shrier

"The Transition to Phone-Based Childhood"

"Between 2010 and 2015, the social lives of American teens moved largely onto smartphones with continuous access to social media, online video games, and other internet-based activities. This Great Rewiring of Childhood, I argue, is the single largest reason for the tidal wave of adolescent mental illness that began in the early 2010s."

Section: 1, Chapter: 1

Book: The Anxious Generation

Author: Jonathan Haidt

Mindset And Social Emotional Learning

Haim Ginott, a child psychologist, shares a story illustrating how adult reactions shape children's self-concept and emotional resilience:

  • 5-year-old Jessica was drawing a picture but became frustrated and tore it up. Her mother's response was "Oh honey, you were doing so well! I'm so sorry you messed it up."
  • This taught Jessica that success is fragile and can be ruined by mistakes. Her mother unwittingly instilled a fixed mindset and catastrophic thinking.
  • If instead her mother had said "It's so frustrating when drawings don't turn out the way we want. I usually take a break and try again later. Can I help you tape it back together?", she would have conveyed that mistakes are fixable and effort yields improvement.

Well-intentioned parents often inadvertently promote fixed mindset thinking in their attempts to be supportive.

Section: 1, Chapter: 7

Book: Mindset

Author: Carol Dweck

The Orchid Hypothesis

A groundbreaking theory called "the orchid hypothesis" suggests that many people are like "dandelions" that can thrive in any environment. But others are more like "orchids"—they wilt easily, but under right conditions can grow strong and magnificent.

Highly-reactive, sensitive kids fit the orchid analogy. They're more vulnerable to bad environments, but they also thrive in good environments even more than resilient, dandelion children. Research shows that not only are sensitive children NOT doomed to lives of anxiety, but that they can actually outshine their peers in supportive, nurturing circumstances.

So rather than seeing sensitive, introverted kids as fragile, parents should recognize that their kids may be unusually capable of flourishing—as long as they get the right inputs. Yes, such children need extra nurturing and protection. But that extra care can produce exceptional results.

Section: 1, Chapter: 3

Book: Quiet

Author: Susan Cain

Sleep Changes Across The Lifespan

The composition of sleep changes across the lifespan:

  • Newborns spend most of their sleep time in REM sleep
  • During childhood and adolescence, the percentage of sleep time in REM declines while time in deep NREM sleep is highest
  • In early adulthood, NREM and REM sleep reach the "typical" balance of NREM dominating the early night and REM dominating the late night/early morning
  • In old age, time in deep NREM and REM sleep declines, leading to more fragmented, less restorative sleep Understanding how sleep architecture changes across life highlights the critical importance of getting sufficient sleep at each life stage to support brain and body development and functioning.

Section: 1, Chapter: 3

Book: Why We Sleep

Author: Matthew Walker

What A Lonely, Therapy-Saturated Childhood Looks Like

Today's teens have less in-person interaction and laughter with friends than ever. Their time is heavily scheduled and surveilled by hovering adults. School has become a vortex of "trauma-informed" emotional labor, not academics.

Immersed in the therapeutic worldview, many are quick to pathologize setbacks as mental health crises. Inundated with morbid messages, death by suicide feels like a looming specter. Learned helplessness is endemic as teens marinate in their diagnosis of brokenness.

Anxious parents outsource the heavy lifting of mentorship and guidance to paid professionals. But while well-meaning, therapy is often a flimsy backstop against the ennui of a medicated, artificially prolonged adolescence. Atrophied by overaccommodation, young adults feel stranded between childhood and independence.

The path forward is the same as it's always been: embracing the bog-standard discomforts of the human condition and growing the hell up already.

Section: 3, Chapter: 12

Book: Bad Therapy

Author: Abigail Shrier

Credentialed Experts Lack Skin In The Game

"Today, the story would likely proceed differently. The mother would panic and invite the art teacher to tell her more. The rest of the snowball's descent is predictable. At the parents' invitation, a now-familiar phalanx of professionals would blunder in, lodging themselves between parent and child: therapists, teachers, educational and parenting experts, psychiatrists, and even activists - anyone with an opinion about a child they may have just met and for whom they have neither love nor responsibility. None of whom bears the slightest consequence of their bad advice."

Section: 3, Chapter: 11

Book: Bad Therapy

Author: Abigail Shrier

A Child's Name Isn't Destiny, But It Isn't Meaningless Either

Chapter 6 explores the fascinating data around children's names and life outcomes. Some key findings:

  • There is a strong socioeconomic pattern to name choices. "Loser" names like Amber, Heather or Travis are more common among low-education families, while high-education families prefer names like Alexandra, Benjamin, or Samuel.
  • But the data shows no causal link between names and life outcomes. A baby named Amber doesn't have a worse life because of her name; rather, she was more likely born to low-education parents.
  • While names don't seem to affect scores or grades, there is some evidence of name discrimination in the job market, with "white" names getting more callbacks than "black" names on identical resumes.

"Trendy" names favored by high-education parents today like Ava, Liam or Ezra may sound dated or lower-class in 20 years. Names are constantly evolving status markers.

Section: 1, Chapter: 6

Book: Freakonomics

Author: Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

The Biological Basis Of Introversion

Babies are born with different levels of sensitivity to stimuli. About 20% of infants are highly reactive, displaying intense responses to novelty like kicking, crying, and pumping their arms. 40% are low-reactive, staying calm in the face of new experiences.

Longitudinal studies by Jerome Kagan showed that high-reactive infants tend to grow into sensitive, introverted teens, while low-reactive babies become bold, extroverted adolescents. A key factor seems to be amygdala sensitivity - introverts' brains react more to novelty and stimuli.

While temperament is not destiny, there are strong biological influences on introversion and extroversion that persist through life. Even in adulthood, introverts' nervous systems are more sensitive to stimuli. They tend to function best in quiet, minimally stimulating environments, whereas extroverts thrive on more stimulation.

Section: 2, Chapter: 4

Book: Quiet

Author: Susan Cain

The Hard Thing Rule Builds Habits Of Grit

Consider adopting the "Hard Thing Rule" in your family. It has three parts:

  1. Everyone has to do a hard thing (something that requires deliberate practice),
  2. You can quit, but not until a natural stopping point,
  3. You get to pick your hard thing.

The Rule encourages kids to develop interests and stick with them, to learn from challenges, and to practice self-discipline. It makes gritty habits a normal, expected part of growing up.

As kids get older, consider extending the Hard Thing Rule commitment period to two years at a time. This builds the skill of consistency and teaches that progress can be slow before it compounds. Keep the focus on supporting hard work and growth.

Section: 3, Chapter: 11

Book: Grit

Author: Angela Duckworth

"We Blocked the Path to Adulthood, Then Gave Them Smartphones"

In recent decades, adults have done two contradictory things that have made it harder for adolescents to successfully transition to adulthood:

  • Overprotected kids in the real world by restricting their unsupervised play, risk-taking, and independence due to unfounded safety fears. This prevents them from gaining skills and confidence.
  • Underprotected kids in the online world by giving them smartphones and unrestricted internet access. This exposes them to adult content and experiences in an unhealthy order.

The combination of real-world overprotection and virtual-world underprotection means kids aren't getting the right experiences at the right ages to wire their brains for healthy adulthood. We've blocked the traditional path to maturity, then handed them devices to distract them.

Section: 2, Chapter: 4

Book: The Anxious Generation

Author: Jonathan Haidt

REM Sleep Is Essential For Brain Development In Fetuses And Infants

REM sleep plays a crucial role in brain development in utero and in early infancy:

  • By the end of the second trimester, the basic structure to generate REM sleep is in place
  • In the last trimester and early infancy, babies spend most of their sleep time in REM sleep
  • The REM sleep acts as an electrical fertilizer, stimulating the growth and maturation of neural circuits throughout the developing brain
  • Depriving infant animals of REM sleep leads to smaller brains and neural abnormalities This shows REM sleep is essential for normal brain development. Anything that restricts REM sleep in pregnancy or infancy can have detrimental impacts on brain maturation.

Section: 1, Chapter: 5

Book: Why We Sleep

Author: Matthew Walker

The Graduation Inheritance

Based on research and experience, Perkins believes the optimal age to receive an inheritance is 26-35. This timing provides:

  • Maturity and financial wisdom (lacking in 18-25 year olds)
  • Ample runway to benefit from compounding returns
  • Ability to make pivotal investments (education, home, business)
  • Freedom to pursue riskier, high-upside paths
  • Active lifestyle to enjoy memorable experiences

So if you want to maximize the positive impact of your giving, consider timing it to your children's graduating years - mid 20s to mid 30s. This will likely require decumulating earlier than traditional retirement age.

Section: 1, Chapter: 5

Book: Die With Zero

Author: Bill Perkins

Children absorb gender roles from a very young age. If they only see Mom doing laundry and Dad mowing the lawn, or only male leaders at work and female assistants, they internalize that as normal. Be intentional about modeling egalitarian norms for the next generation:

  • Let your kids see Dad doing dishes and Mom taking out the garbage
  • Tell your daughters stories of female leaders and heroes
  • Question gender stereotypes in toy/clothes marketing or media portrayals of moms and dads
  • Vocally support male colleagues who prioritize family ("I think it's great Bob leaves early on Wednesdays to coach his daughter's soccer team")

The small moments add up to shape what the next generation sees as possible and expected for both genders.

Section: 1, Chapter: 11

Book: Lean In

Author: Sheryl Sandberg

The Importance of Risky Play

"As one enlightened summer camp administrator told me, 'We want to see bruises, not scars.'"

This quote captures the crucial role that risk-taking and minor injuries play in healthy child development. When children engage in mildly risky physical play, like on adventure playgrounds, they learn to manage their bodies, assess risks, and keep themselves safe. The occasional bruise or scrape teaches valuable lessons. But serious injuries that leave scars are to be avoided. Getting this balance right - bruises, not scars - is key to raising antifragile kids.

Section: 2, Chapter: 3

Book: The Anxious Generation

Author: Jonathan Haidt

Becoming A Parent Can Provide Valuable Career Skills

Many new parents, especially mothers, worry that having a baby will derail their professional skills and advancement. But parenthood actually builds many abilities that serve people well at work:

  • Efficiency and prioritization
  • Emotional intelligence and empathy
  • Patience and resilience
  • Complex problem-solving
  • Stakeholder management

If you approach both roles with curiosity, you'll find many areas of growth to apply across domains. Becoming a working parent doesn't have to hinder your professional development. It can deepen and round it in unexpected ways.

Section: 1, Chapter: 8

Book: Lean In

Author: Sheryl Sandberg

Let Go Of The Idea Of The "Perfect Mother"

Many mothers feel intense pressure to follow society's unrealistic ideal of the perfect, selfless mom. But trying to meet this standard is exhausting and self-defeating. Let go of the guilt about not spending enough time with your kids or keeping an immaculate home. Kids don't need the "perfect mother" - they need a happy, fulfilled one. Letting your partner fully parent allows you to thrive in other areas of life without feeling inadequate. And seeing you as a multi-dimensional person is healthy for your children's development too.

Section: 1, Chapter: 8

Book: Lean In

Author: Sheryl Sandberg

A Roadmap For Restoring Healthy Childhood

  1. Remove the "spoons" - all the interventions making your kid miserable without even realizing it. Limit social media, over-scheduling, handwringing over grades and milestones.
  2. Detach from the feelings-centered feedback loop. Don't fret over their every mood. Respond to actual problems, not hypotheticals. Let them come to you.
  3. Recognize kids' natural antifragility. Tolerable stress and disappointment fuel growth, not damage. Stop treating them like hothouse flowers.
  4. Don't immediately pathologize your kid's quirks and struggles. Every deviation from the norm isn't a symptom. Give them space to be an individual.
  5. Question the "experts." Mental health professionals aren't infallible and may give awful advice. You know your child best - don't surrender authority to clinicians.
  6. (Re)introduce healthy risk and autonomy. Let them test their capabilities. Failure won't kill them - it's instructive. Rescuing them from every scrape erodes their plasticity.
  7. Foster deep family and community bonds. The "therapeutic alliance" is a weak substitute for lifelong connections. Resist narratives that relatioships are disposable.

Section: 3, Chapter: 12

Book: Bad Therapy

Author: Abigail Shrier

Giving Teens Peak Experiences And Rites Of Passage

In our secular modern society, teenagers often lack structured rites of passage and access to self-transcendent experiences. Parents and educators could help meet this need by:

  • Exposing teens to awe-inspiring art, music and nature
  • Encouraging service activities that induce a sense of elevation and connection
  • Providing physically and mentally challenging rites of passage (e.g. wilderness trips)
  • Allowing semi-structured spiritual explorations and discussions

The goal is to give teens opportunities to experience self-transcendence and develop their own sense of meaning and sacred purpose. Experiencing ego-loss and deep connection can provide an enduring sense of perspective throughout life.

Section: 1, Chapter: 9

Book: The Happiness Hypothesis

Author: Jonathan Haidt

Numbing Normal Feelings Robs Teens Of Crucial Skills

Many parents, in an effort to alleviate their teens' distress, are quick to seek medication for the normal mood swings of adolescence. But psychologist Scott Monroe cautions there are serious drawbacks to this:

"If you give [adolescents] medication for anxiety - and I would say, you could extend it to depression - if you palliate those symptoms, you are messing with the natural adaptive resources of the human being that has evolved over centuries. I'm not a biologist - I don't know how badly it can impair brain development. But it seems like those are prime years. I'd want to find alternatives before implementing that."

Experiencing difficult emotions like heartbreak, disappointment, anxiety and sadness - and learning to cope with them - is part of how teens build resilience.

Section: 2, Chapter: 10

Book: Bad Therapy

Author: Abigail Shrier

Stop Monitoring Kids' Every Feeling And Let Them Learn By Doing

Imagine the parent of a toddler learning to walk, hovering inches away and catching her before every stumble, constantly asking "Are you hurt? Frustrated? Tired? Scared?" The child would become so preoccupied with analyzing her own reactions, she'd never build strength and confidence.

We've become those parents, micromanaging teens' every emotional wobble. But confidence and resilience aren't gifts parents can bestow through validation - they're the byproducts of weathering life's challenges with a secure base of love and faith in your back pocket.

Section: 3, Chapter: 12

Book: Bad Therapy

Author: Abigail Shrier

Social Media and Collective Action Problems

Social media creates "collective action problems" that leave kids and parents feeling helpless:

  • Getting a smartphone/social media later makes you feel left out
  • Letting kids roam unsupervised makes you a "bad parent"
  • Age restrictions only work if all companies enforce them strictly

The solution is coordinated behavior change. If families, schools, and policymakers act in concert to delay/limit phones and encourage independence, resistance gets easier. Groups like Wait Until 8th (smartphones) and Let Grow (free-range parenting) provide strength in numbers.

Section: 4, Chapter: 9

Book: The Anxious Generation

Author: Jonathan Haidt

Tips To Help Establish Healthy Sleep In Infants And Children

  • Develop a regular sleep schedule and bedtime routine to entrain the child's circadian rhythm
  • Ensure a cool, dark sleep environment to promote melatonin release
  • Avoid screen time (TV, tablets, phones) in the hour before bed - the blue light suppresses melatonin
  • Don't feed babies immediately before putting them down to sleep - they will start to associate feeding with falling asleep
  • Avoid late naps that make it hard for the child to fall asleep at night

Section: 1, Chapter: 5

Book: Why We Sleep

Author: Matthew Walker

A Generation Of Parents Afraid Of Their Kids

Many Gen X parents, seeking to raise their kids more gently than they were raised, have swung to an opposite extreme. Permissive parenting styles avoid punishment, constantly affirm the child's feelings, and abdicate authority. But in trying so hard to be their child's friend, these parents often earn their disrespect instead.

Parenting coaches report moms and dads tolerating egregious misbehavior and backtalk from even very young kids. The "gentle parenting" fad has created a generation of insecure kids and desperate parents.

Section: 2, Chapter: 9

Book: Bad Therapy

Author: Abigail Shrier

Parenting For Grit Starts With Modeling Grit

  • Reflect on your own passion and perseverance. Kids are always watching and imitating their parents' behavior, often subconsciously. If you want to cultivate grit in your child, start by embodying it yourself.
  • Wise parents don't just tell their kids to work hard - they show them how. They model commitment to their own interests and live out the idea that excellence requires effort. Being a gritty role model is the foundation for parenting gritty kids.
  • Intentionally narrate your gritty behaviors so your child notices them. Talk about how you handle setbacks, what your bigger-picture purpose is, and how you've maintained interests over time. Make your inner grit visible.

Section: 3, Chapter: 10

Book: Grit

Author: Angela Duckworth

Praise The Process, Not Innate Ability

How we praise children profoundly influences their mindset. Praising children's innate abilities ("You're so smart!") reinforces a fixed mindset, while praising their effort, strategies and progress cultivates a growth mindset. Effects of different praise on children:

Ability praise:

  • Makes children feel good in the moment but discourages risk-taking and learning
  • Leads kids to fear failure and quit in the face of challenges
  • Makes kids dishonest about their mistakes in order to maintain the "smart" label

Process praise:

  • Encourages kids to seek challenges and persist despite failures
  • Makes kids more resilient and likely to improve after setbacks
  • Fosters intellectual honesty and openness to feedback

Section: 1, Chapter: 3

Book: Mindset

Author: Carol Dweck

Parents, Not Experts, Belong In The Driver's Seat

In an era of ubiquitous "expert" parenting advice, it's easy to forget a basic truth: parents, not psychologists or teachers, bear ultimate responsibility for their children. Moms and dads shouldn't be afraid to push back against well-meaning but misguided intrusions from professionals, especially when it comes to mental health overreach.

The author recalls how her own grandmother shut down an art teacher who suggested her dreamy son might have a psychiatric issue: "I pay you to teach him art, not to psychoanalyze my son." Kids are often better served by parents who trust their own judgment and authority over that of a revolving door of experts. Guardians may not have PhDs, but they have the deepest possible stake in their child's welfare. Outsourcing this sacred duty to therapists and educators can erode the parent-child bond.

Section: 3, Chapter: 11

Book: Bad Therapy

Author: Abigail Shrier

The Factors That Really Predict A Child's Success

What matters most in determining a child's success? According to the authors' analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Education, some factors are important:

  • The child has highly educated parents
  • The child's parents have high socioeconomic status
  • The child's mother was 30 or older at the time of first child's birth
  • The child's parents speak English in the home
  • The child has many books in his home

Meanwhile, other factors that conventional wisdom might point to don't seem to matter:

  • The child's family is intact
  • The child's parents moved into a better neighborhood
  • The child's mother didn't work between birth and kindergarten
  • The child frequently watches television
  • The child's parents read to him nearly every day

So what does this all mean? In general, the data suggests that factors related to who the parents are, their educational attainment and socioeconomic status, matter more than what parents specifically do.

Section: 1, Chapter: 5

Book: Freakonomics

Author: Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

Wise Parenting Builds Grit From The Outside In

The author argues that parents can foster grit in their children by being both supportive and demanding. She calls this "wise parenting" and contrasts it with three other common parenting styles:

  1. Permissive parents (supportive but not demanding)
  2. Authoritarian parents (demanding but not supportive)
  3. Neglectful parents (neither supportive nor demanding)

Decades of research show that kids with wise parents fare better across a range of outcomes, from academic achievement to mental health. Wise parents provide a secure base of love and respect while also maintaining high standards and expectations. They cultivate grit in their children by encouraging passion, providing opportunities for practice, fostering purpose, and modeling hope.

Section: 3, Chapter: 10

Book: Grit

Author: Angela Duckworth

The Difference Between "Shyness" And "Introversion" In Children

Many parents worry when their child is labeled "shy." But shyness and introversion often get conflated in childhood, when in fact they are quite different. Shyness is a form of anxiety, driven by fear of social disapproval. It can be crippling for children, causing them to avoid necessary social interactions and miss opportunities.

In contrast, introversion is a natural preference for minimally stimulating environments. It becomes problematic only when introverted children feel ashamed of their nature. Introverted children may be reserved, but they're not necessarily fearful. They often have deep passions, strong observational skills, and a rich inner life. If allowed to pursue their interests without shame, they can thrive socially in their own way. The key is not overstimulating them or conveying that their personality is wrong.

Section: 4, Chapter: 11

Book: Quiet

Author: Susan Cain

Delay Smartphones Until 14 or Later

Smartphones are developmentally inappropriate for most middle schoolers. Compared to teens who get phones later, those who get them earlier show:

  • Poorer grades and test scores
  • Less reading and more mediocre content consumption
  • More social comparison, body image issues, and FOMO
  • Earlier/riskier sexual activity and porn exposure
  • Higher rates of anxiety, depression, self-harm

Push smartphones and social media until at least the start of high school. There's no evidence earlier access improves wellbeing. Give younger kids a basic phone for emergencies only.

Section: 4, Chapter: 12

Book: The Anxious Generation

Author: Jonathan Haidt

Where Do Mindsets Come From?

The mindsets of children are profoundly influenced by the way their parents and teachers talk to them and treat them. Even subtle word choices and actions can send the message that traits are fixed or that growth is possible and expected.

  • Praising children's talent or intelligence conveys a fixed mindset, while praising their efforts, strategies, and progress cultivates a growth mindset.
  • Focusing on outcomes (like grades or winning) fosters a fixed mindset, while emphasizing learning and improvement promotes a growth mindset.
  • Comforting children by saying a task was extremely difficult implicitly tells them they lack ability, while linking failure to lack of effort or poor strategy preserves their confidence in their potential.

Section: 1, Chapter: 7

Book: Mindset

Author: Carol Dweck

When Suffering Becomes Identity

Melanie has accommodated her son Dylan's every sensitivity, avoiding activities and situations that make him uncomfortable. Finally one prescribed Lexapro, an antidepressant, despite no clear diagnosis. Now Melanie wonders if the medication is even helping as Dylan's anxiety continues to rule the family's life.

For kids like Dylan, a diagnosis often becomes the organizing principle of their identity. Minor setbacks feel catastrophic as they lose faith in their own natural resilience. Well-meaning parents, overly focused on "fixing" their kids with therapy and meds, end up pathologizing them instead.

Section: 2, Chapter: 10

Book: Bad Therapy

Author: Abigail Shrier

The Circadian Rhythm Changes From Childhood To Adolescence

The circadian rhythm—the internal twenty-four-hour clock of the brain that times the release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin—changes across childhood and into adolescence:

  • In young children, melatonin is released early in the evening, allowing them to fall asleep early and wake up early
  • In adolescents, the melatonin release shifts later in the evening, making it hard for teens to fall asleep early and wake up early
  • Adults settle into an earlier circadian rhythm similar to children, but not as early These changes are biologically hardwired and very difficult for teens to fight, leading to chronic sleep deprivation when school schedules require early wake times.

Section: 1, Chapter: 2

Book: Why We Sleep

Author: Matthew Walker

SEL Undermines Parent-Child Relationships

Across SEL curricula, a troubling theme emerges: encouraging students to question their parents' judgment and cast them as obstacles to their well-being. Lesson plans often present conflicts with parents (on issues like screen time or clothing choices) and invite classmates to weigh in on whether the parent or child is being more reasonable. Students are asked to evaluate their parents on metrics like emotional supportiveness and time spent together.

Some programs go further, explicitly coaching students to monitor their home lives and report back concerns to teachers. The implication is that school staff are the real experts on a child's best interests, and parental authority is something to be challenged.

Section: 2, Chapter: 4

Book: Bad Therapy

Author: Abigail Shrier

Cultivate Growth Mindset Parenting, Teaching, And Coaching

  • Praise the process (effort, strategies, persistence) rather than ability. Say things like "I'm proud of how hard you studied for that test" rather than "You're so smart!"
  • Treat failure as an opportunity to learn and improve. Ask "What did you try? What could you try next?" rather than reassuring children that the task was impossibly difficult.
  • Emphasize that brains and talent are just the starting point. Teach children that dedication and resilience are the keys to success in the long run.
  • Explicitly teach children about brain plasticity and the growth mindset. Have them think about areas where they once struggled but now excel due to effort.
  • When children succeed, express pride not in their abilities but in their commitment to learning and improving.

Section: 1, Chapter: 7

Book: Mindset

Author: Carol Dweck

What Do Children Need to Do in Childhood?

Human childhood is unique - children's brains grow rapidly until age 5 but then development slows until puberty. This extended period allows time for cultural learning and development of key motivations:

1. Free play - the "work" of childhood. Through play, children wire up their brains, overcome fears, and gain social and physical competencies.

2. Attunement - connecting and synchronizing with others through games and rituals. Builds trust and belonging.

3. Social learning - acquiring culture through imitation, especially of prestigious individuals. Conformity and prestige biases guide learning. A play-based childhood provides age-appropriate experiences matched to sensitive developmental periods. The phone-based childhood disrupts this natural process.

Section: 1, Chapter: 2

Book: The Anxious Generation

Author: Jonathan Haidt

Unintended Harms Of Excessive Academic Accommodations

Angela allowed her son Jayden to receive a 504 plan for untimed tests in high school due to his anxiety, on the advice of his counselor. But she believes it ultimately did more harm than good. "I really regret it because he used it as a crutch. Like, 'Oh, I can't turn the paper in on time because I have a 504 [plan],' " Angela said. "We thought we were helping, and I realized all these things are not helpful."

Teachers report a surge in students, often without a formal diagnosis, getting "accommodations" like extended deadlines, permission to miss class, or exemptions from assignments deemed too stressful. The line between legitimate disability accommodations and avoidant coping has blurred.

Section: 2, Chapter: 5

Book: Bad Therapy

Author: Abigail Shrier

"Don't Yell At And Punish Your Child"

Progressive parenting gurus have long argued that disciplining children damages them. The implication is that setting firm limits will spawn a sociopath, so parents should just pleasantly reason with kids instead.

But child psychologist Diana Baumrind found the opposite in her seminal studies on parenting styles. Children raised with clear rules and consequences, in the context of a warm relationship, had the best outcomes. Those whose parents avoided all punishment had more behavior issues.

Baumrind called the permissive approach a "misguided attempt to express love," with the "unintended effect of retarding the development of a child conscious and increasing the likelihood of his becoming a spoiled brat."

Section: 2, Chapter: 9

Book: Bad Therapy

Author: Abigail Shrier

Good Parenting Might Not Be Enough To Overcome Bad Circumstances

The authors tell the story of two boys, one white and one black, to illustrate how much circumstances and environment matter regardless of parenting:

  • The white boy grew up in suburban Chicago with encouraging, educated parents and a stable home environment. He excelled in school and was thought by teachers to be a math prodigy.
  • The black boy grew up in the ghetto of Daytona Beach. His mother abandoned him, his father beat him, and he began selling drugs and carrying a gun by his teens.

On paper, the first boy should go on to great success while the second was likely headed for failure or imprisonment. But in fact, the opposite occurred. The white boy grew up to be Ted Kaczynski, the infamous Unabomber. And the black boy was Roland Fryer, the highly successful economist now professoring at Harvard.

The point is that even the best parenting intentions can be derailed by mental illness, trauma, or other uncontrollable factors. Good parenting improves a child's odds but doesn't guarantee the outcome.

Section: 1, Chapter: 5

Book: Freakonomics

Author: Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

Social-Emotional Learning: Therapy Disguised As Education

Social-emotional learning (SEL) has become a pervasive part of school curricula, aiming to teach kids "self-awareness," "social awareness," "relationship skills," "self-management," and "responsible decision-making." In practice, this often involves teachers eliciting highly personal information from students, documenting it, and providing feedback.

Despite claims it improves behavior and achievement, many teachers report SEL induces emotional dysregulation in students. Lacking therapists' training and ethical boundaries, educators are ill-equipped to manage the fallout. Rather than boosting learning as promised, SEL disrupts it with psychological meddling of dubious benefit.

Section: 2, Chapter: 4

Book: Bad Therapy

Author: Abigail Shrier

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