Podcast #416: The Self-Driven Child

Recent surveys have shown that anxiety and depression are up amongst school-aged children and teens. Parents and teachers are also reporting a decrease in motivation amongst young adults. My guests today argue that both issues stem from the same problem and can be solved with the same solution.  

Their names are Bill Stixrud and Ned Johnson. Bill’s a clinical neuropsychologist and Ned is a college test prep coach. In their book, The Self-Driven Childthey make the case that modern helicopter parenting and highly structured school schedules and after-school activities are part of the problem of increased anxiety and decreased motivation amongst young people. The solution is to start letting your kids make their own choices and experience the consequences of those choices — both the good and the bad. Today on the show, we discuss specific ways parents can let their kids make their own decisions and why this doesn’t mean you let your kids do whatever they want. With each tip, they explain the science of why it helps increase intrinsic motivation. Lots of great actionable advice. Even if you’re not a parent, you’ll find the advice on developing intrinsic motivation to actually be pretty helpful for grown-ups too. 

Show Highlights

  • Why anxiety and depression are on the rise among young people 
  • Why having a strong sense of control over your life is so important 
  • What factors are in play in kids feeling in less control than in decades past?
  • Internal locus of control vs. external locus of control 
  • Why kids need to be allowed to make decisions 
  • How parenting has changed over the course of the last 100 years 
  • The importance of play 
  • How can parents help kids have more control over their lives
  • How to cultivate an “authoritative” style of parenting
  • Seeing yourself as a parenting “consultant” 
  • So what does a parent do when the kid is really failing or on the brink of disaster?
  • How to cultivate intrinsic motivation in children 
  • Balancing a sense of control with the role of fate and luck 
  • Why kids need “radical” downtime (particularly without devices)
  • The devastating effects of sleep deprivation on adolescents 
  • Why you should buy your kids an alarm clock 
  • What to do if you have a child who is just naturally a little more anxious or high-strung

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