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Former Stanford Dean Teaches Parents 'How To Raise An Adult'

Gene J. Puskar
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald says Pittsburghers should stay "vigilant" as the state continues to reopen.


On today's program: Allegheny County prepares to enter the green phase of reopening; and a former Stanford University freshman dean discusses harms of overparenting and how to fix it.

Is Allegheny County ready to “go green?”
(00:00 — 4:25)

Allegheny and most other surrounding counties are going into the green phase tomorrowas the state continues to reopen. The green phase means that restaurants, bars, gyms, salons, and theaters can open at 50 percent capacity, and hospital visitations can resume.


But “green” isn’t the go-ahead to go back to life as normal, says County ExecutiveRich Fitzgerald.


“We’ve been cooped up. We have this pent-up wanting to get out, obviously, the weather gets nicer,” he says. “In some ways, we can because we can do some of the things that were off limits before. But the physical distancing, the wearing of the masks, and staying not in an enclosed area with a lot of people is still the best way to prevent us catching it.”


Fitzgerald says that the County Health Department will continue contact-tracing and monitoring COVID-19 test results for any sign of a second wave of infections. “We still don’t have a vaccine, we still don’t have a cure, and until one of those two things comes along, we’re still going to have to be very vigilant in how we go about our daily lives.”

From benign neglect to 'helicopter parents'
(4:29 — 19:30)

Julie Lythcott-Haims worked with thousands of young adults during her decade as a freshman dean at Stanford University. She was inspired by their ambition and their joy, but she began to see a problem: kids who couldn’t grow up, and parents who wouldn’t let them if they tried.

She wrote her book, How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success, as a manifesto exposing the harms of overparenting, and what society can do to restore competence and confidence in America’s youth.

Lythcott-Haims believes the overparenting began in the early and mid-1980's with the rise of play dates and trophies and ribbons for participation. "Parents were now hovering over realms that were previously the realms of children: play, playgrounds, sidewalks, the sidelines of kids' activities, homework. That's how we raised a generation of young people accustomed to having parents manage every move."

While close parenting might seem like a good idea to some parents, Lythcott-Haims warns that it leaves children unprepared for the trials of the real world: “What’s to become of them and what’s to become of us all if the largest generation in American history doesn’t want to ‘hashtag adult’? If they’re perfectly fine being held on a leash with everything handed to them, they’re just told where to go and what to do--what’s to become of all of us?” she asks. “At some point, a child needs to differentiate from the parent, and really know that they’re their own separate being.” 

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago.
Julia Zenkevich is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at
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