Jan. 8, 2021

Fresh Take: Ned Johnson on The Self-Driven Child

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This week we’re talking to Ned Johnson, co-author (with William Stixrud) of THE SELF-DRIVEN CHILD: THE SCIENCE AND SENSE OF GIVING YOUR KIDS MORE CONTROL OVER THEIR LIVES, which explores how fostering children’s autonomy can help solve two challenges seemingly endemic to kids today: handling anxiety and developing intrinsic motivation. 

Ned's research underlines a surprising paradox: when we try to remove stress from our children's lives by smoothing over the bumps in their paths, we inadvertently create MORE stress for our children. As Ned explains:

“A sense of control strengthens the regulation of the amygdala. It is by successfully handling stressful situations in a supportive environment that kids develop strong stress tolerance and resilience."

In this episode we discuss

  • how one's levels of stress are affected by novelty, unpredictability, and our overall sense of control
  • the difference between "tolerable stress" and toxic stress
  • how to be "homework consultants" for our kids without controlling the outcome
  • why "radical downtime" is so crucial for kids' development

Not sure when you should back off, or not? Here's Ned's overall takeaway:

"When we talk about kids having a sense of control, it's not that we want to put a toddler in charge of the household, or tell her "you've got to go hunt for your own food" or something. It's simply that we don't want to do for kids that which they can do for themselves."

The Self-Driven Child is available from our What Fresh Hell Bookshop page:


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