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Wiser Kids


In Chapter 12, we organized our suggestions for raising wiser kids into four categories. Here we repeat the outline of that chapter and add in links and resources, including those we found after publishing the book. We also have a handout for parents. that they can take when they talk to teachers and principals, to urge reforms. Teachers should see our page of advice for wiser K-12 schools













1. Prepare the Child for the Road, Not the Road for the Child


A. Assume that your kids are more capable this month than they were last month.

B. Let your kids take more small risks, and let them learn from getting some bumps and bruises.

C. Learn about Lenore Skenazy’s Free-Range Kids movement, and incorporate her lessons into your family’s life. (Start by reading Free Range Kids, from Amazon, or BN)

D. Visit,

E. Encourage your children to walk or ride bicycles to and from school at the earliest ages possible, consistent with local circumstances of distance, traffic, and crime. It may help you to "let go" if you get them the wonderful Gizmo Watch. It lets the child call and be called by just 10 phone numbers, and it lets you see where the child is on a map. Jon gave it to his daughter
for her 9th birthday, which made her and her parents very
comfortable letting her walk to school and do errands in NYC.
Jon wishes he had given it to her for her 7th birthday.

F. Help your kids find a community of kids in the neighborhood who come from families that share your commitment to avoid overprotection. You can do this on this page at  See (and send around) this article on "playborhoods."

G. Send your children to an overnight summer camp in the woods for a few weeks— without devices.

H. Encourage your children to engage in a lot of “productive disagreement.” (Here is the essay by Adam Grant that we drew from.)

I. Be sure your children get plenty of exercise. It has so many protective effects, including for mental health [links and cites to come; perhaps Spark, by John Ratey]

2. Your Worst Enemy Cannot Harm You as Much as Your Own Thoughts, Unguarded

A. Teach children the basics of CBT

  1. The Worry Cure by Robert Leahy

  2. Freeing Your Child From Anxiety by Tamar Chansky

  3. The Beck Institute

  4. Anxiety Files by Robert Leahy

  5. CPT coach smartphone app by the US Department of Veterans Affairs

  6. Anxiety Coach smartphone app by Mayo Clinic

  7. Other ADAA-approved apps

B. Teach children mindfulness

  1. Mindfulness for Children guide by the David Gelles

  2. Cognitively-Based Compassion Training by the Emory-Tibet Partnerhsip

3. The Line Dividing Good and Evil Cuts Through the Heart of Every Human Being

A. Give people the benefit of the doubt.​

B. Practice the virtue of “intellectual humility.”

  • Watch On Being Wrong by Kathryn Schulz, with your pre-teen or teen.

C. Look very carefully at how your school handles identity politics.

4. [Ideas for Wiser K-12 schools are on the next page]

5. Limit and Refine Device Time

A. Read about what's happening to Gen Z:

  • Read iGen by Jean Twenge for on overview of the many ways that the migration of teen social life onto social media seems to be altering the way teens develop. 

  • Read Jon's lit reviews (with Twenge) of the research on rising teen depression/anxiety, and the evidence that social media is a partial cause. Many studies indicate that light or even moderate use of "devices" or "screen time" is not harmful, except to the extent that such activities push out so many other activities that kids could be doing. The problem seems to be heavy use (not light use) of social media (not just "screens"), by pre-teens and early teens (rather than those over 16 or so) and the damage is much greater for girls than for boys.


B. Here are three simple rules that should reduce the struggle in your home, while minimizing the harmful effects of heavy social media use:

  1. All screens out of bedroom by a set time. (Even if they turn notifications off, many kids will keep checking, disrupting their sleep).

  2. No social media until high school. (This is hard to do on your own, but try to coordinate with your kids' friends' parents, or talk to the principal of your elementary or middle school, and ask him/her to set clear norms discouraging parents from letting kids lie to get a social media account before age 13, or even when they are 13 but not yet in high school. Middle school is hard, and social media makes it harder.)

  3. Agree on a time budget. We can't offer a single number of hours; it depends on your kids, and what they are doing on their devices. But talk to your kids and agree upon some limits. Gen Z kids are not in denial; they know that their devices are addictive. The Apple Screentime controls work really well. If you don't set limits, then the psychologists in Silicon Valley will do everything they can to keep your kids on for 5-10 hours a day. 

C. Resources for parents and families:

6. Support a New National Norm: Service or Work Before College

A. See the Service Year Alliance.


7. Relevant Essays Published After The Book


A. What happened to American childhood? By Kate Julian. The Atlantic, May 2020


8. Miscellaneous Research and Links

A. Reports on Gen-Z:

Pew Research Center


B. Interview with Psychiatrist, Dr. Eli Lebowitz about his work with the Failure To Launch program at Yale University: Discussion and advice regarding how to help struggling adolescents transition to adulthood.

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