OAKLAND -- Redwood Day School is hosting an Oct. 1 talk, which is open to the public, by Marin psychologist Dr. Madeline Levine, author of "Teach Your Children Well" and "The Price of Privilege."
Levine is known for pointing out how the pressure to achieve can harm children, leading not to success but to anxiety and doubt.
"Academic performance and athletic performance are important and great things to have; they're not the only things," she said.
Many parents and schools focus on top grades and other markers of success at the expense of "soft" skills like collaboration, creativity and problem-solving. But, Levine argues, it's just those skills that make good workers and resilient adults.
Levine's books have made the New York Times bestseller list. A psychologist with decades of experience, she said she was seeing incredible trauma in her teen patients stressed to the brink by well-meaning parents.
"Mental health numbers are miserable right now for teenagers," she said.
It's a message that Melanie Abrams, a Redwood Day School parent, understands.
"I want my kids to be driven by their desire to learn and understand and not just to work for grades or someone else's version of success," she said.
That's part of the reason Abrams chose Redwood Day School, which she feels already subscribes to this idea, for her children.
"It's important to me that they are creative and empowered and I feel like in the past, this has gotten lost in school and within families," she said.
Another thing Levine touches on in her talks is the research that finds overpraising children is detrimental to their own ability to self-motivate and work hard. In more than one research study, children that are praised for being smart have been found to do more poorly on tests.
"Far and away, the kids that are told nothing do better," she said.
The praise leads to a trap -- children that believe themselves too special are likely to be paralyzed by the thought of failure. That means children are not set up for real success in today's world.
Levine is in demand as a speaker, talking to not only parents and schools but also corporations trying to figure out how to deal with a new generation of workers.
"I am speaking literally all the time," she said with a laugh.
At many of her speaking engagements, employers tell her how their supposedly bright new employees seem confused and unmotivated.
Levine is also the co-founder of Challenge Success, part of Stanford Graduate School of Education. The project helps schools and parents with research-based tools to help kids become emotionally healthy and self-motivated.
"Our school system is set up for an economy that doesn't exist anymore," she said.
But Levine said it's good to see schools like Redwood Day School, however, that are following a more flexible and less stressful model.
Redwood Day School is a private school located near the Central Reservoir. It has around 350 students in grades kindergarten through eight. The talk is open to the public, but an RSVP is requested. Levine will also be signing books, which will be available at the event.
What: Talk by Dr. Madeline Levine, psychologist and author
When: 7 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 1
Where: Redwood Day School, 3245 Sheffield Ave., Oakland
Information: To RSVP, go to www.rdschool.org/student-life/parent-education, or contact Denise Breland, director of student life, at 510-534-0804 x220 or firstname.lastname@example.org.