Ready or Not

Preparing Our Kids to Thrive in an Uncertain and Rapidly Changing World

The New York Times bestselling author of The Price of Privilege and Teach Your Children Well explores how today’s parenting techniques and our myopic educational system are failing to prepare children for their certain-to-be-uncertain future—and how we can reverse course to ensure their lasting adaptability, resilience, health and happiness.

In The Price of Privilege, respected clinician, Madeline Levine was the first to correctly identify the deficits created by parents giving kids of privilege too much of the wrong things and not enough of the right things. Continuing to address the mistaken notions about what children need to thrive in Teach Your Children Well, Levine tore down the myth that good grades, high test scores, and college acceptances should define the parenting endgame. In Ready or Not, she continues the discussion, showing how these same parenting practices, combined with a desperate need to shelter children from discomfort and anxiety, are setting future generations up to fail spectacularly.

Increasingly, the world we know has become disturbing, unfamiliar, and even threatening. In the wake of uncertainty and rapid change, adults are doubling-down on the pressure-filled parenting style that pushes children to excel. Yet these daunting expectations, combined with the stress parents feel and unwittingly project onto their children, are leading to a generation of young people who are overwhelmed, exhausted, distressed—and unprepared for the future that awaits them. While these damaging effects are known, the world into which these children are coming of age is not. And continuing to focus primarily on grades and performance are leaving kids more ill-prepared than ever to navigate the challenges to come.

But there is hope. Using the latest developments in neuroscience and epigenetics (the intersection of genetics and environment), as well as extensive research gleaned from captains of industry, entrepreneurs, military leaders, scientists, academics, and futurists, Levine identifies the skills that children need to succeed in a tumultuous future: adaptability, mental agility, curiosity, collaboration, tolerance for failure, resilience, and optimism. Most important, Levine offers day-to-day solutions parents can use to raise kids who are prepared, enthusiastic, and ready to face an unknown future with confidence and optimism.


Psychologist Levine (Teach Your Children Well) offers a practical, wise manual aimed at helping anxious parents with their often equally anxious kids. According to her, overprotective parenting commonly leads to two problems: “accumulated disability,” or “the impairment of life skills,” in kids, and “learned helplessness,” the “belief that you are powerless to change your circumstances.” With empathy, Levine explores the valid anxiety parents and children feel about facing a “world of disconcerting unpredictability and upheaval” and lays out the “foundational” skills children need to develop: critical thinking, curiosity, creativity, flexibility, educated risk-taking, collaboration, perseverance, self-regulation, and the “ultimate life skills: hope and optimism.” Levine also emphasizes the ability to thrive amid uncertainty, illustrated with stories of people who have evinced this skill, both famous—Steve Jobs, who survived being fired from his own company—and not—a medical technician who fled her native South Vietnam at age 15. While the issues raised are relatively familiar, Levine pulls together a solid set of recommendations for dealing with them. Plenty of parents will benefit from her treatise on how to prepare children for an uncertain future. (Feb.)

Publishers Weekly

Why young adults are not ready for adulthood and what parents can do to help prepare them.

Political unrest, rapid technological advances, massive shifts in demographics, and climate change: These and many other factors mean that we live in remarkably unpredictable times, which has caused significant spikes in anxiety for both parents and teens. In her latest book, clinician and consultant Levine (Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success, 2012, etc.) shows parents how to address these concerns so that their children can have a “hopeful future they will both inherit and invent.” Because parents feel immense pressure to ensure a stable future for their child—good education, reliable employment, etc.—they often do too much, micromanaging every moment of their child’s life, which usually hinders the child’s ability to learn, experiment, and function on their own. “If our children are to thrive in a world that is rapidly evolving and full of uncertainty, they need less structure and more play,” writes the author. “They need to become comfortable with experimentation, risk-taking, and trial-and-error learning. Shielding them from failure is counterproductive. Our kids need to spend less time burnishing their resumes and more time exploring and reflecting.” Bolstering her arguments with research statistics and case studies, Levine offers readers a concrete review of what is working and, more importantly, what is not working for parents and young adults. She analyzes the paralyzing effects of excessive stress and depression, suggests age-appropriate responsibilities for children as young as toddlers (put toys away, for example), and encourages parents to step back and try to refrain from engaging in helicopter parenting. Despite the author’s conversational tone, she imparts a strong and convincing message: Parents must let their children develop their independence in order to greet their futures with confidence and the skills necessary to survive.

Rock-solid advice for harried parents in a world that shows no signs of slowing down.

Kirkus Reviews

When I wanted to understand what was going on with the students I had taught at Yale—dazed survivors of the achievement machine—I turned to the work of Madeline Levine. . . . Levine has been our leading voice against the culture of overparenting and status obsession. In Ready or Not, she once again brings her unique combination of wisdom, clinical experience, and profound compassion . . . to bear on the daunting task of raising young adults in the twenty-first century.

William Deresiewicz

Informed by a lifetime of clinical practice, wide-ranging research, and a powerful moral sensibility, Madeline Levine’s latest book paints a compelling picture of the challenges parents and educators face in an uncertain world. But her greatest contribution is her wise and compassionate advice for all of us committed to helping kids thrive in the 21st century. Ready or Not is one of the most important books I’ve read in a very long time.

Tony Wagner